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.

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.

The Coast of Intrigue (Whitman Chambers, 1928)

Atwell partners with Cunningham on a platinum dredging venture in South America. Up the river is Hackwood, a mahogany logger who attempts to sabotage them. Hackwood is in cahoots with Juartez, the governor, who’s preparing a coup to overthrow President Quilla. Dolores de Rico, a wealthy woman of mysterious parentage (shh — she’s Quilla’s daughter) helps Atwell to thwart Hackwood.

Inscriptions: I thought there weren’t any, but after removing the dust cover, I found “T. Hutton, Holly St.” written on the front end paper.

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.

The Tuesday Club Murders (Agatha Christie, 1928)

A group of acquaintances meet on Tuesday. Each presents an unsolved mystery that they personally know the answer to while the others try to guess. Invariably, Miss Marple guesses right by connecting it to some local bit of intrigue — she’s lived in the village her whole long life, and however small, a single village is a microcosm for the world. But the Tuesday Club, really, is just a loose framework for a short story collection. Most are well under twenty pages, a few do go on longer. At the end, Miss Marple has a chance to put her money where her mouth is and solve the mystery of Rose Emmott: whether it was suicide or murder, if the latter, to find out who did it.

Inscription: Stamped on the front endpaper “Fisher’s Bookshop & Circulating Library” in blue ink.

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.

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.