When lovely Dale Ogden came to the isolated Van Gorder manor to act as companion to the strange and eccentric woman who ruled the household with a grip of iron, she little suspected the turn her unshadowed life would take. Why was there chill fear in the eyes of everyone she met, from the faithful family retainers to the haunted man for whom she felt so dangerous an attraction? What secret horror past and present did the twisted corridors and windswept countryside conceal? And why, suddenly, inexplicably did she feel herself marked as a victim?
Written by Mary Roberts Rinehart. New Dell Edition First Printing 1969.
The story takes place in a large, isolated country house recently rented by an elderly, adventure-loving patrician called Cornelia Van Gorder, who is accompanied by her beautiful young niece Dale Ogden.
But this is no idyllic summer retreat. There is a masked criminal stalking the streets – robbing the rich he strikes soundlessly in the night, vanishing into thin air while leaving a trail of dead police and even deader millionaires in his wake.
Get him – get him – get him! From a thousand sources now the clamor arose – press, police and public alike crying out for the capture of the master criminal of a century – lost voices hounding a spectre down the alleyways of the wind.
Cornelia has been following the exploits of this masked marauder and it has not escaped her attention that three of the Bat’s most recent crimes have been committed within a mere twenty miles of very house she is currently staying in.
Soon enough all manner of strange comings and goings start scaring off the staff, leaving the indomitable Ms. Cordelia faced with a long restless night in her house full of horror. Throw in a secret room, a murder, a cache of hidden money, not to mention the forbidden romance between her young niece and the new ‘gardener’ – who incidentally believes Urticaria is a new hybrid of rhubarb – and the night proves to be an eventful one.
Get whom, in God’s name – get what? Beast, man or devil? A spectre – a flying shadow – the shadow of the Bat.
Originally written as a play in 1926, The Bat has a real old-fashioned murder mystery feel to it. There are moments of real suspense, mixed with some genuinely funny dialogue and though I wouldn’t describe it as gothic, it’s still worth a read. The gorgeously whimsical cover is by Hector Garrido. Three out of five stars.
To watch the silent film version – click HERE.