Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Death & the Professor

 Death & the Professor
(1961) by E. & M. A. Radford

Professor Stubbs is a gatecrasher at the Dilettantes Club. He once held a Chair in Logic and Philosophy at the University of Bonn and has heard about the exclusive club whose members debate all sorts of topics, including the odd mystery or two when the Assistant Commissioner of Scotland Yard, one of the members, brings an interesting case to their attention. The members are shocked at first that anyone would come to their meeting uninvited--but the professor is well-known in academic circles and his bona fides are soon established. At once he begins contributing regularly to the discussions, waiting until the others have asked questions or advanced theories before showing them all how to unravel mysteries using the power of logic. 

The set-up has been used before by Anthony Berkeley in The Poisoned Chocolates Case and by Isaac Asimov in his stories about the Black Widowers. We have a group of experts in various fields (or a group dedicated to mysteries) and there is one member who shines at solving the puzzles. Miss Marple does it in the Tuesday Club stories as well. The classic outline is well done in the eight interconnected stories given here...and the Radfords put their own special twist on it. ★★★★

The first problem: Fred Banting, a rude and obnoxious man who is disliked by all his fellow lodgers, is found shot to death in his own room. The room was locked and no one got in the window--which was under casual observation by a street organ player. The other residents in the lodging house were all still seated at dinner. Did he kill himself? If not, how was it done? And by whom?

Problem two: Partners in a jewelry business get on a train to finalize a deal over a diamond necklace. Mr. Benton, one of the partners, has the necklace in a case in his pocket. The two men share sandwiches and coffee--bought while on the train. Mr. Benton dies of poison and the diamonds are found to be fake. Did he commit suicide because he knew they were fake. Or was he murdered and the diamonds taken? If so, when and by whom?

Problem three: Three Englishmen are suspected of smuggling stolen goods out of the country and into Italy, but searches are made at Customs at both ends and nothing is ever found. Then the police get a break and are ready to pounce on a meeting of the three men and the Italian at the other end...but when they pounce, they find the four men dead (poisoned) at a table where fifteen large rubies lie in the center. Who killed them?

Problem four: "Lady Dan," a famous safe cracker is found dead on a train to Nice. He is supposed to have had nearly 20,000 pounds of jewels on him. There are no jewels and no clue to who killed him.

Problem five: The professor, who has solved the previous mysteries, brings up a case of murder--claiming that the convicted man is innocent. It is a case of the other woman having been poisoned. The poison used was readily available to the married man and it is supposed that he tired of her and she was going to be difficult. The evidence seems to point to him. But the professor asks to be given the chance to provide the defense that the man's counsel did not. Will he prove that someone else did it?

Problem six: The case of the strange sleepers. Several people who are in possession of valuables--ranging from money to priceless jewels--suddenly go to sleep for no apparent reason. When they awaken, the valuables are missing and there seems to have been no one who could have taken them 

Problem seven: Miss Alicia Menston has been known to go out and about with various men. She comes home to her apartment with her latest escort, is heard to say goodbye to him, and the porter observes no one else going into the flat. The next day her cleaning woman finds her strangled. Who got in and out without being seen? And why was everything in the apartment disturbed as if in a whirlwind search--except for one cabinet?

Problem eight: Marcus Silver, notorious as a moneylender, is found stabbed to death. He was killed at 7:30 pm...that's what the doctor says. So, how could he have been seen later that night at ten and ten-thirty? And by people who apparently knew him well?

First line (1st story): The Dilettantes' Club meets on the first and last Thursday of each month (except in August, when the members are scattered for their holidays).

Last line: (encoded in ROT13 because it would give away a major plot point otherwise) Vafcrpgbe Xrajnl zbirq gb uvf fvqr. "Znephf Fghoof, nyvnf Urezna Rvfqnyr," ur fnvq, "V neerfg lbh..."

To decode, copy and paste the coded portion as directed at the link.


Deaths = 10 (one shot; six poisoned; one heart attack induced by sleeping drug; one strangled; one stabbed)

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