Thursday, June 16, 2011
The Wall by Mary Roberts Rinehart
Synopsis From Back Cover:
Beautiful Juliette Ransom did not want to return to Sunset House. The old island mansion held only bitter memories, and no one would welcome her back to this grim place.
But Juliette Ransom did return...to a man whose love was turned to hate...to a woman consumed by vengeful jealousy...to a girl filled with vicious mockery. For Juliette Ransom had to uncover the fearful secret of this house of evil - or else fall victim to the revelation of horror hidden somewhere behind THE WALL...
I almost didn't use the above synopsis because it's so over the top. Sunset House is not a house of evil, it's actually the vacation beach home of Marcia Lloyd and her brother Author and his family, the last of a long line of wealthy New Yorkers. There is no horror hidden behind a wall, though there are a few dirty secrets hidden away. The pure hype of it though is why I couldn't pass on using it. It fits the era of when this book was published and it just has a way of grabbing your attention.
Much like The Swimming Pool, this book is narrated by one person after the detailed events have already passed. Marcia Lloyd, our narrator, is a young woman who has come out to open Sunset House for the summer season. Normally the season is full of house parties, rounds of gold, yachting, and gossip. The summer was already off to a odd start since all the servant's bells in the house would go off when nobody was in the room. When Juliette Ransom, Arthur's ex wife, shows up for an extended stay, all bets of a normal season go out the window.
It's clear from the start that Juliette is running from something. She's scared and nervous, not the way Marcia is used to her being like. When she demands that Arthur pay one last lump sum on her alimony instead of her regular payments, they know something is wrong. When the stalemate ends days later with Juliette missing, Marcia and Arthur are anything but joyed. When her body is found days later in a shallow grave, the fun is just about to begin. When two more bodies get added to the mix before the summer is up, this island community will never be the same again.
There are plenty of suspects to go around. Nobody liked the woman and most women would have gladly killed her for the way she went after their husbands. Arthur is the main suspect though it quickly comes to light that the local, married golf pro had a past relationship with the deceased. Even the young painter that Marcia has been coyly flirting with has a past with Juliette, one that involved vehicular manslaughter and prison time. The clues point in every direction and nobody but the sheriff and Marcia seemed to be concerned with finding the real killer. Most just want it all to go away before they are swept into the maelstrom.
I know I'm sounding like a broken record by now, but I'm so in love with Mary Roberts Rinehart. She is an expert with creating just the right atmosphere. She has an ability to make even the biggest place feel small and claustrophobic, trapping the characters in situations beyond their control. I don't think I'll ever get tired of praising or reading her work. I can't wait until I buy more.
Challenges: FF, M&S, VM