Wednesday, January 11, 2012

One Drop of Blood - Cornell Woolrich

Name of the story: One Drop of Blood

Author: Cornell Woolrich
Source: The Ten Faces of Cornell Woolrich
Story Number: 11
The story ‘One Drop of Blood’ was the winner of the first prize in EQMM’s thirteenth international contest (1961). This story is a fitting example of the inverted detective story as pioneered by Austin Freeman where the reader follows from the beginning the plan and execution of the murder by the culprit. The second part of the story deals with how the police catch the criminal with a clue left behind or with a mistake which the murderer hadn’t anticipated.
The Crime: Corrine is madly in love with the narrator. She wants to marry him but he is not interested in marriage. Over a period of time, he starts getting involved with another girl and gets engaged to her, as a result of which he ends up spending less & less time with Corrine. One night, Corrine invites him to her new house to reveal the fact that she is carrying his baby. In a fit of rage, he gets hold of a sword available in the house and slashes her up which turns the walls into a tapestry of red. He successfully disposes of the body without anyone noticing him; he buys paints & brushes from the nearest hardware store and over several days, paints the walls to completely get rid of the blood spots. He also discards all the other articles (carpet, chair cushions, table, lampshade etc) in the house which could’ve given away the fact that a murder had occurred in that house.
The Detection: The police take him in for questioning when they find the body, many witnesses identify him, they find traces of blood on all his articles, they get the remains of the paint cans & brush handles, they know for a fact that there was a crime and it was committed by him, they have placed him in the vicinity of the house but they can’t place the crime itself in that house as there’s absolutely no sign of blood anywhere – all they need is a drop of blood. All the police techniques fail to get them the answers they need and they release him from custody.
He thinks he has finally escaped and goes ahead with his marriage plans but only a few days later, he is arrested by the police for the murder. They take him to that house and show as evidence that one drop of blood which he and the whole police force had missed over all those days of effort to find it!

3 comments:

  1. I have always remembered this story ever since I read it as a teen. It's so simple and so brilliant. I think it was a reprint in one of the 1970s EQMM issues. It sent me looking for more Woolrich stories and books. I still think his crime novels are some of the best ever written and so influential to those who followed him.

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  2. Thanks, Arun, for sharing this tale. I do agree with John that this is a brilliant short tale by Woolrich, and it remains one of my all-time favorites. Its striking feature is its inverted detection. I guess I first discovered it in The Golden 13 anthology edtied by EQ many years back.

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