A sight familiar to viewers of mystery films is the wall which, turning half-circle at the push of a button, hurls an unsuspecting person into an adjacent secret stairway leading to a treasure trove, a torture chamber, or a garden path. The button is usually concealed under a book which the victim touches inadvertently while browsing. The wall, the book, and the bookcase, blending into a suspenseful whole, provide an effective backdrop for the mystery.
In this context of mystery, the whirling wall-case-book complex reaches back to the turn of the century. Made plausible by Edison's inventive genius and the talents of many master writers of mystery tales, it harmonized well with the temper of the times when the well furnished study was a mark of breeding and the filled bookcase a symbol of culture.
Will the bookcase still continue to cast its spell of mystery in our changing times