Book Review: The Wheel Spins by Ethel Lina White

The Wheel Spins is a 1936 mystery novel by British author Ethel Lina White. The book tells the story of a young woman named Iris Carr, who is traveling by train through Europe when she befriends an elderly governess named Miss Froy. However, when Miss Froy disappears without a trace, Iris becomes determined to find out what happened to her.

The novel is a masterful example of the mystery genre, and is a testament to White’s skill as a writer. The plot is complex and engaging, and the characters are memorable and well-drawn.

One of the strengths of the novel is the way it creates a sense of unease and tension. The train setting, with its narrow corridors and compartment-style seating, creates a feeling of confinement that is perfectly suited to a mystery. White’s use of descriptive language and detailed descriptions of the train and its passengers adds to the sense of realism and tension that draws the reader into the story and keeps them engaged.

The characters in the novel are also well-drawn and memorable. Iris Carr is a strong-willed and independent young woman, who is initially dismissive of Miss Froy but who becomes increasingly obsessed with finding her after she disappears. Miss Froy herself is a sympathetic character, who is initially portrayed as a bit eccentric but who gradually reveals a more complex and interesting backstory.

The supporting cast is also strong, with characters like the pompous businessman Mr. Todhunter and the slyly comic duo of Charters and Caldicott adding depth and humor to the novel.

The pacing of the novel is also excellent, with White building tension slowly and steadily over the course of the story. The disappearance of Miss Froy is not revealed until well into the novel, and White uses this delay to build suspense and keep the reader engaged.

The resolution of the mystery is also noteworthy, with a series of twists and turns that keep the reader guessing until the final reveal. White expertly weaves together multiple plot threads and character motivations, creating a satisfying and surprising conclusion.

One of the key themes of the novel is the idea of appearance versus reality. Throughout the story, Iris is confronted with situations and characters that are not what they seem, and she must use her wits and intelligence to navigate the complex web of lies and deceptions. This theme is handled expertly by White, who uses it to create a sense of unease and uncertainty that permeates the entire novel.

Another notable aspect of the novel is its use of humor. While the story is a serious mystery, White injects a healthy dose of wit and humor into the proceedings. Characters like Charters and Caldicott provide comic relief, while White’s descriptions of the various train passengers and their eccentricities add levity to the story.

As a mystery novel, The Wheel Spins is a masterful example of the genre. White expertly balances suspense, character development, and plot twists to create a story that is engaging, entertaining, and satisfying. The novel’s use of the train setting is particularly effective, creating a sense of confinement and claustrophobia that adds to the tension and unease of the story.

The Wheel Spins is a classic mystery novel that is well worth reading for fans of the genre. White’s skillful writing, memorable characters, and expertly crafted plot make it a standout example of the mystery genre, and a must-read for anyone interested in the history of detective fiction. You can buy a copy of The Wheel Spins from Amazon here.


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