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 Ollie. Could he be Sir Adam’s brother? If so, which one of them is the true owner of Clutterbuck Court?
Ollie is the head gamekeeper at Clutterbuck Court. He was born in a humble cottage on the estate, and he has lived all of his life within its ambit. And he has the Clutterbuck nose. It is a very distinctive feature in the Clutterbuck family, and nearly all male Clutterbucks have it. So does Ollie. And that, of course, makes Ollie think, rather. He has no father of record. He asked his mother about the matter once, and got a fairly sharp reply and no information.
A month before our story opens, Ollie’s mother died. And as she was dying, she finally told Ollie the secret of his paternity. She told him that his father was Sir Everard Clutterbuck (who was also the father of Sir Adam and of Gregory). And she also said that she and Sir Everard were secretly married.
So, assuming that all of that is true, Ollie is the true owner of Clutterbuck Court, and Sir Adam is his illegitimate half-brother.
And Ollie isn’t at all sure what to do about it. He isn’t a naturally ambitious man, and he doesn’t especially want the duties that would come with ownership of Clutterbuck Court. But he does have a son (Ollie is a widower), and it would be nice to be able to offer him a position in the world.
About a week before Sir Adam’s death, Ollie broached the subject with his employer. He did it tactfully, thinking over each word and its implications before uttering it. He tried to make it clear that what he was doing was approaching the matter “in a brotherly way.” He didn’t want to challenge Sir Adam’s ownership of the property, whatever the rights of the matter might be. He just wanted his son to be acknowledged, to be given some of the privileges of a gentleman. An education, and a bit of money, and a few introductions. That sort of thing.
Sir Adam exploded. It may have been that phrase “in a brotherly way” that did it. He denied Ollie’s legitimacy. He denied the blood relationship. He even denied Ollie’s nose. In a towering rage, he sacked Ollie and ordered him off the property.
Fortunately for Ollie, Sir Adam died before Ollie’s banishment became official. And Gregory, Sir Adam’s younger brother (who will inherit Clutterbuck Court), is a decent sort, and very approachable.
Would Ollie kill to protect his way of life and to secure a better future for his son?
And that’s it for Ollie! Before I ask you to weigh in on Ollie’s guilt or innocence, I am going to commit to a few more facts, to make sure that Ollie isn’t ruled out by mere physical impossibilities. In my last post, I decided that Sir Adam died of poison, and that the poison was in the whiskey decanter in his study (unless, of course, there is a bit of a switcheroo there… one of those things where, though the whiskey decanter is just loaded with poison, the poison that killed Sir Adam came from some other source… but for now, let’s leave it that Sir Adam died of poison, and that the whiskey decanter in his study has poison in it).
Now, as Sue pointed out, this would seem to indicate that the killer is someone in Sir Adam’s household. And I agree that the probabilities would seem to lie that way. But I want to avoid narrowing the thing down too much at this point, and fortunately Anne’s comment gives us some helpful pointers here.* Let us assume an open window in the study. Let us further assume that the study looks out upon the rose garden, which would provide a good bit of cover for anyone sneaking into the house through said open window. Let us finally assume that Sir Adam’s habit of drinking a whiskey and soda before retiring for the night is pretty generally known. I think that, under these circumstances, we cannot rule Ollie out.
As always, then, the question before us is: would Ollie make a plausible and satisfying killer in a murder mystery? Is he better as a red herring? How would he be in the role of second victim? Let me know in the comments! Or, if you don’t want to weigh in on this point, feel free to just say hi!
*Both of these comments can be found here.