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 post is a bit different, because we’re going to look at the possibility that nobody killed Sir Adam. And let me just go ahead and admit that I was stuck for an N post, and that my dad came through with this, I think, fairly brilliant suggestion. Thanks Dad!
Sir Adam could have killed himself. After all, he was a dying man (according to Dr. Daniel). Even if the good doctor hadn’t told Sir Adam of his terminal condition at the time of Sir Adam’s death, Sir Adam may have suspected the truth. Perhaps he was more afraid of dying than of death itself. Some people are like that.
Of course, suicide is only really plausible in certain cases. If Sir Adam died via a stab in the back, suicide is slightly improbable. Which, you may argue, makes it actually more likely to be the case, as mystery novels have a tendency towards trickiness. Still, I think that at this point in my A to Z, it is time I made a commitment to the method used to kill Sir Adam. Let’s say he was poisoned. It was in the whiskey that was kept for his exclusive use in a decanter in his study. He regularly had a whiskey and soda at night before retiring, and he was so cheap that he marked the level of his whiskey every night, to make sure no-one sneaked any. Mistakes were therefore unlikely to occur (though not impossible), and poisoning the decanter was unlikely to result in the death of anyone but Sir Adam.
Or, of course, Sir Adam might have poisoned the decanter himself, to commit suicide in a way that would look like murder, and thus be optimally spiteful.
And that’s it for this post! What do you think? Is this ever a satisfying solution in a mystery novel? Is there a way you can see it being presented to you that wouldn’t leave you feeling cheated? Also! Now that I have committed to a specific method of murder, does that make you look at any of our suspects differently?
Let me know in the comments below! Or, if you want to be sociable but don’t feel like weighing in on this, feel free to just say hi!
To be clear, I don’t feel roped into coming up with possible plots and plot points. I feel DRIVEN! This is a deliciously engaging AtoZ Challenge. You’ve outdone yourself.
I would be highly disappointed if it turned out to be suicide. Of course if it isn’t, then the prime suspect would have to be someone with access to Sir Adam’s whiskey when Sir Adam isn’t there, so most of the people we’ve met so far are off the hook, right? Annabelle, Gregory, Ingrid (but only because she lives there), Josephine, Meghan, possibly Leonard (unless they customarily meet at Leonard’s office), and yet unnamed servants are the most likely suspects. Does Ingrid’s mother ever come to the house? Now that Freddie is out of the running, I like Ingrid’s mother best for the murder. She would have drunk a shot of whiskey and replaced it with a shot of poison.
I am really glad you are enjoying it! As you may have noticed in yesterday’s post, I am starting to incorporate suggestions into the narrative a bit.
Specifically, your comment here pointed out a dangerous possibility–that of a radical narrowing of the suspect pool–which I felt that I had to avoid, or else the rest of this A to Z would consist mainly of people who sort of obviously couldn’t have done it! But the probabilities do still remain as you have stated. The people with the most access to the whiskey decanter are more likely to have done it. Which, in murder mystery terms, probably means that they didn’t do it.
In fact, maybe the right way to handle the information, if this were in a book, would be to allow the detectives to assume that everyone who isn’t in the household is eliminated–but to make sure to include, in the description of the study, a bit about the open window and the tangled screen of roses beyond. Just so the audience is sort of prepared for it when the brilliant amateur detective dramatically points to the window and says, “ladies and gentlemen, that is how our killer got in.” Or something.
I would also be disappointed if it turned out to be suicide. I always hate that in books. It makes things fall flat.
I really, really like the idea of taking a shot of whiskey and replacing it with a shot of poison.
I think suicide is unlikely UNLESS it was, as you suggest, suicide with intent to frame someone else for his murder, and thus was actually not mere suicide but also attempted murder. And if the frame-ee were someone we like, then proving his or her innocence and finding that Sir Adam was guilty would feel satisfying, I think.
I’m not sure that anyone is ruled out. I feel like this is a relatively small community and anyone could have been in and out of the study on some pretext or other, and anyone could have known Sir Adam’s whiskey habits, either directly, or by hearing it commented on by a member of the household. Some people might have to work harder for a plausible inconspicuous reason to access the decanter, but I don’t think anyone is ruled out as an impossibility.
I think I’d still be disappointed if I were reading this story in a novel and I found out that Sir Adam wasn’t murdered, but had committed suicide in order to commit murder by judicial execution, but I probably wouldn’t throw the book across the room. And yes, if this revelation saved a likable character, it might even be satisfying. Especially if there is a second death in the book, and THAT one turns out to be a murder.
As you have already seen (Easter has thrown off my schedule a bit, and my replies are thus a bit delayed), I incorporated some of your comment into my “O” post. But! Re-reading your comment now, I sort of regret the open window. It might be better, in a story, to have the detectives slowly uncover all the people who were in that study alone, and all the myriad reasons they had for being there. Of course, that does mean that you get the usual improbable parade of suspects trooping through the crime scene at the approximate time of the murder, which happens a lot in mystery novels and sometimes feels a bit artificial. But the whole puzzle-like structure of a classic mystery novel is fairly artificial, and sometimes that is even part of the charm. Hm…
I’ve never read a murder mystery that ended up a suicide. Interesting concept.
Dena visiting from Operation Awesome
Hello Dena! Thanks! I will repay your visit anon! 🙂