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The Circular Staircase

3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  1,842 ratings  ·  219 reviews
The Circular Staircase is perhaps Mary Roberts Rinehart's most famous story. Wealthy spinster Rachel Innes is persuaded by her niece and nephew Gertrude and Halsey to take a house in the country for the summer. Rachel is unaware that the house holds a secret, and soon unexplained happenings and murder follow.
ebook, 198 pages
Published January 2nd 2011 by Classic Mysteries (first published 1908)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Rating: 3.75* of five

The Book Report: Miss Rachel Innes, spinster of circa-1908 Pittsburgh, inheritrix of two children now relatively safely launched into adulthood, and possessor of a large automobile, determines that her town residence needs significant tarting up and, to avoid the attendant chaos and disarray, moves herself, her ladies' maid, and her now-adult charges to Sunnyside, the large and vulgar country home of a local banker. As he, his wife, and his step-daughter (note old-fashioned
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Leslie
Written in 1908, this mystery/thriller wasn't as dated as I had feared (about the same as the Golden Age mysteries of the 30s & 40s). The first person narration worked well & Miss Innes (the narrator) was an engaging, no-nonsense older woman who has no pretensions of being a detective but isn't going to stand for any funny business going on in her house. I did figure out part of the solution but there were enough twists and action that it didn't detract from my enjoyment. Perhaps I was a ...more
Samantha
How had I never heard of the awesomeness that is Mary Roberts Rinehart?? The Circular Staircase was one of the first books I downloaded for free onto my Kindle, and I only grabbed it because the author was compared to Anna Katherine Green whom wrote The Leavenworth Case (a book that I enjoyed when I read it last year). After reading The Circular Staircase I've downloaded every single book by this author that I can get my hands on. I want more!


The Circular Staircase begins with Rachel Innes deci
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L.T. Fawkes
The drama is over-the-top, particularly in the early going, in this 1908 whodunit. There are people fainting all over the place and one guy even drops dead of fright. And the plot is so convoluted it gets to be funny.

But it's interesting reading (especially if you love history) because of the narrative voice, that of a fifty-ish spinster one-percenter, who, in the course of telling the story, frequently and inadvertently reveals the prejudices and biases of her class and her era. Good (sometimes
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Sue
Aug 26, 2012 Sue rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mystery lovers (not hard-boiled!)
Recommended to Sue by: Sara Chamberlin
Fun to read with lots of details and possible suspects. I enjoyed just going with the flow of the story, making a few guesses along the way (one of which turned out to be very true). A bit more sprightly than some of Dame Agatha's, it seemed to me. Not sure what age Aunt Rachel is meant to be (spinster aunt is so open-ended), but she certainly joined the fray.
Dianne
If you like classic Mysteries this one is great. I found the movie The Bat with Vincent Price and Agnus Hoorehead on Hulu for free it is loosly based on the book. As always the book is better. but Price and Morehead are priceless in the movie.
Hannah
Dec 04, 2013 Hannah rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Hannah by: Laura
Rating Clarification: 3.5 Stars

The first and last Rinehart I read was probably 25+ years ago (The Yellow Room), and I don't think I had enough reading experience to appreciate it as much then as I would now.

Rinehart preceeded the titans of Golden Age mystery writers (like Christie and Sayers) by over 10 years. I believe this novel, The Circular Staircase, was originally penned in 1908. There is an element of surprise to me in that, because this whodunnit does not feel over 100 years old at all.
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Abbey
1908, Rinehart's first novel. Miss Rachel Innes has an eventful "summer vacation" in the country... Deservedly a classic, although the plot is extremely "dated" now. Three stars for plot and most characters, four stars for Miss Rachel and "atmosphere", which is still quite effective; recommended, three-and-one-half stars.

When blue-blooded Philadelphian, late-40ish spinster (in 1908 that was the equivalent of ~60ish now) Rachel Innes and her niece Gertrude and nephew Halsey rent a perfectly enorm
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I Read
The best bit about this book was the humour – it amused me all the way through and Rhinehart incorporated it seamlessly so that it didn’t feel remotely there just for the sake of being inserting something funny. I haven’t read a detective novel written in this style before, but it definitely added to my enjoyment and meant the mundane but necessary parts of the novel became as liked, even more so as the intriguing or revealing parts of the plot – there was rarely a dull moment.

I love authors th
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Hana
More twists and turns than a circular staircase in a hall of mirrors. Three and a half stars rounded up because I really liked the heroine--a lady of a certain age who is as feisty as they come. I kept picturing a slightly younger Maggie Smith in the role. The plot got a bit too convoluted and I didn't care about any of the supporting cast, but it was a fun read and surprisingly contemporary for a hundred-year-old novel.
Carrie
In regard to Mary Roberts Rhinehart, I recently read her referred to as (1) "The American Agatha Christie" and (2) better than Christie. This is the second of her novels I've found (most are out of print), and I enjoyed it. Funny, suspenseful, and definitely of its time (1907), for better or worse (includes the expected stereotypes). She is a better writer than Christie, with a more charming voice. If you are a fan of the old-fashioned mystery romp, I highly recommend her stories.
rabbitprincess
May 07, 2009 rabbitprincess rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mystery fans in general
Recommended to rabbitprincess by: Top 100 list
Rachel Innes, a middle-aged spinster, decides to take a house in the country for the summer with her niece and nephew, only to land herself in a tangled web of murder, financial shenanigans, and family troubles. She is a spirited lady, however, and determined to seek out the truth at all costs, even if she and her family are put into danger as a result of her curiosity. In the book's world, there are many rumours and inaccurate retellings of what happened at Sunnyside, so this book is actually w ...more
Doina
This novel, like The Man in Lower Ten, has another cast of quirky characters. Unlike the previous novel, it's written from a woman's point of view, and it seemed less convoluted, whilst still packing plenty of action and twists and turns. I liked the characters, and enjoyed the mystery, and again, I couldn't figure out who the murderer was. There were a couple of times when I found the story a little too unbelievable, but overall I found it enjoyable. The only thing that bothered me about this b ...more
Judy
This is the most famous book by Mary Roberts Rinehart and I was once told by an elderly friend that she had been sacred out of her wits by this book. Therefore, it was a must read for my current obsession. I enjoyed the book, but think that my friend either read this book during the worse stormy night of her young life or she was raised in a convent. However, what did strike me about the book was the overt racism that was present in the book. I was appalled, but realize that literature reflects ...more
Laura
I loved reading this turn-of-the-century mystery when I was in elementary school. It was suspenseful, mysterious, and just a teeny-bit scary. Re-reading it as an adult, I discovered that it was also hilarious. I smile every time the rational and sarcastic spinster-heroine and her terrified servant start to bicker over the supposed supernatural-happenings.
Laura
This is my first book by Mary Rinehart and I really liked it, a very good surprise.
Ivonne Rovira
Published in 1908, The Circular Staircase won't be what you expect: a hyperventilated Edwardian piece, loaded with implausible plot and purple prose. Our heroine, the middle-aged Rachel Innes, proves caustic, intelligent and quite humorous from the very start. Her well-meaning quarrels with her foolish maid Liddy provide great comic relief, and you won't find Miss Innes making the sort of stupid exercises in derring-do that get modern-day heroines nearly killed in today's mystery novels. Nor wil ...more
Cheryl Landmark
Rachel Innes was a formidable, funny, overbearing, caustic, and completely charming spinster lady, who was grimly determined not to let strange noises, disturbing bumps in the night, ghostly appearances, murder and mayhem chase her from the large mansion she had rented for the summer. She took on the role of amateur sleuth with great vigour and intelligence and refused to be cowed either by the stern detectives or the nasty culprits. I absolutely loved her humourous interactions with her lady's- ...more
Mandolin
Sometimes the best books are found by accident. I picked up a volume of stories by Mary Roberts Rinehart at a recent book sale to support the children's hospital where I work and discovered a talented "new" mystery writer to follow! In this, one of her earliest works, Rinehart tells the story of a spinster aunt, Rachel Innes, who takes a house away from town for the summer in order to entertain her adopted nephew and niece and to enjoy a peaceful time at the seashore. She quickly comes to regret ...more
Scot
I thought this was a British novel at first, but as I read along I later figured out it was an American setting, but among the wealthy in the very early 20th century, which helps explain the very Upstairs/Downstairs class distinctions social code of behavior going on. I also discovered that this 1908 novel is the book that made Pittsburgh writer Rinehart famous. She later became known as “the American Agatha Christie” and is credited both with a supervillain character in subsequent works who ser ...more
Sandy
Although her name may not resonate with the public today as much as it did a century ago, Mary Roberts Rinehart has most certainly left her mark on modern-day fiction. The originator of the so-called "Had I But Known" school of detective writing, Rinehart was, for many years, the most highly paid and popular female novelist in America. Her second novel (but first to be published), "The Circular Staircase," which was released in 1908, when Mary was 32, featured a relatively new kind of crime solv ...more
Evgeny
Rachel Innes, a middle-aged woman decides to spend a summer in a summer house with her niece and nephew. She found what seems to be a perfect place for this, only this perfect place appeared to be haunted the first night Rachel spends in there. In addition to this, a dead body appears in the house some time later. If you think this is bad, mysterious events further down the road make haunting and dead body pale in comparison.

I really like the character of Rachel Innes. She appears to be an intel
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Princessjay
Straight-up old-school entertainment, featuring an older woman with acerbic wit and strong constitution. Written along the lines of Agatha Christie - though a couple of decades before her - the difference seems to me that there is true evil in this world, truly bad people that cannot be easily contained, whereas with Christie the detective always neatly solves the problem in the end.

Highly recommended!
Violinknitter
One of the best mystery novels I've read in a while. The protagonist is a feisty single woman of advancing years, and her voice as she tells the story is one of the best things about the book. It starts out with the atmosphere of a late 19th cent. ghost story, but there's nothing supernatural about this tale. There are some disturbing (to my sensibilities) racist undertones towards some of the secondary characters, which is to be expected of the time period, but was the most negative part of the ...more
Helga
An enjoyable mystery. Nicely written, with every chapter as intriguing as the next one. You just want to read on without a break.
Arianna
The Circular Staircase is a simple and yet enjoyable mystery. Arnold Armstrong is shot in the middle of the night from someone standing above on the staircase. Who was the killer and what was their motive?

The story is told in first person from the point of view of spinster Miss Rachel Innes. She and her two adult charges, a niece and nephew (Gertrude and Halsey), rent the Sunnyside estate in the country for a summer. It doesn't take long for secrets, bumps in the
night, ghosts, and murders to s
...more
Richard Ward
Extremely good whodunit by Mary Roberts Rinehart, "The American Agatha Christie". First published circa 1908, just before the dawn of the golden age of detective fiction. Not all of Rhinehart's books are as good as Christie at her best, but this one is easily in Christie's league. Fully developed characters, including interesting good guys and disturbing bad guys, and a mysterious plot that will keep you guessing to the end.

Not surprising in a book from the era, modern readers might find its ca

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Emily
A very well-writen classic mystery. I enjoyed that the book is written in the 1st person. The central character is a maiden aunt responsible for her young adult niece and nephew. They have convinced her to rent a house in the country for the summer while her NY city home is being remodeled. Is the house haunted? What is the tapping in the night? Was that a gunshot?

Very fast-paced, an enjoyable read.
Bernadette
I was completely unfamiliar with the author when I found an audiobook version of "The Bat" from my library. What really captivated me was hearing in the introduction that M.R. Rinehart used "The Bat" as inspiration for her most famous work, "The Circular Staircase." So I listened to this audiobook next for a comparison. While it is clear to see the shared inspiration in the plots of both books, the main portion of "The Bat" takes place over several days and in some ways is more complicated than ...more
Veda Riaz fatmy
What started out as a humorous mystery to rival the likes of Agatha Christie and Leroux soon turns frustrating, disappointing and trying on the good reader's patience. The story does not move fast enough to keep the reader riveted, and frankly relies too much on untold secrets and wild circumstance. There is little that is impressive of the spinster Innes detective work, and what is worse, her character leaves much to be desired. The author has clearly made a valiant effort to make Rachel Innes ...more
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Mary Roberts Rinehart (August 12, 1876-September 22, 1958) was a prolific author often called the American Agatha Christie. She is considered the source of the phrase "The butler did it", although she did not actually use the phrase herself, and also considered to have invented the "Had-I-But-Known" school of mystery writing.

Rinehart wrote hundreds of short stories, poems, travelogues and special
...more
More about Mary Roberts Rinehart...
The Man in Lower Ten The Bat The Yellow Room The Case of Jennie Brice The Window At The White Cat

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“People that trust themselves a dozen miles from the city, in strange houses, with servants they don't know, needn't be surprised if they wake up some morning and find their throats cut.” 3 likes
“There is a sort of melancholy pleasure to be had out of a funeral, with its pomp and ceremony, but I shrank from a death-bed.” 1 likes
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