***2023 NOTE: Hi! I’m leaving this post up so you can see the process, here, of how these characters were developed. However, for the purposes of my 2023 A to Z, this post is irrelevant. Sue Ranscht’s comment below is the basis for my new concept of Quinton’s character. His background is now this (forgive the short summary, here, maybe I’ll come back later and expand it): Quinton is gay. Sir Adam has photographs of Quinton and his lover Philip in a very compromising position. As homosexual acts were illegal at the time, that was a very potent threat. Sir Adam used these pictures to blackmail Quinton into paying court to his daughter Ingrid. Thanks Sue!***
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 the Hon. Quinton Feldspar. I mentioned him in this post; he is the man Sir Adam would like his daughter Ingrid to marry. Ingrid strongly disagrees. Still, Quinton has been given the run of the house; he must have had many opportunities to poison Sir Adam’s whiskey…
…and I cannot think of a single really good reason why Quinton would want to kill Sir Adam. Sir Adam is, after all, working pretty hard on Quinton’s behalf. Not only is Ingrid quite a pretty girl, she will be (if she makes what Sir Adam views as the correct marriage) quite a wealthy girl, after Sir Adam’s death. Anyway, we can assume that Quinton does want to marry Ingrid, possibly for her personal charms, or possibly for her money. Or possibly for both of these reasons.
Now, Quinton might quite reasonably think of killing Sir Adam after he marries Ingrid, but it seems a bit premature to do it beforehand. But maybe he is so terribly confident that Ingrid will eventually agree to marry him that it occurs to him that it would be clever to deflect suspicion from himself by killing Sir Adam before he appears to have a motive to do so.
Or maybe Quinton is really very keen on marrying Ingrid, but has noticed that Sir Adam’s advocacy is doing the opposite of helping his suit.
Or maybe Quinton and Sir Adam have a disgraceful secret in common (perhaps some co-operative blackmailing scheme), and Quinton, under the influence of Ingrid’s purer, better nature, has become sick to death of the whole business.
Or maybe Quinton doesn’t really wish to marry Ingrid at all. Maybe he is himself being blackmailed into courting Ingrid by the almost impossibly wicked Sir Adam.
I feel sort of underwhelmed by all of these ideas. So, probably, would the investigators. But let us make Quinton a little more suspicious here. Let’s say that he was seen coming out of Sir Adam’s study shortly before Sir Adam’s death, and that he doesn’t really have a good explanation about why he was in there. “I wanted to see what the jolly old study looked like, don’t you know” is the explanation he gives, with an appearance of almost supernatural innocence upon his not-very-intelligent-looking face.
And that’s it for Quinton! I present him to you as a challenge! Can you think of a motive for him? Let me know in the comments!
Or, as always, feel free to just say hi!
Suppose the Hon. Quinton Feldspar was the sole remaining descendent of a long line of highly respected and fabulously wealthy shipping magnates. Sir Adam has long coveted the idea of marrying their old money to his own. The first time he invited Quinton to join him for an evening whiskey, he brought the conversation round to suggest young Quinton might just be the perfect match for his daughter, Ingrid. Quinton politely and skillfully deflected the conversation. Sir Adam was perplexed and confused — that was not the response he had anticipated.
Then, one Sunday afternoon some weeks later, Sir Adam witnessed an encounter at the Turkish Baths. The two men he saw engaged in activities that were both shocking and undeniable, were recognizable even through the thick steam they mistakenly believed had granted them anonymity. One of them was Quinton. Both of them became victims of Sir Adam’s blackmail.
Now Quinton is compelled to court Ingrid, who loves another. Worse, he would be willing to brave Sir Adam’s exposure but for the harm that would befall his own true love. His growing distress has driven him to take advantage of having the run of Sir Adam’s estate to visit the study often when Sir Adam is away, looking for any little bit of evidence he might be able to turn against the awful Sir Adam to free himself from this hell.
Fate finally smiles on him. He finds a draft of the invitation Sir Adam is extending to Polly. It not only accuses her of authoring the poison pen letters that have been rumored throughout the community, but congratulates her for performing such a heinous, yet valuable service. He goes on to suggest he might offer her two new victims in exchange for exonerating him. Her refusal will result in her own exposure as the poison pen letters’ author. Her service will no longer be viable and her reputation will be ruined.
Quinton recognizes Sir Adam’s offer as his plan to increase his pressure on Quinton to marry Ingrid. It would mean the devastation of three lives — his lover’s, his own, and Ingrid’s, who really is such a lovely young person, but simply not his type.
What choice does he have, but to stop Sir Adam?
Brilliant! Let’s go with this idea. Thanks so much for taking the time to really construct this. I will see if I can work it in somewhere.
I really like the complexity and nuance here. You’ve transformed Quinton totally. I was seeing him as a nuisance for Ingrid merely, but you’ve added a whole story to account for his behavior, and have managed to make him into a sympathetic character in a very difficult position.
Thank you so much! I am honored to be able to contribute.
P.S. You might wonder why Sir Adam would still want Quinton to marry Ingrid, knowing he is not bent that way. The answer is simple: Sir Adam firmly believes that regardless of desire, a man with the proper equipment is capable of performing in such a way that the family line will continue on.
And he would have the famous precedent of Oscar Wilde (who had a wife and kids) to model his expectations on… and I can’t really see Sir Adam caring about forcing the two into a loveless marriage. He probably wouldn’t even really notice that some marriages weren’t loveless.
I assume Sir Adam believes that all marriages are loveless. It’s a matter of duty and the done thing. In the words of Tina Turner, “What’s love got to do with it?”
Okay, I quite like Sue’s theory.
If I have to come up with a different theory, however, I’m going to consider the possibility that Quinton really is just the most incredibly witless twit, and that he has been inveigled into replacing Sir Adam’s whiskey by some brainy schemer, who has convinced the poor idiot that the new bottle is even better stuff that Sir Adam will absolutely love… Why, when accusations about poisoned whiskey begin to fly, this cat’s paw doesn’t pipe up with the fact that X gave him the poisoned bottle, I cannot adequately explain (making me, apparently, no cleverer than he). But I imagine it must be some hopelessly convoluted logic involving some sort of misplaced chivalry and a debilitating fear of fierce aunts.
That’s the best I’ve got.
Why does Quinton the Witless Wonder fail to give up the culprit who gave him the bottle of poisoned whiskey that killed Sir Adam? Because he’s too busy trying to figure out how he’s going to retrieve the bottle from Polly, to whom he gave it as an inducement to leave his name off her poison pen letter list, lol.
Yeah, Sue’s theory is impressive! I am adding it to this story’s canon. But your alternative is attractive as well. It involves the fear of aunts, which adds a gorgeously Wodehousian (if that is a word) note to the story.
And I have to just pause here and note that I am really really grateful to you both, for taking the trouble to contribute your ideas to this A to Z.