I hope you have enjoyed reading Lord Allenby as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you have, share the book with your friends. Even if you haven’t, you could share it anyway. You might find someone who agrees with you. If not, at least you have the makings of a good discussion!
Before I reveal whodunit, you can see if you’ve already arrived at the correct solution yourself. If you think you know, click on your choice below. Whether or not you’re right will be revealed. If you don’t want to, go directly to The Epilogue which unveils the answer.
||Is 'the butler dun it' the right answer?
“The butler did it.” Isn’t that just a little clichéd?
Peter was certainly a small time crook, but no murderer. Besides, Lord Allenby’s death could easily have triggered an investigation. One which would certainly have exposed Peter’s past and that would have led to a closer look at what he was currently up to, which once discovered would have meant suspicion would fall heavily on him. Working in the kitchen, he would also have had plenty of opportunities. Again though, this would most likely put him squarely at the centre of any investigation. Peter may be many things, but ‘stupid’ isn’t one of them. He would have known that. Also, while there may have been plenty of alternative means around, the plot doesn’t link him with any.
So, no, the butler didn’t do it, much as I was tempted to follow the clichéd route.
||Has Lady Valerie donned the mantle of 'the wicked stepmother'?
Awwww. Don’t you think that Lady Valerie is too nice to be a murderess? If I knew her in real life, I think I’d really like her.
Her desire to be with Philip might have been a motive. I doubt it would have been a strong enough one though to cause her to actually try to kill James. He was, after all, the child of someone she had loved very much.
If she had wanted to poison James, the box she purchased for him as a gift would have made an excellent means of doing so. However she was present when both James and Julian unwrapped his gifts, and would have had no way of knowing for sure which one of the pair would actually unwrap and handle her offering. If the nail had been poisoned she would have had to find a reason to step in, to make sure that Julian didn’t end up as the unintended victim, rather than James.
So no, I’m glad to say that Lady Valerie is not the right answer.
||Was John Giles determined to have his fun(fair) at Lord Allenby's expense?
Greed can be a powerful motive. John Giles’ belief that a theme park would be very successful, along with the ‘stick’ of his finding it so hard to make the farm pay as it currently operated, could probably have been enough on their own to drive him to murder. It’s also (I hope) fairly clear from the plot that he had little personal feeling for Lord Allenby that might have countered consideration of such an act.
He wasn’t at the party though, so the only opportunity he would have had would have been to interfere with the bottle of wine before handing it over as a present. As you’ll no doubt recall, he went straight from receiving it himself to handing it to Julian to give to Lord Allenby, so there was no opportunity. He could, of course, have already received the bottle, doctored it, and reposted it to himself so that he’d have witnesses to having received it, ostensibly for the first time. It’s a little convoluted though. Besides, he had no way of knowing that Julian would appear when he did. If Julian hadn’t, the gift might have remained at his home far longer, giving him opportunity to interfere with it then. That opportunity would have entirely negated any clever ruse to post it to himself.
He also had no way of knowing, for sure, that Lord Allenby alone would drink the wine, so would have had to be callous enough to risk poisoning the whole family. If Julian, as well as James, had been a victim, control of the estate would have passed to someone whose reaction to John’s proposed schemes he couldn’t have predicted.
So, no, Farmer John Giles isn’t the person you’re looking for.
||Did Mark Peters think he could balance the books better without Lord Allenby?
Like all of the characters, Mark had good reason to not want Lord Allenby around. Perhaps even more so than the rest. If Lord Allenby had discovered that Mark had been helping himself to the money entrusted to him, who knows what could have happened then.
It’s unlikely that Lord Allenby would have gone to the police though. The money that Mark was ‘borrowing’ from was in itself covert, so in revealing Mark’s dishonesty, Lord Allenby would also have to admit to his own. A possibility, but highly unlikely. At best though, even if Mark didn’t face criminal charges, and even if Lord Allenby didn’t insist Mark repay what he’d taken, he could still expect to lose access to the funds which he’d used to maintain his wife in the home.
He also had means as well as motive. The sleeping pills he’d been prescribed could very easily have been ground into a powder and slipped into something Lord Allenby would eat or drink. Having no medical knowledge, of course, Mark couldn’t have known whether the pills would act quickly enough for Lord Allenby to die before assistance could be given. It’s unlikely he’d have taken such a risk.
He didn’t have the opportunity though. All of the food had already been prepared when he arrived at the party, and there were too many people around to risk putting something in Lord Allenby’s drink. He could, and probably would, have been seen.
So no, much as Mark might have wanted to stop Lord Allenby’s conversion of his ‘secret’ nest egg into cash for his proposed venture, it wasn’t him.
||Did Hazel decide that if she couldn't have him, no-one would?
Although Hazel had more or less decided that James was being unfaithful to her, and seemed to have accepted that fact, the realisation that the other party involved was her own sister may very well have been sufficient motive to want him dead.
If he was no longer around, she wouldn’t have had to contemplate divorce — something which she had made clear was not really an option. She would also have been able to remain at the Manor, and even keep her title, both of which certainly seemed important to her. However while there would have no doubt been many means around the place none were specifically ascribed to her. She would probably also have had countless opportunities to put any plan to dispose of James into operation, but not at the party where she stayed clear of him all night after the opening of the gifts.
So I’m sorry to say that you’ve guessed incorrectly.
||Has Rob decided it's time to take, after years of giving?
Hmmm. The events at the factory, and the virtual certainty that Rob would lose the livelihood he had worked at for many years, provided a very strong motive. James’s reaction may well have been sufficient to dispel any lingering reluctance on Rob’s part to get rid of someone he had thought of as a friend. He also had the means. One of the chemicals at the factory would no doubt prove to be more than capable of doing the job. But the plot line doesn’t point to any opportunity for Rob to administer a fatal dose to James.
So, whilst he had at least as much cause as anyone to want to murder James, he didn’t.
||Did Anne decide that getting rid of Lord Allenby was the way to have her cake and eat it?
If I didn’t know the real answer, I’d probably be likely to plump for Anne. Not for any logical reason, but simply because I don’t really like her very much. Money can be a powerful driving force and while the storyline doesn’t reveal a precise figure, it does make it clear that the sums involved are very substantial indeed. Certainly large enough to have been a motive. However, while the plot line goes almost to great lengths to bring this motive front and centre, it doesn’t anywhere point to means or opportunity.
So, much as I dislike her and almost wish that she was the guilty party, she isn’t.
||Has Fred decided that it's time for some drastic pruning?
Fred had the means – the various poisons in the shed – the motive – his feeling that he’d been swindled out of a far easier life and rosier future – and the opportunity afforded by his daily visits to the kitchen.
Why now though? Both the means and the motive had been around for a long time, and nothing had changed to make such an act any more called for now as at any other time. Admittedly the opportunity to take an action which he knew would affect James and James alone was far rarer, but until Julian had put candles on one of the cakes he couldn’t be certain which would be eaten by whom. And something introduced after Julian had put the candles on would have been far easier to spot.
Therefore, tempting though it is to finger Fred as the culprit, it wasn’t. Besides, as it says in the book, apart from his constant moaning about Lord Allenby, he’s actually an okay fellow.
||Did Julian decide his own retirement would be more comfortable if his brother wasn't around?
Julian certainly had the means. The deadly poison from the spiders he’d shipped back from his last filming expedition would have quickly disposed of his brother. If he had used it though, its presence would have been detected during the autopsy. Being such an unusual toxin – certainly something one would not commonly find in England – suspicion would no doubt soon fall on him. There were other things around which could have been used to poison James of course, but nothing in the storyline which linked anything with Julian.
He also had plenty of opportunity. He was a frequent visitor to the kitchen, so could have fairly easily found an opportunity to slip unnoticed something into the foodstuffs destined to be eaten by James and himself. Putting candles on the cake that James was to eat would also have been a pretty clever thing to do – making sure which he would eat and which James would was clearly distinguished. However he did this, necessarily, after the cakes were baked and iced, so it would have been difficult to add something to one of them that couldn’t be noticed.
He also didn’t have much of a motive. Julian would need little in his retirement and what he did need – mainly somewhere to live – he already had. When he’d been filming, the possibility of finding extra cash to invest in his passion would no doubt have been welcomed, but now that he’d stopped it was a source of finance that he didn’t need. Besides, as it says in the storyline, the manor house and estate were barely breaking even, so there wouldn’t have been a great deal of cash anyway.
So, sorry, but Julian isn’t the villain of the piece. Good thing too, actually, because I rather like him.
||Did Polly include Lord Allenby in her spring-cleaning?
Polly certainly had motive for not wanting Lord Allenby around. She was expecting to be dismissed, and at the time of Lord Allenby’s death didn’t know that she was the main beneficiary of Margaret’s will and would therefore have her cottage to live in. She also had plenty of opportunity. Being the family cook, there were many times that she could have introduced something into the food that would have been fatal to Lord Allenby. She even had access to a means — the painkillers by Margaret’s bedside, some of which she could have taken at any time.
If she had wanted to dispose of Lord Allenby though, the logical choice would have been one of the many foodstuffs he’d have a severe allergic reaction to, not prescription medication. That way, even if the finger of suspicion was pointed at her, her actions could easily have been explained away as a simple mistake rather than deliberate intention.
Also, with Julian around, being certain that Lord Allenby and not him would eat the intended item would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible. As highlighted in the story, Polly liked Julian and would not have wanted to risk poisoning him by mistake. It would have made far more sense to commit the act at a time when only Lord Allenby was in attendance, not at the party when she knew that they would both be there.
I’d also like to say that it wasn’t in Polly’s character to be a murderess, but she has already proven that she can present different faces when she needs to, having kept her visits to the casino secret for so long. Also, ‘not being in character’ is kind of the point. People don’t tend to walk around with a big sign over their heads saying “I am the murderer”. If they did, the police would be far more successful at solving cases. They’d get it right at least 50% or 60% of the time, I reckon.
So no, sorry, Polly isn’t the right guess.
||Did Dr. West run out of patience with Lord Allenby?
Did Timothy’s desire for Hazel outweigh the binds of the oath he’d taken to protect human life? Being a doctor, he would certainly have had access to a whole manner of things to bring about James’s demise. Being incapacitated though, he couldn’t have expected that he’d carry out the autopsy himself so would have had to find something that would be difficult if not impossible to detect in the normal course of events. Nothing in the tale introduced such a thing though.
His feelings for Hazel probably were strong enough for such a response to not be completely out of the question, but if he was going to do such a thing why now? He’d seen Hazel and James together for many years and done nothing before. Now that Hazel had finally accepted proof that James was being unfaithful to her, it would make much more sense – and be much more in character – for Timothy to wait a bit longer to see if this was the catalyst he’d been hoping for which would drive Hazel away from James and towards him.
So, no, Doctor West wasn’t responsible for the death.
||He's still alive!
🙂 Well done! Go to The Epilogue to learn if you came to this conclusion for the right reasons.