Book Review: The Bat by Mary Roberts Rinehart (1920)

Mary Roberts Rinehart’s The Bat is a classic mystery novel that has been thrilling readers since its publication in 1920. Set in a remote mansion, the novel revolves around a group of characters who are forced to confront their fears and suspicions when a notorious criminal known as “The Bat” is believed to be hiding within the house. The novel is a suspenseful and entertaining read that is sure to keep readers on the edge of their seats.

At the heart of the novel is Cornelia Van Gorder, a wealthy spinster who has rented the mansion for the summer. She is a strong-willed and intelligent woman who is not easily intimidated. When she learns that “The Bat” is rumored to be in the area, she refuses to be frightened and sets about fortifying the mansion against any potential intruders. Her determination and resourcefulness make her a compelling and likable character.

The other characters in the novel are equally well-drawn. The local police detective, Anderson, is a competent and diligent investigator who is determined to catch “The Bat.” His sidekick, Bailey, is a bit less competent but provides some comic relief. The mansion’s caretaker, Lizzie Allen, is a colorful character with a sharp tongue and a suspicious nature. The novel also features a number of potential suspects, including the mansion’s owner, Mr. Fleming.

Rinehart’s writing is clear and concise, and she does an excellent job of building tension throughout the novel. The isolated setting of the mansion adds to the sense of claustrophobia and danger, and Rinehart makes the most of this by creating a number of suspenseful set-pieces. The scene in which Cornelia is trapped in the bank vault is particularly memorable, as is the scene in which Anderson and Bailey search the mansion’s secret passageways.

One of the strengths of the novel is the way in which Rinehart manages to keep the reader guessing. There are a number of potential suspects, and the identity of “The Bat” is not revealed until the very end. Rinehart also does an excellent job of providing clues that point to multiple suspects, keeping the reader on their toes and making the resolution all the more satisfying.

That being said, the novel is not without its flaws. The characters are sometimes a bit too stereotypical, with Cornelia being the archetypal strong-willed spinster and Lizzie being the archetypal sassy servant. The novel also suffers from some outdated racial and gender stereotypes.

Despite these flaws, The Bat remains an enjoyable and entertaining mystery novel that is sure to please fans of the genre. Its combination of suspense, humor, and memorable characters make it a classic of its kind. Readers who enjoy The Bat may also want to check out Rinehart’s other mystery novels, which include The Circular Staircase and The Door. Buy a copy of The Bat from Amazon here. You can read my review of The Circular Staircase here.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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