The Room with the Tassels by Carolyn Wells (1918)

Sometimes a bad idea in real life is a great premise for a novel. This book entirely relies on one such ridiculous premise. In the early 1900’s the interest in ghost and spirits through the movement called spiritualism was still front and center in the public mind. The height of the spiritualism craze had already passed but its effects lingered in popular culture. Some people fervently believed in the existence of ghosts and their ability to manifest in the human world. Spooky sounds, sudden temperature changes or even sighting were considered evidence of a ghosts presence. In this book, a group of friends stumbles upon the stupid idea of renting a haunted house for a month to find out wether ghosts exist for once and for all. They imagine spending their days frolicking in the sun and their nights investigating the supernatural. The majority of the guests thought this would be a fun romp. To me it sounds like begging for trouble. I don’t believe in ghosts yet I don’t feel the need to confront dark spooky places to prove they don’t exist.

A group of family friends and acquaintances joke their way into a spooky summer vacation. Believers, skeptics and everyone in between decide to rent a haunted house for a month to see if they can prove or disprove the existence of ghosts. Hauntings start almost immediately. People are scared and even consider leaving the house before the month is up. Then, a ouija board predicts that two people will be killed at four. This vague warning comes to fruition and the chase for the murderer, physical or spiritual, begins in earnest. Take my advice. Don’t sleep in The Room with the Tassels.

 

free ebook download: https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/46008

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Devlin the Barber by B. L. Farjeon (1888)

Sometimes feels completely knew and unique. Then, looking at the small details that make up the book one realizes that it is made with generic ingredients combined in a new exciting way. Somehow this book is like a perfect cheeseburger. Not too much spice, great meat to patty ratio, fresh ingredients, and great toppings. Nothing fancy and no new ingredients. Yet in combination they really shine. At first one may think that the chef has snuck something extra into the dish. A secret ingredient. Unlike my friends hummus, spoiler: the secret ingredient is peanut butter, this is exactly what it looks like. Of course, I don’t recommend listening to the perfect cheeseburger but instead recommend this amusing old book. What at first may seem like a formulaic murder mystery ends up being an introspective tale about faith, misunderstanding, ignorance, motivation, logic and greed. But its a weird one.

A middle aged man is fired from his job. The next day while eating the first late weekday breakfast of life his friend, Mr. Melladew, bursts into the room completely broken, crying and senseless. When his nerves begin to return, he recounts an awful story. While at work as a newspaper proofreader he reads that one of his daughters has been murdered last night in a public park, stabbed through the heart. Overwhelmed he has fled to this place of comfort, his friends house. Compelled by his friends grief and a reward offered by the rich uncle of the murdered woman this ordinary man sets out to disperse the shrouds of mystery. By luck he learns that to solve this mystery he must befriend a stranger. Devlin the Barber, a man with almost superhuman intelligence and ghostly calm, appears to know something about the murder. Can eccentric genius be relied upon to help catch the killer? Feel free to read a magazine before your appointment with Devlin the Barber.

 

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/devlin-the-barber-by-b-l-farjeon/

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/53044

Saboteurs on the River by Mildred A. Wirt (1943)

My parents were not the most strict parents in the neighborhood. Other kids my age were more closely watched and had fewer freedoms allowed them by their creators. That doesn’t mean they would be happy to find me sneaking and skulking around local criminal organizations at odd hours of the night with only my best friend as company. Of course, this is fiction. Yet fiction begs to be compared with reality however each of us interprets it. The contrast between reality and fiction is half the fun. My parents would be overcome with fear dreading the unknown dangers lurking around their overconfident teenager. Luckily for them I was not the adventurous type. I was a plain, docile, bookish type of teenager. My favorite adventures were printed in dusty old books and tucked away in obscure library corners.

Penny Parker is alive and in trouble again. This teenage crime magnet finds herself dragging her best friend Louise Sidell into a whole mountain of trouble. While out boating in a local river Penny gets distracted by a floating message in bottle causing the boat to upset and both girls to end up in the water. Clinging to the overturned boat as it slowly drifts downstream they yell for help. When they near the next bridge, the bridge watchman helps them bring the boat ashore. As they are attempting to dry off in the cold air a motorboat speeds past and crashes into the bridge, an obvious act of sabotage. The watchman fires after the saboteur who jumped from the speedboat before the crash but the shots widely miss their target. Who masterminded the sabotage and how will Penny stop them? Put on some bug spray, sit on a log and watch for the Saboteurs on the River.

 

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/35082

The Sorceress of the Strand by L. T. Meade and Robert Eustace (1902)

The fun one has trailing the greatest crime solvers through the pages of countless detective novels is nothing compared to following a bold, fearless super villain. Someone who captures the imagination with simple motives of greed and the lack of scruples needed to obtain that wealth no matter the cost. Human happiness is unimportant. Human life is merely a means to an end. Wether it be a precious stone, an antique or astounding piles of cash the entrancing villain holds nothing back. Each time they strike for the heart. This direct attitude towards achieving sinister goals is attractive but frequently leads to criminals capture in the end.

Madam Sara is an unusual woman. Though she looks no older than 25 she is rumored to have been a bridesmaid at a wedding over 30 years ago. Though she appears beautiful and stylish her hands are tied up in unscrupulous deals and illegal trades. She may be the greatest criminal mind of her generation. The only things stopping her are the minds of two men. One a wise medical examiner who works frequently to untie the thorniest criminal problems in England. The other a man of high standing with a business research agency in London. He can learn about most peoples affairs instantly but Madam Sara is a more difficult and careful opponent. You will believe in magic after meeting The Sorceress of the Strand.

 

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/the-sorceress-of-the-strand-by-l-t-meade-and-robert-eustace/

 

Arsene Lupin versus Herlock Sholmes by Maurice Leblanc (1910)

Meeting my old friends, Lupin and Holmes, is incredibly refreshing. This novel packs two of my favorite characters into one delicious novel. Like ordinary foods wrapped in bacon this novel is greater than the sum of its parts. At first glance, you might assume that Leblanc would favor the character he created by making Holmes look like foolish. Leblanc is too good of a writer to stoop to corrupting the classic Holmes character. Rather you find that Holmes and Lupin both show remarkable insight, intelligence and cunning. Ultimately neither character triumphs because they never play by the same rules. Lupin has access to his vast criminal network alongside the home field advantage of Paris and France in general. Holmes is restricted by the law and his relative unfamiliarity with the region and its people. It is a rollicking good time though.

A mysterious jewel has been stolen, a man murdered and Lupin has evaded capture in a most mysterious way multiple times in a row. The French police force alongside its most celebrated detective is at a complete loss of where to go next. The clues seems to dissolve into thin air and Lupin has apparently managed the scientific marvel of teleportation. In these humbling circumstances Herlock Sholmes(name changed for copyright reasons) is called to Paris to solve the case. Arriving in Paris, Sholmes and Lupin have a chance meeting at small restaurant. Lupin chides Sholmes who appears flustered by the encounter. In his British matter of fact way, he explains to Lupin that he will wrap up the case in 10 days because he has other mysteries to unravel back home in England. Lupin laughs at this hubris and the dash is on to solve the mystery of the blonde lady. Sit courtside at the match of the century: Arsene Lupin versus Herlock Sholmes.

 

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/arsene-lupin-versus-herlock-sholmes-by-maurice-leblanc/

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/40203

Murder Takes the Veil by Margaret Ann Hubbard (1950)

Books don’t usually scare me because I frequently avoid books that have the express intent of instilling fear upon their readers. The books that I’m drawn to have drama of course but rarely constant lurking mortal danger. My favorite types of novels are either detective or humor fiction so creeping fear based stories rarely fall in my lap. This book definitely scared me. Listening to this before bed alone in a dark house looking out the window into the moonlight is better than coffee to keep yourself awake and alert. I wonder why I didn’t struggle falling asleep that night. Oh well.

Trillium Pierce is in for a stressful few weeks. At first she is nervous because she asked her mom for permission to join the convent. She has gone to school at a convent for the past seven years and is about to graduate as a high school senior.  The peace and tranquility of this lifestyle appeals to her long term. The letter she receives has a very different message. Her mother has found a lead, a witness, that may help catch the murderer of Trillium’s father. Trillium becomes paranoid immediately and second guesses her decision to join the convent. In this flustered state she is tasked to deliver a letter to one of the three new male teachers, the three geniuses. Each one has a specialty: painting, athletics and writing. On entering their joint accommodations she sees a small broken statue and is struck with overwhelming dread. That statue was taken from her house by her father’s murderer seven years ago. He is now at her college and he may be looking to finish what he started. Dress up like a nun and listen for the church bells while reading Murder Takes the Veil.

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/murder-takes-the-veil-by-margaret-ann-hubbard/

Nothing But the Truth by Fredric Stewart Isham (1914)

I believe that most people do not want to tell the truth. The live constantly doling out white lies and half truths. Continuous honesty may seem stressful but it is only a slight adjustment from my normal blunt, sarcastic sensibilities. Bridges would no doubt be burned but I doubt any would fall into complete disrepair and break completely. Likely I would only ruffle some feathers and singe some wings leaving my personal relationships largely intact. The most difficult interactions would likely be those with pure strangers that I had never met previously. At worse they would find me standoffish and unhelpful. Any of my future success in extreme truth telling would lie with my philosophy that one should have strong opinions about silly things and have moderate opinions about things others take seriously. In other words, I am more likely to be annoying arguing about old books and be more tempered while discussing religion.

Bob and his friends at the rich peoples club have had a few drinks each and are proposing a silly little bet. They don’t believe that someone could say the strict literal truth for a week. With a few pints already in him, Bob ups this bizarre bet to three weeks. Later that night with his friends goading him on he begins to realize the error in his reasoning. This will be tough on Bob whose honesty will likely confuse and upset his high class friends. These rich people are regularly coddled with white lies and half truths. They are less equipped to handle strict literal truth than the average man or woman on the street. But his friends have stipulated that he must act as he would before the bet. That means he cannot become a hermit for a month. This is a rollicking adventure where each chapter tries to best the previous one in bringing fresh hell to Bob’s life. Poison the dog and arrest the psychiatrist before reading Nothing But the Truth.

 

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/nothing-but-the-truth-by-frederic-stewart-isham/

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/43916