On the Classic Mysteries podcast this week, you'll find a review of a mystery that started a genre, more than a century ago. "The Circular Staircase," by Mary Roberts Rinehart, was published in 1908. It is considered the first book to use a narrative device referred to as "Had I But Known." The narrator drops not-too-subtle hints to readers about events yet to come in the book, along the lines of "Had I but known the evil lurking behind that innocent-looking door, I would never have entered the house." Rinehart used the device to help build the reader's sympathy for the narrator and other characters. In her hands, it was a useful tool; less so for later and lesser writers.
You can listen to the full podcast review here. "The Circular Staircase" is the story of an older woman who rents a country house for the summer - and discovers it's a living nightmare, with nightly intruders, a couple of murders, secret passages, and even rumors of the hidden spoils of a bank embezzlement. It's a good thriller in its own right. This was Rinehart's first book, and she continued to grow in popularity, becoming one of the most popular woman authors in the first half of the twentieth century. It's still a great deal of fun, more than a hundred years after it was written.