Roberts draws on a range of sources, including paintings, photographs, and travelogues discovered in archives in Britain, Turkey, Egypt, and Denmark. She rethinks the influential harem works of the realist painter John Frederick Lewis, a British artist living in Cairo during the 1840s, whose works were granted an authoritative status by his British public despite the actual limits of his insider knowledge. Unlike Lewis, British women were able to visit Ottoman harems, and from the mid-nineteenth century on they did so in droves. Writing about their experiences in published travelogues, they undermined the idea that harems were the subject only of male fantasies. The elite Ottoman women who orchestrated these visits often challenged their guests’ misapprehensions about harem life, and a number of them exercised power as patrons, commissioning portraits from European artists. Their roles as art patrons defy the Western idea of the harem woman as passive odalisque.
“The Circular Staircase” tells the story of how Miss Cornelia Van Gorder lost her mind, deserted her domestic gods in the city, took a furnished house for the summer out of town, and found herself involved in one of those mysterious crimes that keep newspapers and detectives happy and prosperous. “The Man in Lower Ten” is a legal thriller featuring a detective who builds up a network of clues that absolutely incriminate three entirely different people, only one of whom can be guilty.
These novels, which combine mystery and adventure, demonstrate Rinehart's tremendously vivid powers as a storyteller. Well-written and fast-paced, these mysteries will leave you eager to read the other volumes in this series.
These well-written novels, which combine mystery and adventure, demonstrate Rinehart's tremendously vivid powers as a storyteller. These mysteries will leave you eager to read the other volumes in this series.