The Landloper (Holman Day, 1915)

A man calling himself Walker Farr walks far and wide. He’s evidently from the west somewhere, but he winds up in Lewiston a large mill town in Maine this state. The town’s public water supply — as is every town’s water supply in the state — is controlled by the Consolidated Water Company. To maximize profits, they draw from the polluted Androscoggin the river rather than run pipes several miles north to the clean water of Lake Auburn the lake. Farr arrives to see one of the Quebecois mill workers pulled out of the canal, where she’s drowned herself. He takes care of her orphaned daughter, but the child soon contracts typhoid and dies. Farr makes it his mission to clean up the water situation.

This will mean a complete political overhaul. It’s not enough to just elect in the other party — the lip service varies, but both parties are ultimately in the pocket of big business. It will mean packing the legislature with those in sympathy to the cause and electing an honest man governor that won’t simply veto any progressive legislation. They find him in Archer Converse. Farr’s grandstanding at the convention gets Converse nominated, much to his surprise, as he had no will or notion of getting into politics. But the tide had turned and even the Consolidated sees the writing on the wall.

Inscriptions: “H.E. Knapf”, on the front flyleaf. In another hand and ink, “Mar. 10, ’25” on the facing endpaper.

(104 books this year? It seems like so many, considering I’ve not even bothered to summarize two thirds of the Perry Mason novellas I’ve read.)

The Case of the Horrified Heirs (Erle Stanley Gardner, 1964)

Virginia Baxter finds herself framed for the murder of Lauretta Trent, a wealthy woman who was poisoned on three occasions, but evidently died when Virginia’s car pushed hers off a cliff and into the ocean.

The reveal didn’t sit with me and I soon realized that it was because none of the clues dropped had anything to do with it. To name the biggest, the man who calls himself George Menard refers to her as “Mrs. Baxter”, despite that fact that she’s estranged from her husband and goes professionally as “Miss Baxter”. Nobody should know she’s married, yet this man does. Doesn’t factor into the solution at all, nor does anything else. The brothers ending feels like a cop-out.

No inscriptions.

Mistress Wilding (Rafael Sabatini, 1910)

An historical fiction set during the Monmouth Rebellion. Anthony Wilding is a conspirator to oust the Catholic King James II for the Protestant Duke of Monmouth. He’s in love with Ruth Westmacott, though she does not care a fig for him. Her brother Richard insults him and he challenges him to a duel. Sir Rowland Blake is deep in debt and covets Ruth’s fortune. Diana, Ruth’s cousin, loves Blake and wants to see Ruth safely out of the way. She pushes her to marry Wilding in exchange for his forgiving Richard, which she does.

Monmouth arrives a year earlier than planned. He relies on the advice of Lord Grey, who is either thoroughly incompetent or secretly a saboteur. Neither Wilding nor the other conspirators have had time to sway the aristocrats with control of the militia to the cause, so they’re reduced to relying on the untrained rabble. Blake schemes to assassinate Monmouth and brags about it to Ruth — who he’s still trying to woo, despite her being married. Wilding would be caught in the same trap. To spare him as he spared Richard, she warns Wilding of the plot and he thwarts it. Enraged, Blake has Ruth arrested. Wilding outs himself to save her life and is, himself, condemned to death, but in the confusion of battle, he escapes. The rebellion is crushed. Wilding uses some documents implicating a high minister to have himself retroactively declared a spy for the King’s army in Monmouth’s camp — lifting the death sentence from his head. He and Ruth are united.

Inscriptions: Signed Bertha E. Shielock on the front flyleaf.

The Phantom of the Opera (Gaston Leroux, 1911)

Christine Daaé, a promising young singer, finds her muse at the Paris Opera House. The Angel of Music, as she believes him to be, comes to her as a voice in her dressing room and coaches her to tremendous success. To others, he is the Opera Ghost — or O.G., as he tends to style himself. His demands for money and concessions have sent the previous managers into retirement, and unfortunately, the new managers don’t believe in ghosts. When box five — his box — is sold and Carlotta — not Christine — is cast in the lead, he cuts  down the great chandelier and sends it crashing into the crowded stalls, killing one and wounding dozens of others.

Vicomte Raoul de Chagny is in love with Christen and intends to marry her no matter their difference in rank. He finds a rival in the O.G., who he suspects is really a human of flesh and blood, no matter how ghastly his appearance. The Persian knows he is. He remembers when Erik was in Persia, torturing dissidents to death for the amusement of the Mazenderan. It was he who helped Erik flee from his own execution on condition that he cease his murderous ways. When Erik abducts Christine, Raoul and the Persian descend into the bowels of the Opera to uncover Erik’s secret lair and rescue Christine.

In the end, it’s Christine who winds up saving Raoul and the Persian when they fall into Erik’s torture chamber. She agrees to marry Erik and voluntarily leans over to kiss his horrible, skull-like head. She doesn’t even flinch. Erik, having never known such kindness, let’s them all go and dies well pleased.

Inscriptions: On the front endpaper, “Mr. Blooderok, Mac. 64”. The name definitely starts with “Mr. Blood” but then he had a blob of ink that obscured a few letters until “ok”. “Mac.” is not the usual abbreviation for March, but I assume that’s what it means.

Caleb Matthews (Robert W. McLaughlin, 1913)

“An Idyl of the Maine Coast” is the subtitle of this slim novella of eighty-some pages. Caleb Mathews is a fisherman on Crewaggen Island. There, he also keeps the general store and post office. He simultaneously hates the summer colony who infest the island when the weather is fine and loves to hear the young people of it as they laugh and enjoy themselves. This paradox extends to the art that hangs on his walls. The Elder is a friends of Caleb’s. He’s a preacher in New York but leads a summer service on the island. The art in question are prints of Millet works, depicting peasants farming. The Elder is surprised that an old mariner would be interested in such things, but Caleb proves himself to be a natural philosopher: Work is work, he says, whether it’s pulling up lobsters or pulling up potatoes. Work is hard, but not working is harder. Your work alone is not enough to guarantee success, as so much depends on others and to forces beyond all control. The Elder, humbled by the wisdom in Caleb’s illiterate speech, decides to write a sermon on it.

I don’t know anything about this Robert W. McLaughlin. I could find reference to another book or two he’d written, but nothing about the man himself. There are things about him, though, that make me doubt his bona fides. There are several minor issues of vocabulary, but two stuck out to me like sore thumbs:

The first is that he calls a seasonal house to which one takes a rustic or semi-rustic vacation “a cottage”. That is a camp. Now, in New Brunswick I have heard camps marketed to wealthy Torontonians termed “cottages” for their benefit while natives get by in their native camps, but I have never heard such pandering done in Maine. It is very, very common for wealthy New Yorkers to have a camp in Maine, but no matter how lavish or well-appointed the camp is, it is and always will be a camp.

I could overlook that, seeing is that it’s the out-of-stater who uses the word (or “the man from away”, if I were to use real Maine nomenclature). Caleb never calls the houses anything. I can’t overlook “lobster pot”, a term both of them use on multiple occasions. Nobody calls them that; they’re lobster traps, or simply traps. Caleb would never refer to his “pots”.

No inscriptions. A very clean, apparently first edition.

The Scarlet Pimpernel (Baroness Orczy, 1905)

During the Reign of Terror, French aristocrats try to flee across the English Channel to escape the guillotine. They are assisted by a mysterious Englishman known only by the insignia with which he signs his correspondence, a scarlet pimpernel. Sir Percy is married to a Frenchwoman, Marguerite, whose brother Armand has been implicated in counter-revolutionary activity. To save his life, she betrays certain knowledge she has about who the Scarlet Pimpernel is to Chauvelin, the French Republic representative in England. She didn’t know at the time but quickly discovers that the Scarlet Pimpernel is, in fact, her husband. She tries to beat Chauvelin to France to warn Sir Percy of the danger he’s in.

Inscriptions: “Stratton Public Library” is handwritten on both end papers, withdrawn July 14th 1998 (printed in 1910 — 88 years is a good run for a library book). Stamped on the bottom margin of page 99 is “F.E. Timberlake, Investment Securities, No. 78 Exchange Street, Portland, Me.”

Rollo in Rome (Jacob Abbot, 1858)

Rollo and his uncle George continue their tour of Europe. Set during the tumultuous Italian unification, like Rollo on the Rhine the land they travel through doesn’t exist anymore. Much is made of the travel itself — particularly as they cross from the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies into the Papal States — about the borders, the checkpoints, inspections, and passports. George explains how the government says its to prevent criminals from escaping justice, but really it’s because the government doesn’t represent the people and restricting their movement stops them from being overthrown.

Also fascinating to me are how few people there are. They visit the Vatican museum to see the statuary and there’s thirteen people there. I’ve been there, too, but there were several hundred times that number when I went.

Inscriptions: stamped “Roy A. Evans” in purple ink on the front flyleaf.

Leave Me With a Smile (Elliott White Springs, 1928)

Armistice has just been declared and aviator Henry Winton is among the first to return home. There are those that want to parade him around as a hero — none more so than his father, a mill owner who sees his son as his ticket to important business and political alliances — but the war has made Henry deeply cynical. He wants nothing to do with jingoistic patriots and military fetishism. He has very little desire to follow in his father’s footsteps. He’s in love with Phyllis, a woman who’s not entirely divorced yet.

Repetitive. Henry is torn between loyalty to his father and his love for Phyllis. By the end, I frankly didn’t care what happened to him.

No inscriptions.

Prillilgirl (Carolyn Wells, 1924)

A young woman who might be an alien or a pod person or some manner of robot arrives on the doorstep of Guy Thorndike, the famous actor, and tells him that she’s decided to marry him. She had been raised by her uncle and aunt in a very small and mysterious place, but now that the uncle is dead, her aunt wants to take her on a mission to China. She ran away with a short-list of marriage prospects and Thorndike was the first choice. Guy doesn’t take much convincing. He despises people (he gets along with his co-workers, but actors aren’t people) and a ready-made wife takes him off the market. I can’t stress enough that the young woman doesn’t behave like a human. She has a number of nicknames, Prillilgirl being the main one.

Guy is searching for the perfect role and he’s found it in Mallory Vane’s latest play. He wants to buy it from Vane, but Larkin thinks his contract with Vane gives him the option. Pril, meanwhile, is installed in the house. She and Guy rarely meet. She hopes to repay Guy his kindness by writing a play for him herself (she knows almost nothing about anything but does have an encyclopedic knowledge of Shakespeare) in collaboration with Vane. She clandestinely meets with Vane to work on the play, but it would seem Vane has another interest in Pril.

When Vane’s roommate Pete Jessup returns, he finds Pril unconscious and covered in blood in the telephone booth, and Vane at his desk stabbed in the heart with his own pen-dagger. Pete assumes Pril did it and, knowing Vane as he did, is utterly sure she did it in self-defense. He cleans her up, spirits her home, disposes of as much evidence as he can find, and plants evidence pointing to some stranger before calling the police. Pete’s not alone: literally everyone connected with the Vane wants to see the case either dropped or to take the blame themselves… except Larkin, who wants to see Pril cleared like all the others, but rather definitely wants Guy to take the fall.

Disappointing ending in that I never really saw the murder as the mystery here. The mystery was who or what Pril is, and that’s just never really addressed. It’s sort of hinted at once that she’s radio controlled, but that fizzles out.

Inscriptions: stamped several times on the endpapers and flyleaves and once more on the title page, “The Owl’s Nest, 609 S. 47th St., Philadelphia, Pa.”

Squire Phin (Holman Day, 1905)

Palermo is a small town in Mid-Coast Maine near to Rockland. Bear in mind, while the real-life Palermo is land-locked, this one isn’t. In fact, had the town been given a fictional name, I’d have guessed it was Camden.

The people there are farmers or they work in shipping, almost to a man. Judge Willard is the local aristocracy. He and his father before him have been the town treasurer for decades. The Willards are assumed to be fabulously rich — he must know how to handle money. The Looks are the black sheep of Palermo, but Phineas Look gets out, goes to law school, and finishes top in his class. He could practice anywhere, but chooses to come back to Palermo. Few of the townspeople have more than a basic education, so Squire Phin is treated as a reference desk and general authority on anything.

Phin and Sylvena, the Judge’s daughter, are in love, but the Judge will not see a Willard married to a Look. He has selected King Bradish for her. The Judge is a financier and he takes Bradish on with him. Phin begins to notice certain irregularities. According to the accounts, the town is only $2,000 in debt this year, yet a client comes in with a note for $7,000 signed by the Judge. More and more comes out, and it becomes clear that the Judge must have embezzled at the very least tens of thousands of dollars from the town.

If this was exposed, it would ruin the Willards, including Sylvena, and would forever tarnish Palermo’s reputation. Instead, Phin campaigns to have the Judge re-elected, allow him time to liquidate everything he owns to mostly pay back the embezzled funds, and then Phin covers for the rest. The books now clean, the Judge resigns. Phin and Sylvena marry.

Inscriptions: stamped a couple times on the front endpaper and flyleaf, “From the office of Jos. C. Holman, Farmington, Me.” Relative, perhaps? Farmington isn’t far from Auburn.