The Murder in the Pallant (J.S. Fletcher, 1928)

A lawyer is found dead in his office. Some valuables have been stolen and it initially appears to have been a burglary gone wrong, but then it comes to light that perhaps this was an unrelated crime or even a diversion, as the real reason the lawyer was killed seems to have been to cover-up a prominent businessman’s underhanded financial dealings. But then still more comes to light and maybe it was a robbery after all. It was thought that only a gold watch and a couple hundred pounds were missing. Nobody knew of the £50,000 in cash that the lawyer secretly had on him. And then yet more comes to light (it keeps coming until the second to last chapter in fact, making this a very difficult mystery to “play along at home” with — you can’t solve it any quicker than it solves itself) that appears to link those two crimes together through a person the investigators least suspect.

Inscription: “H.F. Luicolu, Haterville, N.C.”, on the inside front cover.

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Viviette (William J. Locke, 1916)

Dick is not at all like his younger brother Austin. He isn’t popular, isn’t quick-witted, isn’t well educated, and doesn’t have a high profile or high paying job. He depends on Austin, and Austin is very generous towards Dick, but Austin takes his brother for granted and doesn’t begin to understand how humiliated and emasculated Dick feels. The only thing the brothers have in common is their love for Viviette. She leads them both on but demurs from accepting either of their marriage proposals. In truth, she’s not simply playing the coquette; she honestly can’t choose. Austin could give her wealth and society, but there’s something about Dick’s primitive, passionate love that fascinates her.

As usual, Austin isn’t even aware that Dick cares for Viviette, and his behavior towards her drives Dick almost mad with jealousy. A misunderstanding occurs in which Dick thinks Viviette has finally chosen Austin over himself, and Dick, pushed passed the breaking point, attempts to kill his brother. The attempt fails, but it awakens Austin to the situation. Dick wants to leave England and find some outdoor work in the New World, where he might live independently of his younger brother. Austin arranges a place for him in Vancouver — the condition being that Dick never see Viviette again. Austin is concerned by the murderous streak he’s suddenly discovered in Dick, and to prove that he’s not acting mercenary, he abandons Viviette himself.

The brothers are agreed, but Viviette is not. She has found that she’s up to the risk and has chosen at last. She will marry Dick and go with him to Vancouver.

Inscriptions: a stamp on the front flyleaf reveals that it was from the library of Mt. Kineo House, a large resort hotel on Moosehead Lake. The hotel, in one form or another, was in operation from 1844 to 1938, when it closed and, shortly thereafter, burned down. This is one of several books I’ve got from Kineo. On the back flyleaf, someone has been practicing what appears to be Chinese. I can’t transcribe it here, but there are 13 characters scattered haphazardly across the page. I only recognize one of them: 日, sun.

Poems on Several Occasions, vol. 2 (John Gay, 1720)

I previously read volume one. This collection took much longer to get through than its length demanded, but the content was rough going. It isn’t that it was hard to read, but rather it’s relentlessly depressing.

Roughly half of the book is devoted to short poems of various sorts: epistles, tales, eclogues, and miscellanies (mostly elegies). If I might describe them all in a single word, that word would be jaded. This collection is more thematically connected than the first volume. Together, these poems lament that a successful poet is one who either becomes a sycophant to a rich patron or devotes himself to pablum and writes pop songs and ballads for the general public. Truth or art are the way to starvation. And Gay admits how horrendously hypocritical it is of him to demean this sort of success, as he’s gone down both roads himself.

The second half of the book is a five act play titled Dione, a Pastoral Tragedy. Dione is the daughter of a wealthy courtier. She’s fled the city as her father wanted her to marry for political advancement while she was in love with a man named Lycindas. Lycindas, however, proves unfaithful and now pursues the beautiful shepherdess  Parthenia. Dione disguises herself as Alexis the shepherd and befriends  Lycindas, hoping to remind him of his former promise and steer him away from Parthenia, but she finds herself instead honor-bound as a friend to plead Lycindas’s love to Parthenia, who has so far flatly rejected all his advances.

Despite of Alexis’s efforts, Parthenia sees nothing in Lycindas but an unwelcome annoyance. She is, however, impressed by Alexis’s devotedness to friendship and hopes to be his friend as well. Lycindas becomes jealous, believing that Alexis is trying to steal Parthenia away from him.

Cleanthes, Dione’s father, has meanwhile been searching the countryside for his lost daughter. He’s ambushed by thieves and murdered. Dione, in despair, attempts to kill herself with a dagger, but Parthenia snatches it away while Laura (Dione’s maid) runs for help. Lycindas appears, and with his mind clouded by jealousy, confuses the situation and thinks Alexis is trying to force himself on Parthenia. Lycindas stabs Dione.

As Dione lies dying, she hopes to herself that Lycindas will never discover her true identity and will find happiness with Parthenia, but Laura returns and reveals the secret. Lycindas, racked with guilt, kills himself with the same dagger.

There’s only one illustration in this volume: a frontispiece of cherubs burning incense at Dione’s tomb.

Inscription: Sir G. Graham Montgomery’s ex libris plate, pasted on the inside front cover.