Howard Pease. Thunderbolt House (1944) 287 pp. [juvenile/bibliomystery]
In 1905, Jud Allen’s mother inherits a mansion at Bush and Leavenworth in San Francisco from her late uncle, Edward “Old Thunderbolt” Judson. Suddenly wealthy, the family moves from Stockton to Nob Hill and begins a new life there. Jud, who was bequeathed Edward’s library, develops an interest in book collecting, rare editions, and early California history. Then, several mysterious things start to happen. Someone starts breaking into the house and stealing books and Jud discovers that one of his books, a history of San Francisco pioneers, has several pages missing—pages that deal with Edward’s notorious past. He searches the city for a complete copy of the book only to find that all copies have been mutilated in the same way. The search eventually leads to the widow and daughter of the book’s author, Gideon Haight, who have had to survive by running a boarding house in the Mission district because Edward ruined Haight financially. The Haight women also know the secret behind the death of Edward’s son, who was killed in the house during his coming-of-age party. After all of the mysteries are solved, the Great Earthquake strikes. Although Thunderbolt House is spared from the quake and subsequent fires, the house is dynamited by the military in order to create a fire break and the Allen family makes plans to return to Stockton. (Editor’s note: Published in paperback as Mystery at Thunderbolt House.)
Setting: San Francisco (Nob Hill)