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 going to be short. To be absolutely candid with you, my dear readers, I am ever so slightly hungover. Last night, Alec and I headed into Philadelphia to attend a celebration of the art of Aubrey Beardsley at The Rosenbach… and… let me merely say that the gathering was extremely convivial. So was the dinner we had afterwards. We don’t go into Philadelphia very often, nowadays, and when we do go, we tend to make an occasion of it.
Anyway, moving on steadily, in spite of all headaches, I will now confide to you that today’s suspect is Timothy.
A tontine is a bizarre financial arrangement that really seems to have been designed to encourage murder. A bunch of people pool a sum of money, which is held in trust for the group until there is only one member left alive. That member is then given all the money.
Years ago, Timothy and Sir Adam entered into a tontine arrangement with ten other young men. They did it almost as a joke, then, for every one of them had money to burn, and it seemed jolly to pool it in this way.
But now, Timothy and Sir Adam are the only two members of the tontine who are still alive (the ‘flu did for a good chunk of the other participants, and there were some random fatalities… if they were random, that is!), and Timothy has fallen on hard times.
A man who fits Timothy’s description was seen lurking in the rose garden of Clutterbuck Court around the time when Sir Adam’s whiskey is thought to have been poisoned. He was chased off by one of the gardeners.
Might Timothy have decided to eliminate Sir Adam in order to claim the tontine?
And that’s it for Timothy! What do you think of him as a suspect? Would he make a good murderer in a book, or is he more of a red herring? Can you work out a reason for him to be the second victim here? Feel free to weigh in on these points, or to just say hi, in the comments!
Oh, and I can’t mention tontines without giving a quick nod of recognition to The Wrong Box, a very funny book with a tontine at its center. It was written by Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne. For a free audiobook recording of the story, read by a very good volunteer reader, click here to go to the Librivox page.
I think Timothy seems a bit too obvious and incompetent to be taken seriously as a prime suspect. And if he ends up dead, I’m afraid the most likely cause will be his own clumsiness. Certainly the real murderer would see the value of keeping him alive to deflect suspicion from themselves.
ooh, clumsiness! Good! I like your vision of this character. And I agree, he might be quite valuable, as a Highly Suspicious Person.
I say Timothy has a very real and reasonable motive, but (going meta here), only if we have already seen much more of him in the story. For example, perhaps he’s the hiker who’s been staying at the local inn, whom we’ve encountered on a couple of occasions, and who has given testimony as to someone-or-other’s whereabout at some time or other. Or perhaps he’s the jolly old gent who’s been coming down to Clutterbuck to visit the cook or something. If he shows up out of nowhere with a thumping great motive then he must be a red herring, but if he has inveigled himself into the scene as just “one of the chaps who knew Adam and Cecil when they were all at school together”, then he’s probably quite likely. After all, not only is a tontine guaranteed to induce murder, but Timothy will also be smart enough to see that there will be any number of other suspects, given Sir Adam’s objectionable behavior. So EITHER Sir Adam doesn’t even recognize Timothy, OR… don’t you think there’s a decent possibility that Sir Adam is BLACKMAILING Timothy over the suspicious deaths of one or more of the other tontine members?
Exactly! He has to be established in the setting in the right way, or it is cheating to have him be the killer. And yes, I definitely do think it just possible that a little quiet BLACKMAIL is going on.