Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Wall - Mary Roberts Rinehart

First published 1938; cover shown is the August 1966 Mayflower-Dell paperback edition (1st UK publication).

This is a standard Rinehart murder mystery set in a small New England community, with the usual touch of romance and the (also usual) large number of possible suspects and important clues withheld from the reader. Narrated by one of the main characters, Marcia Lloyd, there's a fair amount of "Of course I didn't realise at the time, but..." and "No-one knew until the whole business was over that..." It starts to wear decidedly thin after 150 pages or so.

The most interesting character is Juliette Ransom, an utterly selfish, vain, sensual woman in her late 30s. Every man lusts after her and every woman hates her like poison. Unfortunately she is killed off early in the story, leaving her ex-sister-in-law, Marcia (who seems flat and boring compared to Juliette), to provide the entertainment for the rest of this 320 page book. The romantic interest for Marcia - a broad shouldered, very mysterious painter living in a caravan - helps perk things up considerably, until he too disappears and Marcia starts moping around all over again.

When the murderer is finally revealed, it's not a complete shock but it also doesn't seem totally plausible.

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