In the Fog (Richard Harding Davis, 1901)

Five men are at the Grill, the most exclusive club in England. One is a M.P. who supports a naval expansion bill. Another man — the one with the black pearl stud — does not. The vote is to be held today. The M.P.’s one weakness is the penny dreadful — the gorier the better. When reading one, he quite forgets everything else. He finishes his last book and is about out the door when the three other men start to tell a tale of their own.

Lord Chetney. thought lost in Africa, has just returned and resumed his affair with Russian princess Zichy. That isn’t great news for his younger brother Andrew, who now no longer stands to inherit and is massively in debt. Sears, an American naval attache, lost in the fog, stumbles into Zichy’s townhouse and finds both her and Chetney stabbed to death. Andrew is at once suspected, but the detective has his doubts. A search of the waste paper basket reveals a torn-up letter. Piecing it together reveals the name… Sears.

The M.P. is entranced. During the talk, Pearl Stud has been watching the lights in Parliament. When they finally go out, it’s revealed that the whole thing was fiction. In fact, Lord Chetney, the murdered man, was one of the story tellers. The M.P. has it over on Pearl Stud, though: the vote was already held earlier in the day — he was stalling for nothing.

No inscriptions.

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Sad Cypress (Agatha Christie, 1939)

Elinor receives an anonymous letter warning her that Mary Gerrard is trying to usurp her place in Laura Welman’s household. Laura had always taken a strong interest in Mary, sending her the best schools and abroad for her education, and really treating her as if she were her own child. Now that he’s had a stroke and is bedridden, Mary is with Laura constantly.

When her aunt dies interstate, Elinor inherits the whole of the £200,000 estate. It had always been expected that she and her cousin Roddy would each be willed half of it and that it wouldn’t matter anyway because they intended to marry. Now that seems to be dashed as Roddy confesses he doesn’t love Elinor and won’t simply marry for money. He’s not sure if he loves Mary, but he thinks he might.

Mary is poisoned to death. Only three people could have done it — Elinor, Nurse Hopkins, or Mary herself — but the only one with a motive is Elinor. Laura Welman’s body is exhumed and it’s discovered that she, too, was poisoned with a morphine overdose.

Not the most difficult mystery in the world. Laura treated Mary like her own daughter; I suspected right away that that’s what she was. Enter Lewis and there you go. Who is the murderer? Well, only two real possibilities, the doctor who engaged Poirot’s services (not though that would rule him out) or Nurse Hopkins. The one would be motivated for love, the other for money. When needle marks are discovered on Hopkins’s arm it rather suggests she’s acquainted with morphine.

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 Case of the One-Eyed Witness (Erle Stanley Gardner, 1950)

This is a book that didn’t make a whole lot of sense before the reveal, and really didn’t make much more after it. There’s a gang of baby traffickers who buy illegitimate children and sell them to infertile couples. That’s not the end of the scam, though: they then “coincidentally” get the couple to meet a salesgirl at this one specific nightclub who has a sob story about her baby being stolen, but far worse than that, she has an infinitesimal amount of Japanese blood in her. So the couples are blackmailed to prevent their baby’s 1/128th Japanese heritage being known and ruining their lives forever.

There are a few murders, disappearances, maybe a kidnapping, one of the murdered guys comes back to life, and it’s all just a glorious mess.

No inscriptions.

The Case of the Long-Legged Models (Erle Stanley Gardner, 1957)

I’m pretty sure I’ve read this once aeons ago. I couldn’t remember anything specific about it, but I was getting feelings of deja vu, especially in the courtroom. Of course, that might just be because Perry Mason started getting super formulaic near the end — I might have just read an identical story with the names changed.

A syndicate is trying to buy out a small motel casino in Las Vegas and build a large resort. Three shareholders have sold but the other two are holding out for a better price. The racketeer trying to buy them out finds himself shot to death. Notable for most of the novel being immaterial to the case, which resolves itself rather suddenly when a witness for the prosecution inexplicably breaks down on the stand and confesses to the crime.

No inscriptions.

The Case of the Silent Partner (Erle Stanley Gardner, 1940)

Harry Peavis, flower mogul, wants to acquire the Faulkners’ small chain of florist shops. The obvious way to accomplish this is through Bob Lawley, the gambling husband of the elder Faulkner sister. At a nightclub in town, the Golden Horn, there’s also an underground casino run by Lynk. Lawley will risk the stocks, Lynk will win, and Peavis will buy them. It all goes to plan until Lynk is shot to death and Lawley disappears.

Too easy, The glue on the package being at least four days old cinches the case at once and leaves only one possible suspect. Even ignoring it, the drugged candies are suspect, given that they were drugged with a sedative rather than a poison, and that the dose ingested was enough to knock you good and out for a few days, but well short of being fatal. It reeks of a manufactured alibi.

No inscriptions.

All At Sea (Carolyn Wells, 1927)

I’ve got a broken shoulder and am typing one-handed, so this will be brief:

At an Atlantic City resort, a wealthy Chicago business man is found dead in the water — stabbed by someone near him beneath the waterline.

His curious collection of dolls, particularly the dark-haired one he told the chambermaid was his favorite, was obviously the key to the murder and went a long way to providing a motive, but didn’t name the knife-man. On that end, while I’m not sure if there were any reals clues, there was certainly a strong enough vibe that it didn’t surprise me at all.

Inscriptions: It’s from a library and it must gave been popular. This book literally fell apart as I was reading it. I was holding up loose leaves for the last forty pages or so. “Two Cents Per Day Pay Collection” is all that’s written on the check-out pocket.