The Green Jacket by Jennette Lee (1917)

The desire to be personally invisible is not a popular one. I have not conducted studies but it seems people try to reach the limelight more than they try to flee it. One wonders if invisible people, not people who are visually invisible but those that blend in and are overlooked, purposely shun attention or if they take no energy towards reaching the spotlight.

In The Green Jacket, Jennette Lee introduces us to a genre busting detective. Strong, smart, forgiving, and quiet Millicent “Millie” Newberry attacks her work like a combination of two great fictional detectives Ms. Marple and Father Brown. The younger than middle aged, slightly plump Mrs. Newberry, frequently dressed in grey and green, has the power to melt into the background like a younger Ms. Marple. While Ms. Marple is overlooked because of her age, bearing, and gender Millie is overlooked because of a cultivated attitude of indifference and a false appearance of inattention. This new female detective takes leniency to the level of Father Brown proclaiming that she does not trust the modern jail system. Instead, she finds the criminal, if one exists, and decides if jail is the best option. Most murderers are flung behind bars; sympathy is found for petty thieves, embezzlers, thugs and other small time criminals. Her office has grown very large with many well dressed women and men busy at typewriters, desks, and office chairs. Millie’s old boss, Tom Corbett, introduces her to an cold case he could never solve. An emerald necklace stolen without a trace. Unlike some crime fiction where the lines of good and evil are defined cleanly Millie must decipher a crumpled mess of lies, distrust, and misunderstand. She moves with class, dignity and sympathy in pursuit of that shining green necklace. This book is like a winter blanket and a cup of hot chocolate for the detective novel aficionado. Stand up and try on The Green Jacket.

 

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/the-green-jacket-by-jennette-lee/

 

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The Shadow of the Rope by E.W. Hornung (1906)

“I’ll have what he’s having,” shouts a boisterous, heavyset man with a jolly face wearing an old fashioned three piece at the Mystery Authors Club. The declaration brings the eyes of the room towards a small table with short bespectacled man hunched alone over a small table alternatively wolfing down food and scribbling furiously on a yellow legal pad. Three empty dishes lie on the other side of the table surrounded by five yellow crumpled pieces of paper. Unfazed or unaware of the attention the author continues his crude dinner writing ritual. End scene. I’m one of those people who always assumes everyone in a niche field knows everyone else. In the case of mystery authors I imagine a sort of old fashioned English club that every great mystery author frequents regularly. The man at the table in this case is E.W. Hornung rushing towards the deadline of his new mystery novel.

Rachel Minchin was born to a poor family in Australia and she worked humble jobs later gaining berth to England as a Lady’s companion. On the voyage, she and Mr. Minchin, a forty year old mining expert, fall in love and quickly get married. The new marriage bliss doesn’t last as Rachel realizes that her husband is a much different in London than on a boat. Mr. Minchin is murdered the night before Rachel planned upon leaving him. The police and the public convict Rachel immediately in the court of public opinion. After a weeklong trial, Rachel is declared not guilty to the disgust of the attentive public. Alone at night without means or wiles to procure bread and bed Rachel is helped by a stranger who’d watched the trial. The next day, the rich stranger J.B. Steele proposes a marriage of convenience where neither must discuss their past. In desperation to shed public scrutiny and the Minchin name Rachel accepts and moves to Steele’s English country house. The stereotype of the English country village with its gossiping locals and scrutiny of outsiders make the pairs secrets ever more fragile. Rachel is a sympathetic bewildered character and J.B. Steele is a gruff man full of mystery. The question of who really murdered her late husband permeates the tale. Not sliding cleanly into popular whodunnit or detective novel cliches E.W. Hornung creates a compelling mystery full of brutal dead ends, shocking revelations and believable cast of characters. Sit in the dark and read The Shadow of the Rope.

 

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/12590

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/the-shadow-of-the-rope-by-e-w-hornung/

Lady Molly of Scotland Yard by Baroness Orczy (1910)

Detective novels are like comfort food. They are like homemade chicken and rice soup. I can smell the onions, celery and chicken broth. A warm sensation in my bones and a full belly feel like home. But how does each additional detective distinguish themselves from the crowd? Lady Molly is instantly recognizable. Throughout this collection of short stories Lady Molly evolves from an unknown police officer to the ace investigator of Scotland Yard. The ending is a wonderful flash that settles all dangling storylines. The composure, wit, courage and intelligence Lady Molly embodies is inspiring for this underdog.

Lady Molly and her faithful companion, Mary Granard, take the unusual opportunity to investigate a frustrating case. The successful conclusion to The Ninescore Mystery propels her quickly to the top of the force. Although Lady Molly becomes a somewhat distant, all seeing, all knowing detective at the top of the police profession, unraveling increasingly puzzling crimes, her ambitions slowly come into view. Through the help of her assistant we learn that she is always thrusting herself eagerly into each new case to distract from her personal struggles. Her husband, hitherto unmentioned, has been sitting in jail for the last five years on a convincing murder charge. Believing in her husbands innocence despite the blood on his walking stick and his convenient absence during the crime, Lady Molly entered the police force hoping foolishly she could gain the investigative skills necessary to finally prove his innocence. Public opinion turns against her when she acts callously towards her former lover. Shunned from the police force she must rely on her strong mind and keen sense of human nature to close this final case. Put on a big hat and sip some tea while reading the adventures of Lady Molly of Scotland Yard.

 

free online text: http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/orczy/molly/molly.html

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/lady-molly-of-scotland-yard-by-baroness-orczy/

Blackfeet Tales of Glacier National Park by James W. Schultz (1916)

It is easy to be skeptical of old books that attempt to represent a minority culture. No worries here. The author gets out of the way and records the stories as spoken by the Blackfeet people. My favorite character in these stories is known as Old Man, or the dawn. He is a former god who has fallen from grace and is usually portrayed as a bumbling old fool. Many of the funniest stories, which made me literally laugh out loud, feature him as the protagonist. The other running theme throughout the whole book is of white people renaming mountains, lakes and waterfalls that the Blackfeet named generations ago. At one point, the author tells the tribe that the white people renamed those two mountains pointing away from camp to indicate two great heights. Everyone grumbles and one man gets indignant. Those mountains are named after our great chiefs. Are they now named after distinguished presidents or decorated generals? The author is forced to admit that he does not know of the white men in whose honor those mountains have been renamed in the most unintentionally funny moment of the book.

As the title suggests this is a collection of Blackfeet tales featuring happy, sad and funny stories. In each story you get a glimpse of the customs and ambitions of the Blackfeet people. From stories of adventure detailing raids of enemy camps to stories of heartbreaking betrayal each story is gripping and makes you want to read more. Smell the smoke of the campfire and read Blackfeet Tales of Glacier National Park.

 

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/43399

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/blackfeet-tales-of-glacier-national-park-by-james-w-schultz/

Murder in the Gunroom by H. Beam Piper (1953)

As an American who didn’t grow up with guns in the house most of my exposure to guns has been through stories. Movies, television shows, books and articles portray guns as dangerous weapons. The obvious leap in logic suggests that gun owners must also be dangerous people. This is clearly a fallacy but a hard one to overcome nonetheless. Modern media is filled with stories of gun accidents and shootings which naturally force the reader to question: what is at fault? Handguns and automatics used in wars and combat can easily be blamed for these deaths and injuries but blaming all collectors of dangerous things is foolish and leaves little room for nuance. This book gives a good look inside the minds of multiple gun collectors and enthusiasts as a backdrop to a compelling murder mystery. If I were the NRA, I would recommend this book to help people comprehend some motivations for gun ownership.

Lane Flemming’s accidental death was always suspicious. The idea that this old gun collector would accidentally shoot himself was silly at best. A samurai doesn’t accidentally wound himself with his sword because he is trained in the safe handling of the weapon. The same is true for the gun owner. Private detective and amateur gun collector Colonel Jefferson Davis Rand is hired to appraise Flemming’s gun collection and sell it to the highest bidder. As Jeff attempts to catalog the weapons, he gets dragged into the mystery. How did Lane Flemming really die and where are the missing guns from his collection? Put on your bulletproof vest and read Murder in the Gunroom.

 

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/17866

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/murder-in-the-gunroom-by-h-beam-piper/

Toppleton’s Client: Or A Spirit in Exile by John Kendrick Bangs (1893)

The prolific humor writer strikes again. This is Bangs at his finest and I don’t want to spoil the ending. If I could write good fiction, this is the style I’d adopt. The 1900 bizarre humor style suits me perfectly. It is a shame that its all but disappeared from the world of literature nowadays. Or maybe it hasn’t. I’ll admit I haven’t looked that hard.

Hopkins Toppleton Jr. is not a great legal mind like his father but he does retain the same name as that great lawyer. The legal firm his father helped create wants to retain the prestige associated with the Toppleton name despite the recent death of Hopkins Toppleton Sr. Therefore, they hire his idiot son, Toppleton Jr., and immediately send him off to England. In order to not disgrace the firm, he is given two rules. Go on vacation regularly and never ever get a client. Both rules are quickly broken. Take off your reading glasses and meet Toppleton’s Client.

 

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/34171

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/toppletons-client-by-john-kendrick-bangs/

Molly Brown’s Senior Days by Nell Speed (1913)

Every time I enter a busy cafe or coffee shop I feel tired. Somehow the atmosphere puts me in sympathy with the employees and I feel as if I opened the store and have been working without a break for hours. The smell of coffee grounds and pastries can also be stifling not to mention the busy customers in need of a fix. My mind is slowly yielding on this point. Maybe creating a menu and trying out recipes would be exciting. Maybe by meeting new people constantly I would look forward to each day with newfound enthusiasm. Madeleine Petit and Judith Blount recount their summer spent running a tea room so they can afford to attend college. The change in Judith still astounds me. Going from rich and entitled to focused and humble is extremely difficult. Plus, Ms. Petit has always been the busy bee I aspire to be.

The queens girls arrive back for their final year to learn some bad news. Professor Green overworked himself during the summer and has ended up ill in the hospital. Molly takes this news extremely hard. She has always looked up to Professor Green and she takes it even harder when she eventually learns that he worked to pay off debts incurred in buying her families apple orchard. This purchase gave Molly the money to continue attending college. Judy, the friend whisperer, makes friends with another destructive person and the rest of the queens girls feel like its a rerun. Will Judy’s new friend get her in trouble or will she realize her error before it’s too late? And who is the campus ghost that is frightening those who stay out late? Go back to school with Molly Brown’s Senior Days.

 

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/24903