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The Circular Staircase (Dodo Press)

3.64  ·  Rating Details ·  2,884 Ratings  ·  309 Reviews
Mary Roberts Rinehart (1876-1958) was a prolific author often called the American Agatha Christie. "Dorothy B. Hughes, crime critic and novelist, says she 'has been and continues to be' the most important American woman mystery writer. " She was born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, which has been a part of the city of Pittsburgh since 1907. She attended public schools and ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published November 30th 2007 by Dodo Press (first published 1908)
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Richard Derus
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
Jul 06, 2015 Joseph rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I was in junior high school, I worked in a used book store, one of those shady businesses, usually located in a seedy part of town, where a patron could bring in two books and get credit for the purchase of one. The vast majority of our books were brought in by lonely housewives and unmarried women, and they were primarily Harlequin Romances, various Harlequin spin-offs, Dame Barbara Cartland, and the interesting genre called "gothic romances." It was in the gothic romance department that t ...more
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
I Read
Dec 31, 2009 I Read rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: detective
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
May 27, 2013 Evgeny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 02, 2016 Carmine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Incredibile come un giallo del 1908 sia di grande ispirazione per la celeberrima Agatha Christie.
La storia, inizialmente lineare e priva di particolari intrecci, si fa via via sempre più articolata e complessa, sconfessando le fallaci impressioni che il lettore potrebbe nutrire all'inizio.
Ottima anche la costruzione dei dialoghi, elemento imprescindibile nel genere giallo.
I punti deboli vanno ricercati in alcune situazioni eccessivamente forzate che servono a far quadrare i conti, ma questo è il
Aug 26, 2012 Sue rated it really liked it  ·  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.
May 10, 2014 Leslie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, mysteries
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
Aug 08, 2015 Bruce rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes dubbed America’s Agatha Christie, Mary Roberts Rinehart (1876-1958) published this novel in 1908. I read it immediately after reading a mystery by Christie, and it was difficult not to compare and contrast the two.

Rinehart’s story is told in the first person by a middle aged spinster with a sharp wit and droll presentation. For me, that represented the book’s primary charm. The plot itself, involving murder in a rented country estate, seemed even more contrived than many novels of the
Feb 20, 2016 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The novel that made Mary Roberts Rinehart famous, and a tremendous gothic romp -- a sort of updated North American version of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, in which anything in the night that doesn't go bump isn't earning its keep.

Wealthy spinstress Rachel Innes, her city house under reconstruction, takes a six-month lease on the country mansion Sunnyside from its owners, banker Paul Armstrong and his wife. Soon "Aunt Ray" is joined by her adult nephew Halsey and her niece Gertrude -- plus, br
Sep 23, 2012 Samantha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Dec 23, 2014 Hana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sep 18, 2011 Dianne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
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.
Ivonne Rovira
Jun 06, 2012 Ivonne Rovira rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 04, 2013 Hannah rated it liked it  ·  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.
May 07, 2009 rabbitprincess rated it really liked it  ·  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
I was not all that impressed with this novel. It is my first from this author, and I had heard great things about her writing. But for some reason, I found that there were way too many things going on in this novel to let me sit back and enjoy it as I wished I could have. It seemed to be frantically racing around in its narrative, and not figuring out much. There were slightly too many characters to keep track of, or maybe I'm just a little distracted lately, I don't know. But instead of being i ...more
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.
This is my first book by Mary Rinehart and I really liked it, a very good surprise.
Nov 25, 2010 Doina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
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
Sep 07, 2009 Judy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 26, 2015 Viviana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: amanti giallo mistery classico
Shelves: reading-giallo
Un giallo mistery davvero intrigante. Un ottimo precursore dei thriller moderni di atmosfera quasi gotica. Una zitella di mezz'età che sceglie un'antica dimora, in compagnia della cameriera personale un segreto che si cela tra i corridoi sinistri, in mezzo a cigolii, finestre che sbattono da sole e specchi rotti d'infausto presagio. Ai nostri occhi moderni, potrebbe forse far sorridere, ma essendo stato scritto ai primi del Novecento, si deve pensare all'atmosfera di quel periodo. Abilmente ricr ...more
Dec 04, 2013 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 28, 2015 Lora rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
An enjoyable read that I can recommend to anyone looking for a somewhat milder mystery. The main character, Miss Innes was a fun read. Many of the men tended to sound all the same, unfortunately. It took me half way through the book to differentiate them better. The character Jamieson was well crafted, and I liked the rascally chemistry between him and Innes. The plot was interesting: even though I knew what was coming, I still got caught up because the pacing was pretty good. I had trouble pick ...more
THE CIRCULAR STAIRCASE. (1908). Mary Roberts Rinehart. **.
This was Ms. Rinehart’s second novel, and the one that launched her very successful writing career. Even more noteworthy, however, is that this is the first novel that I have read on the Kindle. It was a totally new experience for me. Don’t ask me if I like it or not; I’m not sure. What happened is that I got my wife a Kindle Fire (or Flame, I’m not sure) and I was gifted with the original. It’s great in a way because there are thousands
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
Sep 22, 2011 Mandolin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 23, 2010 Scot rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 17, 2011 Sandy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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 about Mary Roberts Rinehart...

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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.” 8 likes
“Gradually I found that my name signed to a check was even more welcome than when signed to a letter,” 2 likes
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