Publisher: Doubleday & Company
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
First Line: “The street had a peculiar arrested quietness, as though everyone on it had suddenly died.”
Description from Book: “Daddy didn’t do it,” the small girl kept protesting, “Daddy didn’t do it.” But the law thought Daddy had, for he was within a week of being executed for the brutal murder of his wife, Biddy. Monica Marshall, Biddy’s sister, had taken young Winifred in hand to get her away from the psychologically harmful atmosphere surrounding the tragedy, which had seriously affected Winifred’s personality. They had gone to a lakeside resort where Monica hoped to find a normal, restful existence. But within 48-hours of their arrival two “accidents” nearly removed Winifred, and forced Monica to conclude that someone was trying to silence forever the little girl who knew her father was innocent. Fear for herself, fear for Winifred, and resentment at the high-handed and suspicious conduct of a man named Stephens drove Monica into flight — but she ran straight into more violence and more danger in the suspense-filled windup of this top-notch mystery.
Topics Covered: family relationships, secrets, haunted pasts, family dynamics, mystery, crime, mental illness
My Review: I found a cover-less hardcover version of this book one day while perusing the local thrift store. While I knew nothing about the book, how could I say no to a 1951 crime novel?
“Stairway to an Empty Room” is a mystery and crime novel tracing the trials and tribulations of Monica, a 29-year-old spinster who just found that her sister was murdered, her brother-in-law is to blame, and her niece needs a new home and guardian.
Shortly after Monica takes her niece, Winifred, into custody, mystery and mayhem begin to encircle the two. Winifred is an odd child who makes comments about her mother’s murder and pleads her father’s innocence. Monica struggles with being a proper guardian for Winifred, all the while stumbling across several characters who are either out to help or hurt the twosome.
While this novel didn’t have me on the edge of my seat, it was one of the most heartwarming reads I’ve had in a while. Reading books written in the 1950’s (not just set in that time period) has always been soft-spot for me between their silly phrases, outdated topics, and perfectly written characters. And be ready to fall in love with an underplayed character in the novel: Boozer, Monica’s alcoholic cat.
Order a copy of this book online and cozy up with a straight-forward and fun mystery novel the next time you’re home on a gloomy day.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
“There’s nothing, she told herself. A man in a boat. A man who wants to fish. Winifred makes up stores about everyone. She sees spooks everywhere. I can’t start believing — I don’t dare even believe a little part of any of it. Then I’d have to believe it all, and that would be — horrible.”