Vicky Van (Carolyn Wells, 1918)

Vicky Van Allen is a social butterfly who lives in a small but perfectly stylish house just off Fifth Avenue. She has a great many friends, but nobody seems to know much of anything about her, and she seems to have simply sprung into existence two years ago. At a dinner party, a mutual friend introduces her to Mr. Somers. Later that night, Somers is found stabbed to death with Vicky Van standing over him, trying to pull out the knife.

Vicky Van vanishes completely. It turns out that Mr. Somers was actually Mr. Schuyler, a wealthy roué who lived in the house literally adjoining the back of Vicky Van’s. The elderly Schuyler sisters are out for blood, but Ruth — the dead man’s wife — would rather let it go. Schuyler was a domineering man who made his much younger wife’s life misery.

Celebrated detective Fleming Stone is called in to find Vicky Van and he doesn’t have to look far.

This is the earliest Fleming Stone novel I’ve read and it was pretty straight-forward. Wells would reuse this plot later for The Vanity Case in 1926. That one was pretty straight-forward, too. Misdirection wasn’t really her thing.

No inscriptions.

The Cup and the Sword (Alice Tisdale Hobart, 1940)

Elizabeth goes to live with her relatives, the Rambleus, who are large vintners in California. Prohibition is on, though. They can legally produce a small amount of wine for sacramental use, but they’ve got to find some other way to make money, whether it’s selling the grapes directly or drying them into raisins first. Old Phillipe loves his vines like his children and would rather let the grapes rot than go to an inferior use. John, the expected heir, is great deal more ruthless.

The vineyards are old Philippe’s, but the household is run by Martha. She hates Elizabeth from the start but plans on marrying her to Henri Don Swanaña to join their lands together. There’s nothing Elizabeth wants to do less, but Martha is most forceful. On the night that the wedding is to be announced, Andrew offers to elope with her, which she does.

Philippe dies. The will comes a a surprise to John, in that he’s essentially left out of it. Martha is given the house but no control of the company. The northern vineyard, used to make sacramental wine, he gives to Elizabeth.

Elizabeth is used to living in London and Paris and hasn’t ever been happy in the Californian countryside. Andrew is worn down until the point that he leaves. Prohibition is repealed and wine can be sold again. She can sell the vineyard and the wine casks for an enormous sum and go where she pleases, he tells her. But Elizabeth has come to identify with the land as well. With John’s help, she manages both the farming and business side of wine making.

At last, Andrew is convinced to come back home. He’d been fighting in the Spanish Civil War and is rather traumatized. He comes with a warning that the Spanish war is a prelude to a much larger war to come.

Inscription: on the top-right corner of the title page, “Mrs. John Cherry, April 1943”.

Under Frozen Stars (George Marsh, 1928)

Jim Stuart runs a fur trading post in the Northwest Territories that does business with the Ojibwa, but lately they’ve been selling their furs to Louis LeBlond, whose head man — Paradis — seems to have been spreading rumors up north that Stuart is full of demons. Stuart goes north to clear matters up, and with the help of his Ojibwa friend Esau, he does. However, he’s also fallen in love with LeBlond’s daughter, Aurora, and Paradis has kidnapped her. Stuart has to race north again to recover her.

I know nothing of the Ojibwa language, but I’m going to assume the snatches of it included here are authentic and for that, I commend the book. Most books of this sort just hand wave it all away with “speaking in Indian”.

No inscriptions.

Finch’s Fortune (Mazo de la Roche, 1931)

Adeline Whiteoak is dead and in her will, she’s everything to her grandson Finch. It isn’t millions, but it’s a sizable sum: $100,000. The Whiteoaks are a large, tight-knit family that all live at Jalna, the home Adeline set up after removing from England to Canada. That doesn’t stop them from at times being at each other’s throats. Finch has an artistic temperament and is hopelessly unsure of his 21-year-old self. He wants to use a part of the money to help each of his relatives, and they — to a greater or lesser extent — see him as an easily exploitable cash machine.

His gift to his two elderly uncles is a trip back to England to meet their sister Augusta one last time. She had arranged things to introduce Finch and Sarah Court in the hope of sparking something, and something does spark, but Finch is too terribly afraid of himself to pursue it. His friend Arthur Leigh visits and in scarcely a matter of days, he and Sarah are married. Sarah confesses afterward that she loves Finch.

Inscription: On the front flyleaf, “Fanny King, On the wide veranda at Morgan Street”.

The Snowshoe Trail (Edison Marshall, 1921)

A woman travels to Alaska to find her fiance who was lost there six years ago. She hires a guide whose father was a gold prospector killed by his partner, and while the woman searches for the fiance, the man hopes to search for the mine. The fiance is found surprisingly fast, but it turns out that he’s the son of the murderous partner, now himself deceased, who’s spent the last six years searching for the mine himself.

Inscription: On the front flyleaf, “Lottie, from Sister Addie, Xmas 1926”.

Stillman Gott, Farmer and Fisherman (Edwin Day Sibley, 1902)

Kind of a rambling book, but main plot is this: Small coastal town in Maine. Edward is in love with Elinor, but Elinor’s mother wants her to marry into wealth. Edward has no interest in the family farm and want to be a journalist. Leaves for Boston to start work. A rich summer guest falls in love with Elinor and she agrees to marry him for her mother’s sake. Elinor goes off to New York and realizes that she and this guy will never get along. Breaks engagement. Edward, meanwhile, has parlayed journalism into… anti-corporate espionage? The book lost me at this point, but Edward is now making the princely sum of $2,000 a year and he and Elinor marry.

I didn’t mention Stillman Gott? He’s an old, single farmer (ignore the title — the title lies) who sells his granite quarry for $25,000 which he anonymously bestows upon the town’s unfortunate.

Inscriptions: From the Stratton Public Library. Evidently not a popular title — it was only checked out four times, the last in 1953.

Simeon Tetlow’s Shadow (Jennette Lee, 1909)

Simeon Tetlow, railroad boss, is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. John, his assistant, see him through to health. That’s it. There are sort of subplots — John’s mother is ill, there a rival railroad, there’s an accident, a child visits Simeon — but none are even slightly developed.

Inscriptions: On the back cover is pasted a plate reading “Property of the Kineo Library Association” and then it lists the lending terms.

The Garden of Allah (Robert Hichens, 1904)

The daughter of an atheist travels to the desert to find her faith, falls in love with and marries a man who it turns out is a renegade monk escaped from the monastery, and convinces him to confess and return to his vows.

It’s funny how I often struggle to summarize a 300 page book but a behemoth like this boils down to one line.

Inscriptions: Mrs. William O’Keefe, on the front endpaper.