The Kentons (W.D. Howells, 1902)

Ellen Kenton leads on Bittridge and allows him to become a little too personal while he himself has no notion of marriage — or, at least, that’s the way she sees it, always being inclined to blame herself. The Kentons can’t not allow him in the house — they’re far too polite for that — so they leave for New York, and when that fails, for Europe. On the ship, Ellen makes the acquaintance of Breckon. Breckon is a good deal like Bittridge –he’s ingratiating, he’s quick with a joke — but, as Ellen’s mother deems, his chief difference is that he’s underneath it all a good person. Breckon and Ellen fall in love, but she keeps him at arm’s length for the longest time. At last, she realizes she’s not responsible for Bittridge and stops blaming herself. Breckon and Ellen marry.

Inscription: a plate pasted on the inside front cover says that it came from the Limerick Public Library, book #1324.

The Ranchman (Charles Alden Seltzer, 1919)

Squint Taylor is elected as the first mayor of Dawes, a ranching town in the southwest. Carrington exploits a corrupt judge and politicians to oust Squint and install himself in his place, intent on turning the town into his personal fiefdom and milking it for all it’s worth. (Sound familiar?) Arriving in Dawes with Carrington is Marion Harlan. She and Squint fall in love, but Carrington has claimed her as his own and tries to force himself on her. (Sound familiar?) In the end, Squint beats Carrington nearly to death and an angry lynch mob takes cares of the other conspirators. (Sound familiar?)

Inscription: E. Blanche Guilford, on the front flyleaf.

The Devil’s Toy (Anita Stewart, 1935)

A long abandoned, thought to be haunted theatre is reopened to stage a new show. Gray haired Mary Flood is a seamstress who sees to the costumes. Decades ago, she had been an actress herself — a very promising one — but she gave it all up for a man. When the marriage failed and she returned to the business, there were no more parts to be found. The star of this show is Alice Craig, whom Mary looks on almost as a daughter. Alice, meanwhile, is likewise protective of June Ellington, a young dancer. All the ladies seem to love Alfredo Moreno, but not Mary or Alice. June has fallen head over heals for him, and they will do anything to keep her away from that womanizer.

At the dress rehearsal, the second act concludes and Moreno goes to his dressing room. Shortly afterward, he’s found there dead. He was stabbed, but that didn’t kill him. The manner of death is strange — maybe some kind of poison. In the following investigation, Gowdy, the assistant D.A., has the rehearsal re-staged, with himself filling in for Moreno, to see how it happened. Gowdy, too, dies in the same way.

It looks bad for Alice. Mary and her friend Toby, a hunchbacked dwarf who works the lighting, do all they can to cover for her — including concealing and destroying evidence. Will O’Brien uncover the culprit?

Most books I just pick up at random, but this is one I intended to read. The Devil’s Toy was Anita Stewart’s first and last book (for good reason — I’ve read worse murder mysteries, but this is pretty bad). She was a major film star in the 1910s, but after marrying and trusting in her husband’s decisions, her career went into steep decline in the ’20s, and eventually it died.

Edit: Oh, Toby built a death ray. That’s the solution. I figured all along that it was either Mary or Toby because those were the most hackneyed suspects, but I did not guess that the murder weapon was a death ray.

No inscriptions.

Rollo’s Experiments (Jacob Abbott, 1845)

Compared to the other two Rollo books I’ve read, Rollo’s Experiments has little in the way of an overarching narrative. Some of the experiments span multiple chapters, a few kind of lead into the next experiment, but for the most part, the book is very episodic.

Rollo in On the Atlantic and In London is ten years old, but I get the impression he’s younger here. He’s full of questions, some of which the adults around him answer, but they mostly prefer to offer advice on how Rollo might go about figuring them out on his own. And sometimes the adults don’t know. Father demonstrates some properties of magnets, like their poles that either attract or repel, or how you can see their field with iron filings, but he freely admits he doesn’t understand what magnetism is on a technical level.

No inscriptions.