Review: The Haunted Lady by Mary Roberts Rinehart

Nurse Pinkerton is about to head to bed when she receives a call from the police. They’ve had an unusual request from the wealthy Mrs. Fairbanks, and a nurse is just what they need. The nurse packs up her things and heads to the Fairbanks estate where she is charged with guarding the old matriarch in her sleep. After all, the woman is convinced she’s the target for a murder plot, though it’s unclear to anyone who would target her or why such a thing would be happening. Still, with mysterious creatures getting into the old woman’s room and a doctor’s confirmation that she’d been slipped arsenic not too long ago, the police open a quiet investigation with the help of Nurse Pinkerton.


What is The Haunted Lady about?

This mystery novel is about the plot to kill a family matriarch, and how a nurse completely misses all the signs of that plot (probably because she’s a nurse and not a detective). There’s a lot of sadness and grief, since the murder takes place after introducing all the players rather than happening off screen in the beginning of the story. Additionally, there’s a lot of little subplots of family drama going on that lead to the ultimate reveal of the murderer by the end.

Genre: Mystery

This book is pretty succinctly a murder mystery, with all the hallmarks of a crime novel. Though it’s told from a nurse’s perspective instead of the traditional investigator, Nurse Pinkerton has experience working with the police department and thus has a keener eye than average. She’s able to piece together strange happenings and recall minute details.

Tropes: Everyone’s a suspect…

The movements and secrets of each member of the family come under scrutiny at one point or another. Each domestic servant, each family member, and anyone outside the house that has any potential motive is considered as a potential suspect for the murder.

Plot: More money more problems

Yeah a large portion of this plot is focused on the fact that this old woman, Mrs. Fairbanks, was likely being targeted for her wealth. I don’t know what else to say here except how convoluted the plot turned out to really be…

The Good

There were times when this book was funny or entertaining, and it wasn’t a bad enough read to DNF it. Once I got accustomed to the writing style I was able to enjoy it a little bit more, and some of the characters were genuinely entertaining and interesting.

The Okay

Ultimately, I didn’t care for the way the characters were set up. I didn’t like the descriptions of the nurse as a “cherub,” and I wasn’t a huge fan of the way the women in general were talked about. I think this was due to the author’s style more than anything else, which is why I’m putting this in the “okay” section instead of “bad.” I think if this writing style suits your tastes, you’ll probably not mind this the way I did.

The Bad

The plot was convoluted, the suspect far fetched, and honestly there were so many red herrings that there was no point in trying to figure out who the real suspect was. I also really didn’t like the way romance was portrayed, the way relationships operated, or frankly most of the characters as people. This book just didn’t sit well with me.

Final Thoughts

I don’t think I’m cut out for reading older mystery novels, sadly. I’m sure that Mary Roberts Rinehart has a loyal fan following who love the way she wrote her characters and put her mysteries together, but I’m not going to be joining them. I didn’t care for the nurse, I didn’t enjoy the story all that much, and the writing style just didn’t work for me. There was nothing so fundamentally wrong with this book, but I didn’t really enjoy it.

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By Catherine

I'm a lover of books, coffee, wine, and bees. Happy to join the ranks of book bloggers everywhere!

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