The Woman in the Wardrobe by Peter Shaffer (British Library Crime Classics #80)
English | 2020 | Mystery & Thriller | ePUB | 3.0 MB
‘A corpse in a blood-soaked room; a locked door and a locked window; a masked man; a beautiful girl trussed inside a wardrobe; and now a pretender to the throne! This is superb!’
One July morning in the seaside town of Amnestie, just before eight o’clock, the amateur sleuth Mr Verity is striding down from his villa for an early swim. Bemused by the sight of a man climbing into a window at The Charter Hotel, Verity’s curious enquiry at the reception desk pitches him headlong into a murder investigation. But the sleuth relishes a challenge, and with an abundance of suspects and multiple impossible elements to the case, this affair promises to be satisfying sport indeed.
This ingenious mystery, bustling with a wit, pace and theatricality that would later blossom in Shaffer’s dramatic works, returns to print for the first time since 1951 complete with the original illustrations by Nicolas Bentley.
“Collecting statues is a useful occupation,” said Verity, as they waited for P.C. Locksley to return. “It sets you observing people’s expressions with greater attention. Teaches you to watch out for flaws, too.”
The constable came back.
“Just ask Miss Framer to step inside, will you?” asked Jackson. “And then tell Matthews I want that gun we found, right away.”
“There are a few people alive today,” Verity continued, “who deserve to have their faces sculpted in marble. Miss Burton is one of them. As for the rest of my pretty large acquaintance: some deserve stone, many more terracotta—and by far the great majority, putty.”
Miss Framer came into the room.
“See what I mean?” he added.
“Sit down, Miss Framer,” said Jackson politely.
“I think,” she said, thrusting a shapeless mauve skirt at him, “that Mr Verity will be glad to receive this.”
“Ah, my bathing-costume! I had quite forgotten it! That is very considerate of you, Miss Framer. I will not, however, be bathing whilst there is matter more attractive here to hold me.”
Miss Framer looked shocked, and sat down slowly.
“To the police,” she said, “this sort of thing must constitute a most interesting diversion. You cannot expect me to view it in the same way.”
“No, of course not. I—”
“When news of what has occurred here appears in the newspapers, I shall be absolutely ruined.”
“As I remember it,” said Verity politely, “‘The Charter’ of Amnestie has appeared more than once in the newspapers already.”
“That was before my time,” said Miss Framer quickly. “I can assure you that nothing like that has occurred since I was put in charge.”
“I can well believe that,” the old man smiled.
“But something like this—a murder!”
“How well did you know Mr Maxwell?” asked Jackson suddenly.
Miss Framer looked uncomfortable for a moment. Then she squared her shoulders and, sitting upright, faced her questioner across the table. Here, she realised, began the cross-examination.
“Hardly at all. He had only been with us five days.”
“You mean he came last Friday?”
“That is so.”
“Was he a very—eccentric gentleman?”
“I’m afraid he was. He took all his meals in his rooms, and hardly went out except at night. He told me he worked at night.”
“A description which has opened the trial of every cat-burglar I ever attended,” said Verity, watching Miss Framer carefully.
“I’m sure I’m not implying any such thing,” she said hastily.
“No, but all the same the thought of burglary was not so very far from your mind earlier this morning. When I told you about the man on the balcony climbing in through a window, you were very frightened. I was observing you.”
“Or was it something else?”
“I don’t understand…”
“What do you know of the relationship between Mr Paxton and Mr Maxwell? Or Mr Cunningham and Mr Maxwell?”
“Oh, come now!” Mr Verity, who had firmly taken over from Jackson, leaned forward and twinkled at her. “Try to be more explicit.”
“But Mr Cunningham only came last night.”
“Still, he did meet Mr Maxwell?”
“Yes, he did.”