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.
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.