Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Ten O'Clock Scholar - Harry Kemelman

Theme for the Week: Queen's Quorum Titles

Story: The Ten O'Clock Scholar
Author: Harry Kemelman
Source: The Nine Mile Walk (Queen's Quorum #125).
Story Number: 68
Two rival professors Hawthorne & Korngold have come together to judge a candidate on his thesis. The candidate Claude Bennett has already postponed his dissertation once - citing the reason that he wanted to study the Byington papers, discovered by none other than Hawthorne. Nicholas Welt is the third professor of the judging committee. Korngold wants to fail the candidate because of his last postponement and he believes that the candidate would find some excuse on this occasion as well. Hawthorne on the other hand is very supportive and he requests the committee to wait for half an hour when the candidate doesn't turn up at the appointed hour of ten o'clock. When he still doesn't turn up at around 12, they call it off with Korngold stating that this candidate should never be allowed to take up the examination again in that university after making such a mockery of the academic system.
Later in the evening they get to know that Claude didn't keep his appointment because he was found dead - murdered half an hour before his exam time.  A mechanic who had come to deliver the car to Claude is arrested on suspicion of murder as the money stolen from Claude is found in his possession. There is another candidate who could equally qualify - Claude's next door neighbor and friend with whom there has been serious clashes over a girl. The police let him go only because the timing is slightly wrong; he was playing squash at the exact time that Claude was supposed to have met his death. The murder weapon found at the scene of the crime is a big dagger, part of a big collection adorning the wall. The victim's blood and hair fibers on the dagger and the wound on the head all point to the dagger as the murder weapon. But Nick Welt opines that it couldn't have been the murdered weapon and he puts forth his wonderful theory of why the dagger was a red herring and from this point he is able to show who killed Claude. It's so fairly clued that it'd be hard not to arrive at the solution - even a novice should get it! But a  wonderful construction nonetheless.

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