Romance, sinister strangers, plenty of skulduggery, mysterious beauties cloaked in veils, dungeons and crypts, dreadfully wrapped mummies and evil doings will all envelope you in this book. If you're looking for a truly satisfying read, The Fortieth Door by Mary Hastings Bradley is definitely your pick!
Born in 19th century Chicago, Mary Hastings Bradley studied English literature at Smith and after her graduation, she found herself at loose ends. When a cousin invited her to join her on a trip to Egypt, Mary gladly agreed. Here the atmosphere and ancient architecture inspired her to write two novels after her return, based on her experience of the antique civilization. The Fortieth Door was published in 1920 and was her fourth very successful novel. Bradley specialized in the Gothic Romance and the mystery novel, though she also wrote several books for children and travelogues. She also worked as a war correspondent for Collier's Magazine during WWII and undertook a survey of concentration camps across Europe and published her findings in a highly acclaimed series in the magazine. She met and married Herbert Bradley, a big-game hunter and explorer and traveled extensively with him. They helped to set up the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago and were the parents of another famous writer, James Tiptree Jr (the pen-name of their daughter Alice B Sheldon)
The Fortieth Door is a classic romantic mystery tale. It portrays an American archaeologist in Cairo, who falls in love with a mysterious Turkish girl whom he meets at a masked ball. Jack Ryder the hero is intrigued to meet a gorgeous veiled woman at a ball he's forced to attend by his friend who thinks he leads a dull life. After the ball, Jack walks the woman home and the two realize that they are falling deeply in love. However, the lady is a Moslem and it's unthinkable that her family would allow her to meet, let alone marry, a Westerner. The lovely Aimee then vanishes and while desperately looking for her, Jack is drawn into a labyrinth of mysteries, both ancient and modern.
Some of the concepts in The Fortieth Door seem dated and politically incorrect to modern day readers. Notions of race, gender and imperialism are consistent with the time they were written in, and may seem quaint or offensive to us. But as an exciting and riveting mystery story, The Fortieth Door has you on the edge of your seat throughout. The clever and complicated plot, the wonderful descriptions of Egypt and the glimpses of local culture make it a great addition to your bookshelf.