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.
I see Ollie more as a red herring but her certainly has motive and probably opportunity
Yes, I agree, I think. I don’t think I’d find Ollie a convincing or satisfying murderer in a book. Unless the writer gave him just the right personality, that is.
I could maybe see Ollie as a hot-blooded murderer punching Sir Adam in the nose and having him accidentally fall back against the corner of the fender. (Fenders, by the way, seem to be just about the most dangerous thing in your average Victorian or Golden Age home.) But I don’t see Ollie as a cold-booded poisoner. However, he is a very likely subsequent victim if the murderer is anyone motivated by the money or the estate in any way.
Fenders are the worst! All well-regulated homes should have protective pillows stapled to these dangerous objects, to prevent people who are in friendly tussles breaking their heads open upon them. Then there would be no more, “oh no, I have accidentally killed him!! No-one will ever believe I didn’t mean it! I must immediately bury the body under the floor of the cellar!” Not only would fender-pillows prevent unnecessary deaths in this way, they would also lead to more hygienic cellars.
I also don’t see Ollie as the poisoner type. You make an interesting case for him as second victim. Because he may not exactly mean to create legal difficulties about the inheritance of the property, but his very existence is a potential legal difficulty waiting to happen. Hm…
What a clever theme! You come up with such engaging ideas. Ollie strikes me as too pleasant a fellow for poisoning, but I haven’t read all of your posts. I shall certainly do so!
Thanks Lillian! 🙂
Yeah, Ollie probably didn’t do it. He does seem a little too mild-mannered for murder.
Ollie seems like a red herring who should end up with his happily ever after for his son. He seems like something of a feel good character to me. I could see him being the murderer on impulse, but not planning it with poison.
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I agree. I, too, would like Ollie’s story to end happily. So, that probably means he didn’t do it. And the planned aspect of this murder is definitely a pointer. Some people are really unlikely to do that.
These have been a lot of fun. I have to admit I want to wait till they are all done to read through them all at once. Not very A to Z Blogging friendly of me I know.
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Thanks! Glad you like it! And I get waiting. And anyway, as the world’s worst A to Z slacker, I am in no position to criticize. I do try to keep up with blog-visiting (especially since there are so many absolutely fascinating themes every year), but I always fall behind.
Are we to assume Everard Clutterbuck was not married to the woman with whom he fathered Adam and Gregory? What is the story about Sir Adam’s (and Gregory’s) mother? Surely everyone for miles around would have been aware of a marriage between Everard and the woman who birthed two Clutterbucks, whom you are now suggesting lived in sin for all to see. Where is Ollie in the Clutterbuck birth order? Would a secret marriage de-legitimize a known marriage even if it were the first marriage, but there was no proof of it?
Perhaps Ollie is merely the half-brother to the also legitimate sons, Sir Adam and Gregory.
Either way, Ollie’s nose not withstanding, it is unfortunate that DNA was not available evidence at the time. I agree he is not a good suspect, and he really is too decent to become a second victim. All I can do is hope his innocence is confirmed and Gregory welcomes him as his blood brother so Gregory’s half-nephew may come into the inheritance he deserves.
(Also, I accept your placement of both the study and at least one source of poison.) I’m sure you know that poison is commonly a woman’s weapon. Of course, anyone might obtain it from a grounds keeper’s stores, where it is kept to manage the rodent population of the estate. Maybe someone who also lives there — like Josephine perhaps.
Hey Sue! So, I guess what I was thinking is that Ollie’s mother and Everard got married in secret, probably when they were both pretty young, and that that marriage was never officially dissolved. Therefore, when Everard got married again, to the mother of Sir Adam and of Gregory, he was committing bigamy. That would make Sir Adam and Gregory illegitimate… unless wicked Everard tricked Ollie’s mother into thinking they were getting married, in order to have his wicked way with her, but never actually legally tied that knot… in which case, Sir Adam and Gregory would be legitimate.
And your point about proof is a good one. Even if they did really get married, without proof of that, Ollie has no way of making a claim.
And yes, the grounds keeper’s shed would be a good source of poison, and probably fairly universally accessible.