Friday, June 1, 2012

THE SWIMMING POOL (1952) by Mary Roberts Rinehart

I wish I'd had this copy, but mine has a less lurid cover. 

This is another entry in the Vintage Mysteries Reading Challenge hosted by Bev at her blog, MY READER'S BlOCK. I haven't forgotten about it, Bev, I'm just lagging behind everything lately, playing catch-up. Apologies for that.

This is how I look and feel when I'm not enjoying a book as much as the person who recommended it.

You know when someone recommends a book and says it one of their favorites, you have a pretty heavy-duty obligation to like if not love it. But sometimes that's not the case and that's when guilt sets in. Ryan at his blog, WORDSMITHONIA, raved about THE SWIMMING POOL by Mary Roberts Rinehart and so of course, I had to get my own copy since I am a huge Rinehart devotee. (Ryan's review is from last year yet somehow I only ran across it recently.)

Oh, I liked it well enough Ryan - I just didn't love it as much as you did. I wanted to, but I just couldn't. But hey, any Mary Roberts Rinehart is better than none. So, no frowny faces, please. I feel bad enough as it is.


THE SWIMMING POOL is one of Mary Robert Rinehart's more wordy and convoluted stories. I mean, there's everything in here but the kitchen sink. (Sort of like one of my reviews.)

1. You got dark forebodings in a large country manor. (Rinehart's specialty.)

2. You got a dead body in the swimming pool, multiple murders and a couple of attempted.

3. You got an ugly miscarriage of justice.

4. You got not one but two murderers.

5. You got suicide and some long hidden, down and dirty family secrets. (What would a Rinehart book be without 'em?)

6. You got blackmail to the tune of $50,000 bucks. (Big money back in the day.)

7. You got a heroine who appears to know next to nothing about her own family.

8. You got a HUGE and very interesting (if it had been developed) red herring that kept sidetracking me. Well, yeah, Yvette that's what a red herring is for. But still....

9. You got the heroine's brother who is as annoying a character as Rinehart ever created. I mean, the man is even more obnoxiously clueless (and proud of it) than the heroine and that's saying a lot.

10. You got the stock market crash of 1929 and its ramifications.

11. Last but not least, you got the odd actions of a nefarious butler. Speaking of which, judging from this book, I don't think Mary Roberts Rinehart thought much of the breed.

The Plot:

Judith Chandler is the beautiful and glamorous sister who married well and went off to become the darling of the New York society pages - her escapades, legendary.  But now, after twenty years or so, the wild child is getting a divorce from her stodgy and very correct husband, Ridgely Chandler, and returning to the bosom of her family, much to the chagrin of her sister Lois and her brother Phil, not to mention the housekeeper Helga who isn't keen about the news either. The two siblings lead rather sedate lives and resent the intrusion of DRAMA that always surrounds their sister.

Sure enough, Judith isn't there five seconds when she barricades herself in her room and refuses to come out. Obviously she is deathly afraid of someone. But she won't say who what when or why. If she did, then things might have been cleared up and possibly more death averted.

Earlier, on a divorce trip to Reno with Lois in tow as a sort of minder, Judith had fainted on the train at the sight of something or someone. Of course she won't tell Lois what's wrong. (No, she's not pregnant.) So back to the country house they go. There, Judith will spend most of the book hiding out, skulking and jumping at shadows, and only occasionally coming out at night in a black cape, to lurk around the grounds - for exercise, I suppose. Most of her behavior makes little sense even when explained later.

Most Mary Roberts Rinehart books are of the had I but known variety and this one is no different except that what Lois and the rest of 'em should have known is so darned convoluted (secrets upon secrets upon coincidences that boggle the mind) that for a while I lost track of what it was all about even when I knew what it was all about.

What did I like about THE SWIMMING POOL?

I liked the setting. I'm always a sucker for spooky doings in a country house, especially in the dead of night - this is what kept the pages turning for me. I liked that I wasn't sure who the murderer was, so that part of the plot was well constructed. I sort of liked the addition of a fairly tame love story (there's usually a love story in any Rinehart book) between the hapless Lois and a guy named O'Brien who turns out to be a cop on leave who has conveniently moved into the caretaker cottage on the Chandler property.

Look, maybe I'm being picky, but Mary Roberts Rinehart has written some classics (check my 101 Favorites list) and I really expected more from THE SWIMMING POOL. Though truth to tell, the book was still better than a lot of what gets published these days under the guise of mystery or 'cozy'.


  1. It's okay. I just finished writing a review that will go up next week of The Man In Lower Ten, and it's not my favorite.

    What I do like about authors like Mary Roberts Rinehart and Agatha Christie is something you said at the end. Even their works you don't like as much are still better than most of what comes out today. I'm actually pretty sure I said that in my review of The Man In Lower Ten.

    I think the reason I enjoyed this one as much was the setting, which hooks me every time, and I really liked Lois. For some reason I loved the narrative voice that came across. I even liked Judith as bitchy and whiny as she was, I thought she really livened things up.

    You aren't alone in this by the way, Tasha at Truth, Freedom, Beauty and Books reviewed this one and didn't care all that much for it either.

  2. The Man in Lower Ten was not my favorite either, Ryan. So we agree on that. :)

    Thanks for not being frowny. :)

    I did love the setting but Lois, not so much.

  3. Hmmm. This one is sitting in a stack of Rinehart books that are waiting to be read. May move it down in the pile...

    And, Yvette, don't worry about being behind. I think we all are. I know I'm not keeping up with checking out everyone's reviews like I did last year. What happened to the time I had for that???

  4. Well, what's to prevent you from liking it more than me? Ryan did. You might too, Bev.

    Bev, I don't know what's happened to this year. It's half gone already and it seems to have just sped by in a whirl.

    I often feel dazed and exhausted.

    Haven't read nearly as much as I would have liked. Not nearly.

  5. I LOVE your blog and follow you on Pinterest. Keep up the fabulous work.


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