Thursday, September 6, 2012

FFB: The Window at the White Cat by Mary Roberts Rinehart

Mary Roberts Rinehart's The Window at the White Cat begins like many other novels: a not so young lawyer/ journalist/ detective being visited by a lady who bewitches him almost at once.Here, our hero is John Knox, a lawyer in his mid-thirties, who is visited by a young nineteen year old girl and is immediately all concern for her. Now had it been a Chase or Chandler, I would have been very suspicious of the young girl who comes with the story of how her father is missing and needs Knox's help in locating him; but as it was a Rinehart, the romance was real.






...the second night after father left, I was nervous and could not sleep. I expected him home at any time and I kept listening for his step down-stairs. About three o'clock I was sure I heard some one in the room below mine--there was a creaking as if the person were walking carefully. I felt relieved, for I thought he had come back. But I did not hear the door into his bedroom close, and I got more and more wakeful. Finally I got up and slipped along the hall to his room. The door was open a few inches and I reached in and switched on the electric lights. I had a queer feeling before I turned on the light that there was some one standing close to me, but the room was empty and the hall too...


Knox, is asked by Margery Fleming to find her father, Allan Fleming, who walked off suddenly some ten days ago without any explanation and hasn't been seen by her since though one night she thought he had returned because she heard somebody walking in his room but when she went there she only found a slip containing the figures 1122 stapled to his pillow. Even more mysteriously, Carter, his butler too has disappeared.The girl is perturbed because it is not like her father to behave in such manner, he even forgot to wish her on her birthday!

Fleming is a politician and Knox knows that he was involved in some pretty dirty deeds but doesn't want to distress the girl any further so instead he assures her that he'd his best and in the meanwhile asks her to go and stay with her two maiden aunts - the Maitlands- who also happen to be his clients. Jane, the younger sister, though in her sixties, still reads books that have been expurgated by her elder sister Letitia who is a tartar and feels soap is wasted on coloured children!!

That night after making a few initial inquiries and discussing the case with his brother Fred and his wife Edith, John goes to the Maitlands' household where he is assaulted in the night by a young man Harry Wardrop who happens to be the secretary to Fleming and engaged to Margery. Wardrop insists that he has a bag of valuable papers stolen and that he thought that Knox was a thief, the latter thinks that Wardrop knows more about the case than he is willing to say. The next day, Jane Maitland is found to be missing with the family's pearls. There is a sinister blood smear on the banister and a search through the house reveals another of those confounded slips containing the number 1122.

The mystery has deepened and all roads lead to a club called The White Cat which never sleeps and where shady deals are the order of the day.




Recently John@ Pretty Sinister Books posted an early review of Agatha Christie's The Mysterious Affair at Styles where the reviewer wrote that Mrs. Rinehart was a better writer that Mrs. Christie. Such a statement left me staggering but after reading White Cat, I realised that there was one area in which Rinehart did score over Christie and that's humour. This book has some delightful passages and I especially enjoyed the repartee between Knox, and his brother and sister-in-law. Also I was amazed at the depiction of women: they still wear veils in public and even though Knox knows that both Margery and her maid are hiding something, he doesn't force them to reveal it.



 Rinehart's The Circular Staircase was a disappointment but this one was enjoyable - in fact the only thing I didn't like about it was its depiction of poor Wardrop. It was clear that our hero would get the girl so there was no need for his rival to be shown as such a weakling - and am looking forward to reading another book of hers.

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First Line: In my criminal work anything that wears skirts is a lady, until the law proves her otherwise.

Title: The Window at the White Cat

Author: Mary Roberts Rinehart

First Published: 1910

Other Books read of the same author: The Circular Staircase

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The book can be downloaded for free from many sites. I downloaded it from Manybooks.net

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Submitted for the following challenges: Color-Coded, Death by Gaslight, E-Book, Mystery and Suspense, Vintage Mystery.

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Entry for Friday's Forgotten Books.








12 comments:

  1. Thanks for this one, Rinehart seems to be having something of a renaissance and I am getting seriously tempted to pick up some of her books after a very long time - thanks again.

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    1. Thanks Sergio for having a look.

      Yes, many people seem to be reading Rinehart. Have seem many reviews of Man in the Lower Ten, and The Yellow Room. Since this book was pretty enjoyable (after the disastrous Circular Staircase), I too would love to read more of her. Looking forward to your views on her.

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  2. Time has not been kind to many of these authors, but Rinehart was extremely popular and was dubbed by Howard Haycraft as this country's "unquestioned queen of crime writing."

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    1. That's very high praise indeed. She might be out of print but as Sergio mentioned above, she does seem to be having a renaissance.

      Thanks for visiting.

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  3. I agree with Sergio. I have read several reviews of Mary Roberts Rinehart's novels, probably never the same one, over the past few months. So I ought to seriously consider reading her work soon given that I haven't read any so far. Christie was rarely humourous in her books.

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    1. Yes, she is suddenly being read a lot and thankfully many of her books are in the public domain. So download one and read it. I await your views.

      It is only after reading this book that I realised that Christie was surely lacking as far as humour is concerned.

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  4. I read this a while back, Neer. But we are a bit in disagreement. I LOVED The Circular Staircase and didn't much like Window at the White Cat. Oh well, it would be a very boring world if everyone liked the same thing. :)

    And yet I still read WATWC all the way through because I am such a big fan of Mary Roberts Rinehart.

    Better writer than Agatha Christie? No.

    Have you read THE YELLOW ROOM? Or THE WALL? Or THE SWIMMING POOL? I highly recommend them.

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    1. Yvteet if I have persisted with Rinehart and read this book, it is only because of you and Bev. So thanks a lot. I liked the fun element in this book, esp Knox's relationship with his brother and sis-in-law.

      The Yellow Room has long been on my wishlist but I can only those books of her that are available for free download. I'll check the others.

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  6. Because of Yvette I got hooked on Rinehart last year, and as of right now I've completed 18 of her books, and like Christie, even her weakest is better than most of the crap that comes out now. One of my favorites, mentioned by Yvette is The Swimming Pool, but I also really enjoyed The Wall, The After House, and The Case of Jennie Brice.

    I have this one, along with a few others, waiting to be read. I'm glad you enjoyed this one, it means I really have something to look forward to.

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    1. Welcome to the blog Ryan.

      I've enjoyed quite a few reviews of Rinehart at your blog. I haven't read the titles mentioned by you but will see whether they are available for download.

      This one made me fond of Rinehart. Do read it. I look forward to your views.

      Thanks for following the blog. Hope you enjoy the posts.

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