Inspector Crosby: People don't need to account for their movements before six o'clock in the morning. Your suspect, when you find him, will tell you he was still in bed and asleep.
Inspector Martin: That would make it all the more difficult for him to explain why he was in fact out and about.
~Murdered: One by One (1937) by Francis Beeding
Valerie Beauchamp (aka Vera Brown) was the prolific and wealthy author of romances which end, as all love stories should, happily ever after. Unfortunately for Valerie, her story didn't end quite so happily. She receives fan letters from an Arthur Scott-Digby who shyly imagines that they are kindred spirits--souls adrift looking for lasting love. He finally begs her to meet him and she, like many of her fictional heroines, is caught up in the romance of it all and rushes off to do so. Only Arthur Scott-Digby doesn't exist. He has been created in an elaborate hoax concocted by her supposed friends in the local literary society--in an effort to cut the lady (who they think rather full of herself) down to size.
She does appear distraught--denouncing them all and even kicking Lavinia, her cousin, friend and confidante, out of the house because she suspects her of being in on the hoax. After a few days, Lavinia receives a letter that indicates that all may be forgiven, but that Valerie is still distraught enough that she may take her own life. Lavinia comes back to 'Avilion (the house) to find her cousin dead--not by her own hand, but battered to death in her own bed. Mysterious fingerprints are found in the room, the safe has been pilfered, and a ladder used to enter the bedroom window. The fingerprints will be found to belong to no one in the case--including the members of the literary club who quickly fall under suspicion. For you see--Valerie left behind a rather curious will. After making provisions to care for Lavinia and others, she has left a life interest in the remainder of her estate to the very people who humiliated her...in a winner take all, tontine-like fashion. As long as the legatees remain alive and part of the literary society, they each will receive £200 per year. If someone dies or resigns from the society, the remaining members will split the principle sum assigned to the one who is gone. So, maybe someone knew about the will and rushed their inheritance a bit. Then the members of the society begin to die...one by one.
The beginning of the novel seemed hauntingly familiar to me--a romance writer with no real romance in her life who receives supposed love letters from an unknown admirer and it all leads to murder & mayhem. I wish I could remember the book...I enjoyed this one very much. Beeding is very descriptive and manages to build up the suspense surrounding the serial killings very nicely. I'm not going to comment too much at this point--my good blogging friend, Brad over at ahsweetmysteryblog, and I have been reading this novel in tandem, so to speak, and plan to
Medical Examiner Challenge Round-up:
1st death = blunt instrument
2nd death = poison
3rd death = shot
4th death = knife
5th death = shot