Zoe’s Zodiac #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.

And now, for the last suspect: Zoe.


Zoe is a fairly prominent society lady, or as prominent as society ladies get in the rural solitude of Clutterbuck Parva and its environs. Anyway, she’s County, and is one of the people who gets invited to things. Which is sometimes a bit awkward, because she is entirely preoccupied with Theories. She has Theories like other people have rashes; she tends to break out in a crop of them all at once, and it is very uncomfortable while it lasts.

Her latest obsession is the stars, specifically as they relate to and exert influence over human affairs. She has mercilessly cast the charts of everyone she knows, and has just as mercilessly told her victims all about themselves, as reflected in their charts. This wouldn’t be a problem, except for the whole-hearted way in which Zoe does everything. What the charts tell her, she will, for the moment, thoroughly believe. It will be replaced by some other organizing belief-system in a few months, but for now, the Zodiac is All, and all-sufficient.

So, at the moment, she also believes what the charts tell her about Sir Adam. She and Sir Adam are in a dramatic state of opposition. This opposition is epic and fundamental: their moons are in opposing and war-like constellations, and this means that between them there can be only enmity, strife, and a primal clash.

She also doesn’t like Sir Adam at all.

Might she have decided that his murder is written in the stars?


And that’s it for Zoe—and for my list of suspects! Do you think Zoe makes a reasonable suspect, or is she better as a red herring? Personally, I see her as just being the sort of eccentric filler-character that these stories often contain. But, of course, that would be a very good way to conceal the killer from the reader, by making the reader assume that a character is just there to add a bit of color and to pad the cast out.

And now, the big question!

Reader, which of the available suspects would make the most dramatic, effective, satisfying killer if you were reading this in a mystery novel? Do you have a preference—or several?

I am not going to promise not to disappear after this A to Z. I have promised not to do that in the past, and then I have done it anyway. But! I may not vanish this year—anything is possible—and at any rate, I will do at least two more entries before I do vanish. Sometime in the next week or two, I will write a reflection on this A to Z. And at some point this summer, I will write and post a dramatic drawing-room-type scene (“then it was you, Mr. So-and-so, who…” etc.) to sort of wrap this story up.

So, I really, really want to know who you think is the best killer! I may or may not go with your choices, but I will try to do so. In fact, I only won’t go with at least one of your suggestions if I can’t make any of them work on the page. Or if I come up with something so devilishly clever that I absolutely cannot resist. At any rate, your ideas and suggestions will be incorporated as much as possible. So, if you have any further nifty thoughts, this would be a good time to come across with them. Any other interesting interpersonal tensions that you think ought to exist among the characters? How, for example, might Ingrid and Meghan feel about each other? Are there certain characters you’d like me to highlight?

So let me know! And I know that some people have been following this A to Z without commenting (I am looking at you, family members!), which is fine, but I want your input here, too, either by commenting on this post or by e-mail. Or, I mean, you could just tell me.

And let me just thank those of you who have been commenting regularly. Your participation has made this really fun for me. Thanks!

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  1. I can well believe in Zoe’s rock-solid faith that the very stars testify to the inescapable enmity between her and Sir Adam. However, I think this is not so likely to make her kill him, but rather is more likely to make her think he is trying to kill her. I see her as the the type to really go to town with a damsel in distress complex. She may well be flinging around wild accusations, which may well heighten all manner of existing tensions, not to mention possibly suggesting to any people seriously contemplating murder that now might be an auspicious time for it. I can even see Zoe as a subsequent victim if some of her wild accusations come a little too near the truth. For example, she may well be claiming to read Sir Adam’s various crimes in the stars, and some people (his BLACKMAIL victims, for example) may prefer that we not start looking too closely at Sir Adam’s crimes just now.
    As for the actual murderer… Hmm, would it be possible to have a list of all 26 suspects (or, I guess, only 25 of them are suspects) in a row? My computer wants to show only back to Q, and I can’t seem to make it show me older posts… (The possibility that I’m obtusely missing something obvious seems high, but there it is.)
    I am super excited to hear that there will be a proper drawing room denouement. I can’t wait!

    • I have compiled a lightly detailed list for my own convenience that I am happy to share with you here:

      Annabelle – Sir Adam’s wife, younger, luscious, dumped Sir Adam’s brother Gregory, who now seems devoted to mousey Meghan, Annabelle’s companion. Longs for a wealthy Gregory as her husband.

      Bruce Galsworthy (aka Anthony Camber), Sir Adam’s secretary.

      Cecil – Lives in a cottage on Clutterbuck Court, was caught badmouthing Sir Adam — who suspects him of writing poison pen letters — and evicted.

      Dr. Daniel Waterford – in awe of Sir Adam’s early scientific discovery, actually kinda likes him. Has diagnosed Sir Adam’s terminal disease — is it true?

      Eli – Brilliant young Jewish barrister in love with Sir Adam’s daughter, Ingrid

      Freddie – SirA’s neighbor who wants to sell his estate to have it become a school by also purchasing Sir Adam’s excess field and selling them both together. Also, his wife, Josephine, is having an affair with Sir Adam.

      Gregory – Sir Adam’s younger brother who is in love with his ex’s companion, Meghan, but Sir Adam will not grant permission for them to marry.

      Hattie – Sir Adam’s niece who wants to borrow money to begin a hat business. Sir A refuses.

      Ingrid – Sir Adam’s only child is in love with Eli, who Sir Adam will not give her permission to marry, and has threatened to disinherit. Ingrid has learned from Sir Adam’s solicitor that this is true. She will get only the bad tea set.

      Josephine – Freddie’s wife who is having an affair with Sir Adam, but whom Sir Adam is ghosting.

      Kathy – who killed her own husband, Bob, with poison, but was never accused because the Dr. officially attributed Bob’s death to a weak heart.

      Leonard Toogood – Sir Adam’s solicitor, who blabbed to Ingrid about Sir A’s new will that cuts her out of any inheritance but the bad tea set. Is being blackmailed and stealing from Sir Adam to pay. Sir Adam finds out about Leonard’s indiscretion about the new will, and has decided to audit all his accounts.

      Meghan – who at 6 years old killed her baby brother and became reviled, would like to marry Gregory, but Sir Adam knows of her past and says he will expose her if she does.

      Nobody – Sir Adam killed himself.

      Ollie – Clutterbuck Court’s groundskeeper, may or may not be Sir Adam’s illegitimate half-brother through his own mother’s dying claim that she and Sir Adam were secretly married. There is no proof, and when Ollie went to him about it, he denied it, sacked Ollie, and ordered him off the property, but died before his sacking was official.

      Polly – writes poison pen letters and Sir Adam noticed her posting some, one of which was addressed to him. Polly is convinced he has put 2 and 2 together. It’s a good thing for her he died before he could expose her.

      Quinton – obscenely wealthy, reluctant gay suitor to Ingrid at Sir Adam’s insistence and blackmail threat to expose Quinton and his true love.

      Ravi – Sir Adam’s lab partner at Oxford, who solved the “unsolvable” Fernissimus-Timpanum Problem, and whose research Sir Adam stole and published as his own work.

      Stella Slaughter – nom de plume for Sir Adam’s first wife, Ingrid’s mother. Now a famous mystery writer, she has moved into the Clutterbuck Court neighborhood to keep an eye on Ingrid and perhaps stop Sir Adam from forcing Ingrid to marry Quinton, whom she suspects is gay with a love of his own.

      Timothy – Sir Adam’s friend from youth, they are the final two remaining from a tontine they became part of long ago. Timothy has fallen on hard times and someone matching his description was seen lurking around the window of Sir Adam’s study.

      Ulric – Sir Adam’s uncle, thought he should inherit Clutterbuck Court when his brother Everard (Sir Adam’s father) died. When banished from Clutterbuck, he refused to leave, and was eventually offered the decrepit Elizabethan wing, where he cantankerously bides his time.

      Vicar – remembers visiting Sir Adam a few days before he died, remembers being very angry with Sir Adam, but cannot recall why he was angry. Of course he denies having killed him.

      Wilhelmina – a (Black?) widow having moved to a house nearby Clutterbuck Court to mourn her husband who died three years ago, has dreams of archeological digs in the area that Sir Adam keeps thwarting.

      Xavier- a distant Clutterbuck cousin, grew up great friends with Adam where they both played with and eventually fell in love with Belinda, Mrs. Henderson’s daughter, who was told her to stay from both boys. At 15 Belinda disappeared. Now Xavier, with his X-ray invention has discovered a trunk full of Belinda’s bones in Sir Adam’s attic.

      Yuri – having long ago dug himself out of the avalanche that killed the rest of the men on that Yeti finding trip except for “Mr. A.B.C.”, he is sure Sir Adam was Mr. A.B.C. and that he stole Yuri’s evidence of the existence of the Yeti.

      Zoe – currently obsessed with astrology, believes Sir Adam is astrologically, directly opposed to her.

      • Correction: Ollie – His mother was supposedly secretly married to Sir Adam’s father, not to Sir Adam.

      • Sue: you are awesome for doing this!!!! Thank you so much!!! I actually had a list of my own ready to go, but it is great to have yours, too, because yours gives way more detail. And I am extremely flattered and honored that you would take the trouble to make this. THANK YOU!!!! You’ve made my day.

        • You are quite welcome, Melanie. I found I needed such a list last night as I prepared my So-and-So-did-it-in-the-Such-and-Such-room-using-the-Poison statement, lol.

    • I like the idea about Zoe heightening existing tensions. That is a good role for her here. And yes, just possibly someone might kill her.
      I have made a Dramatis Personae thing for your convenience! Also, as you can see, Sue has very kindly and awesomely done that, too! Mine has links; Sue’s has more detail. Huzzah!
      I am worried about this computer-not-letting-you-go-beyond-Q thing. Clicking on the Archives tab should, however, take you to the master list of all my posts. Still, it would be nice if there was a “load older posts” function on this blog, which I see there is not. Hm… yeah, I wish I knew how to fix that.

  2. I like the lawyer for it.

  3. As for Zoe, I agree her obsession with astrology might have stirred up enough consternation among Sir Adam’s detractors that she became the FIRST victim in order to prevent her from exposing the actual murderer-to-be, thus setting off a rabbit chase trying to sort out why Sir Adam would be a second victim, possibly helping the actual murderer to escape suspicion altogether.

    As for the actual murderer, I lean heavily toward the tradition that poison is a woman’s weapon, making me most suspicious of both Josephine with her jealousy and Stella Slaughter with her mother’s instinct to protect her daughter. With the contrast between the purity of their motives, I am emotionally disposed to believe Stella, even though — or perhaps because — being a murder mystery author might make her too obvious a suspect, is the murderess.

    I have previously described how she might have killed Sir Adam. I suggest Zoe’s murder would be far bloodier, involving a pistol, or a knife, or possibly bloodless strangulation — a ploy to drive suspicion toward the male population of Clutterbuck Parva.

    I also recall how Killer Kathy escaped apprehension — even though she was already suspected by many of killing her husband — because the Doctor “who knew that Bob had a weak heart, signed the death certificate, and the body was buried, and no legal trouble of any kind ever resulted.” Presumably this was the same Doctor Dan who has been treating Sir Adam, who may be seen here as an incidental second or even innocent victim of nature, and therefore not as deeply investigated as the first victim. So Doctor Dan might unwittingly once again save a murderess from being brought to justice.

    And in this case, I would feel completely satisfied with these results — especially if Stella’s relationship to Ingrid is never revealed — and she goes on to write the murder mystery of a character similar to Sir Adam, with a murderess similar to Ingrid’s mother as a sort of anonymous confessional, hiding the manuscript away to be discovered among her belongings after her death.

    It is possible Eli, the amateur sleuth, might harbor some suspicion that Sir Adam’s death was not natural, but there will be little to support any kind of investigation. And besides, over the many happy years he and Ingrid are married and raising a beautiful family with many children, they will become close friends with the much-beloved, famous Stella Slaughter, who is to them the mother Ingrid never had.

    And finally, thank you, Melanie, for this delightful challenge. It has been the best A to Z Challenge I have ever seen. If you would tell us how life turns out for Freddie and Josephine, Gregory, Hattie, Mrs. Henderson, Ollie, and Quinton, I would be ever grateful. I’m eager to read your promised reflection and dramatic drawing-room-type scene, and I wish you a life full of satisfying creativity.

    • Stella is definitely in my Top 5 Suspects list… and I love the idea of the mystery novel confession! That is a really fun idea, although it would take some of the punch out of any drawing-room scene I write… hm… maybe I can work it in? It needs thinking about!
      Anyway, Josephine is also a good suspect, though I don’t 100% buy her as the killer.
      And maybe one of the men used poison just because it is said to be a woman’s weapon.
      And it is awkward to think of anyone hanging for Sir Adam’s murder, since he turns out to be so loathsome. I mean, I have to go with “murder is still wrong, though,” but… it is somewhat hard not to sympathize with the killer here. Which makes the idea of the killer getting away with it pretty tempting… unless the killer’s motive is also loathsome… hm…
      I will touch on the futures of those people in my scene!
      Thank you again for your enthusiasm! This has been really fun for me!

  4. It’s been a daily delight for me. Checking my email and finding, “No Atherton’s Magic Vapors post yet. Curses!” — although it was fun to follow the comments in the meanwhile — until news of a new suspect arrived. “Yay!”

    Perhaps Dr. Dan, realizing Ingrid might have to find a new guardian soon, shared news of Sir Adam’s imminent demise with his ex-wife by letter sent to her last known address under her real name. It may have taken a while to find her, but when she shows up in Clutterbuck Parva, she may feel she is just helping the despicable Sir Adam find an easier way to shuffle off this mortal coil.

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