The crime wave at the hall

My holiday reading came from the Patearoa public library.

There lurk dozens of murder mysteries from the 1930s to the 1960s penned by the great ‘‘cosy village murder'' writers.

I've now churned through pretty well all of Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh so I reckon I'm well qualified to write a ‘‘Who Dun It?'' of my own.

I thought you might like to have a look at the ‘‘denouement in the library'' chapter.

‘‘As you know I am Chief Inspector Squat of Scotland Yard and I arrived this afternoon at the invitation of Her Ladyship who was concerned about recent happenings here at the Hall.

‘‘You will see that His Lordship is sitting by the dying embers. But he's beaten them to it. He is, in fact, already dead. I discovered him just an hour ago.

‘‘I couldn't get to sleep so came down for a book but there was nothing much here. Just a biography of some chap called John Key but a glance showed it was just the thing to get me off to sleep.

‘‘Then I discovered His Lordship slumped with an arrow though his left side, a gaping wound at the front of his skull, an oriental dagger protruding from his ribcage, signs of strangulation and a gunshot wound. He was holding a revolver in his right hand and garden pesticide crystals are in his almost-empty whisky glass.

‘‘The arrow had glanced off his fob watch which was stopped at 11.55pm. I at once suspected foul play and I can confirm His Lordship was done to death by someone in this very room. Snow began falling late this afternoon and I can find no footprints ...

‘‘All of you seem to have a reason to wish the dear old fellow dead. Blinkinsop, you make a fine butler but you seethe with resentment at his Lordship's treatment of you when you were his batman during the war. He should not have cancelled your one-day leave pass on VJ Day but only a very bitter man would resort to murder to get even. I know all about your membership of the Brickhampton Archery Club. The blazer you wear under the butler's rig out gave you away.

‘‘Let me turn to you, Miss Mary. As a maid you have been subjected to much humiliation at the hands of His Lordship. He even told me the lascivious details over the port after dinner and suggested I might enjoy a visit to your room. I think we will find your prints on the dagger and the sticking plaster on your left index finger hints that it may have been a little sharper than you thought.

‘‘As for you, Pettigrew, every gardener has access to herbicides and His Lordship's after-dinner chat also included details of your unhealthy interest in young boys. He was about to denounce you to the authorities.

‘‘I very much regret his Lordship's only son, in spite of his nonchalance, is a worried man. You are, young Roger, helplessly in debt to the London bookies as I can see by the torn betting slips protruding from you tweed jacket. Tonight was the night to crush in the dear old Pater's skull with a souvenir paperweight, a six-inch section of the old Brickhampton to Upper Smouldering branch railway line. You can see the letters ‘‘BUSRY'' etched in reverse on the poor man's skull.

‘‘The gunshot wound was inflicted by Her Ladyship, a damned attractive young lady, who this afternoon confided in me that her marriage last year to His Lordship, a widower of many years, had been a great mistake. Her clumsy attempt to make it look like suicide by placing the revolver in the dead man's hand did not fool me. She put the gun in the right hand but after dinner His Lordship and I had a game of billiards and I noticed that he was left-handed! He still owes me 50p for that game.

‘‘And I confess that I strangled His Lordship, so frustrated was I at the paucity of good books in what he laughingly called ‘‘his library''.

‘‘However, I have found his will and the news is good. The Hall and the 500 acres of parkland have been left to the Brickhampton Refuge for Aged Donkeys, but His Lordship distrusted banks and I found in the safe over £3 million in used notes. Her Ladyship is the sole beneficiary and may I suggest that the dear lady give you each £100,000 and keep the remaining £2.6 million?

‘‘Her Ladyship, who I may have mentioned is a damned attractive woman, has agreed to accompany me to Argentina and in due course do me the honour of becoming my wife.‘‘Pettigrew, would you be so kind as to tip the body down the old well? Thank you.''

 ●Jim Sullivan is a Patearoa writer.

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