The Buckled Bag (1914) by Mary Roberts Rinehart

Just a short read for today’s review, which is also a return to Rinehart’s nursing sleuth, Hilda Adams, who I first encountered last year when reading Miss Pinkterton (1941). ‘The Buckled Bag’ is Adams’ first case and it opens with how a chance encounter with a patient, who was a police detective, led to her taking up sleuthing. In particular the opening emphasises how well positioned Nurses are for picking up information from within the family; which is both a blessing and a curse. Harking back to earlier crime fiction in the 19th century, such as several of the Holmes stories, the mystery in this tale does not involve a proper crime as such. It centres on the disappearance of a girl named Clare March, who has been missing for 5 weeks and it is this disappearance which has caused her mother to fall ill. It is through the mother that Adams can infiltrate the household. Through Adams we get a much more troubling picture of Clare, who seems to have had something on her mind over the summer. Her final traced movements are also perplexing. Adams experiences plenty of curious night time encounters including a mysterious woman in black with a buckled bag. This being Rinehart, famous for her HIBK style, we also have Adams taking on dangerous missions such as exploring creepy empty houses on her own.

Apologies for the lack of a proper cover…

Whilst Rinehart can tell a story well I think the brevity of this particular one, limited the mystery in some respects. This tale may shine a light on the darker side of the well to do life, but its’ illuminations do not shine very far and in some ways I think the reader is left with a number of unanswered questions at the end of the story. The solution is also somewhat rushed and I don’t think it is one which the reader can guess at very easily due to limited number of clues available which the reader can suitably deduce from. However, Adams is a very engaging and likeable sleuth and I think her detection role works much better in a longer story format.

Rating: 3/5


  1. Mary Roberts Rinehart is an author I know I’ll have to get around to eventually, although I’m a little dubious as to whether she’ll prove to be to my taste.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well I don’t think this would be the place to start. Aside from this series, she did loads of others which generally have a woman in jeopardy/ HIBK. So lots of atmosphere, lashings of gothic overtones at times, often romance. However I don’t think they are sickly sweet like some of Patricia Wentworth’s. The Yellow Room is one of her most well-known ones, along with The Spiral Staircase. I’ve read the former and remember enjoying it.


      • she did loads of others which generally have a woman in jeopardy/ HIBK. So lots of atmosphere, lashings of gothic overtones at times, often romance.

        My only experience of the HIBK school is an early Mignon Eberhart, which I hated.

        On the other hand I like atmosphere and I love gothic overtones. As to romance, I’m all in favour of it, but I’m not sure I approve of it in detective stories. I don’t mind romance in suspense stories.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Just about to start reading my first Eberhart novel today. The Yellow Room might work for you then as although there is romance, it is more of a suspense mystery novel than a linear detective novel.


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