Hello, and welcome to my 2022 A to Z Challenge! For a detailed explanation of my theme this year, see my theme reveal. But basically, I am exploring classic mystery novel murder motives, by making up a victim (Sir Adam Bracegirdle Clutterbuck) and then coming up with 26 characters who wanted to kill him. It is part genre exploration and part world-building exercise.
Miss Marple is among the many Golden Age British detectives who are always reminding us that the most likely person to have committed a murder is that person’s spouse. So I will start this year’s A to Z by looking at Sir A.B.C.’s spouse, Annabelle. Annabelle may well have killed her husband.
Annabelle (properly, Lady Annabelle Clutterbuck) is Sir A.B.C.’s wife. She is younger than her husband, and rather lusciously attractive.
It was through Sir Adam’s younger brother Gregory that Annabelle met Sir Adam. In fact, she and Gregory were practically engaged at the time, though this was not yet generally known. But when Annabelle met the rich and titled Sir Adam, she threw Gregory over, and used all of her considerable feminine allure to capture Sir Adam for herself.
After she’d married Sir Adam, Annabelle was a little surprised at Gregory’s coldness to her. After all, she was only looking out for herself. Didn’t he understand that marriage to a relatively poor man would have been just soul-crushingly impossible for a woman like Annabelle, at least when there was a relatively rich man in the picture? Why wouldn’t he at least flirt—just a little, for old times’ sake—with her?
And she also couldn’t help noticing how very handsome Gregory was, and comparing him with her actual husband made Gregory look that much handsomer.
And lately Gregory has seemed to be actually paying court to Meghan, Annabelle’s little insignificant mouse of a companion. Annabelle has tried not to notice this, but the evidence has been building, rather. She keeps finding them together in odd places. On a seat in the rose garden that was certainly not designed to hold two people, for example. Or on overly-prolonged explorations of the priest’s hole, which is really not big enough to merit more than a glance. Or folded up together like linen in a closet. Not, of course, that she has been looking for them. That would be undignified.
And from these facts—Gregory’s coldness, his refusal to flirt, his provoking handsomeness, his courtship of Meghan, and his regular visits—Annabelle has formed a rather startling theory: Gregory is pining for her.
After all, Annabelle reasons, Gregory couldn’t possibly really love Meghan, and she can’t imagine anyone actively wanting to visit her husband. As for Gregory’s refusal to flirt with her—wounded pride, obviously, and being a gentleman. And his handsomeness—well, he’s obviously doing it on purpose. No-one crinkles their eyes like that just because that is how his face works. He is obviously being intentionally alluring. At her.
Annabelle may even believe (wildly incorrectly) that, were Sir Adam to die, Gregory would immediately propose marriage to her. Annabelle would very much like to have a rich, handsome Gregory as a husband.
Would she be willing to kill for it?
And that’s it for Annabelle. I suppose if I were to characterize Annabelle’s motives in general terms, I’d say she is motivated by a combination of lust and power: she wants Gregory, and she knows her power over him is fading away. What do you think? How would you characterize her?
I can’t think of any specific murder mystery with a character exactly like this in it, but I know I’ve seen pieces of this character in lots of stories. How about you, reader? Have you encountered an Annabelle before, in any mystery novel you’ve read?
Would Annabelle make a satisfying murderer in a book, or is she better as a red herring? Also, would she make an interesting second victim in a mystery novel, and, if she were the second victim, how would that change the story?