Friday, September 29, 2017

#6 - The Invisible Host by Gwen Bristow & Bruce Manning (1930)


About this edition: This edition announces the next release will be a special Christmas selection, consisting of five titles in a special slip case. A short preview of each appears in the back. The titles included are:
  • The Day of Uniting. Edgar Wallace, 1930
  • The Monster of Grammont. George Goodchild, 1930
  • The House of Terror. Edward Woodward, 1930
  • The Hardway Diamonds Mystery. Miles Burton, 1930
  • Peril. Sydney Horler, 1930
Gwen Bristow (wikipedia)

About the authors: Here is a Wikipedia article about Gwen Bristow and her husband, Bruce Manning. They also authored three other novels in the Mystery League series (The Gutenberg Murders, Two and Two Make Twenty-Two, and The Mardi Gras Murders). 

Major characters: See list below.

Locale: New Orleans

Synopsis: Eight people receive identical anonymous (from 'your host') telegrams inviting them to a posh New Orleans party, indicating each is to be the guest of honor:
  1. Mrs. Gaylord (Margaret) Chisholm, high society, hostess of a debutante's ball
  2. Dr. Murray Chambers Reid, professor of economics
  3. Jason Osgood, financier
  4. Peter Daly, playwright
  5. Sylvia Inglesby, lawyer
  6. Tim Slamon, politician
  7. Henry "Hank" Abbott, painter
  8. Jean Trent, actress
This Wikipedia article summarizes the plot as follows: The Invisible Host tells the story of eight people who are summoned to a deserted, well-appointed New Orleans penthouse by an anonymous invitation. Once there the guests, who are all known to each other, are served a fabulous dinner. But soon thereafter, they are accused by a voice over the radio that they are all going to die before the night is out. The unseen host has meticulously prepared the demise of each guest, and has booby-trapped the penthouse to prevent anyone from escaping. As they steadily succumb to the murderer's devices, some begin to suspect that the killer may be one of them.

This novel was turned into the 1934 movie, The Ninth Guest. (Available on DVD from Amazon).

Also see this synopsis and review by Kate (Archairreviewer) on her blog Crossexaminingcrime.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

#5 - The Mystery of Burnleigh Manor by Walter Livingston (1930)


About this edition: Published in 1930. A preview chapter of #6 - The Invisible Host by Gwen Bristow and Bruce Manning is included in the back of the book.

About the author: Walter Livingston is also the author of The Mystery of Villa Sineste, #19 in the Mystery League series.

  • Edward Burnleigh, eldest of the three brothers, died by own hand 16 years previously
  • Lord Cecil Burnleigh, middle brother, now owner of Burnleigh Manor
  • Robert Burleigh, youngest brother, disappeared with Edward's wife 21 years previously
  • Lady Burnleigh, wife of Edward; disappeared with Robert 21 years previously
  • Glome, Cecil's servant
  • Hooper, Edward's servant
  • --- Riker, American architect, hired by Cecil to examine the Manor and plan for its restoration
  • Captain Lowry, caretaker of the Manor and Lodge, resides in the Lodge
  • Edith Lowry, his daughter

Locale: England

Timeline: A bit confusing but this seems to be the background:
  • 21 years prior to story: Robert runs off with Lady Burnleigh (Edward's wife). Cecil searches for him without success.
  • 16 years prior to story: Edward dies by his own hand on Christmas Eve. The Manor passes to Cecil.
  • Present: Lord Cecil arrives with Riker to plan the Manor's restoration.


Hmmm... well, it's not a murder mystery. No one gets murdered.

The story focuses on Burnleigh Manor, now a rundown boarded-up relic, along with the Lodge, a smaller well-kept residence at the gate on the same grounds. The Manor was the property of the eldest brother, Edward, until his death; when it passed to Cecil. The youngest brother, Robert, had run off with Edward's wife (Lady Burnleigh), both without a trace. Five years later, Edward dies by his own hand on Christmas Eve. The story begins sixteen years later.

Cecil, now owner of Burnleigh Manor, contracts with an American architect, -- Riker, to examine the manor and plan for its restoration. There are reports of intruders in the boarded-up Manor, with footprints found inside and some items missing.

Cecil and Riker arrive at the Manor. Riker is attracted to Emily Lowry, but she is aloof; yet constantly attracted to the Manor. As Riker begins his inspection,  he deals with trouble-making intruders who thoughtfully leave him little treatening notes (Phantom of the Opera style) and disappear down secret passages. The questions are: 
  • Whatever happened to Robert and Lady Burnleigh? 
  • Who is the person (s) still accessing the Manor, and how do they do it? 
  • So what is troubling Edith, anyway?


Please see this review by Bev Hankins on her blog, My Reader's Block.

Monday, September 11, 2017

#4 - Jack O'Lantern by George Goodchild (1930)


About this edition: Two preview chapters of #5 - The Mystery of Burnleigh Manor by Walter Livingston are included in the back of the book.


About the author: Here is a Wikipedia article and a Goodreads article about George Goodchild (1888-1969).


  • Sir Randolph Cantler, found floating dead at the waterfront
  • Jack O'Lantern - alias of Paul Lefroy, tall, gaunt, rather unstable criminal
  • Tobias Lantern - murderer tried and executed long ago, possibly related to Jack O'Lantern
  • Judge Wallington - who presided over Tobias Lantern's trial
  • Hugo Michels, retired judge, friend of Judge Wallington
  • John Wrench, Detective-Inspector of the C.I.D. (Criminal Investigative Division)
  • Superintendent Sweeting - jealous superior of John Wrench
  • Sonia Pelling, ward of Judge Wallington, love interest of John Wrench
  • Nali, Hindu servant of Judge Wallington
  • Jim Banting - older "retired" criminal
  • Kate Banting, daughter of Jim Banting, quite taken with Lefroy
  • Sam Knudge - dimwitted criminal, accustomed to garish outfits, taken with Kate
Locale: London

Synopsis: Sir Randolph Cantler is found floating dead at the waterfront. The escaping killer is believed to be an (unknown) man using the alias Jack O'Lantern. Meanwhile, Inspector John Wrench apprehends a burglar, "The Slasher", who is found to have a note from Jack O'Lantern in his pocket. 

Judge Wallington discusses the case with John Wrench, and speculates on a connection between Jack O'Lantern and a Tobias Lantern, whom he tried - and had executed - many years before. Wrench is also enamored with Wallngton's ward, Sonia Pelling. Wallington receives death threats from Jack O'Lantern.

Sonia is frightened by a face at the window, who leaves the initials JOL scratched in the window pane.

Three underworld characters  --- Jim Banting, his daughter Kate, and Sam Knudge are intimidated by Lefroy (Jack O'Lantern) although Kate is fascinated by him. Knudge decides to get rid of his love-interest rival by tipping off the police as to his whereabouts, but the police are unsuccessful in locating him.

Wrench, in disguise, prowls the underworld in search of Jack O'Lantern. Meanwhile, the judge is not feeling too well - is it illness or poison? Difficult to tell, he disappears too!

Jim Banting, and the love triangle of Sam Knudge/Kate Banting/Jack O'Lantern hole up in a house which catches fire. 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

#3 - The House of Sudden Sleep by John Hawk (1930)

photo: eBay seller departedbooks

About this edition: Two preview chapters of #4 - Jack O'Lantern by George Goodchild are included in the back of the book.

About the author: John Hawk is a pseudonym of Helen Cournos, who also wrote under the name Sybil Norton. I couldn't learn much about her beyond this Wikipedia article about her husband John. As John Hawk, she also authored The Lone Lodge Mystery, The Serpent-Headed Stick, The Mid-Ocean Tragedy, The Titanic Hotel Mystery, It Was Locked, and The Murder of the Mystery-Writer.


  • Jimmy Armstrong, partner of David Ribbelsdale
  • Rodney Colt, Assistant District Attorney
  • Félicité Monot, the Ribbelsdale's nurse to their two children
  • Cynthia Stoddard, writer of love letters to David
  • --- Pulver, District Attorney
  • David Ribbelsdale, already dead when story begins
  • Edith Ribbelsdale, David's mother
  • Suzanne Ribbelsdale, 31, David's wife - now widow
  • Dorcas Wilder, half-sister of Suzanne Ribbelsdale
  • Peter Wilder, always scared brother of Dorcas Wilder

Locale: Connecticut

Synopsis: David Ribbelsdale is found dead at his desk in his home office, with no obvious cause of death - he seems to just fallen asleep and never woken up. Assistant DA Rodney Colt is asked to come in. It is not obvious if the death is by natural cause, suicide, or murder. There are rumors of infidelity. In his desk are found love letters from an unknown "Cynthia".

Rodney Colt finds everyone in the Ribbelsdale household seems to have secrets, and enlists the help of sexy, flirtatious Félicité Monot to keep her eye on them. Cynthia is found to be a Cynthia Stoddard but little is known about her.

Edith Ribbelsdale dies in the same manner as her son, David.

Peter Wilder dies the same manner, just after writing a letter accusing someone of being the murderer.