“I’ve heard of murder cases where you don’t know the killer, but this is the first one where you don’t even know the victim.”
The village of Stockbridge, Connecticut, is not exactly a hotbed of crime. Still, it is rare for police chief Fred Fellows to be confronted with an offense that is at once so petty and so baffling as the break-in at the realty office. What possible motive could someone have for stealing a file of signed leases?
Police soon discover that one of the missing leases belongs to a property now abandoned by its renter. He has left something behind, however—the dismembered corpse of a murdered woman. Now this small-town police force must find the phantom killer of an unknown victim. Continue reading “Sleep Long, My Love (1959) by Hillary Waugh”
“A suicide at her party would be bad enough, but a homicide is murder.”
Archie Goodwin doesn’t normally mingle with high society. At least, not without murder being involved. When a former client issues a unique invitation, however, curiosity gets the better of him. Every year, Mrs. Robilotti, the widow of Albert Grantham, holds a swanky dinner party for unwed mothers, the charity closest to her late husband’s heart. Not to raise money for unwed mothers: the mothers themselves are the guests of honor. Though the purpose behind this event is a little obscure even to Mrs. Robilotti, she dutifully honors her deceased husband’s wishes.
Archie is not surprised to learn that some of these young ladies lead complicated emotional lives, but the normally unflappable detective is stunned when Faith Usher drops dead after downing a glass of the very best champagne. Faith’s death is quickly dismissed as suicide. His years of working alongside Nero Wolfe tell Archie that there’s more to the story. With a powerful family closing ranks against them, Wolfe and Archie must discover the truth before they end up behind bars themselves. Continue reading “Champagne for One (1958) by Rex Stout”
“The printed letters are polite: Please Do Not Disturb. But what they really mean is: danger! Keep out! You’ve seen that sign on a door in a factory or a railroad station, haven’t you? And you didn’t rush to open that door, did you? Then why open this?”
Edith Talbot doesn’t remember who recommended the Majestic Hotel to her. All she knows is that after being turned away from dozens of hotels due to the wartime housing shortage, she is willing to sleep just about anywhere. Taking pity on Edith’s obvious exhaustion, the clerk at the Majestic lets her have the last room in the house, the one he isn’t supposed to rent.
The sign on the room next door reads “Do Not Disturb.” But Edith is disturbed, terribly so, by the screams and groans she hears from that room. By knocking on the door of room 1404, Edith is taking the first step of a journey through the dark heart of the American homefront. Continue reading “Do Not Disturb (1943) by Helen McCloy”
“My God! Murdered! Who do you suppose did it?”
The post office’s dead letter department is a place of last resort for mail with nowhere else to go. That makes it the perfect spot for Richard Redfield. Only a few years ago, Richard was on the brink of a promising legal career, respected by friends and colleagues. Now he buries himself among the lost letters, trying to hide from the past…until the past lands right on his desk. One of the dead letters has a very familiar postmark, “October 18, 1857, Blankville, New York.” It is the very date and location of the event he has been trying so hard to forget. Richard assumes that the dead letter office is the end of the line for him. Instead, it may be the beginning of his redemption. Continue reading “The Dead Letter (1867) by Seeley Regester”
“The more closely one looks at it the more crazy it seems to be. And yet three people have died. So that it must have meant something vital to somebody…”
Until a few days ago, no one had ever heard of Mrs. Warren Clinton. Now suddenly she is everywhere. A wealthy American widow, Mrs. Clinton has gathered together nine outstanding citizens, each gifted in their own way, for a scheme designed to save the British Empire in the midst of war. These chosen few have been brought to a secret location where their abilities will be put to the test by Mrs. Clinton. By the end of the weekend, however, two of them will be dead in the most scandalous circumstances. Their benefactress is missing. Now Anthony Bathurst is the one whose powers will be tested, and the fate of the nation may depend upon him. Continue reading “Glittering Prizes (1942) by Brian Flynn”
“I’m one of the biggest gamblers in the world. I gamble with human emotions instead of with cards.”
Marjorie Clune has the best-looking legs in Cloverdale. She won the Lucky Legs contest by a landslide. Contest promoter Frank Patton promises Margie that her glamorous gams will bring her fame in Hollywood. Before that can happen, however, Patton vanishes with a great deal of the town’s money. Margie’s film contract quickly evaporates, and the humiliated beauty queen goes in search of Patton. What she finds is worse than fraud—it’s murder, and Margie is the prime suspect. Continue reading “The Case of the Lucky Legs (1934) by Erle Stanley Gardner”
“In some measure everyone lives a secret life. He had been living one with a vengeance, without even knowing it—it had been a secret even from himself.”
The envelopes have been coming for weeks now. It isn’t their contents that frighten Paula Quarent—in fact, they are completely empty. It’s the envelopes themselves that worry her. They are addressed to her maiden name, Miss Paula Stewart, yet Paula didn’t move to Palmport until after her marriage. Paula can’t say why such a small mystery disturbs her so much, or why she is so reluctant to tell her husband Ross about it. Then one day the envelope isn’t empty. “You really have no husband,” says the typewritten note, “you are really not his wife.” Continue reading “Alias His Wife (1965) by Stephen Ransome”
“Who stands to gain? That’s your question, and you know that nine times out of ten it’s the only question. Whose life’s going to be made endurable that isn’t endurable now?”
Eel Pie Island in the summer is a cheerful place, a little oasis in the middle of the Thames. Many day-trippers are reluctant to return to the hot streets of London as evening draws near, wishing they could stay on the island forever. One visitor will get her wish, in the worst possible way. As dawn breaks over the river, a gorgeous platinum blonde is found lying dead on shore, her silk pajamas still damp. Inspector Bull and his sidekick Mr. Pinkerton must discover the identity of this very chic corpse before another victim ends up dead in the water. Continue reading “The Eel Pie Murders (1933) by David Frome”
“Truth is a curious thing. It will not be denied, but one can hasten its inevitability.”
Halfway between Trenton and Philadelphia, convenient to nowhere, the house clings forlornly to the edge of a swamp. It is “a random, dilapidated affair of weather-beaten clapboards, with a sagging roof half-denuded of its shingles and a crumbling chimney…In the shadows of near night, there was something repellent about the place.” Bill Angell doesn’t understand why his brother-in-law Joe Wilson has asked to meet him in such a desolate spot, especially late at night. But someone else has beaten Bill to the house. To his surprise, a hysterical woman runs out the front door, driving off at top speed. Inside the tumbledown shack, Joe lies dead.
Joe Wilson’s life has been cut in half by murder. As police soon learn, however, Joe’s life was cut in half long before that dark night in New Jersey. And unless Ellery Queen can solve the mystery, Bill will be forced to choose between his career, his family, and the woman he loves. Continue reading “Halfway House (1936) by Ellery Queen”
“If people can only prolong their lives by being vampires and sucking the last drop of blood out of everyone around them they would be a great deal better dead.”
No one can say Althea Graham isn’t a dutiful daughter. She has given up everything to care for her invalid mother, even her engagement to Nicholas Carey. Althea has had five years to think about that decision. Sometimes she wonders whether she made the right choice. Her mother only seems to have her “heart attacks” when Althea disagrees with her. The rest of the time, she seems perfectly healthy; well enough, even, to dream of pulling up roots and leaving Grove Hill altogether, wandering the globe in search of new audiences for her pallid charms. Althea doesn’t want to sell their house. It would mean cutting the last ties binding her to her lost love.
When Nicholas returns, Althea must weigh her own happiness against her mother’s life. The two lovers have always met in the gazebo behind Althea’s home. They feel safe there. As it turns out, however, that gazebo is the most dangerous place of all. Continue reading “The Gazebo (1955) by Patricia Wentworth”