When I need a break from the madness of the world, there are a couple of things to delve into for me. One is good music, and the other is escapist, enjoyment reading. This next book allowed me to enjoy several hours of mental escape these past few days.
Mary Roberts Rinehart wrote a number of books in the very early years of the 20th century and these are good “period pieces”. I had read 2 of her books back in the 2003 – 2005 time period. These were The Circular Staircase, and The Bat. When I first saw the image of this book’s front cover online while book shopping, my first impression was that the title was The White Cat at The Window.
Title: The Window at the White Cat
Author: Mary Roberts Rinehart (American, 1876-1958)
Publisher: Dover Publications (2017), originally published in book form in 1910 after being serialized in a magazine the prior year. ISBN: 978-0-486-81923-5 Softcover, 175 pages.
Without spoilers, this charming story involves a whodunit (as in a murder), a love triangle, an inexplicable disappearance of an elderly, sweet lady, the theft of a travelling bag containing $100,000 (in today’s dollars this would be a fortune to be sure), revenge, police and government corruption, a near nervous breakdown of a suspect, and a few other twists thrown in along the way. (There were a few laughs to be had, too. But, to be sure, a sense of humor is quite subjective.) All these disparate threads are interrelated, though, and that is what makes the book an enticing work of mystery and detection.
Jack Knox, attorney at law, narrates and participates in this story. And, this is noteworthy: Mary Rinehart tells the story in the first person by adopting the role of a man in the story. As critics of the time will point out, women faced or endured restrictions on what roles they could play in society. (We consciously choose not to use the phrase that “women were oppressed”, as this does not seem to accurately portray how women of the time felt about the societal roles and expectations for them.) Possibly, this may be a case of Rinehart seeking excitement and enjoyment through her vicarious experiences as a lawyer sleuthing.
It is remarkable all the details, twists and subplots that Rinehart keeps command of while she weaves an engrossing tale that at times seems quite complex. Not to worry, the reader does get closure and mysteries are solved in due course.
rating and recommendation
On a scale of 5 stars, I will give this 4 1/2 stars. There were a few times when the story lagged a little or became tedious, but these few instances only lasted a few pages. The final few exciting and revealing chapters are where Rinehart pulls all the threads together and all the little mysteries and subplots in play come together and are resolved. If you are seeking an early 20th century crime or detective mystery that captures and conveys the atmosphere of that period, and for simple reading enjoyment, this book is for you. Although this work is suitable for high school age youths, as in our estimation it was written at that reading level (say 10th or 11th grade), we would not classify it as “young adult”. Adults, the intended readership, can enjoy this book, too. Good summer time reading. Recommended.
resources and links
Dover Publications is a good source for quality soft cover reprints at affordable prices on a wide range of subjects. Dover has books for all ages and for all interests. They do have sales periodically throughout the year where book lovers can save up to 40 or even 50 per cent off the cover price of various titles. Here is the link to their website.
Some Dover titles can also be found at reduced prices over at Hamilton Books. (Just search by publisher for Dover.) In fact, it was from Hamilton that I procured my copy of the above book as part of a larger order. Here is the link to that large selection discount online bookseller.
Here we see our pet house cat, Yoyo, looking out our bedroom window. House cats are far-sighted, and can see details clearly further in the distance than most humans can. Thus, he can look through the window a few feet away and see the street below.
And, one more view. He is four years old now.
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