Review: The Bat by Mary Roberts Rinehart

1st October 2013

bat*I received this galley from the publisher Open Road Media* through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Master criminals. Dead bats as calling cards. A young couple in distress. The Bat by Mary Roberts Rinehart has it all and then some.

Courtleigh Fleming has recently passed away, shortly before his bank closes its doors after money and a cashier go missing. Mr. Fleming’s nephew rents out his uncle’s country house to Cornelia Van Gorder. But The Bat, a master criminal who continually defies the best detectives, is said to be in the area. After Miss Van Gorder receives several threatening, anonymous notes, she is sure the Bat is closing in. But Cornelia Van Gorder isn’t one to back down, and with her maid Lizzie, her niece Dale, the Japanese butler Billy and the various other guests in the house, she is determined to uncover the Bat’s true identity and the connection to the Fleming estate.

A novel based on a play (The Bat) based on a novel (The Circular Staircase), The Bat is a perfectly fun romp. As Ryan says in his great review over at Wordsmithsonia, there is definitely a bit of Noises Off or Arsenic and Old Lace hilarity in this mystery, as mysteriously locked and unlocked doors as well as inconvenient power outages assist the constant confusion among characters. Though I did figure out the villain prior to the last pages, I thought the denouement ingeniously done and thoroughly enjoyed this period novel – complete with gems from Cornelia Van Gorder:

“Sally doesn’t remember when she was a younger generation herself…But I do – and if we didn’t have automobiles, we had buggies – and youth doesn’t change its ways just because it has cut its hair.”


“Miss Van Gorder, I confess-I’m very anxious for you,” he continued. “This letter is ominous. Have you any enemies?”

“Don’t insult me! Of course I have. Enemies are an indication of character.”

Add this to your Goodreads shelf.

P.S. They’re not paying me to say this, but Open Road consistently puts out some of the best covers for reprints I’ve seen. I want every one of the Mary Roberts Rinehart collection and would love if they would posterfy (I know it’s not a word) their cover art.

  • This is actually my least-favorite book by Rinehart (even though it’s not actually by Rinehart at all). Honestly it kept putting me to sleep. Just way too much plot going on and I started feeling like I was reading a description of a play.

    • What do you mean not by Rinehart? So confused!

      And yeah, I saw your Goodreads review. I enjoyed it, though, and actually like it better than The Circular Staircase.

      • Avery Hopwood wrote the play adaptation of The Circular Staircase (The Bat), and the book based on The Bat was written by a young Stephen Vincent Benét, but credited to Hopwood & Rinehart. Rinehart herself had nothing to do with The Bat beyond approving the final version.
        Have you seen the silent movie based on the book? It’s actually kind of fun and not that long:

        • Now that is just plain crazy.

  • iliana

    I love that snippet you posted. I need to meet this Miss Van Gorder character!

    • She was pretty fantastic. 🙂

  • 1) totally with you on the Open Road covers — always fabulous. 2) Read Rinehart’s When a Man Marries last year or year before — loved it. Hilarious and fun. She’s a great guilty pleasure author!

    • When a Man Marries…I think I remember that review. She is really fun. 🙂

  • Yvette

    This book is one of my all time faves, Picky. I love Mary Roberts Rinehart and I’ve read most of her mysteries. Having said that I love THE BAT, I’d still recommend M.R.R.’s THE CIRCULAR STAIRCASE which is actually even better than THE BAT (and more fun) though it is essentially the same story. Minus the bat corpses.

    • I actually read The Circular Staircase six months or so ago but didn’t remember much about it. I actually really liked The Bat better, strangely enough. Some of the dialogue was just too good. But I think you were actually the reason I checked her out in the first place, so thank you! 🙂