The Wall (Mary Roberts Rinehart, 1938)

Juliette turns up at Sunset House, the summer residence of Marcia Lloyd, to demand $100,000 from her ex-husband, Marcia’s brother Arthur, but while the Lloyds may still have some of the trapping of wealth, they don’t have $100,000 and couldn’t raise it if they sold everything they owned. It works out, though, when Juliette is found bludgeoned to death in the woods. Then her maid’s body is caught off-shore by a fisherman. Then the local doctor is shot through the heart. The D.A. is up for re-election and is gunning for a conviction, first trying to pin it on Arthur, then on Fred Martin, a golf instructor who it turns out was also once married to Juliette. The sheriff, Russell Shand, is less hasty and doesn’t like all the “odds and ends” that so simple a solution leaves. Juliette, for all her faults, was a fearless woman and she was afraid when she came to Rock Island. Why?

No inscriptions.

The Case of the Crying Swallow (Erle Stanley Gardner, 1947)

The second short story appended to The Cautious Coquette. If the first was half-baked, this one never saw the oven. Honestly, it barely makes any sense. A wealthy man’s wife drops the insurance policy on her emeralds, they’re stolen, then she disappears. Perry Mason is called, finds she stole the emeralds herself (shocker) to pay off her ex-husband, who it turns out she’s still legally married to. Ex-husband’s other wife finds out and kills him. Wealthy man thinks his wife is the murder and tries to frame someone else. The wife — and this is the least clear bit and I’m assuming a lot here — felt guilty and tried to kill herself while booked into a hotel under an assumed name, but Perry Mason finds her in time to both save her and coach her to tell the right story to the police.

The Case of the Crimson Kiss (Erle Stanley Gardner, 1948)

One of two half-baked short stories appended to The Cautious Coquette. The mistress of a wealthy man finds him dead. There are too many of her things in the apartment and she fears she’ll be suspected, so she poisons her roommate to make it look like she was the mistress and it was a murder-suicide. Except roommate’s aunt arrived earlier than expected and a doctor is called in time. Perry Mason discovers seemingly out of the blue that the man actually had two mistresses, and it was mistress #2 that did him in, and the entire story was pointless.

The Case of the Cautious Coquette (Erle Stanley Gardner, 1949)

A hit-and-run driver leaves a young man with a broken hip. Perry Mason is engaged to discover who it was and he finds two different men ready to confess and settle out of court. Only one of them could have done it — what’s the other’s angle? Mason might have his answer when he finds himself framed for murder and the other man using the hit-and-run as an alibi.

No inscriptions.

The Cup of Fury (Rupert Hughes, 1919)

The adopted daughter of English aristocrats begins to suspect her parents are German spies for the very good reason that they are. The authorities are not without some doubt of Marie Louise herself, but as she’s an American citizen, she’s not arrested. Back in the US, she becomes involved with a ship builder named Davidge. Filled with patriotic fervor, she takes a job at his new shipyard. A German agitator she knew in England appears and threatens to blow up all of Davidge’s work unless she can stop him.

Inscriptions: There’s what’s probably a name and address on the front flyleaf, but the handwriting is perfectly indecipherable. I’m not even going to guess.

The Ebony Bed Murder (Rufus Gillmore, 1932)

An internationally renowned beauty just divorced from her fifth husband is found shot to death in her Fifth Avenue apartment. The police and DA are sure it’s suicide, but amateur detective Griffith Scott thinks otherwise. A ridiculous story that ends with the most impossible reveal imaginable. If the murderer had 10,000 tries, they’d still never successfully pull off the crime as Scott describes it.

Inscriptions: Stamped on the first and last page “Mrs. J.E. Connell”.

When Life was Young at the Old Farm in Maine (C.A. Stephens, 1912)

During the Civil War, all of the Old Squire’s sons are killed. His grandchildren come to the farm to live with him and his wife. The book never actually says where the farm is, but from the description of the land and neighboring areas, there’s no way it isn’t Norway. The author character (I should say, I assume this is autobiographical, but I don’t know how fictionalized it is) is a twelve year old boy from Philadelphia, unused to rural living or farm life, but eager to give it a go. He’s never met any of his five other cousins before but he quickly becomes friends with all of them, except maybe Halstead. The book has no overarching narrative, it’s merely a series of incidents and little adventures of the sort that twelve year olds get into. Rather similar to Farmer Boy but not going into such detail about mundane farm activities.

Inscription: A plate pasted on the inside front cover says it’s from the Weld Public Library.

Footprints (Kay Cleaver Strahan, 1928)

The Quilters are a proud family that stretches back to before the Revolution. The present line are prominent ranchers in Oregon that, in the depression of the 1890s, had fallen onto hard times. No expense had been spared on aspiring playwright Chris, the eldest son. After going to the best schools in the East and traveling Europe, all that he’d accomplished was marrying a gold digger much disappointed to find that the mine was tapped out. Chris and Irene returned to Q2 Ranch to find it mortgaged and mortgaged and mortgaged again. Though all the Quilters lived there, from Grandfather to twelve year old Lucy, the ranch strictly speaking belonged to Chris. Irene as soon would have had it sold and let the others shift for themselves.

One night in 1900, Chris’s father was shot to death. It was in the night. All the family had been locked in their rooms. A rope from the bedpost went out the window and to the ground, but an early snow had fallen: the rope was dusted in it and there were no footprints anywhere on the ground around the house. An investigation was made and inquest held, but in the end, no explanation was ever found.

Almost thirty years later, Neal has come to believe that he killed his father, and in the shock of the act, forgot about it. It’s driving him mad. Elder sister Judy and Joe, the long-time family doctor, contact crime analyst Lynn MacDonald to solve the riddle. Of course, the case is long cold, most of the witnesses dead, so much has changed. Judy does, however, have a pack of letters sent to her by Lucy and Neal detailing the events of the house just before and just after the event. From these alone MacDonald must find the trail.

No inscriptions.

Captain Blood (Rafael Sabatini, 1922)

Peter Blood, Irish surgeon, has the misfortune of being caught rendering aid to a man on the wrong side of the Monmouth Rebellion. He had no care at all for the man’s politics and saw only that he was hurt. For this, Blood is condemned to slavery in Barbados. Spanish privateers sack the port city, and in the confusion, he and a group of other slaves steal the Spanish ship and escape, beginning their own lives of gentlemanly piracy. After the Glorious Revolution and the deposition of James II, Blood is once more a free man. More than that, after the valor he shows in his defeat of the French fleet threatening Jamaica, he’s made the governor of that island.

Inscription: a small strip of paper is pasted to the front flyleaf, on which has been typewritten “Harold T. Dunlap”.

The Confession (Mary Robert Rinehart, 1921)

Looking to rent a house in the country for the summer, Agnes finds an all too eager landlord in Emily Benton. Emily advertises the large country house and grounds for well under half its value, and when Agnes gets second thoughts and starts to pull back, even offers to let her stay there free. The place has thoroughly spooked Maggie, the maid, and it isn’t long before fear creeps into Agnes’s more sensible mind. Objects move around at night, but just enough that you’re not quite sure of it. Candles burn down of their own accord. Someone calls at two o’clock in the night only to breathe heavily.

Emily, strangely, didn’t go anywhere. She’s still in town and visits the house regularly — snooping around, Maggie says. It becomes increasingly obvious that their intruders and callers are all Emily. It isn’t clear why until they open the phone battery box and discover a confession, in which Emily admits to having killed a woman five years ago, and even then, nothing is clear. What is Emily’s game?

No inscriptions.