The Swimming Pool – Mary Roberts Rinehart

Oh, I liked this. Mary Roberts Rinehart should still be every bit as popular as she once was, as popular as Agatha Christie and the rest of the Golden Agers. She knew what she was about. And her writing was a joy.

After all, the human individual universally has two eyes, a nose, a mouth, and a chin. It is the assemblage of these features that counts, and believe me Jude’s counted.

The Swimming Pool is a twisty, tricky mystery centered around Lois, the first-person narrator, and her family. She’s a mystery writer …

“Don’t tell me,” he said. “I know. The guy is a private eye. He keeps a fifth of Scotch in a drawer of his desk, he’s blackjacked and goes about his business instead of being taken to a hospital where he belongs, and he solves the crime when the cops are running in circles.”
In spite of myself, I had to laugh.
“Not quite,” I said. “My detective is a woman.”
He looked really disgusted then…

… And she lives with her brother in what once was (before the crash) her formerly-well-off family’s summer home in the country; their sister Judith has years ago married very well and gone off to take her particular brand of spoiled beauty to the social columns.

Except that epoch of Judith’s life is coming to an end: she one day tells her patrician husband she’s going to Reno to get a divorce, and said husband asks Lois to accompany her – which, reluctantly, she does. And on this trip something happens to push Judith over the edge from brittle but confident to the point of arrogance … to terrified.

I liked these folks. They’re characters who are so well conceived and presented that they give every illusion that they were going about their business every day before the book, continued to do so during the book without deigning to take notice of the observer, and will certainly continue with their lives after the nosy reader has gone away.

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