At a secluded lakeside cabin, Virginia Day is found stabbed through the heart, scarcely a year since her father so unexpectedly drowned. Several other people are there, including her fiancé Charles Hilton, her second cousin and presumed heir Sue Barrett, her late father’s business partner Mike MacDonald, and a celebrated detective with the most unassuming name: John Smith.
It’s quite near the end before we start getting any real clues to winnow down the suspects, but when they do come, each clue follows quick on the heels of the last and they all point in one direction. By the big reveal in last chapter, I can’t imagine anyone won’t have already guessed the culprit and have at least a very good idea what the motive was.
Inscription: On the front end paper is written “Vickie R. Whitcomb, Newburgh, Me.” Stamped on the back flyleaf, “Danforth Lending Library at 15 Central Street, Bangor, Maine.”
A woman is found strangled to death on the floor of Arthur Bantry’s library. She’s identified as Ruby Keene, a dancer at a nearby hotel. One of the residents at the hotel, Conway Jefferson, lost all his children in an accident some years before and now lives with their widow and widower. Jeff is content with the situation. They, however, want to move past their grief and get on with their lives. Jeff, feeling abandoned, took a fatherly interest in Ruby. He intended to adopt her and make her heir to his considerable fortune — cutting out the widow and widower. Mrs. Bantry calls on her old friend Miss Marple to help them find the murderer.
There are several false paths that the clues might lead you down, and I confess, the last one got me. I thought Jeff’s injuries were an act — that he was able walk and had killed Ruby in a fit of disillusioned anger after discovering that she wasn’t an innocent child and was, in fact, a common gold digger. I was so certain of this I actually daydreamed reading it. There is a major deception going on, but that isn’t it at all.
Inscription: on the flyleaf, “Margaret E. Burkins, 3422 Edmondson Ave., Baltimore 29, Md., Dec. 10, 1944”
A one-act play set in a farming community in an unnamed country. It quickly becomes obvious that there are no men present — only women and children. The reason is war. The war has lasted so long and depleted the army to such an extent that now no sooner does a boy come of age than he is called to the front. The emperor, the generals, and the priests collude to bring about an emergency measure where young men, in their few days before being drafted, are married to whatever single women are at hand in mass wedding ceremonies. It’s an act of patriotism. It’s for love of the fatherland.
Hedwig is the first war bride, or so she’s called, and carries a child conceived by her husband, now at the front. She acts strangely. All throughout the play, she says she has a message for the emperor, but it can’t be sent until she hears news of her husband. At last, that news comes: he and all his brothers are dead. Hedwig knows that the war has no goal and can have no end. She and the other women are merely being used to breed new generations to be killed at the front. If the emperor won’t stop the war, then the women will. And so she sends her message by sweeping up a pistol and shooting herself to death.
Inscription: signed by the author, Marian Craig Wentworth, and inscribed with a quote from the text, “January 1917, New York City, ‘To remind men — of peace.'”
I’m assured this is a detective story. The cover says so, there are a few murders here and there, and a detective does finally pop up in the last chapter, but most of the book is just kind of a light romp about two American guys who have made fast friends while on vacation in Europe. The mystery seems almost an intrusion — something to be swept away as quick as possible.
I had it solved pretty well by Clevendon’s introduction. The titular crypt murder was so very, very carefully staged to establish the victim as Warren Glynn that of course it couldn’t be him. Who is it? Enter Clevendon with his very convenient injury leaving him unable to write or shave and there’s your man. It all falls into place after that. Glynn was trying to trade places with his half-brother Clevendon to inherit the family fortune.
Inscriptions: On the flyleaf, “A Merry Christmas To Harry From Leola, Dec. 25, 1930.” There’s also a tag attached with a poinsettia sticker that reads “Harry from Leola”.
The Wire Gang are a criminal outfit in the southwest with the gimmick of sending each other coded messages over the railroad’s telegraph lines. They keep getting beaten to the punch, however, by the Hawk, who has deciphered their code and manages to steal the money/gold/jewels before them. Though the Wire Gang would like to see him dead, the press and local police assume the Hawk must be the Wire Gang’s chief. But the Hawk is actually an undercover Secret Service agent. Oh no, I spoiled it. You know, I’ve read a number of Packard’s crime-action novels and they are pretty samey, but this one felt really by the numbers.