For those of you not following along at home, this is a read-along in which I write my thoughts after each chapter of The Red Widow Murders. It’s all JJ’s fault. It will be chock full of spoilers, but being Carr/Dickson, I will probably not guess whatever hare-brained solution there is. You may have gotten the impression that I don’t respect Carr from this. Just his solutions. I enjoy his writing until the end when, for me, it all becomes completely unbelievable. This is my fourth Carr, so I’m fairly confident about that. Don’t read on unless you’ve read it, or don’t care.
Chapter 11 – HM takes Tairlaine home and makes him play board games until 5:30 in the morning. By 10:00 they are all at the Inspector’s. I may not think of myself as elderly yet, with brittle bones and all, but I certainly can’t stay up until 5:30 AM and then nap, go home, change and be anywhere by 10:00. The Inspector has found a thread and a photograph. He has also confirmed a pane of glass is not only missing, it’s been cut out. Guy has apparently been out at this window looking in through the shutters. His fingerprints are there. So, it shows that it could have been done with a blowpipe, and if the dart were on a string, might carefully have been reeled back in, and the bit of parchment blown in, but it also shows that it wasn’t, because we’re only a little over halfway. That is, of course, a cheaty sort of deduction. The characters can’t look at the pages left and say, this must be a false solution, which is why I’m relying on HM to say so in the next chapter or so.
Chapter 12 – Brad was right — Guy has been killed. Is he also right that Sir George dunnit? Guy being at the window makes the one possible way of doing it impossible. They are in HM’s office — I said the Inspector’s earlier, but that was wrong.Masters demonstrates how the thing could have been done only to have a call informing them of Guy’s demise blow the whole theory out of the water. Brad’s choice of Sir Guy gets another point when it is pointed out the British Museum has a collection of South American poisons and weapons. Judith still seems least likely and therefore most likely except Carr seems to be setting up a romance with Carstairs. It would be very convenient if Dr. Arnold managed the whole thing leaving the field clear for Carstairs. However, the only way he might have done it that I can think of is if he hypnotized Guy into doing it.
Chapter 13 – They all go to Mantling’s house and haul poor Guy’s battered corpse out from under the bed. His head has been bashed in some time around 4 in the morning. He had presumably sneaked into the death room to get the silver casket. Ravelle is also doing that about half an hour later, but is stopped by Carstairs who sneaked back in to catch the criminal doing just that. HM reveals that the reason they both wanted this box is that it has a hidden compartment full of jewels given to the hangman back in the 18th century. It doesn’t make sense for Ravelle to have attacked Guy then gone back upstairs only to come back down 20 minutes later. Carstairs could be lying and have done Guy in and then attacked Ravelle. Mantling could have. Sir George lives just up the street, though presumably he doesn’t have a key.
Chapter 14 – HM reveals where the jewels had been and that it once was a poison trap. Ravelle reveals that his father wasn’t very bright and only took the biggest stone. Perhaps he just wasn’t greedy. It isn’t surprising once they reveal the trap, that people only died when they were alone. It doesn’t seem to explain why people couldn’t stay there and survive. Most didn’t know about the treasure. Surely some of them could have slept in this weird bedroom off the dining room and survived? I wonder if the layout will be a factor. It’s the most ridiculous layout for a house. Double doors off the dining room lead to a passage. Down the passage is this room. That’s it. Like a lollipop sticking off of the rest of the house. Personally, I would have turned the chair upside down and shaken the jewels out. Stupid to try and poke your fingers down a dark hollow in a chair trying to pull jewels out with your fingers. Guy polished the room and pretended to be Bender because… reasons. This all leads HM to conclude it was done with some sort of trick that could be worked while the murderer was away. And the final excitement is that Ravelle reveals he saw Judith stealing the blow gun and darts. Finally some evidence against Judith.
Chapter 15 – Judith admits she took the darts and sent them to be analyzed. She’s planning to play a joke on Carstairs and wanted to be sure there was no poison on the darts that she took. There was a bit on one and they kept that one, but she got the others back and hid them. HM then asks Mantling if he’d seen Bender with a notebook. He had. Right before he saw him cut himself shaving. So, there’s no poison darts unaccounted for, so where did the curare come from? There’s the cut accounted for and no other to admit the poison. Though couldn’t you apply poison to a recent cut? So here we are: three-quarters of the way through and pretty much we’re at square one. It couldn’t have happened and no one could have done it. I should declare something. Some thoughts or something. I don’t really think it’ll be Judith because of the whole I-can’t-abide-that-Carstairs when everyone can see she loves him. So, hello, the young lovers must get together which lets Carstairs out of it, too. Dr. might be able to get curare. Sir George probably could. Anyone in the house might have scraped it off the two darts. It sounds like it’s scrapable from the description, but I don’t know. If it is, then anyone could have gotten it. I have zero bright ideas on who or how.