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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Mary Roberts Rinehart, part 2

Here are a few more of the Mary Roberts Rinehart books in the public domain that I downloaded to my Kindle this past summer and enjoyed very much. The first three are mysteries and the fourth is a screwball comedy.

The Man in Lower Ten. This is a “locked room” type of murder mystery set on a train in a sleeping compartment and is quite clever. How the victim could have been murdered and how the hero could have been framed are the central questions that take the story to its climax. There is a decent little romance included and quite a lot of interesting social and economic conditions incident to the 1906 (or prior) setting. Some of the period treatment has aged awkwardly though.

The Case of Jennie Brice. The setting was certainly one of the more unusual that I can remember for a murder mystery—it’s flood time in Pittsburgh in 1907 and the boarding house residents have to keep a boat in the front hall tied up to the stair rail. This a good mystery with interesting characters, especially the woman who runs the boarding house.

The Window at the White Cat. This is a political murder mystery set around 1909, featuring a bumbling young attorney who decides he must learn how to be a sleuth to solve the case for the sake of the girl he has fallen in love with, the daughter of the missing man. There is lots of dark humor in this tale, lots of foreshadowing, and tons of fun.
Illustration from the original
publication of The Window
at the White Cat

When a Man Marries.You don’t need to know the plot. All you need to know is, when you need a laugh, and I mean an unrelenting, side-splitting, face-aching, I-can’t-believe-I’m-falling-for-this-silliness type of laugh, this book will provide it. It’s in the early 20th-century madcap, screwball, zany farcical comedy vein, like Wodehouse, or the Cary Grant - Katherine Hepburn movie Bringing Up Baby. It was originally written as a Broadway play that was produced in 1909, and then she rewrote it as a novel and published it in 1910. Highly recommended. But in case you want the plot, without giving too much away, it involves a woman who gets roped into posing as her friend’s wife for an evening dinner party while the elderly relative with the money is visiting; the actual wife (who walked out on him) ends up downstairs; there’s a handsome man the narrator is attracted to; the house is put under quarantine for a week with police guarding all exits, and everybody wants out.

Happy reading!

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