The Window (Alice Grant Rosman, 1928)

Mrs. Willingdon is about to dedicate an antique stained glass window in the village church to her beloved son Terry, a fallen hero of the Great War. Or perhaps he was a deserter who knocked-up a nineteen year old then disappeared into the diamond mines of Africa. Either way. Pat Eden adopted the little boy, Michael. She and Terry had been in love before the war but his mother had selected Dorris, the dim-witted daughter of Sir Duffield, for his bride. The Colonel is unaware of the boy but Mrs. Willingdon knows about this horrible slander against Terry’s sainted memory and wants to somehow get rid of Pat. Maybe the bishop could do it.

Christopher Royle is back in England having unexpectedly inherited his ancestral home, Windyhill. Before taking residence, he stops in Dorne, falls madly in love with Pat, and becomes a father to Michael. The Colonel, an infirm old man largely confined to the house, has heard rumors. This Royle fellow grievously insulted his wife somehow and it has something to do with Pat. He goes to investigate and, on seeing Michael, at once knows he’s his grandchild. He disappears and his body is found later at the bottom of the chalk mine.

Inscription: From the Skowhegan Free Public Library, last checked out by Gladys Greene on March 30th, 1968.

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The Tapestry Room Murder (Carolyn Wells, 1928)

At a house party, Gaylord hopes that Diana will finally accept his marriage proposal, although she favors Ted. Marita is in love with Gaylord herself, or at least in love with his money. Cale, Gaylord’s secretary, is in love with Marita. During the “dark time” — a two minute period each night when the town switches from one power plant to another — Gaylord is stabbed to death. He was in a small room he called his tapestry room with Marita at his side, Diana in front of him, and Ted standing in the doorway. His only known relative, a second cousin named Moffatt, is called in. It’s believed Gaylord made a will and left nearly all his estate to Diana, but that will is conspicuously absent now and Moffatt is tentatively the heir. Fleming Stone, the celebrated detective, tries to unravel the mystery the police have failed to crack. His only clues are the sound of a ticking clock and the smell of mothballs.

Reminiscent of The Crime in the Crypt, where an event has been so carefully detailed and corroborated at every turn that it can’t possibly be natural — it had to have been staged. Here, most of the guests have weak alibis, and those in the room none at all, but one man can give an almost second by second account of where he was while the murder took place.

Inscriptions: from the Colonial Lending Library, and later from the Back Mountain Memorial Library. On page 198, there’s a bit of long division. Someone has divided 118.75 by 15 and correctly arrived at 7.91 and 2/3s.

Footprints (Kay Cleaver Strahan, 1928)

The Quilters are a proud family that stretches back to before the Revolution. The present line are prominent ranchers in Oregon that, in the depression of the 1890s, had fallen onto hard times. No expense had been spared on aspiring playwright Chris, the eldest son. After going to the best schools in the East and traveling Europe, all that he’d accomplished was marrying a gold digger much disappointed to find that the mine was tapped out. Chris and Irene returned to Q2 Ranch to find it mortgaged and mortgaged and mortgaged again. Though all the Quilters lived there, from Grandfather to twelve year old Lucy, the ranch strictly speaking belonged to Chris. Irene as soon would have had it sold and let the others shift for themselves.

One night in 1900, Chris’s father was shot to death. It was in the night. All the family had been locked in their rooms. A rope from the bedpost went out the window and to the ground, but an early snow had fallen: the rope was dusted in it and there were no footprints anywhere on the ground around the house. An investigation was made and inquest held, but in the end, no explanation was ever found.

Almost thirty years later, Neal has come to believe that he killed his father, and in the shock of the act, forgot about it. It’s driving him mad. Elder sister Judy and Joe, the long-time family doctor, contact crime analyst Lynn MacDonald to solve the riddle. Of course, the case is long cold, most of the witnesses dead, so much has changed. Judy does, however, have a pack of letters sent to her by Lucy and Neal detailing the events of the house just before and just after the event. From these alone MacDonald must find the trail.

No inscriptions.

The Crime in the Crypt (Carolyn Wells, 1928)

I’m assured this is a detective story. The cover says so, there are a few murders here and there, and a detective does finally pop up in the last chapter, but most of the book is just kind of a light romp about two American guys who have made fast friends while on vacation in Europe. The mystery seems almost an intrusion — something to be swept away as quick as possible.

I had it solved pretty well by Clevendon’s introduction. The titular crypt murder was so very, very carefully staged to establish the victim as Warren Glynn that of course it couldn’t be him. Who is it? Enter Clevendon with his very convenient injury leaving him unable to write or shave and there’s your man. It all falls into place after that. Glynn was trying to trade places with his half-brother Clevendon to inherit the family fortune.

Inscriptions: On the flyleaf, “A Merry Christmas To Harry From Leola, Dec. 25, 1930.” There’s also a tag attached with a poinsettia sticker that reads “Harry from Leola”.

Big Game (Vida Hurst, 1928)

Mona falls in love with Bruce, her friend’s husband. Angst. Bruce falls in love with her and plans divorce, but then his wife becomes pregnant. Angst some more. Things are looking up (for Mona at least) when the wife dies after giving birth, but oh no, Bruce is jealous of another of Mona’s admirers and decides not to marry her. Angst a lot. Finally,  Bruce learns to trust and he marries Mona after all.

This was the worst written book I’ve ever read. It’s even worse than that Partridge Family novella — and I didn’t think that was possible. I don’t mean the story, which is a mediocre but not offensively bad romance; I mean the author has absolutely no grasp of basic syntax or grammar.

No inscriptions.

The Mystery of the Peacock’s Eye (Brian Flynn, 1928)

Brian Flynn may not have been the best mystery novelist but he’ll always hold a place in my heart for being the one who introduced me to the idea of reading for pleasure. Looking back at this blog, it seems that I read 41 books this year. I don’t boast — certainly, there are people who regularly read twice that number — but I think that child-me would be shocked.

This was a re-read, as every Brian Flynn book would be at this point. I considered reading the first of his that I ever picked up, Crime at the Crossways (1930), but I know the story too well and mysteries never hold up without the element of surprise. Peacock’s Eye I hadn’t revisited in decades and had almost completely forgotten, which is good as it’s got a hell of a twist ending.

Two crimes have been committed that may or may not be related: the blackmailing of foreign prince in regards to a past fling that had been amicably settled but, if made public, would spell disaster for his present royal engagement; and the murder of a young woman whose late father had served in India and came home with a particularly valuable war trophy — a large blue emerald worth £20,000. Amateur detective Anthony Bathurst tags along with Chief-Inspector Bannister of Scotland Yard to solve the puzzle.

With mystery novels, you’ve got your Christie-style who-dun-its and Rinehart-style had-I-but-knowns. Flynn is more Rinehart than Christie, but his style is fairly distinctive on its own. There’s generally a mistake near the beginning that the characters make and the reader is invited to make as well. This confounds solution, as any attempt to follow the clues that spring from it are necessarily predicated on a false premise. It isn’t until that initial mistake is re-evaluated that the puzzle pieces begin to fall into place.

Peacock’s Eye
‘s is no exception. It all hinges on the stranger at the Hunt Ball whose true identity everyone seems to know, but do they really? Of course, the man’s name is only the start. The clues must be followed from there to the conclusion. I confess that I failed, but I will admitted that this is a solvable book, although it’s made deucedly difficult by Flynn withholding the most damning evidence until the reveal at the end and leaving the reader only with the less definite points.

If I might give a slight hint (not really a hint at all — it’s there in the text, I only call attention to it): What is the plural of iris? There aren’t many English-speakers so pedantic that they insist on the Greek plural irides. Who do we know who speaks affectedly?

Inscription: Carelessly signed P. Smith in pencil on the inside front cover.

The Murder in the Pallant (J.S. Fletcher, 1928)

A lawyer is found dead in his office. Some valuables have been stolen and it initially appears to have been a burglary gone wrong, but then it comes to light that perhaps this was an unrelated crime or even a diversion, as the real reason the lawyer was killed seems to have been to cover-up a prominent businessman’s underhanded financial dealings. But then still more comes to light and maybe it was a robbery after all. It was thought that only a gold watch and a couple hundred pounds were missing. Nobody knew of the £50,000 in cash that the lawyer secretly had on him. And then yet more comes to light (it keeps coming until the second to last chapter in fact, making this a very difficult mystery to “play along at home” with — you can’t solve it any quicker than it solves itself) that appears to link those two crimes together through a person the investigators least suspect.

Inscription: “H.F. Luicolu, Haterville, N.C.”, on the inside front cover.