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 Sir Adam’s niece Hattie.
Hattie’s House of Hats. It has, Hattie feels, a ring to it. And there is, Hattie feels further, a destiny about the thing, an inevitability. Hattie should open a hat shop. The stars themselves cry out for this. And Hattie is very eager to do so– if only her lousy old uncle Adam would come across with the money she needs to start her business.
Hattie knows hats. She knows exactly what hats are wanted. Whenever she sees a new face, she has a vision of that face with its ideally suitable hat. She is an artist, and her medium is the humble hat. But when she came to Sir Adam for a loan—not a gift, just a loan, mind you—he started by talking about Hat Shops He Had Known That Had Failed, moved on to say some insupportable things about women in business, and ended by saying that he didn’t want any niece of his engaged in Trade.
If I were Hattie, I would positively loathe Sir Adam after that little chat. And, just possibly, I would loathe him enough to kill him…
And that’s it for Hattie! Not perhaps the most likely killer, you say? I agree with you, but just possibly there could be more going on under the surface. What kind of personality would Hattie have to have for you to believe that she would kill for her hat shop? Could a writer sell you this motive at all, and, if so, under what circumstances?
I confess I do not, personally, see Hattie as Victim Number Two in this mystery story. Do you? If so, why?
My first thought is to look at her relationship with Uncle Gregory. Hattie is clearly a highly motivated, courageous young woman who is willing to risk humiliation to ask for the help she needs to achieve her goal. I believe Sir Adam’s rejection will not kill her desire to bring her dream to life. She is an artist — a creative — after all. So if her relationship with Gregory is friendlier than the one she had with the loathsome Sir Adam, she might seriously consider bringing about his demise if it means his fortune would go to his brother.
My ignorance of the property rights of the time puts me at a disadvantage that I’m sure would be dispelled in the full telling of this tale. Who will Sir Adam’s fortune go to? His brother or his widow? I find as we go deeper into the suspects gallery, that question is pivotal.
Exactly! How do Hattie and Gregory get along? Another interesting question to which I have no specific answer is: who are Hattie’s parents? If she’s Sir Adam’s niece, and also Gregory’s niece, that means there is another brother or sister somewhere, or at least that such a person must once have existed. Hm…
As for the property rights question, I imagine that Sir Adam’s will is the decisive factor here, though, if the property is entailed, the property itself would go to Gregory.
Perhaps Hattie would feel positively compelled to murder Sir Adam if, when she looked at him, she envisioned his face beneath a Death Hat. Whatever that is. Some sort of top hat with swaths of black voile, perhaps? A skull cap? But unless we posit that Hattie’s gift has become a bit of a madness, I think she will find some other way to fund her dreams that does not involve murdering her uncle. Because the sweetest revenge would be for him to be So Sorry when she becomes milliner to the Royal Family, replete with Honours of every sort. Meanwhile, perhaps she can assist the amateur sleuth by providing some vital hat-based clue.
Death Hat! That made me laugh so hard I choked. Myself, I picture the Death Hat as the top part of a skull (so, eyes and teeth, but no jaw) surmounted by a tasteful black velvet bow. Possibly tied on to the wearer’s head with a ribbon under the chin.
I like your version of Hattie’s character. I also like the idea of a hat-based clue.