Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Man in Lower Ten

The Man in Lower Ten
by Mary Roberts Rhinehart

Lawrence Blakely, attorney-at-law, sets off by train to deliver valuable documents in a criminal case. His ride will be eventful. Along the way he'll encounter romance, treachery, a train wreck, even a murder in which he'll be implicated. Who's after Blakely and his papers -- why? The first detective novel to appear on national bestseller lists, THE MAN IN LOWER TEN is still a great read almost ninety years after its publication. It has all the thrills of a contemporary whodunit and a satiric edge that gently mocks the conventions of male detective fiction.

My Reaction:
This was a shared read, which maybe wasn't such a good idea.  I suspect that mysteries in general are not the best choice for shared reads, because it takes us too long to work our way through them, and in mysteries, you need to keep up the pace or you forget what's happening and lose interest.

The good:
It's a reasonably interesting, fairly concise tale.  Some of the characters are nicely done (mainly Hotchkiss and  McKnight).  The touches of humor worked well.  There are occasional things (horse-drawn buggies, ladies wearing hats/gloves, racial slang, and so on) that remind you of how old the book is (published in 1909), but we were surprised by how timeless and fresh most of it seemed.  It felt much more modern that I expected.

The not-as-good:
It felt slow to read.  We had a hard time keeping some of the (less-memorable) characters straight in our heads.  (Too many names without faces attached and vice versa?  I'm not sure why...)  I wasn't crazy about Alison West; actually, the whole romance plot fell a bit flat for me.  While the humor was good, I wished there was more of it-- but to be fair, the genre and plot must put a certain restraint on the comedic element.

All in all, a decent old-fashioned mystery, but not one I expect to remember particularly well or wish to re-read.

(This novel is in the public domain; Amazon offers a free Kindle copy, and I'm sure it's available elsewhere, too, in other formats.)