The Canary Murder Case (S.S. Van Dine, 1927)

Broadway beauty Margaret “The Canary” Odell is found throttled to death and her apartment ransacked. Her four paramours were all near by at more or less the time of the murder, but the trouble is that the apartment building was locked from the inside. Can Philo Vance solve this seemingly impossible riddle?

Well, the book asserts it to be seemingly impossible. I didn’t have any problem seeing through it at once — it’s not exactly a puzzler. Nor did I have any trouble at all identifying the culprit. The hints dropped even at the character’s introduction are by no means subtle. I’ve read children’s mysteries that are more challenging.

Inscription: “Olive B Rippere, ’29” on the front flyleaf.

The Winter Murder Case (S.S. Van Dine, 1939)

The only son of a declining family returns home with his weird friends for an ice skating party, a man falls to his death in an apparent accident, an emerald collector finds his emeralds stolen, a jewel thief is killed, and the village doctor suddenly decides to elope with the housekeeper. Can detective Philo Vance unravel the mystery?

This was S.S. Van Dine’s last book. The preface insists that it was finished before he died but I doubt it. It’s very rough — hardly more than an outline — and very short — I’d blush to even call it a novella.

Inscription: signed Deb Salisbury on the first page.

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 areĀ  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.

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