The After HouseMarch 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.
So, that’s pretty cool, if gruesome. And I liked the complicated web of hostilities that sprang up among the passengers and crew over the course of the ship, although it would have been even better if the hero wasn’t such an ass. But after the ship returns to shore, things go way, way downhill. Rinehart has a habit of writing endings that seem like cop-outs, and…well, I hope this is the worst example of that. I mean, I was properly mystified about some of the things that happened after the murders, but I kind of figured I knew who the murderer was and, in a general way, why they had murdered people. I just really hoped that I was wrong. Basically, enjoy the atmosphere and the suspense, but know going in that eventually you’re going to be told, “Oh yeah, So-and-so had a psychotic break.”