Signal in the Dark by Mildred A. Wirt (1946)

The publishing industry is rough these days. Newspapers profits are spilling like water through publishers hands and many papers have been forced to close or layoff staff. Looking back on former ages of newspaper popularity make bygone eras seem like paradises in contrast with current difficulties. This Penny Parker mystery illuminates the difficulties of publishing a paper in the average American town 70 years ago. A journalist fired over investigative reporting that exposes his boss and a local paper struggling to retain talented writers corrupt that rosy picture. Maybe the news industry has always been a frenetic, cutthroat business with more losers than winners. One wonders which era was more stable for publishers.

The ever curious and adventurous Penny Parker is pushed into another fast paced Riverview mystery. Convincing her father, a local newspaper publisher, to allow her to work in the newsroom Penny is immediately confronted with the exciting but tiring life of the professional reporter.  Staying late to finish her copy she is called to report on explosions at a local chemical plant. While interviewing plant employees she and her colleague are confused with the saboteur because the criminal and Salt Summers, the Riverview Star’s ace photographer, were wearing similar coats. A mob of workers descend upon him and Penny as they pursue the real criminal. Fearing that Salt’s camera and pictures will be broken by the mob Penny stows them in the next available spot, the open window of a passing car. Noting the license plate as the car drives away she proceeds with a policeman to Salt’s aid. The next day Riverview Star has great first hand information but the photos are lost. Where are the photos and who sabotaged the chemical plant? Turn off the lights and wait for a Signal in the Dark.

 

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/34850

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The Woman of Mystery by Maurice Leblanc (1916)

One of the hardest feats that an author can accomplish is not allowing the reader to skip ahead to the end. I don’t mean physically; the annoyed reader can flip to the final chapter at any point. There is no reader comprehension test that unlocks each successive chapter. No, the author must simultaneously convey that the end is worth waiting for while not ruining it.  The end must be the only possible option, an inevitable conclusion, that the reader could never have dreamed up independently. That is a large weight for mere words to bear. Sometimes the plot is so original that the ending feels flippant and irrelevant. Other times the plot is engaging but the ending becomes so fixed and clear ahead of time that the reader is forced to leave early from boredom. Maurice “Mo’ Mystery” Leblanc has the knitters gift. The ability to dangle many different yarns in front of the audience before at the very last moment crafting them into a nice fashionable story.

Paul Delrose embarks on a WWI spy thriller like no other. The entire time you keep asking: how can all these characters be in two places at the same time? His journey begins with his marriage to Elisabeth as rumors of a French-German war start brewing. The happy couple is innocently decides to marry now. They wonder who would want war in these happy times. The pairs positive outlook, tinted by the recent marriage, blinds them to war until it has snuck up behind and jumped them. A depressed Paul heads off to the front lines to fight for France with lingering concerns about his country and his recent marriage corrupting his thoughts. Meanwhile, a confused Elisabeth stays in her families large castle near the French-German border against Paul’s wishes to clear the name of her mother. What has her mother, who died when she was young, been accused of? Paul recognized her in a family portrait and is convinced that she is the same woman who murdered his father. Brush up on your French and search for The Woman of Mystery.

 

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/34931

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/the-woman-of-mystery-by-maurice-leblanc/

Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott ( 1875)

Uncle Mac may be the greatest exponent of practical philosophy for children. His philosophies are practical and all eight cousins benefited mightily by his presence. Novel ideas such as exercise and food as medicine dot the pages of this book. These small crumbs of advice sweeten a rollicking story in the perfect way, not too sugary. I wish I had internalized this advice as a young child. Life would have been easier.

Twelve year old Rose Campbell’s life has gone from happy to tragic. The death of her father, her only remaining parent, puts her in an uncontrollably gloomy mood. She muddles around the “Aunt House”, a house where many of her aunts live, without any verve or energy for life. Her dad was everything to her and now life seems to drag. Along comes her Uncle Mac determined to care for this poor child and teach her the ways of the world. His simple, real world advice endears him to her immediately. There father-daughter relationship blossoms as they both go to extreme lengths to make the other happy. In time, she gains more friends quickly growing chummy with the merry band of seven male cousins who live nearby. They take her on adventures and she mediates their feuds. Her dearest friend, Phebe, is ever dependable and supportive. In short, she learns to run, laugh and be happy again by taking Uncle Mac’s miracle course. The once sickly child now explores the world with vibrant curiosity. Don’t be shy; introduce yourself to the Eight Cousins.

 

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2726

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/eight-cousins-by-louisa-may-alcott/