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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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/

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/

The Red House Mystery by A. A. Milne (1922)

Murder mysteries make death engaging and amusing. That is an amazing feat. Death especially in the states is almost a taboo thing. It has deep emotional and religious ties which make it hard to talk about seriously. If death is difficult, murder should an impossible conversation piece. One could reasonably argue that murder is the worst form of death. Murder exist in a dark cloud of resentment, revenge and fear. Yet I declare that murder mysteries are fun and entertaining. Somehow by focusing on the means and motives of murder we create the illusion of a puzzle and obscure the actual macabre nature of the killing. I have no doubt that a personal brush with murder would leave me confused and drowning with fear. Why then do books featuring brilliant detectives excite me? My hypocrisy is fascinating.

Antony Gillingham accidentally stumbles into a murder the same way you might accidentally step in a puddle coming home on a rainy night. A man is killed in a locked room without any indication of suicide or motive. The brother of the murdered man is missing and so is the revolver. Antony decides in a flippant way to try his hand at detecting. Convincing his friend Bill to play Watson while he channels Sherlock the pair attempt to get to the bottom of The Red House Mystery.

 

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1872

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/the-red-house-mystery-by-a-a-milne/

Hoofbeats on the Turnpike by Mildred A. Wirt (1944)

We’ve all imagined ourselves acting courageously in dangerous circumstances. Everyone of us likes to believe that we could keep a level head in a time of panic and make decisions that would save lives. Stepping out of the daydream and back into reality I humbly admit that I don’t believe I am capable of that level of heroism. My mind is not quick and precise. Instead, my mind plods along slowly and comes to conclusions by the process of elimination. There is a high likelihood that the shock of those dangerous circumstances would freeze me in my tracks making it impossible to help myself let alone others. Taking ownership of those split second decisions would also be difficult. I prefer to live life “hands off” and taking responsibility over the situation would give me nightmares for years after. On second thought, those nightmares would likely haunt me regardless. Penny Parker does not have these same fears. She instead acts first and worries about the results afterwards. She steps towards the unusual noise, I step away from it. For this reason she has my respect.

 

When Penny Parker sniffs a hint of a mystery, she can’t help but pursue it to the ends of the earth. This time her curiosity takes her to a small town with rumors of a headless horseman. She soon realizes that the town has another more credible fear; the local dam is need of repairs. As rumors swirl around the dam and the horseman, Penny and Louis put on there Sherlock cloaks to find out the mystery of the Hoofbeats on the Turnpike.

 

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/hoofbeats-on-the-turnpike-by-mildred-a-wirt-benson/

free ebook download: http://gutenberg.org/ebooks/34691

The Wishing Well by Mildred A. Wirt (1942)

Present in multiple Penny Parker mysteries is Penny’s charitable nature. Most people are unable and unwilling to drop everything without a second thought to help someone in need unless they are already acquainted. In this book, Penny helps out Rhoda, a new school transfer, and Mrs. Marborough who used to live in Riverview as a younger woman. If I witnessed this level of generosity in everyday life, I might become defensive but by reading it I want to emulate that kindness. This is the power of books. The characters are not viewed as competitors and so they can more easily act as role models to our future actions. Just a thought.

The untiring busybody, Penny Parker, is back at it with another mystery. A club field trip to a local wishing well turns into a multilevel conspiracy. Why are lights shining around the well at night? Why won’t Mrs. Marborough invite anyone into her fancy house? Why are two ancient rocks covered with Native American writing found within days of each other lying around town? As the coincidences keep piling up Penny and her friend Louise prowl around in search of answers. Only time can tell the mystery of The Wishing Well.

 

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/the-wishing-well-by-mildred-a-wirt-benson/

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/34689

The Secret Pact by Mildred A. Wirt (1941)

There is a weird hypocrisy with detective novels. They are frequently dangerous and sometimes morbid yet that danger doesn’t seem to ever directly affect the detective. You can read about any detective from Sherlock to Miss Marple and arrive at the same conclusion. Any danger the detective finds themself in is only temporary and merely a distraction from the overall case at hand. All readers of detective fiction know this to be true. At the same time, we read quickly through the dangerous areas as a small part of us still hopes that the main character will once again solve the case and escape unscathed. To summarize: fiction is weird.

Teenage sleuth and adventurous busybody Penny Parker gets wrapped up in another local mystery. A chance meeting at a bridge brings an unusual case to Penny’s attention. Her attempts to publish an account of the mystery are foiled by the school paper so she decides to start a citywide paper with only a few friends for help. Skeptical readers find the story fantastic and assume that it has been exaggerated to sell more newspapers until she receives a threatening note. How will she run a newspaper, go to school and solve the mystery of The Secret Pact?

 

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/the-secret-pact-by-mildred-a-wirt-benson/

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/34682