The Circular Staircase

This blog limps along. I do apologize. I’ve missed a few and maybe I’ll go back and fill in, but this is what I finished most recently. Mary Roberts Rinehart’s second book and one of her most famous. I’m afraid I enjoyed the Man in Lower Ten more. Shorter. This one kind of dragged a bit. Not that I hated it. I enjoyed a lot of it, just think it could’ve been cut quite a bit. The other problem is that if everyone had just said what they knew at the beginning, instead of hiding all their secrets, and these are the good guys, there basically would’ve been no mystery.

Rachel Innes, a spirited woman of a certain age, a spinster who raised her sister’s children, has rented a house in the country for the summer. She is to stay there with her niece and nephew, but she arrives first with her cranky maid and gets settled in. Well, anything but settled really. From the first moment there are mysterious noises, someone seems to be breaking into the house, dropping golf clubs down the stairs. The servants all leave. Rachel carefully locks herself and her maid in her room and there’s a bit with the transom that seems awfully familiar…

I’ve seen this movie. Only I haven’t. I saw The Bat. Made into a really good B movie with Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead. Some scenes are exactly the same. Some of the plot is the same. In the book there’s the niece and nephew and no Bat. In the movie, there’s no Circular Staircase. Confusing. Well, Rinehart and Avery Hopwood adapted the novel for the stage: added the Bat, removed the stairs, but apparently left in the kids, Halsey and Gertrude, who were later removed for the 1959 film version. It’s true the staircase doesn’t seem as significant as a titular staircase ought to, but why suddenly add a villain called The Bat? Strange.

Anyway, it’s not bad. It was written in 1908 so there’s a number of racial attitudes of the times that might bother people. And as I said it drags a bit in places. No one will let anyone else know what they’re doing or what they know so it drags out a mystery which could have been about a third of the length, but I will almost certainly read more of her

2 thoughts on “The Circular Staircase”

  1. i quite like her writing… it drags, true, but sometimes that’s good… i’d recommend her two “Trish” books (on Gutenberg, i think…)

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