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.
Today’s entry is Freddie’s Field—or the field that would be Freddie’s, if only Sir Adam would sell. He won’t, though. The deal was about to go through—Sir Adam’s pen hovered over the contract, dripping slightly down onto the line he was about to sign—when Freddie incautiously revealed why he wanted to buy Sir Adam’s field so particularly.
Freddie lives in a big old ancestral mansion to the west of Clutterbuck Court (where Sir Adam resides). And Freddie is tired of it all. He is tired of the big old house, which he cannot afford to maintain and which as a consequence grows shabbier by the day. He is tired of trying to farm his nutrient-starved lands. And he is just possibly also tired of the torrid affair his wife Josephine is carrying on with neighbor Sir Adam (if he knows about that).
Anyway, for lots of reasons, Freddie wants to move to a nice, convenient, modern flat in London. He’s wanted it for years, only he hadn’t found anyone to buy his old rat-trap. Until now. Just lately, he got an excellent offer for his place from some people who want it for a school. The only problem is, they needed a decent bit of the neighboring fields, too, or the deal was no go.
Sir Adam, having no use for the fields in question, was on the point of selling. Freddie was almost giddy with delight. He watched the pen moving ever closer to the agreement of sale. It seemed to shine at him. And then he opened his big mouth. In a burst of confidence, he told Sir Adam just what the sale would mean to him.
Sir Adam, hearing that his neighbor’s house would be turned into a school if he sold his land, quietly recapped the pen and tore up the contract. He is not a fan, he explained, of horrid small boys running all over the place.
Since then, the neighbors have been bitter enemies. Freddie feels thwarted, and he also feels trapped. This wonderful opportunity to sell his rambling old mansion is slipping away. There may never be another buyer. And, as I have said, he also might want to get his wife Josephine away from Sir Adam–the very man who is standing in the way of the sale.
There have been some quite public quarrels between the two men, since the day the deal fell through. Freddie can’t even look at Sir Adam without shouting something at him. His face flames red with anger at the very thought of the man. He has stopped using his morning room, because he can see Clutterbuck Court from one of the windows, and that is bad for his health. Besides, the room is in really disgraceful condition anyway. And that combination–the paint peeling around the window that frames the view of Clutterbuck Court–is just about the limit.
And, of course, if Sir Adam’s brother Gregory were to inherit the property, Gregory would probably be willing to sell that field.
The deal could still go through.
If only Sir Adam were to die.
And that’s it for Freddie! He seems to have a nice little packet of motives: the property dispute, the subsequent quarrel, and the affair. In fact, the only problem I can see with Freddie as the killer is that he has publicly quarreled with Sir Adam. Not smart, and usually people who publicly quarrel with people in books are innocent of their murder, because they land in the “too obvious” category.
Indeed, the only way I can see this one working is if Freddie is initially suspected of the killing because of the whole public-quarrel-with-victim thing, and then gets dismissed as the killer, because his motive doesn’t seem strong enough… but then it actually turns out that he is actually motivated by the affair, which he has just learned about. Or something like that.
What do you think? Can Freddie’s story be presented such that he is a satisfying murderer? Would he make an interesting second victim? If he is the second victim, how does that alter your suspicions?