Had She But Known: A Biography of Mary Roberts Rinehart

Charlotte MacLeod, Author Mysterious Press $21.95 (335p) ISBN 978-0-89296-444-4
Mystery writer MacLeod draws heavily on Rinehart's autobiography ( My Story ) to detail her subject's life, and the result, though readable, lacks objectivity and insight. Rinehart (1876-1958), an enormously popular author best known for her mystery novels ( The Circular Staircase ), also worked as a journalist and toured the Western front during WW I. While training to become a nurse, she married Stanley Rinehart, a doctor, managed to cope with his temper tantrums for 36 years and raised their three sons, while also writing prolifically and attracting mounting fame. After the death of her husband, Rinehart developed an interest in spiritualism and consulted mediums to contact him. Clearly an admirer, MacLeod argues that though Rinehart's writing style now seems dated, she deserves credit for paving the way for modern mystery writers. Fair enough. But unfortunately, MacLeod's uncritical attitude does her subject a disservice by simplifying her. Photos not seen by PW. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
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