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Some Must Watch

3.63  ·  Rating Details ·  262 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews
Also published as The Spiral Staircase. This book has been the inspiration behind three movies.

As Professor Sebastian Warren battens down the shutters and locks all the doors of their isolated country house, the eight occupants start to feel safe. Somewhere outside lurks a murderer of young girls, the latest only an earshot away. Is there really safety in numbers and what
Paperback, 256 pages
Published June 30th 2004 by Kessinger Publishing (first published 1933)
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(showing 1-30)
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Feb 08, 2014 Laurie rated it it was amazing
In the mood for a good old-fashioned gothic, damsel in distress read? This is the book for you.
The scene is set in 1930's England at the mansion of the aristocratic Warren family, in a remote location bordering on Wales.
Newly hired maid young Helen, all alone in the world, is delighted to have landed any job and just can't believe her good luck to finally find employment, even if the mansion is in a desolate location.
She just can't understand why they have problems keeping any help in the first
As Helen opened the door of Miss Warren's room, a small incident occurred which was fraught with future significance.

It was a dark and stormy, really, it was. Fortunately, Ethel Lina White was a much better author than the potboiler creators who are generally credited with starting their books in such fashion. The Spiral Staircase (1933; originally titled Some Must Watch) is a suspense thriller with a damsel in distress that makes excellent use of the dramatic storm-tossed night to p
I saw the movie based on this book (The Spiral Staircase) several years ago and enjoyed it, and I liked the book just as well. In spite of some pretty significant changes—the setting moved from the Welsh border in the 1930s to Edwardian-era America, for instance; and character names and relationships being shuffled around—the main structure of the story and most of the key events are remarkably similar. The biggest difference, of course, is that in the book, heroine Helen Capel is most definitel ...more
Nancy Oakes
This book was so much fun to read and it hit all of my classic mystery reading buttons -- an isolated family home, a murderer on the prowl and all of it set against the proverbial dark and stormy night, complete with banging shutters and an elderly bedridden woman predicting doom and gloom. How could it possibly be any better??? Having said that, I don't think it's a 5-star read but I definitely had a great time with it. In fact, just thinking about it right now makes me want to do that evil vil ...more
Aug 30, 2012 Richard rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crime
One of those rare books that genuinely deserves the epithet 'unputdownable' - and yet it's so restrained and small scale. All the action takes place in one evening and almost entirely in the one house. It's not a detective yarn but there is a mystery at the heart of it (several, actually). Even though it involves a homicidal maniac and the gothic staple of young girl as heroine in a house full of eccentrics it remains thoroughly believable. Most of White's books are out of print but this one was ...more
Oct 23, 2013 Charlotte rated it really liked it
It took me a long time to get through this book, but that's in no way indicative of its quality. I almost exclusively read it in 10 minute bursts waiting for my tram to arrive in the mornings; luckily the chapters are short so nothing was too disjointed.

I wanted to read this book as it's the text that inspired the film The Spiral Staircase, one of my favourite thrillers. Although the premise of the book is slightly different from the film, I still wasn't sure whether the protagonist was going t
Oct 21, 2012 Kimberly rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery-misc
Once I really started this book (i.e. past the first 30 pages) I just couldn't put it down. It is able to draw you in with the protagonist having thoughts most people have probably had: hearing noises in the woods or thinking you hear people walking around the house at night, seeing things moving and not sure whether it's a trick of the eye or actually there. Add to that the serial killer on the loose and you just have to finish this book to find out what happens. Brilliant read and wonderfully ...more
Damon Suede
Jul 14, 2013 Damon Suede rated it really liked it
Superb woman-in-peril mystery let down by a repetitious second act.

White's novel , which inspired the exquisite 1946 film THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE... is a craft class in mounting suspense and carefully constructed irony. YMy one quibble, and it's a large one is the misuse of the Nurse character and an abrubt climax that feels tacked on. Still, if you enjoy early-20th century mystery you should give this one a go. Well worth a look.
Aug 02, 2012 Megan rated it it was amazing
Very tense, couldn't put it down! Its almost four thirty am, it was too tense for me to stop reading. I think it was because of all the "Oh, did I hear something? Oh, did I really just see that?" scenes, which is often how I feel when I'm home alone.
Apr 27, 2012 JadedlilFecker marked it as to-read


Description (from wiki): In early 20th century New England, a serial killer murders disabled young women in the community. His next victim apparently is Helen (McGuire), a mute girl working as a live-in companion for the wealthy, bedridden Mrs. Warren (Barrymore). Mrs. Warren urges her to leave the house, as does Dr. Parry, who knows the reason for Helen's loss of speech and hopes to help her get her voice back. Rounding out the household are Mrs. Warren's
A vintage mystery/suspense story that features an isolated mansion, a young inquisitive housemaid an eccentric aristocratic family and a murderer.

I wanted to rate this higher because it had all of the elements that I look for in these type of novels but this one just didn't work for me. Found it to be a bit too repetitive in places and the characters were glossed over in parts. Found it difficult to get a real sense of some of them. The ending was very abrupt with no real sense of closure. Inter
Sep 25, 2012 Amanda rated it it was ok
I cannot believe that I am saying this...

I have found a movie that is better than the book, and a stage play that is better than the movie.

I'm currently cast to play Helen in a stage production of The Spiral Staircase. In order to be as acquainted with the story as possible, I wanted to see the movie and read the book the play was based upon. What a disappointment.

The main issue I had with the book was that Helen was so dull and ordinary. In both the film and the play, she is mute. So when she n
May 20, 2016 AndrewVC rated it liked it
Shelves: summer-reads
I love suspense thrillers, Gothic novels, etc. so I was really stoked to read this and eventually see the movie. However, it was a harder read than I expected - not a Joyce but I found myself slowing down to read every word. Many of my recent reads have been pretty quick reads because they were more colloquial and fast-paced. Here, I had to slow down and learn about the reaching tree limbs scraping the protagonist's bedroom window. I will say I was very impressed with some wonderful passages and ...more
Sep 07, 2016 Deb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ever since reading White's The Elephant Never Forgets, I've had The Spiral Staircase on my To Read list. I was not disappointed.
One must remember this novel was written in 1933. What some see as slow moving, I enjoyed. The writing is lean.
The story begins with a walk home. Strange, small tidbits are introduced. These, juxtaposed with Helen's curiosity/imagination and the ever spinning thread of introduced characters' antics leads the reader to the realization that much, much more is here than
Mar 28, 2013 Bibliophile rated it liked it
This vintage murder mystery takes place during one really, really, long night. A homicidal maniac is lurking around the countryside strangling women left and right, while the residents of a nearby manor do their best to get themselves killed. The plucky and supremely annoying help, Helen, is busy sticking her nose where it does not belong. Mrs Oates, the affable cook, is getting shitfaced in the pantry. The master of the house, a.k.a. the Professor, is O.D'ing on sleeping pills, while the sinist ...more
Boris Cesnik
Mar 15, 2016 Boris Cesnik rated it really liked it
What an amusing surprise! I was expecting the movie's script to be a faithful transposition of the book...instead I stumbled upon a couple of quite interesting dissimilarities.
First of all the protagonist is not mute in the book (for this I must compliment the script writer - it was an absolutely brilliant idea...). Some other characters are different and I have to say the book does depict them better. I can't remember now if the Nurse actually appears in the film...anyway I loved her character
Jesús Cardeña Morales
Una historia de suspense sin suspense, porque a todas vistas se sabe quién es el asesino, desde el principio. La protagonista llega a unos puntos de estupidez que pensé que no se la cargan porque no quieren, en la vida real hubiera caído la primera.
Hay mucha redundancia de situaciones y capítulos en los que el pensamiento de los personajes es: "No sé qué hacer en mi habitación, voy a la cocina a ver si por la escalera me cruzo con alguien y me da un sustito"; o bien: "Creo que esa ventana antes
Picked up this book because I enjoy reading the books that classic noir and crime films are based on (in this case, The Spiral Staircase). The plot has been changed rather significantly. I found it hard to get into at first, as there were a lot of characters most with the same last name (it's about a family, after all). I stuck with it and within a few chapters, I was finding it charming-- for a book about women being hunted by a serial murderer. The plot is clever-although you might see the end ...more
I enjoyed this book, although it wasn't as scary as I had hoped when I downloaded it via Kindle. I would give it a solid 3 and 1/2 stars. It was written in the 1930's and I enjoyed the references and descriptions that were characteristic of that time period. Lots of fun characters populate the story so I was entertained throughout. What I felt was lacking was the description of the motive behind the murders. I would have liked that part of the story to be more in depth. The ending felt hasty, wi ...more
It's such a shame that Ethel Lina White is forgotten by today's readers, because this book was SO much better than I expected. I've never seen the old movie "The Spiral Staircase" which is based on this novel; for some reason, the filmmaker apparently made the heroine mute. This was completely unnecessary, because there is PLENTY of suspense as written. The atmosphere is just saturated with menace, which keeps building and building as the inhabitants of the Summit (a large and isolated old house ...more
Dec 29, 2015 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
rather excellent...I have not seen the film this book inspired but after this introduction I feel I shall.
This is the classic manor house crime novel....though in this case we are waiting for the crime to occur rather than wading through clues to a murder.
The suspense grows throughout the book and we know we are heading for a murder or attempted murder from the early pages...we are even steered towards a potential victim it is however the need to eliminate suspects that continues the narrative..
Gregory Bastianelli
When i was young I remember watching a movie called "The Spiral Staircase." I loved it, and now have discovered the book it was based on. I loved the book much more of course. White weaves a suspenseful tale of a group of people at a lonely country house during a terrible rain storm one night while a crazed killer has been strangling women around the English countryside. There is the typical cast of oddball characters and lots of British humor. Think "Downton Abbey" meets "Jack the Ripper." Whit ...more
classic reverie
Jul 24, 2016 classic reverie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Suspenseful throughout!

I had seen the classic movie years ago & enjoyed it, but like every movie made from a book there are changes and that is one reason I enjoy reading books that were made into movies. I have usually seen the movie long before reading the book but it only makes it more interesting seeing the difference which there were many but still the same kind of end. Looking for a book uncertain of the direction or even if there is a reason for alarm, this is the book for you. A nice
Jun 22, 2016 Sandy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a bit slow in the beginning and, quite frankly, somewhat boring. It did pick up by the last third of the book and it did keep me guessing. and the culprit was an interesting surprise although I wasn't entirely convinced about how the killer pulled off part of the alibi. I also thought the ending was pretty abrupt.

It kind of had the feel of a Hitchcock story combined with an Agatha Christie mystery as well as a little bit of "dark and stormy night" atmosphere. I would consider reading som
Dec 31, 2015 Huckleberry rated it really liked it
This book exceeded my expectations in that the suspense keeps the pages turning. Set in one night in an English manor while a storm rages outside and a murder lurks either outside or inside. Starts with nine people in the house and mostly told from the perspective of the relatively new help, Helen. She is as busy as can be flitting about the house from one room to the next checking in on each person in the house as she frets and worries about all the going ons.

I'll need to check for the movie n
Sep 19, 2013 Margee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
The lover of the dark-and-stormy-night in me found this tale of a serial killer loose in rural England in the 1930s nicely chilling. A young housekeeper, Helen, smitten with a local doctor, is followed back to the creepy mansion she helps tend, looking forward to an evening alternately sobering up the dipso cook and doing battle with the sometimes violent invalided mistress of the house, while other family and guests decamp to the local pub for the evening. The invalid's sadistic new nurse syste ...more
Jul 24, 2013 Chris rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
While I had my suspicions of who did it, this book kept me guessing til the end (and I was wrong!). A well written mystery novel that kept at a good pace and easily held my interest til the end. White was a skilled author who knew how to build up suspense and create misdirections.

I look forward to reading other mysteries by her.

If you read the public domain ebook (from Gutenberg?) there are many punctuation and some word-spacing issues. Perhaps there is a better ebook version somewhere.
May 28, 2012 Dee rated it liked it
I sought this book out because of the movie based on it, the 1940s version with Dorothy McGuire. There are a lot of differences between the two: enough to keep the story fresh and exciting for me, but still familiar. It's a fairly quick read, nothing I would call spectacular, but sufficiently creepy.
Feb 19, 2013 Becky rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime
Although a fairly short book I have to say I could not put it down once I got started.
The book is rather creepy and the tension builds well, those that have seen The Spiral Staircase with Dorothy McGuire will notice some differences when it comes to reading it. Not a great master piece but certainly not the worst book I have read.
A tense quick read!
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Ethel Lina White (1876 – 13 August 1944) was a British crime writer, best known for her novel The Wheel Spins (1936), on which the Alfred Hitchcock film, The Lady Vanishes (1938), was based.

Born in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, Wales, in 1876, White started writing as a child, contributing essays and poems to children's papers. Later she began to write short stories, but it was some years before she
More about Ethel Lina White...

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