by Mary Roberts Rinehart
Publication Date: August 23, 1969
Genre: Gothic, Mystery
Fits Halloween Bingo Squares: Genre: Mystery, Genre: Thriller, Gothic, Vintage Mysteries
For months, the city has lived in fear of the Bat. A master criminal hindered by neither scruple nor fear, he has stolen over one million dollars and left at least six men dead. The police are helpless, the newspapers know nothing—even the key figures of the city's underworld have no clue as to the identity of the Bat. He is a living embodiment of death itself, and he is coming to the countryside. There, he will encounter the only person who can stop him: adventurous sixty-five-year-old spinster Cornelia Van Gorder. Last in a long line of New York society royalty, Cornelia has found old age to be a bore, and is hungry for a bit of adventure. She's going to find it—in a lonely old country house where every shadow could be the Bat.
Reading Update – 42%:
The attitude towards certain characters and other elements of their time aside, this is a fun read. Except, what police officer worth his salt would not recognise the person he has been looking for when looking him straight in the eye? It’s not like he was disguised or anything.
But it is snippets like the quote MbD shared earlier and this one that make the book for me:
So far her life, while exciting enough at moments, had never actually been dangerous and time was slipping away without giving her an opportunity to prove her hardiness of heart. Whenever she thought of this the fact annoyed her extremely—and she thought of it now.
Reading Update – 100%:
This was an odd one. I really liked parts of it, most of all Cornelia, who was intelligent, fun, and full of life. Very much unlike Dale, who I grew tired of quite soon.
There are elements of racism and misogyny in this book that cannot be ignored, even if they are “of their time”, and this marred my reading experience a little bit. However, even those elements were not as annoying as the dragging plot and over-written dialogue in the second half of the book. I had a hunch about the Bat once the shot in the dark occurred, and was not keen on being kept waiting to find the solution for so long when so many paths we were led down in the meantime seemed like obvious red herrings.
Overall, I loved the start of the book, but not the execution of the majority of the rest.
I can see this work as a play, tho, and I would really like to see it performed. It reminded me a little of Christie’s A Spider’s Web, but only in so far as that there is some humour in this mystery.
I have a feeling, tho, that much like A Spider’s Web this novelisation of a play was nowhere near up to scratch to the author’s original work. And if MbD’s research is correct, then it goes to show again that novelisations executed by anyone but the original author are just not great. (Yes, I’m also looking at Charles Osborne here who wrote a novelisation of The Spider’s Web.)
Still, I really enjoyed the buddy read, or RWF experience.