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Carolyn Wells


carolyn wellsCarolyn Wells (1862 – 1942) was an American author and poet. Born in Rahway, New Jersey, she was the daughter of William E. and Anna Wells. She died at the Flower-Fifth Avenue Hospital in New York City in 1942.

Wells had been married to Hadwin Houghton, the heir of the Houghton-Mifflin publishing empire founded by Bernard Houghton. Wells also had an impressive collection of poetry, including several important volumes of Walt Whitman, which she bequeathed to the Library of Congress.

After finishing school she worked as a librarian for the Rahway Library Association, and during the first ten years of her career, she concentrated on poetry, humor and children’s books. According to her autobiography, The Rest of My Life (1937), it was around 1910 that she heard one of Anna Katherine Green’s mystery novels being read aloud and was immediately captivated by the unravelling of the puzzle. From that point onward she devoted herself to the mystery genre. Carolyn Wells eventually wrote more than 170 books. Among the most famous of her mystery novels were the Fleming Stone Detective Stories with 61 titles, while the mystery website Gadetection lists a total of 82 mystery titles, with most of the others novels being part of her Pennington Wise ‘psychic’ detective series.

(Source: edited from Wikipedia: Carolyn Wells)

Notes on reading Carolyn Wells

Carolyn Wells wrote a total of 29 locked room novels, which makes her one of the most prolific authors in the genre, but the quality of her work is not at the same level as most of the locked room masters we have met on other pages. I even debated creating this page, as the Fleming Stone novels are usually a mixture of sensationalist pulp fiction, interspersed with long tedious passages, and eventually solved by a very irritating, too perfect, detective, who only appears in the final pages. There is also a real problem with secret passages and other unfair devices. However, such a large body of work cannot be completely ignored, so in the end I decided that every student of the locked room – impossible crime genre should read at least one of the Fleming Stone novels, and one of the Pennington Wise stories, even though they are unlikely to become fan favourites! This may sound like a rather gloomy task, but is not my intention to entirely dissuade the reader, a few the Fleming Stone books have plots of interest, and the Pennington Wise titles are well worth reading, if only for their humorous style, as Wise and his assistant are actually psychic con artists, not full time detectives.

However, this is not the only problem with this page. While those Wells titles that are now in the public domain are quite easily available and have some basic reviews and informative cover blurbs, the majority of Wells work is only available in rare out of print hardcovers, seldom reviewed,  with no available information, other than the basic style of locked room murder, as defined in Robert Adey’s ‘Locked Room Murders’. Unfortunately, this means that the last half of this page is rather uninformative. If you can add a few details to any of these descriptions, please contact us! 

Note: None of these Carolyn Wells titles are rated and only a few have been reviewed. The best of these titles would rate about three stars – most would struggle to get two.

More on Carolyn Wells  Gadetection  Mike Grost
More on Fleming Stone


Carolyn Wells Locked Room Novels


CW megapackA Chain of Evidence (1912)
Series: Fleming Stone

Best Review

Available in ebook and paperback editions

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Note: Wells first locked room mystery

A man is found murdered in a locked Manhattan apartment, the only other inhabitants are his niece and a servant. The niece is under suspicion, and will be indicted unless Otis Landon, a young lawyer from the apartment across the hall can discover the real killer, with the help of Fleming Stone.


anybody anneAnybody but Anne  (1914)
Series: Fleming Stone

Best Review

Available in ebook and paperback editions

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Note: A classic weekend house party

At first, Raymond Sturgis wasn’t sure he should accept an invitation to a weekend house party from his childhood sweetheart, Anne. Anne had married the millionaire David Van Wyck while he had pursued his education and career. But when he does accept, he finds himself at the center of a mystery, for David Van Wyck is found dead, locked within his study. There is no sign of forced entry, no apparent weapon and a valuable pearl necklace is missing. There is no lack of people with motives, for Van Wyck was an overbearing and cruel man who was about to deprive his heirs of his fortune, but how the crime was committed remains a mystery. Finally, in desperation, the famous detective, Fleming Stone, is called in, and Sturgis hopes that when he finds the murderer it is . . . Anybody But Anne!


white alleyThe White Alley (1915)
Series: Fleming Stone

Best Review

Available in ebook and paperback editions

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Note: An Impossible Disappearance!

White Birches was virtually impregnable. An old, expansive estate that had been in the Arnold family for generations, it was surrounded by a tall stone wall with broken glass embedded in the top, while the mansion itself had the latest in alarms and locks. So when the owner, Justin Arnold disappears during the course of a house party he was giving for his fiancee it poses a complete mystery. Was it a joke, a kidnaping, or murder, or was the explanation more mundane. But when Arnold fails to reappear, foul play appears more likely. The walls and alarms would make an outside force seem unlikely, throwing suspicion on the guests. But which of them is responsible, the private secretary, the cousin who stands to inherit the estate and fortune, or the fiancee who finds her affection have wandered? With no clues in hand, it falls to the famous detective, Fleming Stone to unravel the mystery of . . . The White Alley.


faulkner follyFaulkner’s Folly (1917)
Series: Alan Ford

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Note: An Impossible Disappearance!

The lights go out in the studio of wealthy artist Eric Stannard. When they come on a moment later, the artist is dead, his heart pierced by an etching needle. But who is the murderer? The artist’s wife, jealous of her husband’s young model? The model, who felt pressured by the unwanted attentions of the artist? The artist’s son, who was in love with the model? Or the neighbor, who was in love with the artist’s wife? An impossible crime for which Alan Ford must find a solution in Faulkner’s Folly a classic Carolyn Wells mystery.


CW megapackThe Room With The Tassels (1918)
Series: Pennington Wise

Best Review

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Notes: A supernatural investigation goes wrong

It had seemed an idyllic way for a group of wealthy New Yorkers to spend a summer month, researching the supernatural in a reputed haunted mansion in the depths of Vermont’s Green Mountains. That is until two of their number are mysteriously struck down at afternoon tea. Were their deaths the result of supernatural forces? Or did they meet their death due to a more human hand? This is the riddle that the famed detective Pennington Wise must unravel as he tries to discover what happened in . . . The Room with the Tassels!


CW megapackThe Man Who Fell Through The Earth (1919)
Series: Pennington Wise

Best Review

Available in ebook, audible and paperback editions

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Note: Might be Wells best!

As a young lawyer is about to leave his office on the top floor of a Madison Avenue office building, he hears an argument followed by a shot from the office across the hall. But when he goes to investigate he finds no sign of either victim or assailant despite the fact that no one could have passed him without being seen. However, as is soon discovered, a murder has indeed been committed, that of the banker who owned the building. But who is the murderer? A business associate, the banker’s beautiful ward, or a mysterious woman who had been in the office earlier? And what part, if any, was played by the amnesia victim pulled from the river; a man who insists that his earliest memory is of falling through a hole in the earth?


CW megapackThe Diamond Pin (1919)
Series: Fleming Stone

Best Review

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Note: A an eccentric aunt is murdered

Ursula Pell was both wealthy and eccentric, being perhaps too fond of playing elaborate jokes on her long suffering niece and nephew. Therefore, when she was found brutally murdered in her locked study, the motive was only too obvious, the hoard of gems worth millions left to her by her late husband and which the widow Pell had hidden in a secret location. With the inheritance of the niece seemingly another one of her cruel jokes, and all the clues to her murder pointing to the nephew, Ursula Pell might well have the last laugh, unless Fleming Stone, the famous detective, can prove the innocence of the nephew and the true value of … The Diamond Pin!


CW megapackRaspberry Jam(1920)
Series: Fleming Stone

Best Review

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Note: Another of Wells best!

A wealthy businessman is found dead in the locked bedroom suite of his tenth floor Park Avenue apartment, no mark upon his body or visible cause of death. The only other people who had spent the night in the suite were his young wife and her elderly aunt. The wife had both motive and opportunity, but can she be guilty? Enter the famed detective, Fleming Stone, but the only clue he has is the aunt’s tale of seeing the dead man’s ghost, a ghost she not only saw, but heard, touched and smelled, and who tasted of . . . Raspberry Jam!


CW megapackThe Vanishing of Betty Varian (1922)
Series: Pennington Wise

Best Review (Reviews 7 titles)

Available in ebook and paperback editions

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Notes: What has happened to Betty Varian?

Headland House, so named because it was situated on a narrow headland overlooking the scenic Maine village of Headland Harbor, was a picturesque place to spend a summer holiday. The village was something of an artist’s colony, and the house itself, though barely accessible, offered stunning views of the sea, so the Varians had been more than willing to rent the house for the summer and invite family to join them. But, when on a picnic, Betty Varian and her father return to the house for a forgotten camera the father is murdered and daughter disappears. As the rest of the party were waiting on the only path to the house, in plain sight of the front door, the crime presents a seemingly unsolvable mystery. Was it a murder or a suicide? A kidnapping? And what has happened to the girl, Betty Varian? These are the questions that confront the famed detective Pennington Wise as he attempts to solve . . .
The Vanishing of Betty Varian


CW megapackThe Mystery Girl (1922)
Series: Fleming Stone

Best Review

Available in ebook and paperback editions

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Note: Murder in a small college town

Corinth is a small, New England college town. The biggest concern is the recent selection of a new president of the university and his upcoming nuptials. With the exception of a few grumblings of the selection process, everything is going fine. That is until a strange new woman comes in to town. Who is she? Why is she there? And when murder strikes the quiet little town, everyone wonders what role was played by . . . The Mystery Girl


Feathers Left Around  (1923)
Series: Fleming Stone

Best Review

Available only in used hardcover editions. No image available

Book

Not much information available. Involves a death by poisoning in a locked room.


SpookyHollowSpooky Hollow (1923)
Series: Fleming Stone

Best Review

Available only in used hardcover editions

Book

See best review by prettysinister.blogspot.ca for more information. Involves a stabbing in a locked room.


14 keyThe Fourteenth Key (1924)
Series: Larimer Lane

No Review

Available only in used paperback & hardcover editions

Book

Not much information available. The locked room element involves the disappearance of  a man from a house under constant observation.


The Moss Mystery (1924)
Series: Owen Prall

Best Review

Available only in used paperback & hardcover editions. No image available.

Book

A very rare title. Not much information available. Involves death by gassing in a locked room.


daughter houseThe Daughter of The House (1925)
Series: Fleming Stone

No Reviews

Available only in used paperback & hardcover editions

Book

Another death by stabbing in a locked room. No further information is available.


CW Mega2Face Cards (1925)
Series: Tony Barron

No Review

Available in ebook & used paperback & hardcover editions

Book  eBook  Amazon.ca

Another death by poisoning in a locked room.


The Sixth Commandment (1927)
Series: Christopher Cox

No Review

Available only in used paperback & hardcover editions. No image available

Book 

Another rare title about a death by poisoning inside a locked room.


The Tannahill Tangle (1928)
Series: Fleming Stone

No Review

Available only in used paperback & hardcover editions. No image available.

Book

A death by shooting inside a locked room. No further information is available.


deep lakeDeep Lake Mystery (1928)
Series: Gray Norris

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Note: One of Wells better known titles – but still no masterpiece!

“As I look back on my life, eventful enough in spots, but placid, even monotonous in the long stretches between spots, I think the greatest thrill I ever experienced was when I saw the dead body of Sampson Tracy. Imagine to yourself a man, dead in his own bed, with no sign of violence or maltreatment. Eyes partly closed, as he might be peacefully thinking, and no expression of fear or horror on his calm face. Now add to your mental picture the fact that he had round his brow a few flowers arranged as a wreath. More flowers diagonally across his breast, like a garland. Clasped in his right hand, against his heart, an ivory crucifix, and in his left hand an orange. Sticking up from behind his head showed the plume of a red feather duster! And draped round all this, like a frame, was a red chiffon scarf, a filmy but voluminous affair, deftly tucked in here and there, and encircling all the strange and bizarre details I have enumerated.”


Horror HouseHorror House  (1931)
Series: Fleming Stone

No Review

Available only in used paperback & hardcover editions.

Book

Yet another death by poisoning in a locked bedroom.  No further information is available.


The Skeleton at The Feast (1931)
Series: Kenneth Carlisle

No Reviews

Available only in used paperback & hardcover editions. No image available.

Book

One more death by shooting in a locked room.  No further information is available.


The Broken O (1933)
Series: Fleming Stone

No Review

Available only in used paperback & hardcover editions. No image available.

Book

One more death by poisoning in a locked room. No further information is available.


The Wooden Indian (1935)
Series: Fleming Stone

Best Review

Available only in used paperback & hardcover editions. No image available.

Book

The death is caused by an arrow inside an impenetrable guarded room.


The Beautiful Derelict (1935)
Series: Fleming Stone

No Review

Available only in used paperback & hardcover editions. No image available.

Book

Two deaths aboard a yacht and neither is the murderer, soon followed by another stabbing inside a locked room.


Gilt Edged Guilt (1938)
Series: Fleming Stone

Best Review

Available only in used paperback & hardcover editions. No image available.

Book

Another death by stabbing in a locked room.


The Killer (1938)
Series: Fleming Stone

Best Review

Available only in used paperback & hardcover editions. No image available.

Book

Back to death by poisoning in a locked room during a weekend country house gathering.


Crime Tears On (1939)
Series: Fleming Stone

Best Review

Available only in used paperback & hardcover editions. No image available.

Book

The crime inside the locked room is a death by stabbing.


Crime Incarnate (1940)
Series: Fleming Stone

No Review

Available only in used paperback & hardcover editions. No image available.

Book

Locked room element involves two extremely violent deaths inside a sealed room.


The Black Night Murders (1941)
Series: Fleming Stone

No Review

Available only in used paperback & hardcover editions. No image available.

Book

Another death by poisoning in a room under constant observation.


Carolyn Wells Bibliography


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