Mary Roberts Rinehart was an American writer, often called the American Agatha Christie, although her first mystery novel was published 14 years before Christie's. She is considered the source of the phrase "The butler did it", although she did not actually use the phrase. She also created a costumed supercriminal called "the Bat", who was cited by Bob Kane as one of the inspirations for his "Batman."
Many of her books and plays were adapted for movies, such as The Bat (1926), The Bat Whispers (1930), and The Bat (1959 remake). In 1933 RCA Victor released The Bat as one of the earliest talking book recordings.
While many of her books were best sellers, critics were most appreciative of her murder mysteries. Rinehart, in The Circular Staircase (1908), is credited with inventing the "Had-I-But-Known" school of mystery writing. In The Circular Staircase "a middle-aged spinster is persuaded by her niece and nephew to rent a country house for the summer. The gentle, peace-loving trio is plunged into a series of crimes solved with the help of the aunt."
The Had-I-But-Known mystery novel is one where the principal character (frequently female) does things in connection with a crime that have the effect of prolonging the action of the novel. Ogden Nash parodied the school in his poem Don't Guess Let Me Tell You: "Sometimes the Had I But Known then what I know now I could have saved at least three lives by revealing to the Inspector the conversation I heard through that fortuitous hole in the floor."
The phrase "The butler did it", which has become a cliché, came from Rinehart's novel The Door, in which the butler actually did do it..
Cornelia Van Gorder Series
The Circular Staircase
The Breaking Point
The Man in Lower Ten
'Oh, Well, You Know How Women Are!'
'Isn't That Just Like a Man!'
Affinities and Other Stories
The Case of Jennie Brice
The After House
The Amazing Interlude
Bab: A Sub-Deb
The Street of Seven Stars
The Window at the White Cat
When a Man Marries
Where There's A Will
The Truce of God
Letitia Carberry Series
Tish, The Chronicle of Her Escapades and Excursions
A Poor Wise Man
Tenting To-night, A Chronicle of Sport and Adventure in Glacier Park and the Cascade Mountains
Kings, Queens And Pawns An American Woman at the Front
Why I Believe in Scouting for Girls
Long Live the King!
Through Glacier Park