They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but what about its title? A good title can instantly pique your interest, give you a clue about the story or set the tone for the book. However, there are also a few books with riveting stories lurking behind a rather unassuming title. While not outright misleading, these book titles don’t exactly capture the imagination or create any type of expectation for their stories. Unfortunately, this also means that often these books are overlooked, especially in the mystery/detective genre where readers are looking for suspense or excitement. To avoid missing out on some good stories simply due to their titles, have a look at the following free books that are much better than their rather mundane titles might suggest.
by Arthur Conan Doyle
While it might not be obvious from the rather unassuming title, The Adventure of the Cardboard Box is actually a Sherlock Holmes short story. At only 33 pages it is a brisk read, but one that all fans of the famous super sleuth will enjoy. The contents of the cardboard box in the title is actually quite grisly and sends the famous detective off on a riveting quest to track down the sender. The story was originally published in 1892 in The Strand Magazine, but has lost none of its intrigue or charm over the years and is still well worth the read.
by Caroll John Daly
The title might sound like something out of a children’s novel, but The Giant Has Fleas is actually a short story by Carroll John Daly that was first published in 1947. The author should be familiar to fans of the genre as he is frequently credited with the creation of the first hard-boiled story after The False Burton Combs was published in Black Mask Magazine. The Giant Has Fleas is from later in his career, but contains the same hard-boiled elements and features a police detective facing off against a gangster who is very connected.
by Jacques Futrelle
Instead of being a steamy romance, My Lady’s Garter is actually a crime mystery, although it does feature some romance too. It is not as dark and hard-boiled as other entries in the genre, but still offers an entertaining read for those who enjoy a good mystery. The plot focuses on the disappearance of a jeweled garter from a museum and the ensuing investigation. What makes this book even more notable is the fact that it was written by Jacques Heath Futrelle, an American mystery writer who died when the RMS Titanic sank.
by Louis Tracy
Although the title conjures up images of a bored girl waiting for a hero to whisk her away from the drudgery and boredom of the post office, The Postmaster’s Daughter, this is quickly dispelled when early in the story the body of a bound woman is dragged from a river. Suspicion falls on a writer, who had a bit of history with the murdered woman. The women from the title of the book, Doris Martin, lives across the river from the writer and actually spent time stargazing with him on the evening of the murder. The solve the mystery of who committed the murder a pair of Scotland Yard detectives shows up, which results in quite a riveting tale.
by E. Phillips Oppenheim (Anthony Partridge)
The Yellow Crayon is the work of Edward Phillips Oppenheim, an English novelist who wrote more than 100 novels over his career. While the title makes it sound like something aimed at younger readers, Oppenheim specialized in genre fiction, including thrillers and this 1903 novel is no exception. The “yellow crayon” referred to in the title is actually a secret society with members who must obey orders given to them in yellow. The protagonist of this tale has a run in with this order when he is called out of retirement to try and find his missing wife.