The Roll-Top Desk Mystery (Carolyn Wells, 1932)

Detective Fleming Stone is on vacation with retired detective Mayo Farnum at Oleander Park on the North Shore — a popular place for summer houses among the moneyed set. But, of course, no detective is actually happy unless he’s on a case, and Rocky Reef house provides.

Lowell Berkeley has fallen head over heals for Rosalie. His father, Louis, is prouder of the family heritage than anything and this woman is virtually anonymous. But Louis would never make Lowell unhappy and has consented to the marriage. Just then, Rosalie is murdered by having her head smashed by a roll-top desk. Farnum — an old friend of the Berkeleys — is called and Stone tags along. It isn’t more than two weeks later that Mimi, Rosalie’s friend, begins to fill the void in Lowell’s heart. She, too, is crushed to death.

I don’t really need to say that it was Louis as there really isn’t any part where that’s not obvious. He explains himself in the end, though. Rosalie, he discovered, was one-eighth black and she had to die to save Lowell from that. Mimi was a prostitute and it’s implied that she had some disease. So, it’s head crushing for her, too.

Inscriptions: stamped “Friends of the Belleflower Library” on the inside front cover.

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