The Lighted Lantern (John Lebar, 1930)

The Warrens are broke. Ruth Warren’s brother Harry Grey has just died. He owned a three-quarters share of a partnership on the Dead Lantern Ranch in Arizona, with Jep Snavely taking the other quarter. Since Kenneth Warren is consumptive and needs to move to a hot, dry climate anyway, they head to Arizona to live on the ranch. Because Harry was Snavely’s partner and Ruth was willed his share. Probate, what?

Yeah, so that’s not at all how that works. Ruth is not Snavely’s partner — Harry was. The ranch would have to be sold and the Warrens would take three-quarters of what it sold for.

We immediately learn several things about Snavely’s outlook on the world: people are bad, fences are bad, cattle are things that generate a bit of money but are otherwise of no consequence, and horses are great. Snavely just wants to be left alone on his 20,000 acre ranch so he can ride his horses in peace, and when Harry Grey was so unexpectedly killed in Mexico, he finally was. When the Warrens arrive demanding to live on the ranch, he asks Ruth if she’s shown the will to a lawyer and she bluffs that she has. So Snavely is aware of Ruth’s fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of what she’s inherited. Rather suggests he killed Harry and wants to keep the Warrens on the ranch so that he can kill them and thus keep living on the ranch.

And that’s exactly what the solution is. But if you just caught that in the first chapter, it was the only solution possible, never mind the whole rest of the book.

No inscriptions.

Half-Mast Murder (Milward Kennedy, 1930)

A political author is found killed in the summer house. Before the alarm is even raised, our three protagonists are tumbling over themselves to be the first to discover the body, almost as if they already know it’s there and are just waiting for the signal.

That they all suspect one of themselves guilty and are rushing to conceal evidence is obvious. Though a great deal of the book is spent on unraveling the faked and disturbed clues, it’s also pretty obvious that none of them are actually the murderer, either. Who really killed him works in the sense that it fits into the timeline but is very disappointing in that it’s entirely unmotivated. They killed him because otherwise there’d be no book.

Inscriptions: In pen on the front flyleaf, “Doris Hopper” then “Doris Thelma Hopper”. Below that, in pencil, “Doris Hopper”. In pen on the facing end paper, “D. Hopper”.

The Ghost’s High Noon (Carolyn Wells, 1930)

A woman travels to Spain and falls in love at first sight. They’re married, but he dies of phosphorus poisoning. Back in the US, she remarries, but this husband, too, dies of phosphorus poisoning. The less chivalrous American courts won’t let her off simply for being a woman so it’s up to detective Fleming Stone to uncover the real murderer.

Not one of Wells’s better stories in that it hangs on clues the reader isn’t given until the reveal, but I’d guessed the murderer anyway. Figuring both men had to be killed by the same person, that person would necessarily be Spanish, and there is only one other Spanish character.

Inscription: Leon Leon Knapp on the front flyleaf. How unfortunate that his last name wasn’t also Leon.

The Door (Mary Roberts Rinehart, 1930)

The family nurse is found stabbed to death just after one of the disinherited branch was gifted a sword-cane. Things looks bad for him — bad as in he’s going to the electric chair — but while both he and a member of the bequeathed branch know who actually did it, neither one of them will breathe a word.

This is more of a whodunit than the typical Rinehart mystery. It’s a fairly limited number of characters, several of them are possible suspects, a few more possible than others (indeed, Mary, the main character, makes a list towards the end of everyone involved, ranking them by how likely they are to be the murderer). It does have other Rinehart hallmarks: like every family that describes itself as being an open book, they would all go to their graves before even hinting at family secrets; and the wealthy not quite realizing that their servants are people and that they have families and secrets of their own.

As for the solution, what cliche is Rinehart remembered for today? The Inspector never actually says “The butler did it!” as the myth goes, but, well, the butler did it!

No inscriptions.

Daughter of Fu Manchu (Sax Rohmer, 1930)

An English Egyptologist excavating a tomb and his associates are caught up in the machinations of Fah Lo Suee’s plot to take over the world. Fah Lo Suee is the leader of the until-now-dormant order of Si Fan and the daughter of Fu Manchu. Fu Manchu himself was thought to be dead, but was in fact merely retired. The previous enemy of the West now intervenes to rescue the English leads, stop his daughter, and prevent the world war she’s about to launch.

No inscriptions.

The Gold Shoe (Grace Livingston Hill, 1930)

Rich socialite Anastasia Endicott is snowbound on her way to a country dance and is rescued from icy death only by the timely arrival of Thurly Macdonald, who takes her back to his mother’s cottage. Thurly is a preacher and his mother Margret worries that this young “worldling” is going to turn his heart. Tasha soon goes home but forgets the shoe she lost in the snow, which Thurly found and keeps meaning to return but never does. Thurly must be out of town for several weeks, and not wanting his mother to be left alone, a companion is arranged — her niece, Hesba. Hesba is training to be a social worker or some such, but despite her devotion to “the Cause”, Margret takes a strong aversion to the girl and her plain attempt to seduce Thurly. Tasha, ignorant of religion as she may be, starts to look a lot more preferable.

Cutting to the chase, Hesba eventually finds a man demure enough to accept her domineering and quits Thurly, to Margret’s great relief. Tasha finds Jesus and she and Thurly live happily ever after.

Inscription: On the front flyleaf, “Waterboro Aug 16 1932, Ida R. Burbank”. On a little folded card pasted to the back endpaper, “J.R. Libby Co, 8/2 75”.