Hugh Rowland wants to marry Brenda but she is engaged to Frank Dorrance as under the terms of his uncle’s will they only inherit his fortune if they marry. the only exception is if one of them dies before the wedding can take place which is more than a little awkward for Brenda when Frank’s body is found in the middle of a clay tennis court which shows both their footprints leading to the body but only hers returning. If she didn’t strangle him then who could have done so without leaving any trace of their presence?
Enter Dr Gideon Fell thus:
“He turned round like a galleon and blinked towards the lighted house. They saw eyeglasses on a broad black ribbon; a vast pink face beaming like that of Father Christmas; and a bandit’s moustache.”
This type of crime is right up his street; the ordinary, as he says himself, is not for him:
“My scope in police work, I cheerfully admit, is limited. I could not tell you whether it was One-Eyed Ike or Louie the Lizard who cracked Isaac Goldbaum’s safe. If I were to attempt shadowing anybody, the shadowee would find himslef about as inconspicuous as though he were to walk down Piccadilly pursued by the Albert Memorial. Nor can I take one look at a footprint and tell you who made it. No. I am – h’mf – merely your consultant on the outré; or, to put it more popularly, the old guy who enjoys funny business.”
The plan of the court showing the wire fence surrounded by tightly growing poplars surrounded by a yew hedge reminded me of one of my favourite Father Brown stories – although the method there could not possibly have been used in this case.
When I came across a particular phrase I remembered a murder method from a short story which would fit the bill and for a time I was sure I was right – and then after more was revealed I decided I was wrong. Until another thing was mentioned and I thought I had been on the right track but the second murder meant that was no longer possible (at least without breaking the Knox Decalogue!). So I was most satisfied to be proven wrong when Dr Fell revealed both the method and the murderer.
Not a first-rate Carr by any means, but tier two is still better than many people’s best.
This is part of my series on the 100 Greatest Literary Detectives.