Murder in Three Acts (Agatha Christie, 1944)

At a party hosted by a retired actor, a vicar dies after drinking a cocktail. He was a kindly old man without an enemy in the world — who would want to kill him? It was murder: some time later, at another party, a well known psychiatrist dies in much the same manner, and autopsies prove that both were killed by a massive nicotine overdose. Hercule Poirot must solve the mystery, beginning with finding out how the first victim was related to the second… or, perhaps, how he wasn’t.

Inscriptions: This is another of Margaret E. Breckens’s books, signed and dated on the front flyleaf, Nov. 28, 1944.

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The Vanity Case (Carolyn Wells, 1926)

Gaybrook Harbor is divided by a bridge, with the old money types in their mansions on the Park side, and a Bohemian artist colony in their bungalows on the Garden side. They share basic services and everyone belongs to the same country club, but otherwise, there’s little interaction between them.

In one of those bungalows lives Perry and Myra Heath along with their guests Bunny Moore and Larry Inman. Larry is a distant cousin of Myra and the only heir to her considerable wealth. The two are also having an affair as everyone knows. One morning, Myra is discovered dead on the floor of the studio, her face caked in make-up (she never wore any in life), and with candles burning at her head and feet. A card reading “The work of Perry Heath” is propped up on the body. The house was locked up like a bank — nobody could enter unnoticed, but more importantly, nobody could leave, either. The culprit must be Perry, Bunny, or Larry.

I had a suspicion fairly early on in the book, when Perry Heath disappeared after the murder but couldn’t have gone far as he clandestinely meets with Bunny and Al Cunningham a few times. The occasions when Perry returned were very pointedly when Sam Anderson was out. The two were one-and-the-same and Perry was leading a double-life, depending on the animosity between the Parkers and the Gardeners to prevent the two lives from intersecting. That was my assumption and I was right. Perry knew his wife loved Larry and so he created Sam: Perry would vanish and claim to have committed suicide to clear the way for Larry, and then there would only be Sam. But at the last moment, Myra reveled she knew all along that Sam was Perry. In a blind rage, Perry accidentally killed her.

No inscriptions.