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 Ravi. Many years ago, Ravi and Sir Adam (only he wasn’t a “Sir” then) were up at Oxford together, working on the great scientific enigma known as the Fernissimus-Timpanum Problem. Then, suddenly, Adam published his famous paper “A Total Solution of the Fernissimus-Timpanum Problem, Solved Exclusively By Me, Adam Bracegirdle Clutterbuck.”
Now, the true story of that momentous discovery shall be revealed!
Ravi and Adam were, as I have said, up at Oxford together. Ravi and Adam were, in fact, lab partners, working away at a great scientific mystery that their professors did not really expect them to solve. It was an exercise they put to all their students, to see what they came up with and what methods they used to approach the problem.
Adam’s role in this work was mainly holding test tubes and staying out of the way. Occasionally, he would make a suggestion, to which Ravi would listen politely. Adam’s suggestions were always good for a laugh, and were occasionally even instructive. It helped Ravi to hear Adam’s wrongheaded ideas on the subject. They occasionally suggested, quite by chance, a fertile line of inquiry for Ravi to pursue.
And then, wonderfully, Ravi solved it. He actually solved it. He could barely believe it at first. He tested the thing. He re-tested it. Yes, he’d done it. A scientific mystery was now a mystery no longer, thanks to Ravi. He prepared to publish. The draft of his paper was nearly ready to be sent out to the great scientific journals… when his father died, and Ravi had to go home to India. He was away longer than he had expected, and when he returned to Oxford, Adam had published Ravi’s paper. Only, of course, Adam put his own name on it. He’d been knighted for his great discovery, and was now strutting around the world as “Sir Adam Bracegirdle Clutterbuck.”
In order to do this, Adam had actually gone into Ravi’s rooms at Oxford and rifled through his private papers, taking most of them away with him. All of Ravi’s research notes were gone, along with his draft of the paper.
Ravi tried, briefly, to reveal “Sir” Adam’s duplicity. It didn’t go well. The man had already been knighted. That seemed to make the thing irrevocably official. After a time, Ravi went back to his research. He has been researching ever since.
And now, he wants his notes back from Sir Adam. Not credit, not fame, not even an apology–just the research notes that Sir Adam stole from him all those years ago. You see, Ravi has come up against a real stumper of an equation in his current line of research–and he knows that, all those years ago, he solved something very like it, on his way to the solution of the Fernissimus-Timpanum Problem. It had been a sideline, then, and hadn’t received a mention in his paper. But now–well, he’d like those notes back, badly.
He wrote to Sir Adam, but received no reply. Undeterred, Ravi traveled to Sir Adam’s village. A day before Sir Adam’s death, he and Ravi had a stormy interview in Sir Adam’s study. Sir Adam denied the existence of Ravi’s notes, and affected not to know who Ravi was. He did all of this quite loudly. Many people in the household heard him… and they heard Ravi’s reply, which was intemperate, to say the least. Did he specifically threaten to kill Sir Adam? Opinion is divided on this point. But everyone agrees that he was, by the time he left, a very angry man.
Could Ravi have killed Sir Adam, in revenge for his stolen research, and in the hopes that Sir Adam’s executors would be more reasonable about those papers than Sir Adam has been?
And that’s it for Ravi! What do you think, readers? Would Ravi make a good murderer in a book, or is he better as a red herring? Would he make a good second victim or not? If so, why? If not, what should happen next? Personally, I’d like Ravi to get the credit he has for so long deserved… or perhaps he could scorn to claim credit, now it has been stolen for so long, and simply say that he has other, greater scientific achievements ahead of him.
Let me know what you think in the comments! Or, as always, feel free to just say hi!
Although I am rooting for Ravi to get at the very least his notes, and hopefully some recognition, I am sorry to say that I do see him as a possible murderer — at least, I could easily see him coming back and breaking into Sir Adam’s study to search for his papers, being interrupted, and murdering impulsively. However, the poisoned whisky seems less likely. I think Ravi is, however intemperate under provocation, an extremely rational and intelligent man, and if he premeditates he will quickly conclude that murdering Sir Adam provides little hope of gain. So the question is whether he is the sort to resort to cold-blooded revenge for his own private satisfaction. It’s not impossible. But I’m inclined to think that he’s too consumed with his ongoing research to bother with mere tangential revenge.
Given the widely-overheard row and a generous dollop of racism, however, I think he could well be a frame-ee. There’s also the possibility of one of Sir Adam’s potential heirs murdering Ravi to prevent any diminishment of Sir Adam’s fame, acclaim, and possibly fortune.
I agree with this. I, too, could see Ravi burgling Clutterbuck Court for his papers (which he would feel was quite a justified action in the circumstances) and then getting interrupted. But yeah, I also don’t see him slipping poison in the whiskey. I picture him as a dreamy scholar type, slightly unworldly, who wouldn’t kill for revenge. And he probably feels that he will eventually solve that pesky equation, even without his notes…
And yes, his race would definitely make him vulnerable to being framed or accused of the murder. Also, as a stranger to the village, the local police, at least, would be more comfortable arresting him for the crime than, say, Freddie the land-owner next door. In all, his position is dangerous. And, as he is an intelligent man who would realize all of this ahead of time, he is extra-unlikely to have committed this premeditated murder.
Taking credit for himself should be reason enough to kill him off!
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I agree! Sir Adam is a horrible man (I’ve had to make him horrible, because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to think of 26 people who wanted to murder him!), and there are lots of excellent (and understandable) reasons for people to want to kill him.
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I can understand Ravi’s anger. He was cheated of a knighthood, although the history of British colonialism in India may have viewed that distinction as a blight rather than an honor. But he was also cheated of the respect of his scientific community by Adam’s disreputable and dishonest behavior. (How was he never outed as a fraud by fellow mathematicians? Was he never asked to explain his findings? It did seem his understanding would have been spotty at best.)
However that may be, Ravi’s angry behavior where others in Sir Adam’s household could hear might make him out to be a prime suspect. As for the possibility of regaining possession of his papers when Sir Adam’s estate is settled seems to me to rest on the naive belief that Sir Adam did not destroy them. Why would he have kept them? The paper was already published, he no longer needed the research or draft, and, as one presumes the notes were handwritten, they would have been direct evidence of Sir Adam’s theft. So, while Ravi may be considered a prime suspect for a while, I think stronger evidence will be uncovered by out amateur sleuth that will point in a different direction.
Yes, I imagine Ravi’s views on knighthoods might well be complicated, to say the least! As for your point about why Sir Adam was never caught, I think the fact that he seems to have left Oxford and the world of scientific research as soon as he published “his” paper may have had something to do with it.
I, too, feel that Ravi would start out as a suspect, but then be eliminated after a little further consideration. And your point about the notes is a good one–Sir Adam may well not have kept them. Or, then again, he might have, to refer to if anyone got really persistently nosy about the specifics. A sort of cheat-sheet. Or maybe he could have copied them out in his own handwriting and destroyed Ravi’s original notes? That would be sneaky.
That would be right up Sir Adam’s alley, wouldn’t it? lol
I think Ravi waited so long to confront Sir Adam that he is unlikely to have committed an unpremeditated murder. But wasn’t the murder by poison so maybe not unpremiditated … However, since he had not confronted Adam earlier I think a gentle soul who just wanted to research and so not a murderer.