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 suspect is Gregory Clutterbuck. This entry is going to be fairly short,* because I have touched on Gregory’s situation before, and because it is probably going to come up again. So more details will be filled in as the A to Z progresses.
Gregory is Sir Adam’s young, handsome brother. He will inherit the property and a decent amount of money if his brother dies, but that actually doesn’t matter too much to Gregory. He is doing damned well for himself in the City these days. The estate would be, in fact, a bit of an encumbrance.
No, his motive for killing his brother is altogether more personal. You see, Gregory wants to marry Meghan, Sir Adam’s wife’s companion. And, for reasons that she won’t explain, Meghan says she can’t marry him without Sir Adam’s consent, which he will not give. And Gregory is desperate to marry Meghan, not only because he loves her, but also because he feels that she is being horribly mistreated in her current situation. Her position in the house is neither that of a servant nor that of a member of the family. She is, in fact, a distant cousin, a “poor relation,” not trained for any place in the world, who is utterly dependent on Sir Adam for her very existence. She is not paid for her services, so she can’t even save her money for an eventual independence. No, that would be inconvenient. That would mean Annabelle would have to find a new companion, and start all over with the whole bullying-into-subjection thing. So they don’t pay her. They feed her, give her a modest room to inhabit, and supply a meager dress allowance, on which she is expected to dress like a lady.
But why do I call Gregory’s motive “gallantry”? Surely, it couldn’t possibly be because I was stuck for a G? Actually, yes, that is exactly why. But now I’ve used the word, let’s make it part of the story. So, Gregory is in love with Meghan, but he never would have fallen for her if Sir Adam and his wife Annabelle didn’t treat her so badly. Part of his love for Meghan is tied up with an idea of himself, rescuing her from an intolerable situation. She is his princess, and Clutterbuck Court is the tower in which she is immured.
Would Gregory murder Sir Adam to marry Meghan?
And that’s it for Gregory! What do you think of his suitability as a murderer? Personally, I can kind of see it. Gregory and Meghan could be the second romantic leads, and this itself could nicely deflect the suspicions of the readers until the dramatic ending.
So I can see him, maybe, as a murderer, especially if his romance with Meghan turns out to be mostly based on knight-in-shining-armor-style fantasy. It might start, ever so subtly, to unravel over the course of the story, until by the end, the reader is almost relieved that Gregory is the murderer, just because it solves a tricky emotional problem for Meghan (about whom I will write more anon).
But I don’t really see Gregory as the second victim. Can you work out some way to make that plausible? If Gregory were the second victim in a story, how would that shift your suspicions?
*Update: actually, it’s not that short. It started out short. I guess everything basically does that, though, so… yeah. Maybe not actually that remarkable.
Hmmm… Does Sir Adam’s estate go to Gregory or the widow upon Sir Adam’s death? If it goes to Gregory and then he’s the second victim, would it go to Annabelle? If so, it looks worse and worse for Annabelle. Or would it then go to Ingrid?
But suppose Annabelle has the misfortune of becoming the third victim. Would the estate go to Ingrid? In which case, it looks worse and worse for Ingrid’s mother. Why would she kill Gregory except to establish the diminishing line of succession leads directly to her daughter.
If the estate would go to Annabelle upon Sir Adam’s demise, perhaps she would be the second victim, making it look bad for Gregory, who might then be the third victim if the estate would then go to Ingrid.
Or are there multiple murderers?
Ooh, it does look worse and worse for Annabelle. And! Maybe there are multiple murderers, or one murderer (Annabelle, in this case) who is motivated to kill by different things. Like, she kills her husband to get Gregory, then when Gregory is clearly repelled by her, she kills Gregory because if she can’t have him, no-one can!
I like the idea of Gregory representing the Love Interest that turns out not to be so good after all, so that Ingrid and Eli and remain the perfect couple. Plus, if we really do like Meghan, we can find her someone else eventually, that will be a delightful surprise. But I’m not sure that means Gregory is the murderer or another victim. The real question on subsequent victimage is who inherits when both brothers are gone?
Yes, I also like the idea of the less-pleasing romance, to contrast with and to some extent balance out the Ingrid-Eli romance.
It is an interesting point: will we like Meghan or not? I’m not sure, yet, how sympathetic to make her (in, presumably, my M post).
Yes! Good idea. Gregory could the second victim, not the murderer, and thus Meghan is still saved from a less-than-satisfactory romance that way. Of course, I guess she could also just dump the guy… but maybe it is one of those things where she just assumes it will be okay once they are actually married, and only after Gregory dies does she realize that she is massively relieved. She could then discover the necessary strength to stand on her own… and maybe if she found that treasure chest in Cecil’s basement she’d also discover the necessary money to do so.
I haven’t quite worked out all the details of the inheritance post-Gregory, but I am open to suggestions!