Confession time in The Dark Mirror Murder, with a twist at the end so do keep reading. You, dear audience, need to know whodunnit, whydunnit, whosolvedit and who the victim was.But first, a glimpse of the location:
Mrs Swingle, the housekeeper. Her alibi is provided by multiple visitors, all able to quote her memorable guided tour of the house. She’s received a full apology from the force and given them all pots of greengage jam to show her forgiveness.
Clarice Bell, the piano tuner (or is she?) No, she isn’t. She’s the London detective, skilled in the psychology of cosy crime characters, who watched, listened and probed until the murderer revealed HIMself (for a he it was). She is linked with Marcus Righter – he plays Watson to her Holmes or would if this novel was set in 221b Baker Street.
Gary Leadthighs: We’ve found our victim. Done in on behalf of fed up neighbours everywhere. Nobody will miss him – not the cheated-on girls, not the unpaid band members, not the forest birds whose songs were drowned out. The band members will take gentler, acoustic careers on cruise ships, the many love children will benefit from his estate, and the birds will chirp anew.
The furniture restorer – or is he? Yes, he is. Mrs Swingle called him in and he was busy repairing the grandfather clock all day.
Eva Dorada: She’s only in the story because every country house crime mystery needs a beautiful young woman. A recluse who is always hiding in her wardrobe, she sees and does nothing. So she’s a red herring, but better looking.
The ghost: Well obviously it wasn’t him. He doesn’t exist, and anyway, he’s benign.
The visitors: Nah.They never got out of the bottleneck to the car park. They should have taken the ferry or the steam train, or reserved a parking space in advance.
Which leaves Neil Stephens, the murderer and Young Robbit his accomplice.
Neil Stephens was reading Dostoevsky in the boathouse as usual, pressing his people counter every time a visitor entered. To his irritation, the heavy metal form of Leadthighs suddenly cast a shadow over his Kindle. His annoyance turned to rage when Leadthighs produced a microphone for an impromptu gig in the tranquil boathouse. Seizing his opportunity, he pulled a lever by his chair, à la Sweeney Todd, and dispatched the ageing rocker to the depths of the Georgian bathhouse below. With the splash came a strangled cry – he hadn’t realised Young Robbit was in the act of hiding contraband at the very moment of his evil deed! But Young Robbit, who’s long coveted the position of lead singer in the local band, volunteered to ensure the body was never found, and all would have remained an eternal mystery had Marcus Righter not fancied taking a plunge to impress Clarice Bell that he was investigating every angle. Somehow though, as always, she got the credit for solving the case and all he got was pond weed in his beard.
How to account for the DNA traces? Neil Stephens also volunteered to care for the house at times, and would pass his hands lovingly over the treasured memorabilia. And Young Robbit had attempted on numerous inept occasions to steal them. The important family heirloom turned up in the wardrobe with Eva Dorada. It’s her comfort object, and she keeps it with her always.
Now the twist you’ve been waiting for,which is my excuse for this nonsense. Well, in August we visited Greenway, the holiday home of Agatha Christie and I thought an homage would be an enjoyable way to blog about it. She and her husband were great collectors, as seen in part 1. We arrived by boat with a ferryman of great charcater. We toured the house, were invited to play the Steinway and kept well informed by the wonderful National Trust Volunteers, especially in the room with the World War II frieze.
We explored the Battery and the boathouse, with bath house below, where Christie’s novel Dead Man’s Folly is set (it’s a best seller in the NT shop). Here we met another volunteer who was reading Dostoevsky on his Kindle but had to keep stopping to count and advise visitors. To compensate for turning this pleasant and helpful man into “Neil Stephens” the murderer, I’ll give a shout to his son’s book promotion business, which he told us about when I said I was a novelist too (only 90 short of Christie’s tally).
Afterwards we were wandering peacefully in the beautiful gardens when decibel hell broke loose. The Stones, Bowie…great songs murdered by a deadly dose of distortion and volume. The source was idyllic (looking) Dittisham village across the river, famous for its beauty and its plums, and home to the Dead Man’s Folly ferryman. Fortunately the non fictional ferry was due and “Bob Robbit” delivered us back to Dartmouth and a perilous Kingswear walk along a narrow path perched between the tracks of a steam railway and a steep drop to the beach – but that’s another story.