I’m not actually sure whether to refer to this book by Mrs. Edward Kennard as That Pretty Little Horsebreaker or Pretty Kitty Herrick the Horsebreaker. They’re both listed as being published in 1891, and if the latter has many times more Google results, I’m pretty sure that’s only because it’s the one that’s available as an ebook. Under either title, I’m pretty pleased with it — even though I was slightly overwhelmed by horsiness. I was never super into horses as a kid, but I did read Black Beauty and at least one Black Stallion book and several series books involving young people and horses, and I’m still able to state unequivocally that this is the horsiest book I have ever read. Read the rest of this entry »
So, has anyone read anything by Rita, AKA E.M. Gollan, AKA Eliza Humphreys, etc.? Because I read The Mystery of a Turkish Bath over the weekend, and it’s super weird. It’s not actually a mystery story, really — the subject of the title is a woman — so much as a tangle of spa society and occultism. Read the rest of this entry »
Outside Inn, by Ethel M. Kelley, is alternately fun and vaguely off-putting, and while the plots had almost nothing in common it ended up reminding me quite a bit of Cinderella Jane. And half a dozen other things, in bits. Possibly because there are half a dozen premises shoehorned in, each of them perfectly nice by itself, but slightly less nice when squashed in with all the others.
So, Nancy Martin’s family is mostly dead but she’s got a group of close friends, and she’s about to open a restaurant. She’s studied every aspect of the food service business and she’s full of schemes for feeding good, nourishing, portion-controlled food to the masses at low prices. Her restaurant is a sort of philanthropic project and operates at a large deficit, and people end up using the word “eleemosynary” quite a bit, which annoys me. Read the rest of this entry »
The time has probably come for me to face the facts: Carolyn Wells was not a good mystery novelist. I mean, nothing can take away from my love for Vicky Van, but it’s the exception, not the rule. The rule is a book where, when you’re told that a young woman has a domineering husband or relative, you know who the murder victim is going to be. The rule has a massively annoying narrator who is usually a lawyer, even more usually in love with the woman freed by the murder, and absolutely always an idiot.
A Chain of Evidence has perhaps the most stupid narrator of all, a lawyer named Otis Landon who has just moved into an apartment across the hall from the one occupied by Janet Pembroke, her bedridden uncle Robert, and their maid, Charlotte. Robert Pembroke is the inevitable murder victim, and he’s found stabbed in the back of the neck with a pin one morning. The catch is that the murder happened at night, after the security chain on the door was on, so no one should have been able to get in without breaking the chain. Read the rest of this entry »
So, obviously I don’t review things that are still under copyright very often, but MysteriousPress.com and Open Road Media have put out a whole slew of Mary Roberts Rinehart mysteries as ebooks, and I know for a fact I’m not the only one who’s run out of Rineharts to read at Project Gutenberg.
Open Road very kindly sent me an ebook of The Swimming Pool for review, and it’s kind of great, in a very specific, Rinehart during the ’40s and ’50s kind of way. There’s a specific formula you don’t get in her earlier mysteries, where the heroine is the youngest daughter of an old family, usually one whose lifestyle has changed dramatically over the last few decades. She’s usually in her late twenties, and when a man shows up to investigate whatever the mystery is, he’s also her love interest. The closest public domain example I can think of is Where There’s a Will — which I’ve never reviewed, but which is kind of similar to When a Man Marries in tone, but slightly less awesome.
Anyway, considered on its own merits, The Swimming Pool is pretty good. The heroine is Lois Maynard, and yes, she’s in her late twenties, and she’s the youngest daughter of the family, and they’ve definitely seen better times. There’s even a domineering mother, although she’s dead by the time the story begins. Read the rest of this entry »
It took me about a month to read Queed. I read it in bits, mostly during lunchtimes a couple of times a week. And there were days when I chose not to read it because the last bit seemed to signal bad things to come. But in the end, I liked it more for all the tension and discomfort. Henry Sydnor Harrison is so good, guys. Read the rest of this entry »
A friend linked me yesterday to a blog post about Wired Love, an 1880 novel by Ella Cheever Thayer that seems to have been making the rounds of the tech blogs lately. And yes, its telegraph romance evokes internet romances of today, and yeah, if I had a tech blog I’d probably write about it too. But I have a blog on public domain popular fiction, and I’m writing about it for an entirely different reason: it’s delightful. Read the rest of this entry »