Miss Cornelia Van Gorder has left her New York City home for a vacation in an isolated country mansion with her beautiful young niece, neurotic maid, pompous butler and a mysterious but genteel young man, only to find herself the victim of an elusive master criminal, The Bat. The spirited and headstrong spinster is not easily fazed until one stormy night when she stumbles on a corpse. She musters all her nerves to play the vicious killer's deadly game and confront The Bat once and for all. The Bat, which draws from The Circular Staircase but adds some new plot complexities, namely the villainous Bat, shows Rinehart at the height of her career and is considered her greatest work.
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American novelist and playwright Mary Roberts Rinehart (1876–1958), originator of the phrase "The butler did it," is best known for such mystery stories as The Circular Staircase and The Man in Lower Ten.
Shelly Frasier has recorded over fifty audiobooks. She can be heard narrating such classics as Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
Rinehart's 1920 mystery features a remote country house filled with suspects, a forbidden romance, a cache of hidden money and a mysterious killer known only as The Bat. But sadly, this novel does not adapt well to audio. Long, descriptive passages and repetitive conversations (particularly between wealthy spinster Cornelia Van Gorder, who insists there's no danger, and nervous maid Lizzie, who insists there is) can be skimmed over by the reading eye, but on audio they seem interminable, draining all suspense. Frasier is a competent but unremarkable narrator. She differentiates between male and female characters, but does not create distinctive voices. Her Irish accent for Lizzie is passable; her Japanese accent for butler Billy is laughable. This tale would probably work better as a radio play or audio theater, with a troupe of actors playing the parts. In that medium, a shrilling phone or a sudden scream would indeed startle the listener, and spooky music would create a more suspenseful atmosphere.
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