A wealthy, middle-aged spinster arrives at the mansion she's rented for the summer while her own town house is being renovated. The mansion is the home of a millionaire local banker, who has left for California with his wife and stepdaughter. But all is not peace and relaxation in the vast villa. Before long, the spinster's house help is frightened out of her wits by various strange noises. What follows is a spooky tale of mysterious disappearances, murder, apparitions and weird goings on. _The Circular Staircase_ by Mary Roberts Rinehart is her first published novel and was wildly popular when it first came out in 1907. It catapulted the 27 year old ex-nurse into national fame and she kept her family in relative luxury through several more best-selling novels. _The Circular Staircase_ is a gripping mystery story and one that's guaranteed to keep readers guessing till the very end. It is also the book which invented the “Had I But Known It” school of detective fiction, in which the principal character's actions have the effect of inadvertently prolonging the mystery and the action. Ogden Nash famously parodied this form of mystery writing in his poem _Don't Guess Let Me Tell You_: “_Had I but known what I know now, I could have saved at least three lives by revealing to the Inspector what I heard through that fortuitous hole in the floor_!” In _The Circular Staircas_e, the no nonsense and fiercely independent Rachel Innes and her timorous help, Liddy, are both memorable and delightful characters. The book's popularity compelled the author to adapt it into a successful play in which she added a character called The Bat – a costumed figure who inspired Bob Kane to create his famous Batman. Mary Roberts Rineheart came to be known as the American Agatha Christie. She wrote more than sixty detective novels and plays, featuring amateur sleuths like Miss Cornelia van Gorder, Letitia Carberry and Hilda Adams. She is also the author of a large number of short stories which she regularly contributed to magazines like the Saturday Evening Post. Her non-fiction works include travelogues, two autobiographies and a collection of essays. Though she is almost unknown today, Mary Roberts Rineheart's books were awaited with much anticipation by her faithful fan following. As a straightforward detective story, _The Circular Staircase_ is a classic that will certainly appeal to readers of all ages. With the mandatory mild romance thrown in, there's enough to keep you entertained on a rainy afternoon.
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