A London Story (George Buchanan, 1935)

Two brothers are both employed by Lord Flowerfield at Drancers department store in London, but John and Nicholas could not be less alike. John is, to use the newly imported Americanism, a go-getter. He’s loud, brash, and assertive, focused entirely on advancing himself and increasing his income. He allows no fault in others and admits of no fault in himself. Nicholas, meanwhile, finds the whole commercial world to be nothing but a hollow facade propped up by old men of inherited wealth and titles with no convictions beyond a terror of a changing social order.

Nicholas is fired, and at the height of the Great Depression, his prospects for finding another job are close to nil. He becomes dejected by the scorn he faces. He’s the product of his generation, they say: a lazy good-for-nothing, expecting of everything and deserving of nothing; he could find a job if only he chose to. After months of failure, he’s reached the point of giving up. With his last few pounds, he rents a car and speeds away with suicidal abandon.

In the hospital, after the crash, Nicholas is met with Phillida, who takes a keen interest in his well-being. Phillida briefly dated John and before the wreck had only the slightest acquaintance with his brother. She and John had parted ways largely because she wasn’t impressed by his bluster and that’s all he was looking for. He found it in Beryl. Beryl found in him a money machine.

The friendship between Nicholas and Phillida grows into love and the two wed. John marries Beryl. As they were in worklife, the brothers could not be less alike in homelife, either. Nicholas has found a job — not a very good one and not one he enjoys, but it’s something. He and Phillida are very happy in their little two-room apartment. Beryl does well enough in the lap of luxury, but John is miserable. He never deceived himself that Beryl loved him, but her cold and impersonal treatment proves to be more cutting than he could imagine. He’s distracted, he loses control. All his go-getter attributes slip away, he finds himself on Flowerfield’s bad side, and is soon without a job.

Inscription: A small plate is pasted on the outside front cover that reads “Camden Public Library, 14 Days”. That would be Camden, Maine. No other markings.

The Garden Murder Case (S.S. Van Dine, 1935)

After receiving a mysterious warning, amateur detective Philo Vance drops in on the Gardens. Floyd Garden and his friends are  avid horse race gamblers and are throwing a party of sorts around the Rivermont Handicap. His cousin, Woode Swift, has staked his entire fortune on a horse named Equanimity. Swift is spared the grief of Equanimity’s loss by receiving a bullet to the head ten minutes before the race.

It was framed as a suicide, but Vance at once spots the tell-tale signs of murder. But who among the several guests is guilty? Vance remains vague till his melodramatic reveal at the end, but the clues given quickly narrow the case down to two suspects, and the book isn’t two-thirds done until any reasonably attentive reader will have arrived at the culprit. All the fun of detective novels is in trying to solve the mystery yourself, but this one is simply too easy.

No inscriptions.

Woman Alive (Susan Ertz, 1935)

A young doctor visits a man who, by semi-scientific, semi-mystic means, is able to project an image of future events into his subjects’ minds. The man asks to see London as it will be in 1986.

Much has happened in the intervening fifty years. Britain went to the Soviets after the world war of 1950, but communism had collapsed in on itself in by the 1960s and the country was once more independent and capitalist. It, and much of the world, is closely allied with the ocean-spanning United States of Europe. War was all but a memory until a few weeks ago, when a break-away state launched an air strike against the USE in a bid for independence. They dropped a new chemical weapon that specifically targeted women. In a matter of days, the contagion spread throughout the world, and soon it is believed that every woman on Earth is dead and that humanity’s last generation has been born.

One woman survived, however. She had been the guinea-pig for a new, experimental vaccine, which left her alone immune to the disease. The daughter of simple farmers in rural England, she becomes quite an important personage. The world is ready to war again for the possession of her — each nation wanting to use her to continue their race — but she would rather see humanity suffer the death it brought upon itself. At first, at least.

Wonderful Art-Deco illustrations (in the first US edition anyway — I can only assume they’re in the others, too)