Wednesday, 17 December 2014

A Fearful Madness | Crime Detective Mystery

A Fearful Madness
by Julius Falconer

It has been said, by whom and when I have forgotten, that the four ingredients of a good story are religion, sex, aristocracy and mystery. In line with this recipe, one practised hand penned the following line:
‘My God,’ said the duchess, ‘I’m pregnant. I wonder whodunnit.’
This might qualify as the shortest short story ever told – and I doubt whether it could be expressed in more compressed form even in an inflected language. The following account of the case of a death by curtain-tie will, I hope, provide you with more extended interest on the basis of the same recipe. It begins with sex and religion, and, if the circumstances strike you as sordid, I cannot help it: I recount the facts as I find them, and they are a necessary prelude to what follows.
To protect the living, I have altered all the names, and we shall locate the events in an unnamed city. The aristocracy (but alas! not a duchess) and the mystery follow in due course. The events begin with the discovery, the day following his death, of the near-naked body of a seventy-three-year-old retired teacher and part-time cathedral verger, James Thwaites, who had been hit on the head and then strangled with a curtain-tie, which was still round his neck. Four days after the murder, a fellow-parishioner and fellow-cathedral worker, Jonas Chimes, was arrested on suspicion of murder, his motive being resentment at a man who had made unwelcome advances. The parish was shaken to its foundations. The clergy refused to discuss the matter: they commented only that the events besmirched the cathedral’s reputation; that the events did not concern the general public or the press; that the matter was not important. The parishioners were more forthcoming. The fact of their verger’s homosexuality came as a surprise to most, although one commented…