The Crime Readers' Association

The 12 Suspects of Christmas: The Mystery – Rosie Claverton

26th December 2014 by in Featured Author, New Releases

Christmas, 1895.

12suspects-dinner

 

The Old Manor House had been in the D’Argent family for generations and, as was traditional for the season, they always invited their closest family and friends to dine with them on Christmas Day.

 

One such guest was Shermoran Dalgrot, an amateur detective formerly of the Scottish Scotland Yard, occasional police consultant, and private investigator.

 

He arrived at precisely three o’clock on Christmas Eve and opened the ajar door of the servant’s entrance to let himself in, as he was an infernal busybody who liked to know everyone’s business before they had even conducted it.

 

As he peered into the kitchen, Sherry the Cook sent him on his way, stating in a booming voice that surely echoed through the halls that the kitchen would be locked from midnight on Christmas Eve until dinner was served at four o’clock on Christmas Day. Only she and Nocturne the Maid (whose mother had been of a romantic bent) would be permitted to enter, for fear that interference would spoil the result, too many cooks, et cetera.

 

Thinking this an odd proclamation to a visitor who had just entered the house—and one which smacked of lazy exposition on the part of the author—Dalgrot ignored the silly woman and proceeded into the hall. He was met with astonishment by The Butler, who took his coat without comment and silently directed him to the gathering in the drawing room.

 

Due to his extreme anti-social behaviour (which would likely later be labelled as Asperger’s a century later), his large stature, his Scottish ancestry and his little grey cells, Dalgrot did not engage with the company but stood to one side to observe and make snap judgements.

 

He first noted Lady D’Argent, attempting to hold court before the fireplace except that it seemed no one was listening apart from her faithful greyhound Boris the Dog. He had won her a lot of coin over the years and she spoiled him by permitting him the choicest cuts of turkey on Christmas Day. By this point in the Victorian era, turkey was a dish enjoyed at Christmas by the wealthier members of society and the author is going to make damn sure that you know she did her research.

 

Sitting across from her was her niece-by-marriage Hattie the Hack, scribbling in her notebook. No mysterious gathering was complete without an astute journalist, making up gossip or investigating one or more of the company for the village newsletter. By her moniker, Dalgrot may have supposed her to also be an exceptional computer wizard with an eidetic memory and possibly a monstrous tattoo, but as the author set this story at least a century too early for that nonsense, he did not suppose her to be any such thing.

 

Trying to gain Hattie’s attention, Daniel D’Argent the Dandy leaned over her chair and made conversation to the back of her head about exactly how much he earned in the city and why he had to wear the latest fashions to get ahead. While they may be first cousins, he had no qualms about boarding that ship, as he had already docked at several other ports on the trip up from London. Some might say he had an addiction, but as this is ostensibly a cosy, the author will merely imply it for delicate sensibilities.

 

Deidre D’Argent the Diva was draped over the piano, attempting to sing from an operetta. It may sound very well when surrounded by polished tile, but the effect was quite diminished in the panelled drawing room and in the company of those possessing ears. Masterfully attempting to follow her on the piano was the Reverend Dirge, because no mystery is complete without a moralising member of the clergy. However, given his interest in the cut of Deidre’s dress, Dalgrot suspected his motives of being far from pure.

 

Dinner was a dull affair, despite the excellent characters laid before you, because we all want to get to the point as quickly as possible. After brandy and a few hands of whist, the company retired to bed, with Hattie ensuring that Dan found his way to his own room and not anyone else’s.

 

It was around midnight that Shermoran Dalgrot was wandering the halls, not because he could not sleep but because the most interesting things always happen at midnight. It was a dark and stormy night, because this story isn’t overburdened enough, and there came a sudden knock on the door.

 

It was answered by The Butler, despite the late hour. A Midnight Visitor was on the doorstep, holding a bundle in his arms. He pleaded with the servant to allow him to enter, for he had just hit a poor animal with his carriage—we shall call him Humphrey the Hedgehog (for no Christmas is complete without an adorable hedgehog) and we shall note at this point that he is extremely fond of turkey. The man begged to place the injured hog by the warm fire of the kitchen, but the butler turned him away and closed the door.

 

12suspects-hedgehog

 

The morning passed as Christmas mornings should, with the exchange of gifts and the consumption of spirits before midday. After some terrible parlour games and the constant comings and goings of the company, so that none may be entirely accounted for during the period in question, The Butler rang for dinner.

 

Except from the kitchen there came an almighty shriek. Sherry the Cook, wailing and red in the face, ran into the drawing room and exclaimed:

 

“THE TURKEY IS GONE!”

 

Who stole the turkey?

–        Shermoran Dalgrot

–        Sherry the Cook

–        Nocturne the Maid

–        The Butler

–        Lady D’Argent

–        Boris the Dog

–        Hattie the Hack

–        Dan D’Argent the Dandy

–        Deidre D’Argent the Diva

–        Reverend Dirge

–        A Midnight Visitor

–        Humphrey the Hedgehog

 

The mystery will be solved on 2nd January 2015, when Shermoran Dalgrot has finally sobered up. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

 

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