The Case of the Half-Wakened Wife (Erle Stanley Gardner, 1945)

Scott Shelby is murdered and his wife very carefully framed for the crime. Perry Mason rather quickly uncovers who he thinks is the culprit, but her alibi seems air-tight. The photos prove she and her fiance were at a picnic, but the block of ice and cloudy sky throw into question just what day that picnic took place.

No inscriptions.

The Case of the Careless Kitten (Erle Stanley Gardner, 1942)

Franklin Shore disappeared ten years ago and might have returned, but the man who was supposed to lead his niece to him is found shot to death. The gardener claims Shore was hiding out in his house, but he was cat sitting at the time and Perry Mason uses a bit of cat psychology to prove the man’s a liar.

No inscriptions.

The Case of the Sleepwalker’s Niece (Erle Stanley Gardner, 1936)

Edna Hammer is worried that her sleepwalking uncle Peter Kent is going to kill somebody one night. And one night, someone does wind up stabbed to death with the very knife Edna was so worried about her uncle carrying in his sleep. Perry Mason is on the case.

I guessed pretty early on — and most certainly after Mason’s test with the duplicate knife — that it was Edna herself who had a sleepwalking fascination with the knife. Who the actual knifeman was I deduced along with Mason when Harris’s alibi falls apart.

No inscriptions.

The Dutch Shoe Mystery (Ellery Queen, 1931)

Abigail Doorn, the wealthy benefactor of the Dutch Memorial Hospital, is discovered strangled to death just before she’s about to undergo an emergency operation. Someone seems to have impersonated her doctor, Dr. Janney, and killed her just before she was about to be wheeled into the operating room. After a few days, Dr. Janney himself is freed from suspicion by getting murdered. Ellery Queen’s investigation begins with the unusually small shoes the imposter left behind.

That the murderer was a woman was so patently obvious, I can’t understand why the shoes are treated as such a baffling mystery. Janney’s murder — committed in his office by someone standing behind the desk — could only have been done by two people. One of them was a man who was with Ellery Queen at the time of the murder. That rather narrows it down.

Inscriptions: Someone has drawn three small 3D cubes on the front flyleaf.

Behind That Curtain (Earl Derr Biggers, 1928)

Sergent Charlie Chan of the Honolulu Police is on vacation in San Fransisco and eager to go home. Sir Frederic Bruce, recently retired from Scotland Yard, is visiting Barry Kirk. Although retired, there are some long-unsolved cases that he’s still personally perusing. These are the murder of Hillary Galt and the disappearance of Eve Durand some fifteen years ago. At a dinner party with Colonel Beetham, an explorer who is giving a presentation on his travels in Asia in the hope of raising funds for another expedition, Sir Frederic is shot to death. Captain Flannery, the local detective, is quite hopeless. Chan is forced to stick around for another couple weeks to solve the mystery.

Easy enough to guess who Eve Durand is. It was very clear that the three missing women were all one and the same and that the elevator operator was she. It’s also easy to guess how she escaped India unnoticed and it doesn’t take much deduction to realize that she hasn’t been found because her husband, Eric Durand, doesn’t want to find her. A few other clues are dropped but that alone gives a very strong indication of which one pulled the trigger and why he did.

Inscriptions: Signed George A. Thomas on the front endpaper.

Eugene Aram (Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1832)

Eugene Aram is a recluse who’s devoted to the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake. It isn’t until he meets the Squire’s daughter Madeline that he begins to rethink his lonesome ways. Madeline’s cousin Walter is an orphan, his father — a profligate, gambler, and thief — having vanished when he was a young child. In love with Madeline himself and jealous of Eugene, he leaves home to search for his lost father.

A suspicious character, Houseman, appears in the village. He’s part of a gang of highway robbers and has had some dealings with Eugene in the past. Eugene tries to pay off Houseman to leave the country. However, Houseman, Walter, and a skeleton happen to cross paths. The skeleton, Houseman says, is Walter’s father, who he claims was killed by Eugene. Eugene maintains the man was killed by Houseman but the jury condemns Eugene to death. Madeline dies from grief, her father follows not long after, and the family breaks apart. Walter feels like he’s somewhat to blame.

Inscription: Donated by John Manch to the Manch College of Music, November 23rd, 1924.

October House (Kay Cleaver Strahan, 1931)

Katherine Peters, a palm and tarot reader, is hired by “Toy” O’Shay to live with her at October House. The reasons for this are ambiguous but it’s a hundred dollars and month and Peters is flat broke. She and her daughter Fanchon take up residence at October House along with Toy, “Cyn” Zann, her brother Durke, daughter Barbara, and Alyse Molehard. Why they’re there, Peters can’t tell, as they all seem to be wealthy enough to live independently and they obviously all despise one another. October House is an isolated place, hemmed in by mountains and dense forests on the one side, and a turbulent pool of water on the other.

On the night of their big October party, Cyn discovers Alyse stabbed to death. The phone lines are cut and the boat is gone. Among them is Emoreland, who had been posing as a gardener but now claims to be a detective hired by Alyse to protect her life. Didn’t do a good job, there. He tries to take charge and solve the mystery but doesn’t do job there, either: Toy dies, evidently of poison; her guest Imlay Purcell vanishes, as does Barbara’s guest Josephine; and another guest, Lucille Vane, has her jewels stolen. After several days of paranoia, Lynn MacDonald, the celebrated crime analyst previously invited to dine at the house, arrives, and she uncovers the murderer in a matter of hours.

I’d figured out who killed Molehard easily enough. Toy’s alibi falls apart when you realize that it’s wholly unverifiable. We only have her word that the call she took was from Molehard, who had actually been dead for hours at the time, and her playing with the dagger and dismay to find it missing were obviously just calling attention to the murder weapon not being in her possession. Who killed Toy I did not guess — the solution was rather too far-fetched to even consider. The motive, likewise, is very contrived.

I like Srahan a lot, but this is no Desert Moon Mystery or Footprints.

No inscriptions.

Lights Up (Grace S. Richmond, 1927)

Joan, an artsy country girl, and Margaret, a New York socialite, are both in love with Lane, a drama critic. Margaret thought she was making good headway with him, but he withdrew from her when it became obvious just how vapid and devoid of any ambition she is. Joan’s friend has written a new play, the lead character of which suits Margaret to a T. He’s going to premiere it in a barn locally, with Lane in attendance. He insists that Margaret take the part against all her protests. She studies diligently and tries her very best, but she simply can’t do it. She suffers a nervous breakdown and Joan has to fill in for her. Lane, however, is duly impressed by her efforts and his love is rekindled. The two marry.

Inscriptions: on the front flyleaf, “‘Tartie’ — Christmas 1927”

The Days of Auld Lang Syne (Ian MacLaren, 1895)

A collection of short stories and a couple novellas or at least novelettes about Drumtochty, a small village in Scotland, and the people who inhabit it. All the ads in the back of the book are for religious literature, so I figured with would have a Christian bend, but no, not really. The stories don’t have much of point at all.

The second story is the longest and most fleshed-out. Burnbrae’s family has rented their farm in Drumtochty from Lord Kilspindie for centuries. Kilspindie is away and the new “factor” (something like a property manager), a city man from England, has a notion to forestall any factional trouble by renting only to those belonging to the Auld Kirk — the established religion. Burnbrae is a Free Kirk man — a dissenter. His lease is not renewed. When the estate is auctioned off, all the village comes together to bid generously and give Burnbrae a tidy parting gift. Meanwhile, Kilspindie returns after being told of what’s happened by the preachers of both the Auld and Free Kirks, neither of whom want to see Burnbrae expelled. The factor is overridden and Burnbrae’s lease is renewed. The villagers return the items without asking for their money back.

That’s about as churchy as it gets. The other stories mostly involve the elderly townsfolk dying and the other, equally elderly townsfolk remembering them. The stories are not in chronological order, so people die and resurrect frequently as you read.

Inscriptions: on the front flyleaf, “Melvin Sheaburne Hotchins, Eastport, 1935”. I have to say, I adore the handwriting. It’s not quite cursive and not quite print, but it’s marvelously distinctive. Later owned by Dorothea Flagg, who lived in a dumpy house on Parkview Avenue in Bangor. Perhaps it looked better in the past, but I can hardly imagine so.