cover image The Album

The Album

Mary Roberts Rinehart. Penzler, $25.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-61316-361-0

In the illuminating introduction to this exceptional whodunit from Rinehart (1876–1958), first published in 1933, Otto Penzler quotes the author’s brief description of it: “The answer to four gruesome murders lies in a dusty album for everyone to see.” The illustrated pages between the introduction and the novel itself contain “a gallery of the principal characters,” complete with tantalizing descriptions, such as “The Halls’ butler-chauffeur; a strange little man who knew a little and guessed a lot,” and “Her husband had vanished years ago; she had a mania for locking up everything and keeping the keys.” One of the many residents of “an insulated enclave named Crescent Place where the conventions of the Victorian era are still maintained” is murdered by someone who splits the victim’s head open with an ax, a vicious crime that’s the prelude to others. Criminologist Herbert Ranchester Dean is called in to help when the police hit a dead end. Rinehart’s exploration of the psychological effects of the repressed atmosphere of Crescent Place on its residents elevate this beyond a clever closed-circle puzzle. This American Crime Classic is another meritorious revival of a now obscure talent. (Dec.)