Jackson Gregory. Ladyfingers (1920) 368 pp.
San Francisco has its very own Raffles, and his name is Ladyfingers. Robert Ashe, 21, is a debonair gentleman and an “expert on Life, Lyric Poetry and Burglar Proof Safes!” Known to the police and the underworld, alike, as Ladyfingers, Ashe is a master thief and pickpocket, able to crack any safe and get away with the goods. But, his girlfriend Polly Le Brun (daughter of the local crime boss, Joe Le Brun) and the corrupt Lieutenant Ambrose of the San Francisco Police Department decide to set him up. Polly convinces Ashe to make a play for an extremely valuable diamond belonging to Mrs. Rachel Stetheril, who is in Piedmont visiting relatives. Even though Ambrose and the cops are waiting for him, Ashe manages to slip away—without the diamond—and seeks refuge in a nearby home, which turns out to belong to Mrs. Stetheril’s grand-niece, Evelyn Daly. Passing himself off as an amateur detective on the trail of Ladyfingers, he soon makes the acquaintance of Justin Haddon, Mrs. Stetheril’s attorney, who immediately recognizes him. Instead of turning him in to the police, however, Haddon offers to make Ashe his private secretary—if he keeps his mouth shut. Haddon has plans of his own that require the services of a safe-cracker. The action then shifts to “Lockworth Valley” (some distance from San Francisco, but still within a brief train ride away), where Ashe—calling himself Mr. Steele—is quickly made private secretary to Mrs. Stetheril herself. The remainder of the story takes place in and around the Stetheril mansion in Lockworth. Ashe meets and falls in love with a local girl named Enid Camden and begins to regret his earlier career choices. But, escaping his past isn’t as easy as eluding the police. Haddon and Lt. Ambrose have other plans for him and an innocent girl’s opinion, family secrets, and a bogus murder charge mean that redemption can only come at a high price.
Setting: San Francisco; Piedmont; “Lockworth” (Northern California)
Baird & Greenwood 961