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The Circular Staircase
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Group reads > The Circular Staircase - SPOILER thread

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Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8938 comments Mod
This is the spoiler thread for The Circular Staircase. Spoilers can be freely posted here, as it is assumed that anyone reading this thread has finished the book.


message 2: by Roman Clodia (new)

Roman Clodia | 812 comments I liked the convoluted plot and Rachel's voice - also the historical evocation: the idea of the electricity company switching off the power at midnight... unless you're having a party in which case you can slip them some cash to keep it on!

I did feel that the end is a cop-out, though: a version of 'the butler did it', with the housekeeper's confession. It seems difficult to believe that no-one saw her slipping around 'upstairs', or sliding down the clothes chute (fab!).


message 3: by Mark Pghfan (new)

Mark Pghfan | 365 comments I expect that the "had I but known" aspect of a lot of Rinehart's writing may crop up.

I was afraid that the very complicated plot would not be adequately tied up at the end, though that was not the case. Most all of the questions were answered.

If I had time, I would reread, seeing if I can get a better handle on the confusing plot.


message 4: by Roman Clodia (new)

Roman Clodia | 812 comments You're right, they are, but lots could easily have been solved earlier if Gertrude and Halsey had just shared info with Rachel. So the plot depends on withholding rather than true mystery. We couldn't have solved it in the way that we can with Christie, say, where the clues are in plain view.

That 'if only I'd known' was a bit irritating!

Does anyone know if Rachel appears again or is this a standalone?


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8938 comments Mod
Roman Clodia wrote: "You're right, they are, but lots could easily have been solved earlier if Gertrude and Halsey had just shared info with Rachel. So the plot depends on withholding rather than true mystery. We could..."

That's a good point, R.C. - I think there are quite a few classic mysteries where the detectives refuse to share what they know with one another (often if it is an amateur and the police), but it's really hard to see a good reason for this secrecy here where they are all family, except for keeping the reader in the dark that is!


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8938 comments Mod
Mark Pghfan wrote: "I expect that the "had I but known" aspect of a lot of Rinehart's writing may crop up.

I was afraid that the very complicated plot would not be adequately tied up at the end, though that was not ..."


On the 'Had I but known' aspect, I don't think I'd heard this phrase before reading this book, but it crops up a lot in discussions of Rinehart! There is a bit about this school of writing on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Had_I_b...

I quite like hints of what is going to happen later, but I think they are rather overdone in The Circular Staircase - there seem to be warnings of doom at the end of nearly every chapter!


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8938 comments Mod
Roman Clodia wrote: "I did feel that the end is a cop-out, though: a version of 'the butler did it', with the housekeeper's confession. It seems difficult to believe that no-one saw her slipping around 'upstairs', or sliding down the clothes chute (fab!)...."

I agree - also, it is an amazing coincidence that Gertrude just happens to have injured her foot at the exact time the housekeeper was sliding down said clothes chute...


Jan C (woeisme) | 1375 comments Mark Pghfan wrote: "I expect that the "had I but known" aspect of a lot of Rinehart's writing may crop up.

I was afraid that the very complicated plot would not be adequately tied up at the end, though that was not ..."


This was my second listening to the book, separated by 2 years, and it is still convoluted.

I was surprised at how little of the story I remembered.


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8938 comments Mod
Mark, you asked if Rachel appeared In any other books. I looked up info on this and sadly it seems the answer is no, but one site said she does have a similar character in later books called Tish.


message 10: by Mark Pghfan (new)

Mark Pghfan | 365 comments Actually, it was Roman who asked, but thanks for checking this out!!


message 11: by Roman Clodia (new)

Roman Clodia | 812 comments Thanks, Judy (and Mark)! That's a shame as I liked Rachel and Liddy.

And yes, there are some horrible coincidences necessary to make the plot hold together - but I found them very easy to forgive as the book is so much fun!


message 12: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8938 comments Mod
Sorry for getting in a muddle, Mark and Roman Clodia!

I can also forgive the coincidences as the book was so enjoyable!


message 13: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8938 comments Mod
I'm just reading another book with a lot of "had he but known" chapter endings- this one is third person... I expect I will keep noticing this now!


Sandy | 2788 comments Mod
I finished the book last night. My review:

The best part of the book is the voice of the narrator, a middle aged spinster aunt with a sense of humor, a taste for adventure and a common sense attitude. The plot is convoluted and each twist (of the staircase?) brings in another set of characters. It all hangs together and the journey is fun.


Sandy | 2788 comments Mod
In a way this is the opposite of a the country manor mystery where all the suspects are isolated in a single place. This one keeps introducing new suspects. As some one mentioned, I also could not keep the names straight.

I felt I should have been more suspicious of the death of the elder bank owner, specially when we knew his doctor was villainous, but I wasn't. There were just so many people wandering around that house!


Sandy | 2788 comments Mod
Judy, thanks for the mention of Rinehart's Tish character. I have a collection of those stories on my kindle, probably a freebie, and I need to move them up on the TBR.


message 17: by Roman Clodia (new)

Roman Clodia | 812 comments In some ways, Staircase reminded me of those Victorian 'sensation' novels by people like Wilkie Collins and M.E. Braddon - shifting identities & hidden disguises, nefarious doings, secrets and duplicity - rather than straight crime. The author certainly manages to juggle an awful lot of plot points at once!


Sandy | 2788 comments Mod
Roman Clodia wrote: "In some ways, Staircase reminded me of those Victorian 'sensation' novels by people like Wilkie Collins and M.E. Braddon - shifting identities & hidden disguises, nefarious doings, secrets and dupl..."

Good comparison - and it was written very close to the Victorian time period.


Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 803 comments I agree with Sandy that the narrator’s voice is the best part of the book. But I did find some aspects of the narration awkward—the multiple foreshadowings mentioned by others, and also the way the action stopped and she just explained everything at the end. I guess I’m more accustomed to the dramatic closing scenes with the big reveal that are popular today. It seemed anticlimactic.


message 20: by Judy (last edited Oct 05, 2017 12:14PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8938 comments Mod
I enjoy watching film and TV adaptations of books I've just read, so I was wondering if there was a film of The Circular Staircase. Sadly the answer seems to be no - there was a silent film made in 1915 but it is now lost!

However, there have been several film adaptations of The Bat, a stage play Rinehart wrote which was based on the novel. This apparently features some extra characters including a mysterious criminal called 'The Bat', who was one of the inspirations for Batman!

The most recent version was a 1959 film starring Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead - there is also a silent film from 1926 and a version called The Bat Whispers from 1930.

More info on the Wikipedia page about The Bat - this summarises the whole plot so I've avoided that bit in case I see one of the films! I see Rachel and Liddy change their names to Cornelia and Lizzie.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bat...


Sandy | 2788 comments Mod
Abigail wrote: "I agree with Sandy that the narrator’s voice is the best part of the book. But I did find some aspects of the narration awkward—the multiple foreshadowings mentioned by others, and also the way the..."

I agree the narration wrap up was anticlimactic. I wish Rinehart had found a more natural way of telling the housekeeper's story.


Jan C (woeisme) | 1375 comments Sandy wrote: "Abigail wrote: "I agree with Sandy that the narrator’s voice is the best part of the book. But I did find some aspects of the narration awkward—the multiple foreshadowings mentioned by others, and ..."

Maybe she gets better about it in her later books.


Paperbackreader | 64 comments I read The Circular Staircase a couple of years ago and did not enjoy it. The only purpose of the narrative seemed to be how to make the book longer. Characters keep information back for no apparent reason, detectives arrive and exit, everything just keeps going round and round. So many potentially thrilling situations just peter out. I was bored.


Paperbackreader | 64 comments Roman Clodia wrote: "...lots could easily have been solved earlier if Gertrude and Halsey had just shared info with Rachel. So the plot depends on withholding rather than true mystery..."

Agreed. Why is everyone so hell bent on hiding what they know? I was kind of exhausted by all the unnecessary secret keeping!


Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 803 comments I think the ones keeping secrets did have reasons, albeit in some cases thin ones. Gertrude didn’t want anyone to know Alex was really Jack, her fiancé, because she didn’t want him arrested. Halsey the same. Louise Armstrong was trying to protect Halsey from going all noble and marrying her despite her family’s disgrace. Alex/Jack was trying to recover the stolen money—though his reason for secrecy is the thinnest, because if he were innocent, surely telling the police about his suspicion that some of the loot was hidden in the house would have allowed it to be found more quickly (many hands making light work).


message 26: by Mark Pghfan (new)

Mark Pghfan | 365 comments I agree with the rest of you, that the people hiding things only served to annoy me. Perhaps that is the difference between what the readers of 1908 and 2017 like to see. Overall, I think the book could have been about 50 pages shorter.


message 27: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8938 comments Mod
I agree that all the secret keeping does become a bit wearing, but I enjoyed the book anyway. Abigail, thanks for tracing everyone's reasons for keeping quiet.

We also had Thomas keeping the secret that he was hiding Louise (I suppose she told him not to tell anyone, but that didn't seem like a very good reason for not confiding in Rachel and getting medical help sooner!)


message 28: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8938 comments Mod
Sandy wrote: "Judy, thanks for the mention of Rinehart's Tish character. I have a collection of those stories on my kindle, probably a freebie, and I need to move them up on the TBR."

Sandy, I will be interested to hear what you think of the Tish stories. I'd like to try more by Rinehart.


message 29: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8938 comments Mod
Did anyone manage to guess many of the plot twists? I didn’t!


Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 803 comments I’m not sure how many of the twists I got right, but I could see they were pending twists. (The author/narrator, of course, helped with that, with all her foreshadowing.) For instance, Alex—I knew he was a plant from the start, but I thought he might be an investigator brought in by Halsey, didn’t realize he was Jack himself (still not sure how that would have worked). And I knew the housekeeper was responsible for something because (a) the incidents started after she arrived in the house and (b) the nature of the incidents changed after she went to the hospital, but I wasn’t sure exactly what she had done; and I didn’t know who had caused her injury.


message 31: by Roman Clodia (new)

Roman Clodia | 812 comments I guessed that the stolen bonds were hidden in the house (lots of stolen bonds in Christie and Sherlock Holmes, of course), and about the paternity of the child - but was surprised about the housekeeper and Alex/Jack.


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

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8938 comments Mod
Abigail and R.C., if I notice any mysterious goings-on in my neighbourhood you are clearly the people to call! I didn't guess any of these twists - I thought Alex was an undercover policeman (still not sure how nobody recognised him!) and I was cooking up various solutions involving Gertrude which turned out to be wrong.


message 33: by Mark Pghfan (new)

Mark Pghfan | 365 comments I certainly didn't see the Jack/Alex business. I knew something was hidden in the house, given the activity in the unused bedroom.


Sandy | 2788 comments Mod
The introduction to my copy actually told me what was hidden in the house. It took me awhile to realize I shouldn't know that.


Hannah (bookwormhannah) | 40 comments Funny. I figured out the housekeeper pretty quickly, the Jack/Alex identity about halfway after it began, but was surprised by the bonds!


Hannah (bookwormhannah) | 40 comments Oh, and as to Jack/Alex, Rachel made a big deal over his moustache and how much she disliked it and suspected him over it, and specifically mentioned that her new gardener was clean shaven. That was the first hint for me.


Sandy | 2788 comments Mod
Hannah wrote: "Oh, and as to Jack/Alex, Rachel made a big deal over his moustache and how much she disliked it and suspected him over it, and specifically mentioned that her new gardener was clean shaven. That wa..."

Yet another hint I missed!


Hannah (bookwormhannah) | 40 comments Sandy wrote: "The introduction to my copy actually told me what was hidden in the house. It took me awhile to realize I shouldn't know that."

I have a very old copy, so no introduction and no summary. :)


Jan C (woeisme) | 1375 comments I missed pretty much all of these things. But I had listened to/read this before so maybe some of these things were stuck in the back of my mind. Because I did wonder if the guy was really dead and assumed the money must be in the house.

I really don't retain as much information from listening to a story as I do actually reading a book.


Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂  | 606 comments Finished, loved Rachel, loved the beginning (& near the end, where Rachel was trapped in the room) but as others have said, too many characters & too many twists - & too slow moving. 3.5★


message 41: by Gina (new) - rated it 2 stars

Gina Dalfonzo | 12 comments Late to the party, sorry! I didn't care for it. Same reasons as most of you. Too tedious, too much foreshadowing, blah writing (though she has a good turn of phrase now and then). Also, why make Liddy such an idiot? She hears a cry in the attic when they're searching for Rachel, and she just freaks out and runs off and doesn't tell anyone?? I prefer writers who let the servants have a brain in their heads!


message 42: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8938 comments Mod
I think there had to be a lot of people not telling anyone things for no good reason to make the plot work - good point about Liddy, but I think she isn't as much of an idiot as Rachel makes out (and I don't think Rachel *really* thinks so at heart...)


message 43: by Gina (new) - rated it 2 stars

Gina Dalfonzo | 12 comments I didn't think she was either, until that incident about the attic. That made no sense to me.


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