Whom do you suspect, and why?

Solv-a-CrimeI thought it was high time for another Solv-a-Crime. Usual thing – the best answer gets to choose next month’s year for Crimes of the Century, or, at the judge’s discretion, a cash prize of £100,000 in used bank notes left in a nondescript sports bag in the hollow tree of their choosing.

The Case of the Skewered Squire

You receive a late-night phone call and hot-foot it to the manor house just outside the village, arriving five minutes after receiving the call.

The smug-looking butler who opens the door acts surprised when you tell him he called you and told you his master had been murdered. “The master? Murdered? Impossible, sir!” He says he didn’t call you and tells you that as far as he knows, his master is upstairs in his study.

You insist on going upstairs to double-check. Finding the study door locked from the inside with the key in the lock, you shout to the occupant but get no answer. The oily butler helps you break down the heavy study door with a chair. Inside, you find the master of the house in his armchair by the fire – stabbed with a rare and ornate Tunisian dagger.

“Stabbed from be’ind. ‘Orrible!”

Sending the butler for help, you move quickly to double-check he is dead and sweep the crime scene for clues, being careful not to touch the body or handle the dagger again.

The dead man’s secretary, who seems surprisingly cheerful in the circumstances, tells you that the dagger was a gift from the Major, currently a guest at the house. Also staying there are an impoverished sister-in-law and her beautiful daughter, but they have been downstairs all evening.

“Hadn’t an enemy in the world,” says the Major quietly. “Must have been burglars. but what was the thief after? Nothing seems to be disarranged.”

An envelope seems to be missing from amongst the correspondence on the occasional table, and you see that the window had been opened.

Whom do you suspect, and why?

About pastoffences

Past Offences exists to review classic crime and mystery books, with ‘classic’ meaning books originally published before 1987.
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19 Responses to Whom do you suspect, and why?

  1. RogerBW says:

    I’m putting my answer in rot13 so as not to skew other people’s thinking. If you don’t have a decoder available, http://rot13.com/ will do the trick.

    qbhoyr-purpx ur vf qrnq … unaqyr gur qnttre ntnva” ner gur tvirnjnlf: gur aneengbe vf gur xvyyre.

    Lbh ragrerq guebhtu gur jvaqbj, tbg uvz gb yrna sbejneq gb ybbx ng fbzrguvat (guhf fgnoovat sebz oruvaq juvyr ur’f va na nezpunve), gbbx gur rairybcr, naq yrsg guebhtu gur jvaqbj ntnva.

    Gur cubar pnyy jnf sebz n pbafcvengbe (gur ornhgvshy qnhtugre, creuncf; ubj jbhyq lbh xabj fur’f ornhgvshy?), yrggvat lbh xabj gung gur pbnfg jnf pyrne gb erghea.

    Jub vf gur fdhver’f oebgure jvgu gur vzcbirevfurq jvsr? Vf vg lbh?

    Like

  2. Not very technical e.g. putting my answer into code, but you can just look at it once you’ve posted your own idea:

    I might be being a complete nit wit but this plot has rather a familiar ring to it, from a certain Christie novel, in which case I would be very suspicious of myself! (Only person who says what the phone call is about is myself, the butler is sent away of course to get help, whilst I could tidy up the crime scene of any last tell tale signs and I don’t touch the weapon.)

    And now I am off to find a really good hollow tree…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Brad says:

    I don’t see what the mystery is, Rich. The butler shouted out the answer: the killer was Monsieur Be’ind, the recently arrived Belgian neighbor, who smuggled the knife into the house by hiding it in a vegetable marrow.

    The guy deserved it, though. He was a real dic-taphone . . .

    Like

  4. J. J. McC. says:

    Obviously, the butler did it. He’s an imposter: what butler drops his aitches? Please deposit the prize in my Swiss bank account instead of a hollow tree.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. John says:

    HA! I had this book when I was in grade school. 1972! Yes, I’m that old. It’s one of those Scholastic Book Services books we would buy via mail order. I see the 50 cent price on it, too. Remember them? Maybe not, you live in a different country. ;^)

    I had an idea of who to suspect, but then I read the comments in code. I don’t remember any of the stories being that…uh…radical. Especially for a book marketed for elementary school children. Did you take it from the book? Did you write this one yourself? Or… did you add a single word to the original story?

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    • J. J. McC. says:

      I remember the Scholastic Book Service with fondness. I used to look forward to picking out books in the catalogs, and still have vivid memories of them though my copies vanished long ago. I believe I had a copy of the sequel to this book, More Solv-A-Crime, but not the first one, though the cover shown above looks strangely familiar.

      Like

    • Brad says:

      I ordered Scholastic Books through school every time the teacher gave us the order form. I remember still the thrill of the day the boxes full of books would arrive, and our teachers would also give us time to savor the new books we had bought. I think I always included an Encyclopedia Brown book in my orders, as well as books like The Lemonade Trick by Scott Corbett. Great times, and it helped develop my lifelong love of reading and BUYING books!!!!

      Like

    • John says:

      Ah, for cripe’s sake (to quote my father)! I’m repeating myself. Again! Completely forgot that you’ve pulled from this book before. Twice even. Ugh and double ugh. So sad…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Interestingly, this is similar to a plot I read recently in a book…..

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Santosh Iyer says:

    Yes, the narrator is the killer but what is the significance of the envelope ? Has it anything to do with will ?

    Like

  8. JFW says:

    Hmmmm. Apart from the similarity with a certain *ahem* renown novel, I was puzzled by the fact that the narrator had to avoid touching the murder weapon “again”. Especially when the exchange with the overly-cheerful secretary implies that the narrator should not have encountered the weapon in the first place.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. pastoffences says:

    I think between you, you’ve unmasked my sneaky review of a certain Christie title. I thought I’d try to pull off a narrative trick akin to the book itself. What do you think, have I subverted the genre or what?

    Wasted everybody’s time is *not* an allowable answer to that question…

    I’m awarding the chance to nominate next month’s Crimes of the Century to Roger, just for the code

    Liked by 1 person

    • J. J. McC. says:

      I just now read the code and am thoroughly confused. There was no narrator, unless the narrator is God. I don’t think God is a legitimate suspect in mystery stories, besides which, I don’t believe in Him. If you mean that I, the reader, committed the crime, I deny it! I’m innocent! Anyway, this didn’t remind me of any Christie books; which one were you lampooning? It must be one I haven’t read.

      Liked by 1 person

    • RogerBW says:

      Most kind, though the used banknotes would come in handy.

      Looking at the list of years covered so far and bearing in mind you’ve already done the year I was born, I think I’ll go for a tricky one: 1907. I can think of two good examples, and I’m sure the industrious readers will find more.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: ‘A full account of how to make a jam omelette’: The #1930book round-up | Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

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