Book Review: The Album by Mary Roberts Rinehart

The Album by Mary Roberts Rinehart is a thrilling mystery novel set in the early 1930s in the idyllic and isolated Crescent Place. The novel takes the reader on a journey of intrigue, secrets, and scandal in a neighborhood out of the past.

The book opens with the introduction of the five Victorian mansions that make up the Crescent Place neighborhood, surrounded by a remote patch of pasture. Even though the city is encroaching on this enclave, it has the air of the 1890s. Within the walls of these rarified residences are dark secrets and prolonged feuds, leading to high-toned trouble.

The story follows the lives of the various residents of Crescent Place, including a husband and wife who fight constantly, a couple who hasn’t spoken to each other in two decades, a widow in permanent mourning, a daughter whom the newspapers call psychotic, and a bedridden old woman who is about to be killed with an ax. When the old woman is murdered, the search for the killer intensifies, and the neighborhood’s peculiarities come to light, much to the delight of the tabloids.

The characters in the novel are well-developed and have their own unique quirks and flaws. Rinehart’s writing style is engaging and witty, with a good balance of humor and suspense. The author uses sly social satire to comment on the Great Depression and the social norms of the time.

One of the most impressive aspects of the novel is the intricate plot. Rinehart carefully weaves together the various subplots, creating a web of intrigue that keeps the reader engaged throughout the book. The pacing of the novel is well-done, with just the right amount of tension and suspense to keep the reader turning the pages.

The novel also has a strong sense of setting. Rinehart’s descriptions of Crescent Place paint a vivid picture of the neighborhood, and the isolation of the neighborhood is a character in its own right. The author effectively uses the setting to create a sense of foreboding and to highlight the characters’ isolation from the outside world.

The Album is a memorable whodunnit from one of the most beloved and best-selling authors of the Golden Age era. The novel is a prime example of the mystery genre, with a well-crafted plot, engaging characters, and a strong sense of setting. It is a must-read for anyone who loves a good mystery novel, and for those who enjoy historical fiction set in the early 20th century. You can get a copy from Amazon here.


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