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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey (1912)

Listen to your grandparents. They know what’s good for you; at least they know what’s good for me. Gramps recommended this old book saying that it was something he’d read as a kid and I loved it. Growing up he’d always wanted to be a cowboy. In my eyes, he wasn’t that far off working during his teenage years at his uncle’s farm. Riding horses was part of the job but that is still a ways from the stereotypical cowboy lifestyle. Freedom, horses, guns and the unbroken wilderness. Those four ideas typify the cowboy experience. Personally I wouldn’t have the stomach for that life. Give me an office job where I don’t have to watch out for rustlers, three meals a day and a home with a nice, comfy bed.

Jane Withersteen is in trouble with the Mormon leaders of her little village. They are frustrated at her continued generosity towards outsiders. Around here most outsiders are ignored because they don’t abide by Mormon teachings. In retaliation a group of Mormon elders threaten to beat up Jane’s Gentile friend Bern Venters. Before he is dragged into the desert, an infamous Mormon killer named Lassiter shows up and saves Bern’s life. This angers the village elders resulting in a regular watch of Jane’s house and danger for her cattle. What are the village leaders planning? What will happen to the Riders of the Purple Sage?


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Molly Brown’s Junior Days by Nell Speed (1912)

Reading this series I’ve come to the conclusion, once again, that honesty and straightforwardness is the best policy. Numerous misunderstanding appear because some student assumes that they know all without asking. I’ll try in the future to give people the benefit of the doubt. Everyone should have the opportunity to explain themselves. I wonder how long this resolution will last. My resolutions are fickle.

Another exciting year away at college in Wellington. Molly, Nance, Judy and the rest of the Queens girls move into the Quadrangle leading to a string of dramatic and sweet moments. A mix up between these three almost results in their expulsion from the college. It gets so serious that the school president personally comes over to their dorm. A bunch of new students arrive and I found Minerva Higgins especially amusing. Minerva is a precocious freshman from a small town where she was the top honors student. She arrives on campus with a big ego that won’t stand down to anything. The upperclassman try to cut Minerva down to size but it still takes most of her freshman year for her to learn her lesson. Last but not least Judith Blount finally listens to Kendrick. Sit down, be humble. Madeleine Petit becomes her best friend and teaches her the advantages of hard work. Pack up your books and take the early train to Molly Brown’s Junior Days.


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Molly Brown’s Sophomore Days by Nell Speed (1912)

The hard times hit when we least expect it. Like a train that breaks down just before it exits the tunnel surprises can stress even the calmest people. Molly Brown is forced to endure a year of financial anxiety. Already one of the poorer students at Wellington, Ms. Brown learns that her families investments have been a complete flop. Worried about the future amid financial insecurity Molly is forced to decide her best path forward. Does she forget the present and focus on the future? Does she savor the present while procrastinating the future? Or does she take the middle road by working hard and hoping for her just returns? Each person is defined by how the deal with extraordinary situations. What type of person is Molly Brown?

Volume 2 of the Molly Brown series is another riot. The girls of Queen’s Cottage remain largely unchanged except for the charming a Otoyo, a freshman from Tokyo, Japan. Otoyo fits in instantly with the family in Queen’s with her hard work ethic and sincere manner. The whole crew go on a series of adventures featuring as diverse activities as running from cows and midnight ice skating. Share the laughs, smiles and frustrations with the students from Wellington College in Molly Brown’s Sophomore Days.


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