Peril at End House (Agatha Christie, 1932)

Poirot, retired from the detective game, is vacationing on the Cornish coast when he makes the acquaintance of a woman named Nick who, curiously, seems always to just avoid being murdered. A bullet just misses her while she talks to Poirot.

I had my suspicions early on and was fairly convinced that Freddie was being setup to take the fall, but it wasn’t until the chocolate boxes that it all became clear.

No inscriptions.

The Meriwether Mystery (Kay Cleaver Strahan, 1932)

Tony is found dead in at the Meriwether boarding house. It looks for all the world like a suicide, except there’s no gun and the phone’s been cut. Vicky, niece of the fabulously wealthy Cadwallader “Candy” Van Garter, is one of the residents. She theoretically runs an antique shop and tea room in town, but the business is really a hobby. She had just that day been stood up for a date with Tony and raged most violently. Personally, Candy fears she killed him and tries to invent some way to take the blame himself. Vicky, meanwhile, is convinced Candy did it.

Of the several other occupants are Helene Bailey, the landlady, and Dot, her ostensibly seventeen year old daughter; Sarah Parnham, a teacher, and her much younger and mildly retarded stepmother, Evadne; Oswald, storekeeper whose real passion is astrology; Paul Keasy, radio host; and the late Tony Charvan, who had a fifteen minute slot on the radio but no other obvious source of income.

Can crime analyst Lynn MacDonald discover the murder?

I rather like most of the Strahan mysteries I’ve read, but this is a lesser entry. You can certainly get ahead of it in places — the chronology of Tony’s night falls apart when you realize his segments are pre-recorded, and that’s hinted at pretty much off the bat — and the going to the movies alibi is a great deal too pat to not be planned — but I don’t think it’s solvable. Frankly, even in-story, it’s a wild guess on MacDonald’s part based on precious little evidence.

Inscriptions: between pages 198 and 199 is clipping from The Evening Bulletin, of Providence, dated May 12, 1954. It’s a recipe for marshmallow fudge.

The Roll-Top Desk Mystery (Carolyn Wells, 1932)

Detective Fleming Stone is on vacation with retired detective Mayo Farnum at Oleander Park on the North Shore — a popular place for summer houses among the moneyed set. But, of course, no detective is actually happy unless he’s on a case, and Rocky Reef house provides.

Lowell Berkeley has fallen head over heals for Rosalie. His father, Louis, is prouder of the family heritage than anything and this woman is virtually anonymous. But Louis would never make Lowell unhappy and has consented to the marriage. Just then, Rosalie is murdered by having her head smashed by a roll-top desk. Farnum — an old friend of the Berkeleys — is called and Stone tags along. It isn’t more than two weeks later that Mimi, Rosalie’s friend, begins to fill the void in Lowell’s heart. She, too, is crushed to death.

I don’t really need to say that it was Louis as there really isn’t any part where that’s not obvious. He explains himself in the end, though. Rosalie, he discovered, was one-eighth black and she had to die to save Lowell from that. Mimi was a prostitute and it’s implied that she had some disease. So, it’s head crushing for her, too.

Inscriptions: stamped “Friends of the Belleflower Library” on the inside front cover.

The Ebony Bed Murder (Rufus Gillmore, 1932)

An internationally renowned beauty just divorced from her fifth husband is found shot to death in her Fifth Avenue apartment. The police and DA are sure it’s suicide, but amateur detective Griffith Scott thinks otherwise. A ridiculous story that ends with the most impossible reveal imaginable. If the murderer had 10,000 tries, they’d still never successfully pull off the crime as Scott describes it.

Inscriptions: Stamped on the first and last page “Mrs. J.E. Connell”.

Murder at the Hunting Club (Mary Plum, 1932)

At a secluded lakeside cabin, Virginia Day is found stabbed through the heart, scarcely a year since her father so unexpectedly drowned. Several other people are there, including her fiancĂ© Charles Hilton, her second cousin and presumed heir Sue Barrett, her late father’s business partner Mike MacDonald, and a celebrated detective with the most unassuming name: John Smith.

It’s quite near the end before we start getting any real clues to winnow down the suspects, but when they do come, each clue follows quick on the heels of the last and they all point in one direction. By the big reveal in last chapter, I can’t imagine anyone won’t have already guessed the culprit and have at least a very good idea what the motive was.

Inscription: On the front end paper is written “Vickie R. Whitcomb, Newburgh, Me.” Stamped on the back flyleaf, “Danforth Lending Library at 15 Central Street, Bangor, Maine.”