After I've been somewhat unlucky with free ebooks lately, this one was a good find:
"Gold of the Gods" by Arthur B. Reeve is a mystery involving an ancient Peruvian dagger, poisoned cigars, a beautiful heiress, a journalist/investigator, professors and doctors and a host of other characters crucial to the story.
The book was first published in 1915. By then, Arthur Benjamin Reeve's series of mysteries involving Professor Craig Kennedy (sometimes dubbed "the American Sherlock Holmes") and his sidekick, journalist Walter Jameson, had become something of a household name. Altogether, he wrote 18 novels featuring these two characters, and several short stories appearing first in papers and later being published strung together as "pseudo-novels".
In "Gold of the Gods", a wealthy Peruvian business man is found murdered in his New York apartment. His stab wound is of a peculiar shape and can be traced to an ancient Peruvian dagger that has gone missing from a museum. The dagger is thought to bear a mysterious inscription, clue to an immense gold treasure that people have been looking for since the days of the Conquistadores. A curse is said to lay on whoever owns the dagger and tries to find the treasure.
The victim's beautiful daughter hires Professor Kennedy to investigate the case, who is not afraid of curses and spells. Instead, with an analytical mindset and a scientific approach (and a bit of help from his sidekick), he goes about solving the mystery.
Relatively soon, I was quite sure of who the murderer was, mainly because the obvious suspects were really too obvious. Still, there was tension enough for me to keep going, and the end, although not surprising, was satisfying.
The setting of New York in the early 1900s, the writing style and language (and almost no typos to be found in the entire book!), the description of the scientific methods employed by the professor (and meant to be rather avantgardistic in 1915) - all added up to a good read.
I thought of Scriptor Senex when I came across an expression I had not heard before but understood perfectly: "Alfonso was rusticating for his health". It is something I can imaging finding on his word blog - if you don't know it yet, I can highly recommend it to anyone who loves unusual words and ethymology.