Saracinesca (F. Marion Crawford, 1887)

Don Giovanni Saracinesca’s father, Prince Saracinesca, wants him to marry Donna Tullia, a widow who’s rich, beautiful, and popular, if more than a little vulgar. Giovanni, however, is in love with Duchess Corona d’Astrardente. Problem there is that she’s no widow, but the Duke is very old and in declining health. He can’t live a great deal longer, and he doesn’t. After a year of morning, the engagement between Giovanni and Corona is announced. Tullia, incensed at this blow to her vanity, wants to ruin the match. Ugo del Ferice, madly in love with Tullia, offers to give her proof that Giovanni Saracinesca is already married if she will marry him. His documents prove genuine: Giovanni Saracinesca is already married… Giovanni Saracinesca the innkeeper in Aquila, not Giovanni Saracinesca the prince in Rome. A warrant is issued for Del Ferice’s arrest, but Giovanni, at his new wife’s insistence, helps the fugitive flee across the border to safety.

No inscriptions.

Captain January (Laura E. Richards, 1890)

Lighthouse keeper Captain January rescues the only survivor of a shipwreck, a baby girl he names Star. They live very happily for ten years on the island, just the Captain, Star, and Imogen the Cow. Then one day, Star is discovered by her aunt, who was passing by on a ship. Star, of course, refuses to leave; the Captain would give her up for her sake, but for his own, would never let her go. The aunt, however, is convinced by their love and leaves without Star. The Captain, now in his 70ies, is reassured, though, that Star will be cared for when his time comes, which it does the next spring.

No inscriptions.

Fu Mancho’s Bride (Sax Rohmer, 1933)

Fu Mancho, scourge of the West, is out to take over the world again, using a drug that appears to kill people but allows them to be revived as zombies. So, it’s like every other Fu Mancho book, but now the delivery method of the drug is a hybrid louse/sand fly and Fu Mancho’s base is a hollowed-out mountain in the French Riviera.

Did I even mention the titular bride? She doesn’t feature that heavily in the plot.

No inscriptions.

Cards on the Table (Agatha Christie, 1936)

Mr. Shaitana, an eccentric who likes to model himself after Mephistopheles, invites Hercule Poirot to a bridge party. He’s a collector of many things and wants to show Poirot his rarest collection of all: his murderers. The four other guests, he says, have all killed in the past and gotten away with it.

But Shaitana, it turns out, wasn’t really an immortal evil — he’s proved quite mortal indeed when, at the party’s close, he’s found stabbed to death with a stiletto dagger. No one else entered the room and nobody left. One of the guests must have done it, but a motive is lacking, they’re largely unacquainted with each other, and none of them had more than the slightest familiarity with Shaitana. Is it the manly Major Despard, the timid Miss Meredith, the jovial Dr. Roberts, or the bridge champion Mrs. Lorrimer?

Good ending, very Clue-ish to give it away a bit, but for the one who actually did in Shaitana, the set up and reveal there was very well done.

Inscription: on the front fly leaf, Margaret E. Breckens, Dec. 10, 1944

The Talleyrand Maxim (J.S. Fletcher, 1920)

A wealthy mill owner dies apparently interstate and some distant and rather poorer relations inherit. A clerk at the law office discovers that there was a will that would leave the benefactors comparatively nothing and he attempts to use it as blackmail.

I’ve said before about Fletcher that’s he’s a decent enough author, he simply had no talent at all for detective stories. It’s unfortunate for him that he wrote during the golden age of detective stories and that’s where the money was. I am 100% convinced that the first draft of this book was a mystery with Collingwood’s serving as the detective. There is no doubt in my mind. Whether it was Fletcher’s own choice or his editor’s to reveal the secret at the start of the book and turn the story into a straight crime thriller, I don’t know, but I am certainly thankful.

Inscription: on the inside front cover is carefully penciled “Belongs to” and nothing else.