Mary Roberts Rinehart •
The Swimming Pool •
Mary Roberts Rinehart kept millions of readers enthralled from the moment The Circular Staircase appeared in 1908 to the 1952 publication of The Swimming Pool. Her final mystery is set at a time when “fear of the atom bomb” casts an inescapable shadow; cars still have running boards; and Coca-Cola is the soft drink of choice. Servants are hard to come by, and the daughters of once-wealthy dynasties are now expected to earn their own keep.
Lois Maynard, one such daughter, survives by writing detective stories in the relative peace of her family’s dilapidated summer home. When her sister Judith comes to stay, terrified for her life but refusing to explain why, a nightmare of assault, abduction, and attempted murder ensues.
Rinehart—popularly associated with the phrase “The butler did it”—is an absolute master of suspense, keeping you guessing right up to the last page. One of the more tantalizing aspects of The Swimming Pool is that the guilty party is in plain view throughout the book. No matter how many times I read it, I still marvel at her adroit placement of clues.
The swimming pool at the story’s heart is a relic of more prosperous days. It has stood dry and empty for years until Lois, who spent childhood summers paddling and splashing, decides to have it filled—only to be pitched headfirst into the deep end by an unknown assailant.
And that’s after a dead body has been found floating in its waters.
A bluff Irish cop named O’Brien examines the pool area and jots notes in a little black book. Lois—ever alert for fiction material—asks excitedly if he has uncovered a clue. “No,” he says, “I’ll need some bathing-trunks. That’s all.”
Dive into The Swimming Pool and hold your breath.