Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Yellow Room

Author:  Mary Roberts Rinehart
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Paperback; Mass Market Paperback
ISBN #:  9783942637589; 9780821722626
Zebra Publishing
351 Pages
Various Prices


The corpse - somewhat charred around the edges- had been discovered in the linen closet.  She was wearing a silver fox coat and not much else.  No one had any idea who she was or what she was doing in the Spencer's Main retreat.  Certainly not 24-year-old Carol Spencer, who had only just arrived to open up the house for the summer.

Unfortunately Carol seemed to be the prime suspect, judging from the questions the police were asking.  But Carol had one advantage over the police: she knew that she hadn't done it.  Which left her that much closer to tracking down the true killer...and that much closer to danger.


Carol Spencer's brother is temporarily home from World War II, being decorated in Washington, and will shortly be home for a brief respite before his wedding.  Carol's mother is insisting they open the family summer home in Maine, and after dutifully depositing her mother with her sister Elinor, she travels there.

Carol's fiancé was reported missing a year ago, and all - except his father - presumed him dead in the war.  Unfortunately, his father lives nearby, and she knows once she's home she'll have to listen to him go on about how Don will come back with them soon.

But when Carol arrives, accompanied by a trio of servants, all is not going to be well.  For one of the girls has gone up to the linen closet and come back hysterical.  It seems that there's the body of a young woman in the closet - or at least what is left of her.  There's been an attempt at burning her body, all her belongings are missing, and no one seems to know who she is.

But more than the police are interested in finding out about the dead woman: an injured solider named Major Dane is recuperating at another summer home, and he's more than intrigued by the situation.  But there's more than meets the eye:  an injured servant is in the hospital and being kept away by the police; Elinor arrives at Carol's request but is not only nervous, it's apparent she doesn't want to be there; and even Carol's brother Gregory arrives, to the surprise of everyone, including Major Dane.

But are any of the Spencers guilty, and if not who is?  Who was the young woman?  What connection does she have to the family?  And who is Major Dane and why is he so interested in this case?  These questions are answered, and more..

Mary Roberts Rinehart is a highly-respected mystery writer long gone but her books are still good.  However, they are yet a product of their time.  Every character - save the servants - smoke, and are constantly offering cigarettes to each other.  There is a war going on, and not only is food rationed, but gasoline and even camera film.  For those that enjoy historical fiction, Ms. Rinehart was quite prolific and her books are decent.

I did feel, unfortunately, that the beginning of the book started rather slow, and it was at first difficult to keep reading the book.  The action, as it were, didn't really become interesting until after the appearance of Gregory, which occurs at some point a little farther than midway into it.  Once his character appears, then questions are being answered quite quickly.

There are more than enough twists and turns throughout and quite a few surprises that I didn't see coming.  When the story ends it all comes together quite nicely, and one needs to remember that it is writers like Miss Rinehart who brought us some of the first mysteries. While these books aren't always as highly detailed as those today, one must remember that back then there were no such things as DNA testing, computers, etc., to help with the investigation.  It all had to be done slowly, and a lot of it by telephone or traveling to different areas, which made things slow going.  All in all, I will probably read another of this author's books.


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