Fri, 28 September 2018
A spunky spinster and her niece and nephew rent a nice country house for the summer. But when shots ring out at three in the morning, their vacation takes a tragic turn . Mary Roberts Rinehart - today on The Classic Tales Podcast.
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I’ve read several stories and novels in an attempt to really get a good story to do next. I have a ton of ideas, but I always look for something that really speaks to me. After weeks of study, I found it. Mary Roberts Rinehart was a bestselling Golden Age Mystery writer, predating Agatha Christie by several years. She is actually known as the American Agatha Christie. The Circular Staircase, the story that begins today, pioneered the “Had I but known” style of mystery, where a first-person narrator laments his or her action, which precipitates another unfortunate series of actions. It’s great fun where you have a fun character with a disdainful opinion of detectives.
Ogden Nash parodied the Had I But Known school in his poem: “Don’t Guess, Let Me Tell You”
Had-I-But-Known narrators are the ones who hear a stealthy creak at midnight in the tower where the body lies, and, instead of locking their door or arousing the drowsy policeman posted outside their room, sneak off by themselves to the tower and suddenly they hear a breath exhaled behind them,
And they have no time to scream, they know nothing else till the men from the D.A.'s office come in next morning and find them.
And when the killer is finally trapped into a confession by some elaborate device of the Had I But Known-er some hundred pages later than if they hadn’t held their knowledge aloof,
Why, they say, why Inspector I knew all along it was he but I couldn’t tell you, you would have laughed at me unless I had absolute proof.
And now, The Circular Staircase, Part 1of9, by Mary Roberts Rinehart.