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.