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Some Must Watch

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  527 ratings  ·  107 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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Average rating 3.68  · 
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Another writer that I’ve investigated after reading “The Book of Forgotten Authors”. Even her GR author page comments that she “has faded into obscurity”, although it seems she was very well known in her day.

Before moving onto the book I wanted to highlight that the blurb at the top of the page is misleading and I think relates to the plot of the Hollywood film “The Spiral Staircase”, which was adapted from this novel. In the book the main character, Helen Capel, is not mute, and neither does th
``Laurie Henderson
If you're in the mood for a good old-fashioned gothic, damsel in distress book then 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 he

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
Nov 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
There is a word that film buffs like to use to describe a type of motion picture that, because of its tautness and high suspense quotient, almost seems as if it had been directed by the so-called "Master of Suspense" himself, Alfred Hitchcock. The word, naturally enough, is "Hitchcockian," a term that might be fairly applied to such wonderful entertainments as "Gaslight" (both the 1940 and '44 versions), "Charade," "The Prize" and "Arabesque." But of all the pictures that have been honored with ...more
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
antiquarian reverie
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 sus
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
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
Jul 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
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
Apr 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Amusing in parts...

An insane murderer is rampaging through the countryside, killing young women. Helen, a young woman, has taken a job with the Warren family in their manor house right slap bang in the middle of where the murderer is doing his thing. But she's perfectly safe, because there are lots of other people in the house with her. Except that, for one reason or another, gradually all the other people either leave the house or become incapable of helping. Soon Helen is on her own... or is s
What a thrilling classic. The perfect setting consists of a lonely old Victorian mansion and a killer on the loose. Prepare for a non-stop reading experience.
Feb 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, february-2018
Whenever I cannot decide on which genre I want to read, I tend to be selecting mysteries at the moment. I have really enjoyed a couple of White's books to date, but was rather disappointed by the last which I read. Still, I had rather high hopes for Some Must Watch. White writes wonderfully, and I found the novel engaging from its first page. I love country house mysteries, and this is one of the better ones which I have read for a while. The real strength here, aside from the well developed and ...more
Aug 28, 2012 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
Feb 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a real surprise!
A bit Agatha Christie but with much more suspense. From the beginning till the end!
Much advised.
Anna Dowdall
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Purely delicious had-she-but-known Gothic thriller of the (much) better sort written in the 1930s. A type of unJane Eyre, Helen Capel finds herself an upper crust dogsbody in a big house across the Welsh border that holds an even bigger secret. It is a dark and stormy night--and one by one those who might save her from the serial killer who has just killed a young working woman nearby leave or are foiled/incapacitated. The tension is masterful but it's the relations among the female characters t ...more
I just finished reading Some Must Watch by Ethel Lina White, and I loved it. Most of the time anyway. It is also known as The Spiral Staircase, I don't know why, and it has been filmed as The Spiral Staircase and I don't know why to that either, I've never seen the movie. As for the book there are plenty of people going up and down staircases, more than one, but there are also plenty of people going in and out of bedrooms, kitchens, and basements. Also, there are plenty of people going in an ...more
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
AKA The Spiral Staircase, though the staircase has very little to do with the novel. Published six years before Christie's And Then There Were None, but the whole time I was reading this book I wondered if our Agatha had read it and been inspired to write her own version. It wouldn't surprise me.

Very well plotted, very Gothic, set in an isolated mansion in the middle of a terrible storm. White builds the tension very well as one by one the characters leave the house...or simply vanish. None of t
Jun 09, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020, mystery
This book uses its atmosphere well- too well. I had to stop and take deep breaths every few pages. The tension builds from the beginning, and the setting is appropriately thrilling.

So it is a bit of a let down that the obvious murderer is obvious, at least half way through the book. The lack of the surprise factor and the very expected conclusion did mar the reading experience significantly. Also, perhaps we did not need the inner thought of some of the characters to such an extent. It did not a
Rebekah Giese Witherspoon
I read this 1930s Gothic suspense novel while curled up by a crackling wood fire at my parents’ house (thanks, Dad!). It reminds me a bit of The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart in that I figured out who the bad guy was halfway through and spent the rest of the book yelling at the heroine: “Noooooooo! Don’t do it, silly girl! He’s going to get you!”

Minus 1 star because I would have preferred for the big reveal mystery solution to be at the end of the book, not in the middle.

Recommended for readers
Robert Vanneste
Sep 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 rounded up.
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This one is more of a Thriller than a murder/mistery, and it kept me wondering who was the evil in the shadows. It had to be someone I wasn't counting on, and for once I didn't get it until the end. So that's cool! :) ...more
Sep 21, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020

No, really, it was. That's the set-up for White's novel, famously made – with some alterations – into The Spiral Staircase in 1946. The film has, it seems, driven many to seek out the novel to sup at the story's source, though I'm coming at it from the position of a heathen non-watcher, which means I'm likely not as irritated by the material changes which some argue made the film.

Set in a stately home – well, a home fancy enough to have servants, at least – Some
Aug 07, 2013 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
Mar 26, 2013 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
Oct 31, 2015 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
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
Jun 20, 2012 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 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 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. ...more
May 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crime-fiction
For my full review click on the link below:
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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

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“Anyone acquainted with Helen's characteristics would know that she always manufactured leisure for an unfamiliar job, even if she had to neglect some legitimate duty. It was the infusion of novelty into her dull routine which helped to keep undimmed her passionate zest for life.” 0 likes
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