The Alster Case (Rufus Gillmore, 1914)

Swan is an attorney at Avery, Avery, and Avery. It’s a dead-end job with no chance of advancement, but he’s stuck there having to provide for his mother and younger siblings. He’s assigned to rewrite Cornelia Alster’s will. Alster is a difficult client. A very wealthy woman — she can, at times, be a most generous benefactor, but at the slightest offense will renounce you to the end of days. Hence the frequent will alterations.

The next day, Cornelia Alster is found dead. It may have been suicide, but private detective Trask is inclined to think not. Perhaps it has something to do with the simultaneous disappearance of Keith, the butler. The will names Swan the executor of the estate. Beatrice and Linda, Alster’s two adopted daughters, at once begin to act strangely — telling obvious lies, secretly corresponding with someone, advancing large sums of money from Swan that immediately vanishes. At last, Linda herself vanishes and Beatrice is convinced she’s been kidnapped by Keith, who she believes is her biological brother.

Can even the celebrated Trask find LInda and solve the mystery?

I read this quick — pretty much in two sittings — so I didn’t have much time to think about the solution myself, but one line very near the start jumped out at me: when Swan gets off the phone and quits the firm, he says it’s to manage the Alster estate because he’s just heard that his client was “murdered”. Not “found dead” but “murdered”. The nature of Alster’s death is not at all certain at the time. Is this a Roger Ackroyd situation, I asked myself? Yes, it is.

Inscription: A typewritten plate is pasted on the inside front cover reading “#22 THIS BOOK IS THE PROPERTY OF HERBERT J BROCK”. Herb has also signed several seemingly random pages.

Daughter of Fu Manchu (Sax Rohmer, 1930)

An English Egyptologist excavating a tomb and his associates are caught up in the machinations of Fah Lo Suee’s plot to take over the world. Fah Lo Suee is the leader of the until-now-dormant order of Si Fan and the daughter of Fu Manchu. Fu Manchu himself was thought to be dead, but was in fact merely retired. The previous enemy of the West now intervenes to rescue the English leads, stop his daughter, and prevent the world war she’s about to launch.

No inscriptions.