Lone Star Planet by H. Beam Piper and John J. McGuire (1958)

Even though I’m American I’m not a big fan of guns. My reasoning is simple: I don’t like loud noises and I have no use for guns in my daily life. Other people can use them but I avoid them. By this reasoning I would not feel at home on the Lone Star Planet. The people and government of New Texas are caricatures of Texas around the time of the Civil War. It bears little or no resemblance to the modern powerhouse that Texas is in the 21st century. Texas has a similar GDP to Canada and is successful in a diverse set of industries beyond oil for which it is famous. I think that modern Texas would be a much better foundation for a country than the caricature presented in this book but that’s not the point. Instead, it presents a thought experiment about the furthest possible outcome.

Stephen Silk, a politician from the Solar Embassy, is sent as punishment for insubordination to the planet of New Texas. When warp drive became cheap enough, the citizens of Texas jetted off to find a planet where they could really be free from government oversight and live how they wanted to live. This is a headache for the Solar Embassy which has business relations with and interest in New Texas but no political capital. On the flight to New Texas Ambassador Silk learns that the first solar ambassador bought land on New Texas and became a businessman, the second solar ambassador went crazy, the third solar ambassador killed himself, and the fourth solar ambassador was murdered a month ago. After reading about his predecessors, Mr. Silk is not looking forward to his new position on New Texas. Keep your gun in hand while working on the Lone Star Planet.

 

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/lone-star-planet-by-h-beam-piper-and-john-j-mcguire/

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/20121

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Pixie O’Shaugnessy by Mrs. George de Horne Vaizey (1902)

When we are kids our parents tell us that physical beauty is not what’s most important. More important is inner beauty. We all nod along and say that we understand. But do we really understand? Do we really judge people on how they act and what they do instead of their clothes and face?  I know I’ve judged people wrongly based upon their appearance. Its hard for me to separate the physical appearance from someones personality. It must be interesting traveling through the world without sight because one must “see” people in a completely different light. All that superficial stuff is out the window and you can only judge people on what they do, what they say, and how they say it. I’d like to think I’d come out ahead if people couldn’t see me before they made their first impression. But who knows? Maybe my appearance and personality are equally off-putting.

Pixie is the youngest daughter of six children and is the baby, the favorite. Yet she isn’t beautiful like her older siblings. In fact she is a sort of ugly duckling. Her nose is a small speck while her huge mouth crowds out all other features. She has something much more important: charm. People move towards her, follow her, respect her almost immediately. It isn’t an ancient Irish ritual nor is she a sorceress; she is humble, honest, and fun to be around which attracts her peers and her elders to her side. At the moment, Pixie is about to go off to school, the first in her family to get the opportunity. On her death bed Pixie’s mother implored the family to give her baby the opportunity of higher education. Off Pixie goes to a boarding school in London away from her dear Irish castle. Be ready for the mischief of Pixie O’Shaugnessy.

 

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/21101

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/pixie-oshaughnessy-by-mrs-george-de-horne-vaizey/

Roman Collar Detective by Grace and Harold Johnson (1953)

Good priests have the tools to be excellent detectives. At least this is my first impression as I scratch my head and wrack my brains pondering the different types of crime fighting sleuths. There are the clinical and scientific, the part time sleuth with a flair for the dramatic, the eccentric the dogged and determined with their nose-to-the-ground, the good natured and absent minded, and bumbling detectives but detectives of the cloth have distinct style all their own. The only other religious detective is the always scandalous Father Brown who is an old favorite. He approaches the role of the detective with compassion while attempting to think like the criminal instead of relying on pesky clues. I sort of wish every priest was a detective. The world would be more exciting.

Just back from the Korean War, Captain Bill meets his brother, Father Tim, who is busy preparing for the Church Fair. Right now they are painting booths and hanging banners in preparation for the fundraiser. Captain Bill, tired after a days work, decides to walk home or rather limp home. His leg got shot up by a machine gun in Korea and he is recovering slowly. While hobbling past a home on the edge of town, he hears someone sneak from the shadows and feels the hot barrel of a handgun in the small of his back. Unable to confront the rogue, he is told to hold and fire another hand gun. Then, he is told to run along or he’ll get shot. The Captains impulsive nature leads him to walk away and hide in the bushes. He sees a shadow run across the porch and throw a gun through the window. Fearing that the gun with his prints was used in some crime he enters the home and wipes his fingerprints from the gun. At this moment, the homeowners enter to find a dead body in one room and the Captain with a gun in the other. Can the Captain convince the police that he has been framed? Kneel and pray for the Roman Collar Detective.

 

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/roman-collar-detective-by-grace-and-harold-johnson/

In The Onyx Lobby by Carolyn Wells (1920)

Detectives are persistent, determined people. Or, at the very least, all successful detectives have those two qualities. I enjoy detectives novels more than most people but I don’t think I would make a good detective. I am not a persistent or determined person. Puzzles and other problems quickly becoming tiring to me. The idea of searching a room for an hour for a thread, literal or figurative, which might reveal the murderer is beyond my comprehension. In five minutes, I would be planning what I’d like to do next and within ten minutes I would have quit looking altogether. It takes a special type of person to follow clues enjoying the moment of not knowing, the frustration of being stuck, and finally feel the effort was worth it once arriving upon the only possible solution.

The main characters are Miss Prall and Mrs. Everett to feuding old ladies who have lived near each other for decades. Each finds the other untrustworthy, rude and frustrating company. However, the next generation is in love with each other. Miss Prall’s nephew, Richard Bates, and Mrs. Everett’s daughter, Dorcas, have been meeting secretly and have already discussed marriage. The only hold up is their elders feud which will not allow love to triumph over decades of bickering and ill will. Sir Herbert Binney, Richard Bate’s English uncle, approves of the match so long as Richard agrees to take over management of the family baked good business called Binney’s Buns. At two in the morning, Sir Herbert is murdered in the onyx lobby of their apartment building with no witnesses around. Richard immediately inherits his uncle’s great wealth which would normally make him a prime suspect. However a note written by Sir Herbert immediately before death reads: “women did this…” complicating the case and confusing the detectives. Bring your magnifying glass, fill your pipe and search for clues In The Onyx Lobby.

 

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/35254

Hospital Sketches by Louisa May Alcott (1863)

The atmosphere of the average hospital is foreign to me. Luckily I’ve not been forced into an extended hospital visit so far in my life. I hope that it is much different from the army hospital described in this book. One would hope that hospital care has improved since the American Civil War. The food and supplies are severely lacking in quality. Each ward is filled to the brim with wounded soldiers with little peace and quite amid the bustle of a full hospital. As an avid book reader and determined daydreamer, the confines of a noisy, busy hospital would feel claustrophobic. I don’t believe I’d enjoy either working with Miss Alcott in 1862 nor working in modern hospitals. The sight of blood makes slightly queasy; the groans of the afflicted fill me with equal discomfort. Mere talk of surgery gives my a light stomachache. For the rest of the day, I’d imagine surgeons sawing through my bones without anesthetic.

Louisa May Alcott is having a conversation with her family trying to decide where the head next in life. Shooting down ideas of writing or teaching, she turns favorably upon the idea of helping the war effort by volunteering as a war nurse. Down she travels from Massachusetts to Washington DC describing her bumbling travels with much levity. At the hospital, she explains the conditions and circumstances of daily hospital life. At first, she bumbles through the normal tasks but in a few days she becomes accustomed to the regular nurse routine. The hours are long, the food is poor, bandages are not always available and people die regularly without anesthetic. The death of one particular man of impressive character and stoic demeanor almost brought me to tears. Drifting from happy to sad moments with a impressive authenticity Louisa illuminates the world of an active war hospital. Be ready for laughing and crying while reading Hospital Sketches.

 

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/hospital-sketches-by-louisa-may-alcott/

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

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