(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The character of Miss Rachel Innes dominates the action of The Circular Staircase. Although she appears in only this one novel, she is the prototype for many of Rinehart's heroines, most notably "Tish," Miss Letitia Carberry, one of Rinehart's most popular creations. Not only does she face one terrifying event after the other with absolute equanimity, but she also takes great delight in her ability to do so. She is clear-sighted and practical, able to deal with murder and mayhem on the same terms as she does the more mundane distractions of the social lives of her young niece and nephew. She also exhibits genuine regret when the situation is resolved, and she must return to her ordinary existence.

Liddy, Miss Rachel's maid, is the flighty, easily-frightened female who embodies stereotypical views of women's behavior. Miss Rachel's niece and nephew, Gertrude and Halsey, not only provide her with a surrogate family but also allow for gentle satiric commentary on the amusements of young people in upper-middle-class society.

(The entire section is 167 words.)