This novel became Rinehart's first best-seller. It is among the first in the "Had I but known" genre of mystery novels. The "HIBK" genre is associated with several works of Rinehart, in which a middle-aged spinster is persuaded by her niece and nephew to rent a country house for the summer. The house they choose belonged to a bank defaulter who had hidden stolen securities in the walls. The gentle, peace-loving trio is plunged into a series of crimes solved with the help of the aunt. This novel is credited with being the first in the "Had-I-But-Known" school.
Rachel is a spinster who has had custody of her orphaned niece and nephew since they were children. Halsey and Gertrude are now 20 and 24, respectively, and they talk Rachel into renting a house in the country for the summer. The first night Rachel is there, there is a mysterious trespasser and something falls down the stairs in the middle of the night. The second night, after Halsey and Gertrude have arrived, there is a murder, and Halsey and the friend he’s brought to stay disappear. Halsey returns a few days later, without his friend and without an explanation, but by then many other developments have occurred, to the chagrin of the residents.
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