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The Circular Staircase
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Group reads > October 2017 - The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart

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Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8607 comments Mod
Welcome to our October 2017 group read, The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart.

The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart

This thread is for people who may not have finished the book yet, so please don't post any spoilers here, but save them for the spoiler thread.


Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 742 comments I started last night and am liking it a lot! The race stuff is squirm-inducing but par for the course in the era. I like the sense of humor and the pace.


message 3: by Judy (last edited Sep 30, 2017 12:55PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8607 comments Mod
I liked the humour and the pace too, Abigail, but agree about the racial comments - of their time, as you say, but still hard to take.

I mainly enjoyed Rachel Innes' narrative voice apart from that, though. Interesting to have another older unmarried woman heroine, years before Miss Marple and Miss Silver - though I suppose she isn't really a detective.

I get the impression the narrator/heroine is supposed to be a sort of lovable curmudgeon, rather like the characters Edna May Oliver plays in many old films. She makes grumpy, acid comments about her family, friends and servants, but doesn't really mean it all and has a heart of gold hidden somewhere!


message 4: by Judy (last edited Sep 30, 2017 01:40PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8607 comments Mod
I was interested to find out more about Mary Roberts Rinehart, who is sometimes described as the "American Agatha Christie" but was writing years before her. This is the first book of hers I've read, but won't be the last!

Here is a link to a page about her - she had a fascinating life, working as a war correspondent in Belgium in WW1 and later being one of the first women to publicly write about her breast cancer treatment as well as writing many books in different genres.

http://www.topmystery.com/authors/bio...

I was also going to link to her Wikipedia page, but it includes a spoiler for her novel The Door.


Jan C (woeisme) | 1314 comments I have re-checked out the audio book. I listened to this not too long ago. But seem to have little memory of it right now.


Jill (dogbotsmum) | 1949 comments I'm half way through this and really do like her style of writing. I am also loving the relationship between Miss Innes and Liddy, but am finding the brother and sister as annoying as the siblings in Death in the Stocks by Georgette Heyer which we had for our group read.


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8607 comments Mod
I hadn't thought of that brother and sister comparison, Jill! I also enjoyed Miss Innes and Liddy's relationship and found it very realistic.


Susan | 9638 comments Mod
I must be honest and say that I didn't really enjoy this. I just didn't like the characters and found the plot confusing. It was a very early mystery to be fair.


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8607 comments Mod
Susan, I liked this one but didn't really enjoy the Miss Marple book this month, so we have opposite reactions this time round!

I also found the plot quite confusing but didn't mind as there was so much going on, and I did like the characters, especially Rachel and Liddy.


message 10: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8607 comments Mod
Just on the title of this book, I know both Leslie and I thought it would be the same story as the film The Spiral Staircase - but in fact that is a completely different story which just happens to have a similar title!


Susan | 9638 comments Mod
Fair enough. You can't win them all, but this was a bit of a slog for me.


message 12: by Brina (new)

Brina I am starting but it is slow going right now so I might pass as it's a busy time for me right and I'm craving a fast moving mystery thriller.


Sandy | 2634 comments Mod
I've downloaded it to my tablet so will be starting today. I should review the author's book list. I've known her name forever but not sure if I ever read any. If so, it was a long time ago.


message 14: by Mark Pghfan (new)

Mark Pghfan | 362 comments I just finished this recently, following a discussion last month of this, on another Goodreads page.

The writing is surprisingly contemporary, though the racial and class comments are not--though very much of this time. The book dates to 1908!

Quite an intrepid heroine, though!


Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 742 comments Ten chapters in, I’m loving it. The characters all seem vivid to me, and I like how the plot is developing. The one thing that seems gratuitously frustrating is all the characters who refuse to tell what they know, because it seems as if the mystery could be unraveled rather quickly if they did. I know, I know, motives of honor and all that, but I prefer mystery plots in which the thing is truly unknowable until it is known (if that makes any sense).


message 16: by Hannah (last edited Oct 01, 2017 10:39AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hannah (bookwormhannah) | 40 comments I just finished this yesterday. I was surprised how humorous it was, with the spookiness. The racial stuff bothered me...though I read a lot of older things, this Rachel person is particularly prejudiced. Going to be four stars once I write up my review.

This is the cover I have on my classic edition...it fits the mood well.
The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart

I've read two of her other books, K. and When a Man Marries, and both of them were vastly different in tone and style. Quite the versatile author.


Hannah (bookwormhannah) | 40 comments Here's a link to the pictures for the house Rinehart was guest in while writing parts of the book. Apparently the house was a big inspiration for parts of the plot...there was a fascinating newspaper article about it last year, but I can't recall if it was NYTimes or Washington Times or some other of the big coastal ones, and can't find it.
https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/88...


Jan C (woeisme) | 1314 comments Judy wrote: "Just on the title of this book, I know both Leslie and I thought it would be the same story as the film The Spiral Staircase - but in fact that is a completely different story which just happens to..."

The movie is based on Some Must Watch by Ethel Lina White, also the author of The Lady Vanishes.


message 19: by Jill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 1949 comments Hannah wrote: "Here's a link to the pictures for the house Rinehart was guest in while writing parts of the book. Apparently the house was a big inspiration for parts of the plot...there was a fascinating newspap..."

Thanks for the link . Very much like I imagined the house to be.


Hannah (bookwormhannah) | 40 comments Jill wrote: "Hannah wrote: "Here's a link to the pictures for the house Rinehart was guest in while writing parts of the book. Apparently the house was a big inspiration for parts of the plot...there was a fasc..."

I was particularly fascinated by the pictures in the listing from the Civil War era. There would have been all sorts of lore about the house by the time Rinehart was there in the early 1900s. (If you can't tell, old houses fascinate me.)


Stephanie (quiltsrme) | 14 comments I started this a couple of days ago and am about 1/3 of the way through. There's a lot of detail that I forget what is going on, so definitely not an audiobook I can listen to while doing other things on the computer. So, I'm going to get started on a sock so I can knit and listen at the same time.


message 22: by Jill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 1949 comments Stephanie wrote: "I started this a couple of days ago and am about 1/3 of the way through. There's a lot of detail that I forget what is going on, so definitely not an audiobook I can listen to while doing other thi..."

Haha. Is that called " putting a sock in it "


message 23: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8607 comments Mod
Hannah wrote: "Here's a link to the pictures for the house Rinehart was guest in while writing parts of the book. Apparently the house was a big inspiration for parts of the plot...there was a fascinating newspap..."

Thanks so much for the photos, Hannah - the house/castle looks amazing and the historic Civil War photos are very interesting. I also love the fact that it is in Rogues Road!


message 24: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8607 comments Mod
Jan C wrote: "Judy wrote: "Just on the title of this book, I know both Leslie and I thought it would be the same story as the film The Spiral Staircase - but in fact that is a completely different story which ju..."

Jan, thanks for the info about The Spiral Staircase movie and source book. Ethel Lina White is an author I'm meaning to get to soon (one of the many!)


message 25: by Mark Pghfan (new)

Mark Pghfan | 362 comments The book does have a lot of complicated twists and turns, and it is indeed tough to keep track of everything and every one!


message 26: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8607 comments Mod
I don't think I kept track of it very well, Mark - there are so many new twists I found myself getting lost, but enjoyed it anyway!


message 27: by Mark Pghfan (new)

Mark Pghfan | 362 comments I thought of reading it again, to try and keep track of things, but decided against it!


Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 742 comments For a while I had difficulty keeping the doctors apart—all those bland Anglo-Saxon names—and the Alex thing seemed a bit preposterous. But I’ve been enjoying the action hugely, along with all the life-with-a-gazillion-servants thing (how do we modern folks survive? and how did the gazillion servants survive? not very well, evidently). I’m old enough to remember people who believed their lives were threatened by a fever (more plausibly before antibiotics), and ladies who took to their beds at the least reversal in their lives. Have almost finished, will switch to the spoilers thread.


Sandy | 2634 comments Mod
I finally started the book and am about half done. I really enjoy the voice of the narrator. Her relationship with her maid rings true for two women together far all their lives in an unequal situation. As does her relationship with the young siblings: half parent but on the outside of their lives for several years. And she seems a very sensible woman ... except for holding stuff back from the police. That never works in these books.

I agree with all the comments about the plot twists and turns. Rinehart is very good at reiterating the time line, but I'm still getting confused. My sympathies to the group member listening to the book; hope the knitting solution worked.


message 30: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8607 comments Mod
Sandy, I agree about her relationship with Halsey and Gertrude - at first I wondered how she felt about them, given her dry tone. But it soon becomes clear she is devoted to them but also frustrated by them in fairly equal measure.


Stephanie (quiltsrme) | 14 comments I really enjoyed this book! It was a rather meandering story which is how many of us live our lives when we get older (ok, I do).


message 32: by Suki (new) - rated it 4 stars

Suki St Charles (goodreadscomsuki_stcharles) | 58 comments I really enjoyed this book! My edition has a cover that reminds me of the old Nancy Drew mysteries that I loved as a kid (The Circular Staircase), and I thought it read like a cross between a Nancy Drew written for adults and a ghost story. Much of the book felt more like a ghost story than a mystery (no supernatural elements, but there was a definite "the-calls-are-coming-from-inside-the-house" vibe). The back cover of this edition shows floor plans of the three floors of the house (no basement), which is something that classic mysteries often had. I love it when books include maps and floor plans; I wish more modern mysteries had them. I have a few Mary Roberts Rinehart books on my shelves that I look forward to revisiting after reading this. :)


message 33: by Pip (new) - added it

Pip | 3 comments I've just started reading this. I got it for my Kindle years ago (I think it must have been on some journalist's list of "best mystery novels" or something similar) and completely forgot I had it until I noticed this group was reading it :-)

I started reading late at night and it got very scary very quickly, so I'm going to save it for daylight reading, haha!


message 34: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8607 comments Mod
Suki and Pip, I agree about the spooky feel to this book - it was suggested as a Hallowe’en read and it really fits the bill. Must admit though I can’t really follow maps and plans in mystery books!


message 35: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8607 comments Mod
Thanks for the book cover link, Suki. I can see what you mean about it looking like Nancy Drew. I take it this is Gertrude rather than Rachel!


Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂  | 593 comments Just started last night.

Thanks very much for the link to pictures of the actual house, Hannah - I was imagining a more Addams Family look!

Like most of us, I am enjoying the narration. I often struggle with very early 20th century books - but not this one!


Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂  | 593 comments The story did get bogged down around the 40% mark, but is picking up for me now. I am finding all the characters a bit hard to keep track of.


message 38: by Pip (new) - added it

Pip | 3 comments Carol ♔Type, Oh Queen!♕ wrote: "Thanks very much for the link to pictures of the actual house, Hannah - I was imagining a more Addams Family look!"

Oooh, yes, thanks Hannah! I missed this comment earlier, so I'm glad Carol highlighted it. What fabulous names: Rogues' Road and Casanova Hunt especially. They alone make Melrose Castle worth every cent of its hefty price tag!


message 39: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8607 comments Mod
Carol, I also found the characters hard to keep track of at times - I rather wished I had a physical book for this one rather than an ebook, so that I could keep flipping back!


message 40: by Judy (last edited Oct 19, 2017 11:12AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8607 comments Mod
Gary mentioned Otto Penzler in another thread, which reminded me that I read this book in a Mysterious Press edition with an introduction by him - I don't think I've mentioned this, but apologies if I'm repeating myself.

Penzler says there's not as much detection in her books as in predecessors (Holmes etc) - "Mrs Rinehart's stories involve ordinary people entangled in terrifying situations that could happen to anyone."

I think this is true - this isn't the sort of book where you are working out a complicated mystery, though we have had some discussion of clues and red herrings over in the spoiler thread!


Hannah (bookwormhannah) | 40 comments Pip wrote: "Carol ♔Type, Oh Queen!♕ wrote: "Thanks very much for the link to pictures of the actual house, Hannah - I was imagining a more Addams Family look!"

Oooh, yes, thanks Hannah! I missed this comment ..."


I know...I loved the address for the home. Too bad I don't have a few spare million lying around! ;)


message 42: by Mark Pghfan (new)

Mark Pghfan | 362 comments Totally thought things bogged down in the middle, and also was confused with all the characters!


Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂  | 593 comments Judy wrote: "Gary mentioned Otto Penzler in another thread, which reminded me that I read this book in a Mysterious Press edition with an introduction by him - I don't think I've mentioned this, ..."

I was thinking last night that I probably would like Rachel if I met her in real life.


message 44: by Pip (new) - added it

Pip | 3 comments Hannah wrote: "I know...I loved the address for the home. Too bad I don't have a few spare million lying around! ;)
"


And if several of us clubbed together?! It would make for a perfect murder mystery holiday hotel ;-))


message 45: by Hannah (last edited Oct 19, 2017 05:49PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hannah (bookwormhannah) | 40 comments It would! According to last year’s article, though, apparently the county refuses to grant a permit to make it a bed and breakfast. :(


message 46: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8607 comments Mod
Harking back to the confusion between The Circular Staircase and The Spiral Staircase... a TCM article on the film The Spiral Staircase says the producers got the idea for the title from Rinehart's earlier book! So the titles are not just a coincidence.

The Spiral Staircase title was then added to later editions of Ethel Lina White's book Some Must Watch.


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