The Mystery of the Sycamore (Carolyn Wells, 1923)

Curtis Keefe is the private secretary of Samuel Appleby, former governor of Massachusetts. Sam wants to see his son, Sam Jr., elected, but he doesn’t have enough support among the electorate to win. If he could only get Dan Wheeler to cross the aisle and throw in his support, Junior would be a shoo-in. Dan would never do that, of course. He is conscientious above all else and does not agree with Sam’s party’s platform. Sam thinks he can force Dan’s hand, though. When he was governor some fifteen years ago, he pardoned Dan for forgery (a crime Dan vehemently claims he was framed for committing) on the condition that he leave Massachusetts. Dan’s wife, meanwhile, has inherited their estate of Sycamore Ridge on condition that she reside in Massachusetts. The estate is largely in Massachusetts but partially in Connecticut. Dan stays on the south side, Sara on the north. It’s a sometimes awkward arrangement, but a working one. Sam has discovered that there was a closer heir, however, and if that heir knew, then the Wheelers would have to leave Sycamore Ridge.

Sam confronts Dan. Sam is shot dead. Dan confesses to the crime, and so does wife Sara, and daughter Maida. Maida’s fianc√©, Jeff, claims to be the gunman as well. They can’t all have done it, so which one did? The police detectives determine the Wheelers are all covering for one another and so it must be one of them that’s guilty, but they can’t get any further than that. Private detective Fleming Stone is called in to solve the mystery.

Keefe was the heir, which he learned by examining the genealogical records Sam left around. He also has ambitions for the governorship, with a strategy largely gleaned from Sam’s playbook. Keefe killed him, resulting in Junior dropping out of the race. Keefe then attempted to blackmail Maida into marriage or else he would evict her parents from Sycamore Ridge.

No inscriptions.

Leave It to Psmith (P.G. Wodenhouse, 1923)

Mr. Keeble’s stepdaughter is in need of ¬£3000, but Lady Constance refuses and it’s she that holds the purse strings. A plot is hatched between Keeble and his nephew Freddie to steal Conny’s diamonds. Conny will buy more, she’ll get her originals back, then Phyllis takes the cash. Freddie soon realizes he’s in over his head and answers an ad in the newspaper from Psmith (the P is silent), who says he’s game for anything legal or not.

Conny is a faddish sort and her current fascination is with poets. It’s a coup to get trendy Canadian poet McTodd to come to the house, but when he drops out, Psmith simply fills in. Of course, there’s another poet there, Miss Peavey, but it turns out she’s a fraud too and is also angling for the diamonds. Conny doesn’t have the best taste.

Inscription: Frances Sumter (or something like that), 1927.

The Able McLaughlins (Margaret Wilson, 1923)

Christie McNair is raped by her cousin Peter Keith and is left pregnant. Wully McLaughlin, her boyfriend before the war, convinces her to marry him and insists that the child is his, taking the blame on himself for the child being conceived out of wedlock. Peter disappears and is missing for a number of years, driving his mother to the brink of insanity — he was always her golden child. The McLaughlins are threatened when Peter is spotted nearby. Wully would kill him but finds him already near death in a livery stable. He would as soon leave him there, but Christie insists that would be wrong and that they must take him — alive, dying, or dead — to his mother.

No inscriptions.

Timber Wolf (Jackson Gregory, 1923)

Bruce “Timber Wolf” Standing is a man of few but undyingly loyal friends. He is a force to be reckoned with in Big Pine, a mining boom town in the southwest. The place is tapped-out, but Mexicali Joe — one of those few friends — discovers a huge find somewhere up in the surrounding mountains. This makes him a target for gold seekers all over the country, including at least two sworn enemies of Timber Wolf: Babe Deveril, his one-time partner; and Jim Taggart, the sheriff. Also after the gold is Lynette Brooke, a young woman with prospecting in her veins.

Lynette is thought to have killed Timber Wolf and Babe is thought to have killed Taggart. The two flee into the countryside, following Joe in search of his strike. Babe falls in love with Lynette. Neither Timber Wolf nor Taggart were actually killed and both, individually, set out in pursuit of the fugitives. Timber Wolf captures Lynette and falls in love with her as well. Strangely, Lynette begins falling for him as well.

No inscriptions.

Smoke of the .45 (Harry Sinclair Drago, 1923)

A western mystery. A stranger rides into a small Nevada town, takes a room at the hotel, and later that night is discovered dead. It was framed as a suicide, but Johnny Dice suspects murder and sets out to bring the guilty to justice. It turns out that nineteen years before, the man was a mining partner of two of the town’s most prominent residents. When they struck pay dirt, the pair decided they’d rather not split the fortune three-ways and left the man for dead in the desert. Until then, they thought the matter was settled, but when the past came back to haunt them, they saw only one way to prevent exposure.

Inscription: Robert E. Shroule, signed on the front flyleaf.

The Lengthened Shadow (William J. Locke, 1923)

Suzanne runs away from her wealthy uncle, who had demanded that she marry his friend Moordius, a Parisian financier. She finds her way to Timothy — a widower with one young daughter — and takes the position of governess in his house. When Uncle dies, Timothy finds himself named along with Moordius as being in joint custody of Suzanne’s fortune until her 25th birthday.

Moordius is a gambling addict. He’s already exhausted his own wealth and is quickly running through his firm’s. However, he is extremely is suave and persuasive. Neither Suzanne nor Timothy can resist his charm and both willingly play into his newest scheme — to take on Timothy as a business partner, marry Suzanne under French law (i.e., joint assets), bail himself out using her fortune, and blackmail Timothy into remaining silent with the threat of his own bankruptcy if the company should fail. Only his daughter, Valerie, knows the truth. She tries to warn them, but it’s her word against his, and he talks very well.