The Case of the Half-Wakened Wife (Erle Stanley Gardner, 1945)

Scott Shelby is murdered and his wife very carefully framed for the crime. Perry Mason rather quickly uncovers who he thinks is the culprit, but her alibi seems air-tight. The photos prove she and her fiance were at a picnic, but the block of ice and cloudy sky throw into question just what day that picnic took place.

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The Case of the Careless Kitten (Erle Stanley Gardner, 1942)

Franklin Shore disappeared ten years ago and might have returned, but the man who was supposed to lead his niece to him is found shot to death. The gardener claims Shore was hiding out in his house, but he was cat sitting at the time and Perry Mason uses a bit of cat psychology to prove the man’s a liar.

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The Case of the Sleepwalker’s Niece (Erle Stanley Gardner, 1936)

Edna Hammer is worried that her sleepwalking uncle Peter Kent is going to kill somebody one night. And one night, someone does wind up stabbed to death with the very knife Edna was so worried about her uncle carrying in his sleep. Perry Mason is on the case.

I guessed pretty early on — and most certainly after Mason’s test with the duplicate knife — that it was Edna herself who had a sleepwalking fascination with the knife. Who the actual knifeman was I deduced along with Mason when Harris’s alibi falls apart.

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The Dutch Shoe Mystery (Ellery Queen, 1931)

Abigail Doorn, the wealthy benefactor of the Dutch Memorial Hospital, is discovered strangled to death just before she’s about to undergo an emergency operation. Someone seems to have impersonated her doctor, Dr. Janney, and killed her just before she was about to be wheeled into the operating room. After a few days, Dr. Janney himself is freed from suspicion by getting murdered. Ellery Queen’s investigation begins with the unusually small shoes the imposter left behind.

That the murderer was a woman was so patently obvious, I can’t understand why the shoes are treated as such a baffling mystery. Janney’s murder — committed in his office by someone standing behind the desk — could only have been done by two people. One of them was a man who was with Ellery Queen at the time of the murder. That rather narrows it down.

Inscriptions: Someone has drawn three small 3D cubes on the front flyleaf.

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.

October House (Kay Cleaver Strahan, 1931)

Katherine Peters, a palm and tarot reader, is hired by “Toy” O’Shay to live with her at October House. The reasons for this are ambiguous but it’s a hundred dollars and month and Peters is flat broke. She and her daughter Fanchon take up residence at October House along with Toy, “Cyn” Zann, her brother Durke, daughter Barbara, and Alyse Molehard. Why they’re there, Peters can’t tell, as they all seem to be wealthy enough to live independently and they obviously all despise one another. October House is an isolated place, hemmed in by mountains and dense forests on the one side, and a turbulent pool of water on the other.

On the night of their big October party, Cyn discovers Alyse stabbed to death. The phone lines are cut and the boat is gone. Among them is Emoreland, who had been posing as a gardener but now claims to be a detective hired by Alyse to protect her life. Didn’t do a good job, there. He tries to take charge and solve the mystery but doesn’t do job there, either: Toy dies, evidently of poison; her guest Imlay Purcell vanishes, as does Barbara’s guest Josephine; and another guest, Lucille Vane, has her jewels stolen. After several days of paranoia, Lynn MacDonald, the celebrated crime analyst previously invited to dine at the house, arrives, and she uncovers the murderer in a matter of hours.

I’d figured out who killed Molehard easily enough. Toy’s alibi falls apart when you realize that it’s wholly unverifiable. We only have her word that the call she took was from Molehard, who had actually been dead for hours at the time, and her playing with the dagger and dismay to find it missing were obviously just calling attention to the murder weapon not being in her possession. Who killed Toy I did not guess — the solution was rather too far-fetched to even consider. The motive, likewise, is very contrived.

I like Srahan a lot, but this is no Desert Moon Mystery or Footprints.

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The Mystery of the Sycamore (Carolyn Wells, 1923)

Curtis Keefe is the private secretary of Samuel Appleby, former governor of Massachusetts. Sam wants to see his son, Sam Jr., elected, but he doesn’t have enough support among the electorate to win. If he could only get Dan Wheeler to cross the aisle and throw in his support, Junior would be a shoo-in. Dan would never do that, of course. He is conscientious above all else and does not agree with Sam’s party’s platform. Sam thinks he can force Dan’s hand, though. When he was governor some fifteen years ago, he pardoned Dan for forgery (a crime Dan vehemently claims he was framed for committing) on the condition that he leave Massachusetts. Dan’s wife, meanwhile, has inherited their estate of Sycamore Ridge on condition that she reside in Massachusetts. The estate is largely in Massachusetts but partially in Connecticut. Dan stays on the south side, Sara on the north. It’s a sometimes awkward arrangement, but a working one. Sam has discovered that there was a closer heir, however, and if that heir knew, then the Wheelers would have to leave Sycamore Ridge.

Sam confronts Dan. Sam is shot dead. Dan confesses to the crime, and so does wife Sara, and daughter Maida. Maida’s fiancĂ©, Jeff, claims to be the gunman as well. They can’t all have done it, so which one did? The police detectives determine the Wheelers are all covering for one another and so it must be one of them that’s guilty, but they can’t get any further than that. Private detective Fleming Stone is called in to solve the mystery.

Keefe was the heir, which he learned by examining the genealogical records Sam left around. He also has ambitions for the governorship, with a strategy largely gleaned from Sam’s playbook. Keefe killed him, resulting in Junior dropping out of the race. Keefe then attempted to blackmail Maida into marriage or else he would evict her parents from Sycamore Ridge.

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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.

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Spooky Hollow (Carolyn Wells, 1921)

A man calling himself Henry Johnson calls on Homer Vincent at his fabulous home Greatlarch. Homer has owned the sprawling mansion for about five years, ever since his niece Rosemary was left orphaned and came to Vermont to live with Homer and his sister Anne. Rosemary is out to the caller’s dismay. He knows rather a bit about the family to be a stranger. Homer says the caller came to discuss an investment opportunity in artificial rubies. He and his sister would have settled the matter in the morning, but she turns up dead and the caller is missing.

The local police figure Johnson did it to rob Anne of her large ruby, but beyond that, they’re at a loss. Homer has news for Rosemary: she is actually not his niece — she was adopted — and her further presence in the house now that Anne is gone isn’t welcome. Rosemary’s fiancĂ© Bryce Collins is not satisfied with this situation and engages Fleming Stone to unravel the mystery of both the murder and Rosemary’s birth.

Have you solved it already? Rosemary is indeed Homer’s niece. Further, it was Homer’s brother who was wealthy. When Rosemary arrived with her millions, Homer bought Greatlarch and took up the mantle of a country gentleman. Johnson, actually John Haydock, came to beg Rosemary’s hand in marriage. He’s spent the last five years amassing a fortune that would make him Rosemary’s equal. Anne was going to give the game away and tell Rosemary whose money bought Greatlarch. Homer killed Anne and Haydock both and would have sent Rosemary packing.

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