Friday, January 27, 2012

Solved By Inspection - Ronald Knox

Story: Solved By Inspection

Author: Ronald Knox
Source: The Oxford Book of English Detective Stories
Story Number: 27
Ronald Knox is probably more talked about for his Detective Decalogue than his novels of detection. Five out of his six detective novels featured the insurance investigator Miles Bredon and he is also featured in one short story which also turns out to be a locked room murder – a puzzle plot, which I found much superior to any of his novels.
Dr. Simmonds has been sent by the insurance agency to ascertain the cause of death of the eccentric millionaire Jervison. The doctor has asked Bredon to join him in his inspection. Jervison has taken an insurance policy against his death – leaving all the money to a spiritualistic group called the Brotherhood which consists of only 4 people. The cause of death is pretty straight forward – he died of starvation, not having eaten food for 10 days. But the question is why he didn’t eat the food when the room had a lot of eatables which could’ve sustained any man for those many days?
Bredon has to figure out whether it was suicide or whether it was a very clever murder as the circumstances looks highly suspicious. Jervison had locked himself in a gymnasium to conduct an experiment, he had taken a narcotic on the first day of his experiment, he had plenty of food to sustain him, he had a pad and a pencil at hand on which he could’ve written down his thoughts or observations and yet there is nothing on the writing pad, the food has not been touched, there is no sign of foul play and no other entry into the room other than the door which the police break open.
Bredon observes three strange things – the bed is at the center of the room, the bedspreads are all piled up on the floor and the most important finding – the scratches on the floor from the wheels of the bed to indicate that the bed has been moved by 2 inches. From these, he declares that Jervison was murdered and goes on to show how the man was murdered in that locked room!

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