Disney's second novel is practically a text book example of the Rinehart school. The very first page contains a sentence that encapsulates the HIBK subgenre:
For it seems to me now...that I could have prevented the dreadful series of crimes which so hideously involved us all.The line is spoken by Margaret Tilbury who will tell us the story of those dreadful crimes and reveal a tale of duplicity and treachery set in motion by a villainess who rivals the actions of Lydia Gwilt or any other from Victorian sensation fiction. The opening of the book is subtle in its background details and exposition. There seems to be an overload of information and Margaret comes off as a babbling spinster obsessed with her health and her odd relation with her sister and brother-in-law. It is almost as if the story will become a family saga or a domestic soap opera. But such details as Margaret's being treated for typhoid fever, an overheard phone conversation, and a servant's loss of a milk can are hardly extraneous. Nothing can be taken for granted. Nothing is ever mentioned offhand. Even the most ordinary and mundane activities will take on a sinister aspect.
It is the character of the duplicitous nurse Dorothy Fithian and her bizarre death that will involve the Tilbury household in a conspiracy to protect their own. Dorothy was far from likable. Yet no one no matter how off putting deserves to be strangled, shoved into a strawstack and left to suffocate, and then set aflame. But someone hated Dorothy enough to do that and more. When a member of the household is implicated Margaret and the family lawyer tamper with evidence in order to divert suspicion from one of their own. They replace a pair of gardening shears into a toolbox that they believe only one person could have moved. The family name is far more important to preserve than finding Dorothy 's killer.