Archive for March, 2012


The After House

March 27, 2012

The After House is, as a whole, the most creepy and suspenseful Mary Roberts Rinehart mystery I’ve read yet. Sometimes I get irritated with Rinehart’s inevitable had-I-but-knowns, but there are cases where it really works. If fits with the conversational style of When a Man Marries, for example. And somehow, in the Tish stories, it makes the various ridiculous things that befall Tish and her friends even funnier. And it works from the very beginning here, heightening your sense that whatever’s going to happen onboard the converted cargo ship Ella is going to be really, really bad.

And it is. Mary Roberts Rinehart is occasionally called the American Agatha Christie, but this isn’t a body in the library kind of mystery — it’s a bodies hacked up with an axe in various parts of the boat one.  Read the rest of this entry ?


Love Stories

March 24, 2012

I blame Eleanor for the amount of Mary Roberts Rinehart I’ve been reading lately. Every time I move on to something else, she tells me which Rinehart she’s reading and I get jealous.

Anyway, I read Love Stories last week. I was pretty sure I hadn’t read it before, but the first story seemed awfully familiar. It turns out I’d already read it in a magazine. But it holds up well. I mean, it’s Rinehart. Of course it does.

This book is kind of a precursor to the hospital romance comics from the 1970s that I read at my grandmother’s apartment when I was younger. All but the last two stories are set in hospitals, and all but the last one are romances. Lots of doctors and nurses. Lots of incidents recycled from or for K. Read the rest of this entry ?


The Window at the White Cat

March 15, 2012

I’ve been on a bit of a Mary Roberts Rinehart kick this week, starting with The After House and moving on to The Window at the White Cat and Love Stories. The Window at the White Cat is probably the least interesting of the three, falling into a mold I associate with Anna Katherine Green and Carolyn Wells, where some rich and/or important middle aged man is murdered at his desk and the lawyer-narrator ends up falling in love with the murdered man’s wife/daughter/niece/miscellaneous young and dependent woman. And I don’t have a problem with that; it’s just not very exciting. Read the rest of this entry ?


The Yoke

March 4, 2012

In a comment on my last post, Tracey suggested I read The Yoke, by Hubert Wales, because, like The Career of Katherine Bush, it features a woman who has premarital sex and doesn’t get punished for it. So I did.

It’s an astonishing book, especially for 1908. It’s also a super creepy one, for any time.

See, Angelica is forty, gray haired and still beautiful. She never married because the man she was in love with died of cancer during their engagement. His son, Maurice, is now twenty-two, and having a hard time stopping himself from having sex with prostitutes, so Angelica starts sleeping with him for his protection.

According to Hubert Wales, this is how the world works: young men, unable to control their sexual desires, sleep with prostitutes. Then they get STDs and their lives are ruined. To be fair, he allows Angelica to have sexual desires too, and that’s great. Here’s the catch, though: Angelica has raised Maurice since he was two. For all intents and purposes — except genetic ones — she’s his mom.

Everyone feeling uncomfortable? Okay, let’s move on. Read the rest of this entry ?


Happy 5th Anniversary to Redeeming Qualities

March 4, 2012

Five years ago today, I was hanging out in my dorm room thinking about how all I wanted to do was talk about A Woman Named Smith and nobody cared. Obviously the only thing to do was to start a blog.

So, if you’re reading this, thank you for being the kind of person who cares about books like A Woman Named Smith. Thanks for being here and reading Redeeming Qualities and recommending things and making me feel like it’s not that weird to love forgotten popular fiction.

I usually forget to commemorate Redeeming Qualities’ anniversaries, but I wanted to do something cool for the fifth one, so I’ve created a sort of virtual bookshelf over at Pinboard.  There you’ll find almost all of the books I’ve reviewed here (excepting a few era-inappropriate ones that have crept in by accident) and some I haven’t, sortable by author, decade, and a whole lot of more ridiculous categories. Looking for books featuring vehicular accidents, or Boy Scouts, or bears? How about naughty and uncontrollable children? Or Cinderella stories? Or complicated families where everyone seems to have the same name? You can even sort by source if, say, you only want to read things from Project Gutenberg.

This is a work in progress, and it’s entirely possible that I forgot a tag while bookmarking something, or overlooked creating a tag altogether. It took kind of a while to bookmark everything, even with some much-appreciated assistance from my brother. So if I failed to add the ‘servants‘ tag to something you think ought to have it, or if you really wish I had a category for smart-aleck orphans from New York, or whatever, let me know.