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The House Without a Key (1925) is a mystery novel by Earl Derr Biggers. The first in a series of novels featuring Chinese American detective Charlie Chan, The House Without a Key is notable for its nuanced depiction of race and class on the edges of American empire. Based in part on the life of Chinese Hawaiian detective Chang Apana, the character of Charlie Chan was intended by Biggers as an alternative to racist Yellow Peril stereotypes of the early twentieth century.


Shaken by the murder of his uncle, a Bostonian aristocrat living in Hawai’i, John Quincy Winterslip travels to the islands to manage his estate and encourage his aunt Minerva to return home. Uncomfortable at first, he soon grows to appreciate both the natural beauty of life in the Pacific and the youthful attraction of a young woman he meets on his trip. Winterslip makes the decision to break off his engagement with Agatha and remains in Hawai’i to help with the investigation into his uncle’s death. As he grows familiar with the case, he comes to respect Chinese American detective Charlie Chan, an intelligent and honest man who dedicates himself to his work with passion and honor. The House Without a Key, the first in a series of six novels featuring Chan, rejuvenated Biggers’ career as a leading writer of popular fiction in the early twentieth century.


With a beautifully designed cover and professionally typeset manuscript, this edition of Earl Derr Biggers’ The House Without a Key is a classic of American detective fiction reimagined for modern readers.


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Date de parution

24 mars 2021

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0

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9781513287089

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English

Poids de l'ouvrage

1 Mo

The House Without a Key
Earl Derr Biggers
 
The House Without a Key was first published in 1925.
This edition published by Mint Editions 2021.
ISBN 9781513282060 | E-ISBN 9781513287089
Published by Mint Editions®
minteditionbooks.com
Publishing Director: Jennifer Newens
Design & Production: Rachel Lopez Metzger
Project Manager: Micaela Clark
Typesetting: Westchester Publishing Services
 
C ONTENTS I. K ONA W EATHER II. T HE H IGH H AT III. M IDNIGHT ON R USSIAN H ILL IV. A F RIEND OF T IM ’ S V. T HE B LOOD OF THE W INTERSLIPS VI. B EYOND THE B AMBOO C URTAIN VII. E NTER C HARLIE C HAN VIII. S TEAMER D AY IX. A T THE R EEF AND P ALM X. A N EWSPAPER R IPPED IN A NGER XI. T HE T REE OF J EWELS XII. T OM B RADE THE B LACKBRIDER XIII. T HE L UGGAGE IN R OOM N INETEEN XIV. W HAT K AOHLA C ARRIED XV. T HE M AN F ROM I NDIA XVI. T HE R ETURN OF C APTAIN C OPE XVII. N IGHT L IFE IN H ONOLULU XVIII. A C ABLE F ROM THE M AINLAND XIX. “G OOD -B Y , P ETE !” XX. T HE S TORY OF L AU H O XXI. T HE S TONE W ALLS C RUMBLE XXII. T HE L IGHT S TREAMS T HROUGH XXIII. M OONLIGHT AT THE C ROSSROADS
 
I
K ONA W EATHER
M iss Minerva Winterslip was a Bostonian in good standing, and long past the romantic age. Yet beauty thrilled her still, even the semi-barbaric beauty of a Pacific island. As she walked slowly along the beach she felt the little catch in her throat that sometimes she had known in Symphony Hall, Boston, when her favorite orchestra rose to some new and unexpected height of loveliness.
It was the hour at which she liked Waikiki best, the hour just preceding dinner and the quick tropic darkness. The shadows cast by the tall cocoanut palms lengthened and deepened, the light of the falling sun flamed on Diamond Head and tinted with gold the rollers sweeping in from the coral reef. A few late swimmers, reluctant to depart, dotted those waters whose touch is like the caress of a lover. On the springboard of the nearest float a slim brown girl poised for one delectable instant. What a figure! Miss Minerva, well over fifty herself, felt a mild twinge of envy—youth, youth like an arrow, straight and sure and flying. Like an arrow the slender figure rose, then fell; the perfect dive, silent and clean.
Miss Minerva glanced at the face of the man who walked beside her. But Amos Winterslip was oblivious to beauty; he had made that the first rule of his life. Born in the Islands, he had never known the mainland beyond San Francisco. Yet there could be no doubt about it, he was the New England conscience personified—the New England conscience in a white duck suit.
“Better turn back, Amos,” suggested Miss Minerva. “Your dinner’s waiting. Thank you so much.”
“I’ll walk as far as the fence,” he said. “When you get tired of Dan and his carryings-on, come to us again. We’ll be glad to have you.”
“That’s kind of you,” she answered, in her sharp crisp way. “But I really must go home. Grace is worried about me. Of course, she can’t understand. And my conduct is scandalous, I admit. I came over to Honolulu for six weeks, and I’ve been wandering about these islands for ten months.”
“As long as that?”
She nodded. “I can’t explain it. Every day I make a solemn vow I’ll start packing my trunks—to-morrow.”
“And to-morrow never comes,” said Amos. “You’ve been taken in by the tropics. Some people are.”
“Weak people, I presume you mean,” snapped Miss Minerva. “Well, I’ve never been weak. Ask anybody on Beacon Street.”
He smiled wanly. “It’s a strain in the Winterslips,” he said. “Supposed to be Puritans, but always sort of yearning toward the lazy latitudes.”
“I know,” answered Miss Minerva, her eyes on that exotic shore line. “It’s what sent so many of them adventuring out of Salem harbor. Those who stayed behind felt that the travelers were seeing things no Winterslip should look at. But they envied them just the same—or maybe for that very reason.” She nodded. “A sort of gypsy strain. It’s what sent your father over here to set up as a whaler, and got you born so far from home. You know you don’t belong here, Amos. You should be living in Milton or Roxbury, carrying a little green bag and popping into a Boston office every morning.”
“I’ve often thought it,” he admitted. “And who knows—I might have made something of my life—”
They had come to a barbed-wire fence, an unaccustomed barrier on that friendly shore. It extended well down on to the beach; a wave rushed up and lapped the final post, then receded.
Miss Minerva smiled. “Well, this is where Amos leaves off and Dan begins,” she said. “I’ll watch my chance and run around the end. Lucky you couldn’t build it so it moved with the tide.”
“You’ll find your luggage in your room at Dan’s, I guess,” Amos told her. “Remember what I said about—” He broke off suddenly. A stocky, white-clad man had appeared in the garden beyond the barrier, and was moving rapidly toward them. Amos Winterslip stood rigid for a moment, an angry light flaming in his usually dull eyes. “Good-by,” he said, and turned.
“Amos!” cried Miss Minerva sharply. He moved on, and she followed. “Amos, what nonsense! How long has it been since you spoke to Dan?”
He paused under an algaroba tree. “Thirty-one years,” he said. “Thirty-one years the tenth of last August.”
“That’s long enough,” she told him. “Now, come around that foolish fence of yours, and hold out your hand to him.”
“Not me,” said Amos. “I guess you don’t know Dan, Minerva, and the sort of life he’s led. Time and again he’s dishonored us all—”
“Why, Dan’s regarded as a big man,” she protested. “He’s respected—”
“And rich,” added Amos bitterly. “And I’m poor. Yes, that’s the way it often goes in this world. But there’s a world to come, and over there I reckon Dan’s going to get his.”
Hardy soul though she was, Miss Minerva was somewhat frightened by the look of hate on his thin face. She saw the uselessness of further argument. “Good-by, Amos,” she said. “I wish I might persuade you to come East some day—” He gave no sign of hearing, but hurried along the white stretch of sand.
When Miss Minerva turned, Dan Winterslip was smiling at her from beyond the fence. “Hello, there,” he cried. “Come this side of the wire and enjoy life again. You’re mighty welcome.”
“How are you, Dan?” She watched her chance with the waves and joined him. He took both her hands in his.
“Glad to see you,” he said, and his eyes backed him up. Yes, he did have a way with women. “It’s a bit lonely at the old homestead these days. Need a young girl about to brighten things up.”
Miss Minerva sniffed. “I’ve tramped Boston in galoshes too many winters,” she reminded him, “to lose my head over talk like that.”
“Forget Boston,” he urged. “We’re all young in Hawaii. Look at me.”
She did look at him, wonderingly. He was sixty-three, she knew, but only the mass of wavy white hair overhanging his temples betrayed his age. His face, burned to the deepest bronze by long years of wandering under the Polynesian sun, was without a line or wrinkle. Deep-chested and muscular, he could have passed on the mainland for a man of forty.
“I see my precious brother brought you as far as the dead-line,” he remarked as they moved on through the garden. “Sent me his love, I presume?”
“I tried to get him to come round and shake hands,” Miss Minerva said.
Dan Winterslip laughed. “Don’t deprive poor Amos of his hate for me,” he urged. “It’s about all he lives for now. Comes over every night and stands under that algaroba tree of his, smoking cigarettes and staring at my house. Know what he’s waiting for? He’s waiting for the Lord to strike me down for my sins. Well, he’s a patient waiter, I’ll say that for him.”
Miss Minerva did not reply. Dan’s great rambling house of many rooms was set in beauty almost too poignant to be borne. She stood, drinking it all in again, the poinciana trees like big crimson umbrellas, the stately golden glow, the gigantic banyans casting purple shadows, her favorite hau tree, seemingly old as time itself, covered with a profusion of yellow blossoms. Loveliest of all were the flowering vines, the bougainvillea burying everything it touched in brick-red splendor. Miss Minerva wondered what her friends who every spring went into sedate ecstasies over the Boston Public Gardens would say if they could see what she saw now. They would be a bit shocked, perhaps, for this was too lurid to be quite respectable. A scarlet background—and a fitting one, no doubt, for Cousin Dan.
They reached the door at the side of the house that led directly into the living-room. Glancing to her right, Miss Minerva caught through the lush foliage glimpses of the iron fence and tall gates that fronted on Kalia Road. Dan opened the door for her, and she stepped inside. Like most apartments of its sort in the Islands, the living-room was walled on but three sides, the fourth was a vast expanse of wire screening. They crossed the polished floor and entered the big hall beyond. Near the front door a Hawaiian woman of uncertain age rose slowly from her chair. She was a huge, high-breasted, dignified specimen of that vanishing race.
“Well, Kamaikui, I’m back,” Miss Minerva smiled.
“I make you welcome,” the woman said. She was only a servant, but she spoke with the gracious manner of a hostess.
“Same room you had when you first came over, Minerva,” Dan Winterslip announced. “Your luggage is there—and a bit of mail that came in on the boat this morning. I didn’t trouble to send it up to Amos’s. We dine when you’re ready.”
“I’ll not keep you long,” she answered, and hurried up the stairs.
Dan Winterslip strolled back to his living-room. He sat down in a rattan chair that had been made especially for him in Hong-Kong, and glanced complacently about at the many evidences of his prosperity. His butler entered, bearing a tray with cocktails.
“Two, Haku?” smiled Winterslip. “The lady is from Boston.”
“Yes-s,” hissed Haku, and retired soundlessly.
In a moment Miss Minerva came a

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