Lover of the Fancy

Early C20th American culture and dissent

The Window at the White Cat
Mary Roberts Rinehart

£5.99

“In my criminal work, everything that wears skirts is a lady, until the law proves her otherwise,” declares Jack Knox, attorney at law and narrator of this sprightly mystery. Jack’s cautiously chivalrous observation is prompted by the beauty and distress of his newest client, Margery Flemming. It seems that Margery’s father, a crooked politician, has been missing for over a week. Unwilling to involve the police in her father’s corrupt activities, the comely young woman has selected a random lawyer for consultation – a counselor who falls in love with her at first sight and determines to prove his worth.
Jack’s pursuit of the vanished politician leads to an investigation of a notorious social club known as the White Cat. While Jack bumbles his way along a trail of clues (he’s comically clumsy as well as inexperienced at locating missing persons), Margery takes refuge with her elderly aunts, one of whom suddenly disappears, leaving behind only a bloody handprint. Can Jack locate Margery’s missing relatives and win her affections from her increasingly suspicious-looking fiancé?

Mary Roberts Rinehart, “the American Agatha Christie,” published this entertaining romp in 1910. Loaded with period charm, the briskly paced mystery combines political thrills, humor, and romance.

Paperback, 192pp
Dover Publications, 2017 (1910)
ISBN 9780486819235

Biography

MARY ROBERTS-RINEHART (1876-1958) was the most beloved and best-selling mystery writer in America in the first half of the twentieth century. Born in Pittsburgh to the owner of a sewing machine factory, Rinehart trained as a nurse, and married a doctor four days after her graduation from medical school. She wrote fiction in her spare time, until a stock market crash sent the young couple into debt, forcing her to lean on her writing to pay the bills. Her first two novels, The Circular Staircase (1908) and The Man in Lower Ten (1909), established her as a bright young talent, and it wasn’t long before she was a regular on bestseller lists.

Among her dozens of novels were The Amazing Adventures of Letitia Carberry (1911), which began a six book series, and The Bat (1932), which was among the inspirations for Bob Kane’s Batman. Credited with inventing the phrase “The butler did it” – a phrase she never actually wrote – Rinehart is often called an American Agatha Christie, even though she began writing much earlier than Christie and was much more popular during her heyday.