Uncle Ulric’s Umbrage #AtoZChallenge 2022 Murder Motives

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 Uncle Ulric.

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Ulric is Sir Adam’s uncle (and Gregory’s… and, I suppose, Ollie’s, if the rumors are true, though Ulric is unlikely to recognize the relationship). When Ulric’s brother Everard died, Ulric immediately arrived at Clutterbuck Court, bumptiously assuming that he would now inherit it. The fact that the property actually went to Everard’s son Sir Adam both baffled and disgusted Ulric. In fact, he didn’t believe a word of it.  Ulric had always assumed that he would take over when his brother went, and viewed “the boys” as perpetual whipper-snappers who would never be really old enough to run their own lives.

So Uncle Ulric stayed put, contradicting every order Sir Adam gave to the servants, barking and snarling at everyone, and generally sowing confusion and despair.

It was when Ulric dismissed the butler that Sir Adam finally snapped. He told Ulric to get out; Ulric refused to go. Eventually, and sarcastically, Sir Adam offered Ulric the worm-eaten and tumbledown Elizabethan wing of the house as his domain. Ulric immediately closed with the offer, and has been living there, with the death-watch beetles and the lack of plumbing and the drafts and the other inconveniences, ever since.

He has his own butler, cook, and valet, all of whom he must pay pretty lavishly to get them to stay on in these almost impossible conditions. In fact, in the corroding halls of the Elizabethan wing of Clutterbuck Court, there is a whole shadow-household, living somehow in the crumbling walls and avoiding being crushed by falling ceilings. Occasionally, Uncle Ulric emerges from his wing to join his “loving family” for a meal. These are always stormy and unpleasant.

Could this bizarre state of hostility have somehow resulted in Sir Adam’s murder?

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And that’s it for Uncle Ulric! What do you think of him as a murderer? I think that he certainly hates Sir Adam enough to kill him, and he would have access to the whiskey in the study. And, just possibly, Ulric has noticed that a whole lot of other people who want Sir Adam dead are conveniently in the offing, and so he is taking this opportunity to finally do his insufferable nephew in. Anyway, that is the best reason I can construct for why Uncle Ulric would strike at just this moment.

But is he a satisfying murderer, or does he make a better red herring? Can you see him as a second victim? Let me know in the comments! Or, as always, feel free to just say hi!

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4 Comments

  1. To be honest, every time I think of any of these suspects as a second victim, I always find their most likely killer is Sir Adam.

    But I don’t believe Uncle Ulric would be either murderer or second victim — though it might fulfill a reader craving if he were to die of something like a heart attack. Probably, he sees Gregory as a softer touch than Sir Adam, and perhaps he foresees his little Elizabethan wing domaine growing to the entirety of Clutterbuck Court when Sir Adam dies. After all, he managed to live there all these years by just refusing to leave. Anyone that cantankerous doesn’t need to kill to get at least part of what he wants.

    • I see what you mean about the second-victim thing–lots of these potential killers are in a relationship with Sir Adam that might just as easily result in him killing them!

      And you are right; he is adhesively cantankerous enough to get what he wants without committing murder.

  2. I don’t see Ulric as being terribly intelligent, and thus I don’t see him cleverly choosing just the right moment when maximum other suspects will clutter up any investigation into his murder of his nephew. I see him as a big, stubborn, stupid bully with a bee in his bonnet. What if Sir Adam intended to poison Uncle Ulric, and then got confused and drank the poisoned whiskey himself by mistake?

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