The Man in Lower Ten by Mary Roberts Rinehart
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Written by Mary Roberts Rinehart, "the American Agatha Christie," this was the first detective novel to crack national bestseller lists. According to The New York Times, "[Rinehart's] literary distinction lies in the combination of love, humor, and murder that she wove into her tales … She helped the mystery story grow up." The Man in Lower Ten was Rinehart's debut novel, and it remains a thrilling tale of homicide, mayhem, romance.
Attorney Lawrence Blakely is on a train bound to deliver some important
papers to a client. While on the way he ends up switching train berths
with another man who mistakenly falls asleep in his. The next morning
that man is found murdered and the murder weapon is found in the berth
that Lawrence was sleeping in. That's all I'm going to say about the
plot setup because the whole switching berths thing becomes a little
more complicated than that and you really just need to read it.
I found this picture of a train berth from the early 1900s that I imagine is just like the ones described in the book. It even shows the nets that passengers would put their personal belongings in.
This is only the second book I've read by Mary Roberts Rinehart and I
liked it quite a bit. It seems a lot of people say this book is weak
compared to her later books, but having previously read The After House I
can say that story-wise I prefer this one. That's not to say that this
one wasn't without its faults and I can see just from reading the two
books how her writing improved over time. The dialog in this one was
tedious to follow at times, and at a couple of points it was hard to
follow what was happening. I also wasn't all that crazy about the
romantic aspect of the book. It was a bit too insta-love for me and I
really couldn't see why all the men were so crazy about the lady in
question as she lacked personality. Thankfully that was a small part of
The best part of the book for me was while they were on the train. After that there is a lot of running here and there to try to solve the mystery. The mystery itself was pretty good, but I never felt like it kept me guessing. From the very beginning there was no question in my mind as to the fact that the killer was one of three people, simply because of one particular item that was found that proved to be key evidence. In the end the solution to the mystery felt rather anticlimactic. I would like to read more of Rinehart's work because I feel like I just haven't yet read her at her best.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher Dover for giving me a copy of this book for review.
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