Cynthia Wakeham’s Money by Anna Katharine Green (1892)

Money can have a corrupting influence. The news is littered with stories showing worst sides of greed and jealousy. People spend many hours trying to take money from their friends and neighbors without providing an equivalent service or product. I am reminded of an idea put forth by the late great showman P. T. Barnum. He said that the hardest thing to do in life is to make money dishonestly. Our jails are filled with people who tried and failed to steal and fraud their way to wealth. It is always hard to conceal the motive no matter how beautifully the crime is carried out. The first suspect whenever a rich person dies is the relative that inherits the fortune. Cynthia Wakeham is not killed in this book but there is a scramble for her fortune after she passes. Does greed change people or expose the scoundrel inside each us?

Frank Etheridge, a young lawyer from New York City, is called to a nearby country town to write up an elderly lady’s will. Arriving late at a rundown old house, he becomes worried that this will be a fools errand. Knocking at the front door he is let in by a shifty old man and Etheridge’s worry reaches another level. Hiram Huckins leads him up a rickety staircase past ratty rooms with paint peeling from the walls to the sick bed of Cynthia Wakeham, his sister. Etheridge slowly dictates a will for Ms. Wakeham who is so sick she can no longer speak. Upon completing the will, gathering two witnesses, and Ms. Wakeham finally signing it, Huckins snatches the will gleefully from Etheridge with the ink still wet and runs downstairs. Etheridge is concerned until he hears a weak voice at his ear. Ms. Wakeham desires another will drawn up quickly leaving her property and fortune to her estranged sister instead of her lousy brother, Huckins. When Ms. Wakeham dies moments after the second will is completed, Etheridge is sent to search for the estranged sister and her children. Open the clock and dig up the floorboards in the search for Cynthia Wakeham’s Money.

 

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/cynthia-wakehams-money-by-anna-katharine-green/

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/36758

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Mademoiselle Ixe by Mary Elizabeth Hawker (1890)

Secretive, overqualified characters are always my favorites. When best executed these characters have all the skills and none of the motivation. They are thrust by extreme circumstances to show some of their vast knowledge. With these characters a sense an increased depth lingers over every thought and movement which is exciting alongside an overbearing humility and modesty. I envy these qualities in others because I am neither deep nor mysterious. It is easy to revere heroes in fiction. Much easier than real life as fictional heroes are much less likely to let one down. There is a lone ranger quality of the person of the world, the jack of all trades, the renaissance man. Even classic western stories have mysterious characters whose reactions become more logical as there backstory slowly unravels. What makes this character archetype so entrancing?

Mademoiselle Ixe’s task as the new governess is to keep the children in order, teach them, care for their wants and generally keep them happy. The small town in the English countryside is unsure of Ms. Ixe. She is clearly foreign but her country of origin is unclear. Even more disturbing is that she may not even be Christian. Unclear religious affiliations aside she fits into the family like an old worn baseball mitt. She instantly makes a connection with each troublesome child. Harsh during their lessons and friendly in leisure time she instantly becomes a favorite. She also has a weird knack for indirectly getting her way. When confronted with questions about her religious leanings, she innocently asks wether the Anglican Church has the religious mandate. An argument among amateur religious scholars breaks out and she is not forced to answer the original question. The original askers have completely forgotten. The eldest daughter wonders to herself. Who is Mademoiselle Ixe?

 

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/mademoiselle-ixe-by-mary-elizabeth-hawker/

Cecilia de Noel by Mary Elizabeth Hawker

The ability to cloak oneself in others desires, fears, and preconceptions is difficult. Wearing another persons point of view is frequently uncomfortable and cumbersome. Occasionally one may lose oneself in another’s persona and not be able to fully return to their own. The man of the house in this quirky little novel has this astounding ability. Not only can Mr. Atherley jump into another’s mind but he is seemingly able to work the controls and review the memories of another’s brain. In a fractured world, where “others” are ostracized a little mind jumping may do us all some good. Once we realize our motives and bias we can bring additional patience to our interactions with those we disagree. Patience and sincerity in discussion may lead to additional insights and occasionally collaboration.

Remember the old saying: “Ghosts are in the eyes of the beholder.” Guilty as charged. That was made up but it does accurately portray this fun little novel. You arrive at a British country house with a large raucous family and apparently an old ghost. This ghost appears to people from time to time especially in one rarely used bedroom. Six different people see the ghost and tell of its shape and form. Each time Mr. Lyndsay and the man of the house, Mr. Atherley, discuss each new insight weighing the differences and similarities between each new ghost encounter. Like witnesses at a crime scene each person describes a vaguely similar creature through their own lens. In time Mr. Atherley tries to convince us that ghosts are not real but rather created by imaginative people and each ghost story tells us more about the individual seeing the ghost than the ghost him or herself. Like a mirror each story peers into the tellers soul. Peer into six souls by reading Cecilia de Noel.

 

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free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/15258/15258-h/15258-h.htm

A Master of Mysteries by L.T. Meade and Robert Eustace (1898)

For every mystery in the world there is a skeptic. Some skeptics scoff at each new invention or discovery while others actively try to illuminate the truth. If history has proven anything, its that skeptics are frequently annoying and upsetting people to be around. Human beings inherently love illusions wether theatrical or mundane. Superstition, religion, folklore, and home remedies have their detractors who for the most part enrage the true believers. It takes tremendous tact and self belief to work professionally or as a hobbyist in the exposure business. The comfortable and the lazy would never seek such a controversial way of life. In fiction, many great examples of polite mystery solvers abound. This book deserves to sit on the shelf with the best of the genre.

John Bell is an exposer of ghostly phenomena, curses and superstitions. With a concrete knowledge of the limits of the physical world alongside an encyclopedic knowledge of every type of fakery Bell investigates unusual, spooky phenomena. The culprits are sometimes people other times nature herself. In the first case, Bell is called upon to investigate the queer death of a rich artist. It has all the signs of an intriguing mystery. A circular room, an enduring legend, and three unaccountable deaths. Bring your wits and your intelligence while you stay up late with A Master of Mysteries.

 

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/a-master-of-mysteries-by-l-t-meade-and-robert-eustace/

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/22278

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/

A Diary of a Nobody by George Grossmith and Weedon Grossmith (1892)

My unabashed love for this little book will be hard to explain. The book itself is a lowkey slice-of-life novel based in the 1890’s written as a diary. Each chapter collects almost a weeks worth of entries in the dull life of Charles Pooter. We hear about his many awkward moments and wait patiently for his rare, polite anger. Attempting to read this monotonous comedy in one sitting will just create an excess of snores. A chapter or two a day will make you crack a smile. In other words, consume this diary like an IV instead of shot.

Charles Pooter and his wife Caroline live a quiet homely life in the suburb of Holloway. They don’t worry about the world’s big problems. Instead, they might play dominoes in the evening after a simple dinner. Or he may complain about his job as a city clerk. Or they may worry of the future of their son, Lupin. In between these everyday occurrences, little coincidences will make you smile. Start your own journal after reading A Diary of a Nobody.

 

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free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1026

 

Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases by Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1892)

This leaflet is a chilling reminder of America’s past when lynchings were commonplace. The author cited multiple newspaper articles that apologized for and encouraged the lynchings without trial. The unethical press distorted the facts to reinforce the 19th century beliefs of black inferiority and barbarism. To make matters worse black newspapers were pushed out of business for publishing articles condemning the unfair lynchings. The darkest point comes at the end when the author suggested that every black man should own a Winchester rifle to protect himself from the police and the lynching mobs. She cited multiple cases where the only reason an accused black man had a fair trial was by some desperate act of self defense. Learn from history by reading Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases.

 

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/southern-horrors-by-ida-b-wells/

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/14975