Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Horror At Staveley Grange - Sapper

Story: The Horror At Staveley Grange

Author: Sapper (Herman Cyril McNeile)
Book: My Best Detective Stories, The Saving Clause (Available on Project Gutenberg Australia)
Theme for the Month: Locked Room or Impossible Crime Stories
Sapper, the creator of the famous Bull-Dog Drummond, probably created his other series character Robert Standish to tackle the more intellectual puzzles which the former would have felt so pretty unconformable to deal with.
Mrs. Bretherton wakes up one night babbling about a shining hand that had touched her but when her husband and the servants rush to her room, they don’t find anyone. She is so afraid of this incident that she leaves the house next morning refusing to stay in that house anymore which ultimately forces her husband to sell off the house.
Robert Mansford with his two sons has moves in to Staveley Grange and he occupies the same room which Mrs. Bretherton had used. Shortly, he meets an untimely end in the same bedroom – he is found dead sitting up in bed as though trying to reach for the speaking tube, speaking through which would have fetched his butler. Cause of Death: Heart Attack instigated due to fear.
Next to use the room is the elder son Tom. He is also found dead a few days later with his body lying over the rail at the foot of the bed with a pistol still clutched in one hand. Cause of Death: Heart Attack. Tongues start wagging and the general public is of the view that the second son William was responsible for the death of both men. That’s when Ronald Standish is called in to look into the matters and find the murder method as both men were reasonably healthy and there was no reason for them to have met such a premature death.
Robert Standish is known for noticing small things and his first observation of the room reveals several things – the major clue being that the wire holding the headboard is slightly different from the wire holding the footboard. That night a trap is set to catch the murderer with the three men watching the windows (door being locked); the only outcome of this revealing a second clue in terms of the small desk fan which was previously off, is found running without anyone having entered through the door or the window. William who continues to spend the night in that room has a red swollen jaw the next day, which William claims to feel as though he had been bit by a family of hornets. This serves as the third and final clue for Standish to arrive at the solution of this neatly conceived locked room or impossible crime story.
A very interesting story which piques my interest to have a shot at the collection ‘Robert Standish’ aka ‘Ask Robert Standish’ which features 11 more of his adventures.

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