The Yellow Room
by Mary Roberts Rinehart
3 stars - a nice procedural
ALR Blue - a friendly dog barks, but that's it
This book arrived unexpectedly on my doorstep some weeks back. What better surprise for a book nerd than an unexpected package from a friend containing a nice little mystery?
The Yellow Room is a straightforward procedural mystery written in 1945. I mention the date because stylistically the book is a bit old fashioned, especially when it comes to women fainting or dying of fright.
No problem, it's still a delightful read with some, possibly unintentional, humorous touches.
The Spencer family is decidedly wealthy and not suffering much, other than having to cut back on servants, due to the current world war. With brother Greg on his way stateside to receive a service award in Washington DC, twenty something Carol Spencer makes her way from New York City to the family's summer house in Maine (where Mother Spencer feels certain young Greg will want to spend some time "cooling off" from the war while on leave).
But things are in a bit of a tizzy down east. No sooner does Carol arrive with her paltry entourage of three maids when a body is discovered in the linen closet. Not only that, but the caretaker of the "cottage" is in the hospital having suffered a tumble down the stairs and a broken leg when some person unknown assaulted her one evening right in Chateau Spencer.
And so we begin. The story unfolds in delightful layers with plenty of twists and false leads (or are they). Most curious, is the new neighbor, one Mr. Dane, who is nursing a war wound in a rented cottage but also investigating the murder in the closet mystery on his own.
One of the most delightful aspects of the book was all the rich folk wandering about late at night in their robes and slippers. My goodness. So much foot traffic up and down lanes, glimpses of other persons, possible clues left secret, and other mayhem. I think the town was more active at night than during the day.
Another telltale to the vintage of the book is the duration of hospital stays. Several days for a broken leg, as an example. No such thing as out patient procedures at the local clinic.
The title of the book comes from the name of the room occupied by the mysterious dead woman. Yes, the Spencer's cottage has so many rooms that they need to name them to keep them sorted. And so all roads lead back to The Yellow Room and the secrets it holds both to the identity of the murdered woman and the reasons behind her untimely demise.
In a way, this is also a mid century sort of cozy mystery with blossoming romance as a subtext to the more sinister goings on. It's a lovely book for a rainy day. Make some tea, settle in, and enjoy.