Do you like a good mystery murder? I know I do. In my youth I wanted to become a detective. Like Nancy Drew —I was a voracious reader of her adventures as a child. I also wanted to do justice. Then I discovered the Queen of Crime herself. The Mysterious Affair at Styles is the first Agatha Christie’s novel I read. I got hooked. Hey —I call my house Styles (just like Christie and her first husband Archie did with their home). That should give you a clue how much I adore a good mystery. Nowadays, Sherlock Holmes is one of my favourite detective characters. So, with no surprise I was interested in the Snifty Sleuth Challenge created by A Guy Called Bloke and K9 Doodlepip! Kristian of Tales of the mind of Kristian kept me in suspense from beginning to end. The devotion of every collaborators in this project convinced me to chase down the murderer. Let’s see now if I have what it takes to solve the mystery.
Here is my case for the Inspector Kruseau.
It was a crime of passion, namely a passion for money. At first, I thought that Mrs Patricia Maxwell-Murdoch was a nurse driven with the desire to kill. She is not. Oh, don’t get me wrong “Miss Boring” like some call her is a murderer alright. But if she was the type of care giver that had an urge to kill she wouldn’t have been able to wait 10 years to satisfy her addiction even if she didn’t need more money. Anyone with an addiction knows that! Let’s recap the facts.
Who are the victims?
As with most crimes, follow the money if you want to find the solution!
The victim is anyone who would possibly have a claim to the fortunes of Mr. Charles Maxwell-Murdoch! Note that the people left alive at the end of the story were people who would have the least possibility of being left in a will or having a claim in court to the Maxwell-Murdoch newspaper empire. Constable Parker has no familial and emotional connection to Charles. Lola, the mistress, also has a very tenuous claim on the fortunes of Charles. The one exception, Patricia, is now the sole claimant on any financial legacy.
Except Harvey Dearman who had to be killed for another reason, the one thing that all of the victims shared is a possible claim on the money of a dead Charles!
Where were they found?
Mr. Charles Maxwell-Murdoch – He was found at the bottom of the stairs in the Hall.
Mr. Harvey Dearman – He was found dead in the Dining Room.
Lady Alicia Van Schlumph – She was found dead in the Library.
Miss Geraldine Cooper – She was found dead in her own Kitchen.
Mr. Joseph Ingrams – He was found dead in the Drawing Room.
Who is guilty?
Clues, intuition and motive point to both Lola and Patricia as dual culprits! First of all, Patricia would have had the highest motive to get rid of everyone that stood to rival her for the fortunes of the magnate. However, subtle nuances point to a hidden relationship between Patricia and Lola, a relationship that was made all the more tight through the shared motive of gaining a fortune!
The fact that Constable Parker is left alive points to both Patricia and Lola as the murderers. The Constable is the only one who does not have any ties to Mr. Charles Maxwell-Murdoch, so he is not a threat. Initially, surface level descriptions may point to the Constable as the culprit, but he is far too incompetent to have pulled off all of the shrewd murders that took place. He showed absolutely no ability to use his training to do anything substantial, and in many cases showed the exact opposite!
Mrs Patricia Maxwell-Murdoch is the prime killer. She orchestrated the whole thing with Miss Lola Ginatonica, her partner in crime.
Everyone thinks that the two women are enemies. It is just a facade in my opinion. You see, I believe they are lovers! 10 years ago, Patricia as you know if you read the story was the nurse assigned to care for Charles Maxwell-Murdoch’s first wife, Abigail. My hypothesis is that she may had madly fallen in love with her and they were planning to be together as soon as Abigail got better. But Charles killed his first wife because she wanted a divorce and that left Patricia heartbroken. Charles didn’t know his wife cheated on him and never suspected his first wife wanted a divorce so she could be with Patricia. He thought it was because of his infidelity.
Geraldine Cooper knew about Patricia’s love for Abigail but “kept her mouth shut” even after her death. Otherwise, Patricia would have said to the police what she suspected, namely that Geraldine had provided the poison that killed Abigail. Since then Patricia has been seeking revenge. Geraldine was waiting for that to happen. It is no mystery that the cook hated the man for what he did to her father. The only reason she had an illegitimate son with him was to claim some money. But it is Patricia who married Charles soon after Abigail’s death so she could indeed revenge Abigail and get Charles’ money. Patricia patiently waited for the right opportunity and when she met at work a bombshell named Lola she knew she had found love once again… And the perfect partner in crime. They just had to wait for an opportunity to get rid of Charles.
As a nurse, Patricia was able to get Joseph’s medical report and manage to leave his folder in his room at the institution for him to read. His psychoses and disturbed mind did the rest. As for Lola, well let’s just say It didn’t take her long to seduce Charles. That was easy considering she is such a delight and she knew everything Charles liked because of Patricia. The big opportunity came when her husband received an invitation from a business acquaintance to meet at a hotel on the English Riviera. Patricia thought this was odd and of course she asked Lola if she knew anything about it. This is how she found out that apparently Charles had asked his mistress to join him for the weekend at the same place they were going. Patricia knew then something was wrong… Or should I say was PERFECTLY RIGHT! Every thing was working as expected. Joseph (Jonathan Charles Maxwell-Murdoch) was planning a trick on them that was actually giving Patricia the timeliness she had been waiting for for too many years. Soon not only will she be with her new love but Abigail would finally rest in peace. Yes, this whole charade would serve her own objectives. She carefully planned everything with Lola.
How did they do it?
Ce n’était pas de la tarte! (Translation: It was not a piece of cake!)
Mr. Charles Maxwell-Murdoch – He was killed by the puffer-fish poison that Patricia probably put into his drink when they got at the Villa. The autopsy stated that the fall down the stairs actually killed him, but the poison is what made him woozy enough to take the misstep. Patricia may have just needed to push him a little. The blood surrounding him was obviously made by sharp objects such as the scissors and the knife, but the stabbings happened after he died from the fall to simulate rage. Lola stabbed him with the scissors she had taken from Joseph’s room. She was wearing gloves so she didn’t leave any print. She replaced the scissors back in Joseph’s bathroom later. The breadknife, which had Geraldine’s print on was used by Patricia who also was wearing gloves. Patricia had sent the butler, Harvey Dearman, to get her fur stole in the car; she said she had left it there. This of course was a pretext for Lola and her to execute their plan.
Mr. Harvey Dearman – When Harvey says: “I knew it was you”, it implies that he knew the person for a while. That means it was not Joseph nor Lola, both newcomers in his life. That leaves Patricia, Lady Alicia and Geraldine. Since the last two are dead we can easily guess who killed Harvey. How did Patricia do it? He was killed by the pistol – who’s pistol it is we may never know. It may be possible that the pistol belonged to Mr. Charles Maxwell-Murdoch and was taken by Patricia, who by virtue of being his wife would probably know where he kept his weapons. She then climbed through the rose trellis into Joseph’s room who was taking a bath at the time. Before Constable Parker got there Patricia who had carefully taken her shoes off was already with the others. In her climb, a piece of black fabric from Lola’s scarf was conveniently left on the trellis to mislead the inspector.
Lady Alicia Van Schlumph – She was killed with a black silk pashmina which matched the garment worn by Lola. Lola strangled her.
Miss Geraldine Cooper – The same poison that killed Mr. Charles Maxwell-Murdoch killed Miss Geraldine Cooper. But in her case a large quantity of the puffer fish venom was put in her tea cup while Miss Geraldine Cooper brought the toasts to Joseph in the Drawing room. Patricia accomplished this murder silently; she still had her shoes off so that her come and go in the hall would not be detected.
Mr. Joseph Ingrams – The letter that accompanied Joseph’s death seemed to point to a definitive motif that likely points out the dual team of Patricia and Lola as the killers. The handwriting was apparently the same as the invitation, which means that the host of the home was definitely not the author of the invites. We knew that already except that, contrary to Joseph’s intention, all of these people were invited here to be killed! Joseph was likely weakened by the same poison that served to take the life of Miss Geraldine Cooper. The poison probably came from the liver part of the puffer-fish and in this case it is lethal even in a small dose. The venom for which there is no antidote could have been poured in Joseph’s drink (there were two glasses in his room; one with red lipstick on it) or in his aftershave bottle. In both cases the poison would get into his system. Paralyzed and without air, Joseph collapsed on the floor. Imitating Joseph’s handwriting, Lola then wrote the note. She couldn’t resist signing her crime with loopy l’s and p’s. The initials of both her name and her lover, Patricia.
What Was Their Motive?
There was definitely a financial incentive but revenge was also a motive for Patricia. Ever since Abigail’s death Patricia was seeking revenge. Furthermore, Patricia seemed to share with Lola many character traits that may point to a hidden love affair. They are also drawn closer to each other by their shared hatred or disdain for nearly everyone else in the room who could claim Charles’ money. Unfortunately for Harvey, his curiosity probably got him killed.
What Was Their Murder Weapon?