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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Crime Fiction Alphabet: Letter B

I have signed up for a second year of The Alphabet in Crime Fiction, a community meme sponsored by Mysteries in Paradise. Each week she'll be expecting participants to produce a post featuring a mystery/crime novel or novelist related to that week's letter. And it's time for our second entry.
B is for The Bat by Mary Roberts Rinehart.  Rinehart is well-known as one of the pioneers of the "Had I But Known" (HIBK) school of mystery stories.  Generally focusing on innocent, defenseless young women who get themselves into situations--quite often by becoming companions, nurses, governesses, secretaries, etc.--in a remote house where they become entangled in all sorts of mysterious goings on.

The Bat is a bit of a twist on that scenario.  We have Cornelia Van Gorder, a spinster who has longed for adventure.  She takes herself, her Irish maid Lizzie, and her niece Dale off to the country to escape the city's summer heat. She rents a country home that has recently become available when Courtleigh Fleming, a local bank manager, died. She's bemoaning her quiet, unadventurous existence when suddenly the countryside becomes the center for some very mysterious activity.  In this story, it's a case of had Miss Van Gorder known what was in store for her, she probably would have been rubbing her hands together in eager anticipation--because she's going to have all the excitement an adventure-starved spinster could ask for.

B is also for the Bat who is the villainous main character of the story.  A quote from the book gives us this description of the Bat:

The Bat - they Called him the Bat. Like a bat he chose the night hours for his work of rapine; like a bat he struck and vanished, pouncingly, noiselessly; like a bat he never showed himself to the face of the day. He'd never been in stir, the bulls had never mugged him, he didn't run with a mob, he played a lone hand, and fenced his stuff so that even the Fence couldn't swear he knew his face. Most lone wolves had a moll at any rate - women were their ruin - but if the Bat had a moll, not even the grapevine telegraph could locate her. 

The Bat is a notorious criminal mastermind who has eluded the police and even his fellow-criminals.  He's responsible for multiple burglaries, a string of murders, and he's headed for the house where Miss Van Gorder has landed for the summer.  It all makes for a very good read indeed.  Feel free to click the title above for my full review.


Margot Kinberg said...

Bev - Oh, thank you for reminding me of Mary Roberts Rinehart! I really enjoyed those novels but haven't thought about them for a long time. What a terrific choice for B!

Ryan said...

Love this one, and love the movie version with Agnes Moorehead and Vincent Price even more

Bev Hankins said...

@Ryan: I have now seen the movie. I enjoy both very much. The movie (as is often the case) changes some things from the book. But in this case it doesn't make me like the movie any less--which sometimes happens when they change up a book I really like.

Peggy Ann said...

I enjoyed both the book and movie!

srivalli said...

I enjoyed reading the Man in lower ten last year. Bat sounds interesting. I am adding it to my TBR.

Clarissa Draper said...

I have that book in a collection of mine. I really should read it. Thanks for the review.

J.L. Campbell said...

Haven't come across this book or writer before. The bat is an apt name for the villain.