Murder of a Lady by Anthony Wynne

Anthony Wynne
Murder of a Lady

I do love the British Library Crime Classics series, I get so excited when I treat myself to reading one, they are a guaranteed good read, I love the Golden Age detective stories and the safe warm nostalgic world they create, but I also love the BLCC's aim in bringing books back into print again that have been lost. I also love the cover of this book, it's a railway poster of The Caledonian Railway and shows gorgeous orange hills and mountains, Loch Lomond with a beautiful boat on it, an old car driving away from the stunning Tarbet Hotel, and a steam train in the background, there is so much to look at in the picture.

Murder of a Lady by Anthony Wynne available on Amazon
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I do love the British Library Crime Classics series, I get so excited when I treat myself to reading one, they are a guaranteed good read, I love the Golden Age detective stories and the safe warm nostalgic world they create, but I also love the BLCC’s aim in bringing books back into print again that have been lost. I also love the cover of this book, it’s a railway poster of The Caledonian Railway and shows gorgeous orange hills and mountains, Loch Lomond with a beautiful boat on it, an old car driving away from the stunning Tarbet Hotel, and a steam train in the background, there is so much to look at in the picture. 

Dr Eustace Hailey is staying at Colonel John MacCallien’s house, Darroch Mor in Argyll, Scotland. Leod McLeod arrives there at 10pm, clearly shocked and upset and seeking Dr Hailey’s help. McLeod has come from Duchlan Castle where Mary Gregor has been found murdered. Mary lived at Duchlan Castle with her brother, Major Hamish Gregor, known as Duchlan and who is aged 74. It is immediately exclaimed by MacCallien that Mary Gregor hadn’t an enemy in the world and that she helped everyone. She was found kneeling or crouching by her bed, apparently in prayer, having been stabbed in the collar bone, there was not much blood so it is presumed she died from shock as she had a weak heart. The door and windows of her room were locked, ‘nobody can have gone into that room and nobody can have come out from it’. Oooh, I am loving the enticing locked room aspect! 

McLeod has called for police attendance but it is not expected that Inspector Dundas from Police Headquarters at Glasgow will arrive until the following day, hence why he has come to Dr Hailey for help, and he requests him to examine the body and room immediately. While examining the body, Dr Hailey notices a previous severe and similar wound near to this later wound, the older wound hadn’t been stitched so wasn’t from an operation, Dr Hailey presumes this earlier wound was intended to kill her, he says it isn’t the usual type of wound from someone trying to kill themselves. McLeod says he has never heard of anyone ever trying to murder her. Oooh, this all sounds very intriguing!

Dr Hailey says the wound that killed her was done by someone facing her, and Mary had blood from the wound on her face so he states this shows she clutched at the weapon and then pressed that hand to her face, so perhaps she tried to pluck the weapon out of the wound. He says there is no sign of the weapon so presumes the murderer took it with him. McLeod says Mary usually slept with her windows open, but that they were bolted when her body was found, so it seems impossible for the murderer to have escaped. Dr Hailey thinks she may have been wounded over by the window due to a few spots of blood on the floor there, she then rushed towards her bed and collapsed. Hmmm, so why were her windows closed, did the murderer close them for some reason? 

Dr Hailey finds a fish scale on Mary’s nightdress where it touched the wound, Dr Hailey wonders if they should therefore look for a weapon with a use in the fishing trade, although McLeod is surprised there aren’t more scales as he says they are difficult to clean away. Dr Hailey is keen to keep the fish scale, but McLeod says Inspector Dundas would not like them removing evidence. Hmmm, I am a bit suspicious of Dr Hailey now, with him trying to take away the fish scale. And the whole fish scale thing is interesting, with this indicating a fishing weapon.

Dr Hailey and McLeod go to speak to Duchlan. Dr Hailey notes how cluttered both Duchlan’s and Mary’s rooms are, them seeming to cling to every possession. Duchlan states his sister hadn’t an enemy in the world. He says that Mary had a headache the night before her death, her elderly maid, Christina, brought her a glass of milk and left her at about 10.15pm when Mary was laying down and almost asleep. He says his daughter-in-law, Oonagh, lives at the castle with them, though didn’t eat with them that night as she felt unwell. His son, Eoghan (Oonagh’s husband), is in the army and served in Malta for a year and is now on special duties in Ayrshire in Scotland, he was due to return to the castle in the next few days but wasn’t expected to return that night. Eoghan and Oonagh’s two year son, Hamish, also lives at the castle. Duchlan says he has been a widow for 28 years and Mary helped him bring up Eoghan. He says Mary was keen to influence children’s character and morals, her belief was that the basis of character must always be religion and particularly a fear of God. Duchlan describes Mary, with admiration, as ‘steadfast, immovable’, but he hints that not everyone agreed with her views on raising children. He says Mary viewed new inventions with anxiety, so they used candles throughout the castle instead of newer paraffin lamps. He also says she managed every detail of the running of the castle. Dr Hailey remembers what MacCallien had told him about Duchlan and Mary’s father and his heavy drinking, and he wonders how this had affected Mary and Duchlan. He also feels that Mary directed Duchlan’s thoughts about child-rearing and paraffin lamps, and wonders what Duchlan’s own views might actually be. Hmmm, so Mary seemed to be very kind and loved by all, but there’s a few hints that she was actually quite severe, and dictatorial in her religion and beliefs about goodness, and very controlling. And who are the people who disagreed with her view on child-raising, I wonder, perhaps the mother, Oonagh? And it sounds like Mary dominated her brother, which makes me wonder if he could have snapped and killed her, though him being aged 74 perhaps makes that unlikely. 

Duchlan says Mary’s body was discovered when Flora, the housemaid, found that Mary’s door was locked when she took up her morning tea, which surprised her as Mary had never locked her door before. There was no reply when Flora knocked so she went to the elderly butler, Angus, for help but he couldn’t open the door. They then roused Duchlan who then realised that Eoghan had come back in the night by boat, though he wasn’t expected, so Duchlan and Eoghan got a carpenter and cut the lock out of the door, they also sent for their doctor, Dr McDonald, who arrived before the door was opened. Hmmm, so the son was at the castle that night. And the butler seems elderly too so it seems unlikely that he could have delivered the fatal blow. 

Inspector Dundas arrives. He is not impressed that Dr Hailey has already examined the body and the room. He immediately goes to do the same. Inspector Dundas seems coldly logical, modern and not impressed with the old Highland customs of the castle. He angers Duchlan with his sneering tone of their traditional way of life and their heritage and history, and their keenness to hold onto the past with their manners and their possessions in the rooms in the castle, ‘He had the air of a modern jerry builder visiting a Gothic cathedral’. Hmmm, theirs seems like quite a basic life built on tradition and history.

Dr Hailey is described as someone who ‘compelled confidence and liking without moving a muscle’. He is snubbed by Dundas, who makes it obvious he is intending to investigate the mystery alone, although Dundas then does attempt to explain the reasons for this saying it would be important for his career if he could solve this and that he is a solitary worker. He then says he’d like Dr Hailey’s views but doesn’t want him to work independently of him. Dr Hailey says he is staying in the area for a week, and Dundas can use his services during that time if he wishes. The other men are disappointed that Dr Hailey isn’t investigating this. I realise now that Dr Hailey is the amateur detective, so I guess a regular character in Wynne’s books and therefore above suspicion, I was obviously a bit too keen in my detecting earlier, thinking his actions were suspicious! 

Duchlan insists on walking Dr Hailey and MacCallien part of their way home, though it is the early hours of the morning. When Duchlan leaves them, he looks at his watch and states it is 2am and asks for their agreement with this. Dr Hailey tells MacCallien he will watch Duchlan back to the castle, and for MacCallien to continue on and leave the front door unlatched. MacCallien questions why, but Dr Hailey refuses to say. Hmmm, is it significant that Duchlan seemed to be drawing attention to the time? And I don’t really feel we are getting Dr Hailey’s thoughts, or Dundas’ for that matter.

Dr Hailey doesn’t manage to catch up with Duchlan, and concludes the elderly man can walk fast when he wishes to. He can tell that Duchlan isn’t inside the castle however, as he can’t see him in his lighted room. He wonders where the man has gone and begins to look for him. He reaches the stream and sees Eoghan’s boat but can tell there is no-one onboard. He thinks Duchlan’s emphasis on the time meant that he was keen to impress on their minds that he was not present at some event due to happen at 2am. He sees a woman approach the water. He then hears a subdued cough in the shadows. The woman throws herself into the water. Dr Hailey dives into the water and pulls her out and begins artificial respiration and eventually brings her round. He notices bruises on her throat indicating someone had attempted to strangle her about 12 hours before. He thinks he hears footsteps behind him, but can’t see anyone when he looks. Her first muttered words are ‘your sake’ and ‘failure’ and that she was ‘so frightened’. She tells him she is Oonagh, and that he shouldn’t have rescued her and that her life isn’t worth saving. She begs him not to make her go back to the castle. She refuses to answer his questions about the bruises on her neck, and begs him not to tell anyone about the bruises, saying he must regard them as a professional secret as a doctor. He takes her to Darrach Mor with him. He tells her that Duchlan knows that she tried to kill herself as he was there watching her and that he therefore must have approved of her doing this as he didn’t try to stop her. Dr Hailey thinks Duchlan associates Oonagh in some way with the death of his sister and feels that Oonagh is a danger to the family in some way. She says if Duchlan was watching then he will know she survived and has been taken to Darroch Mor and he will send her husband there. They then hear footsteps and Eonagh arrives. Oooh, this is all very dramatic and mysterious with Oonagh trying to drown herself and seemingly with Duchlan’s knowledge and approval, and someone having seemingly tried to strangle her as well, and her terror at the thought of her husband coming for her if it is known she did not die. The sound of footsteps and the torchlight revealing the husband’s face as he approached out of the darkness, is beautifully done and very tense. I wish we were more privy to Dr Hailey’s thoughts and reasoning though. He says ‘it’s my business to guess what people do not tell me’, grrr, I wish he’d share those guesses with the reader though. It’s feeling a bit cold and matter-of-fact to read, I think, because we’re not involved with Dr Hailey’s thoughts, a bit Sherlock Holmes-like, as we’re just watching him reach conclusions but not sharing his process of deduction. I don’t enjoy that method as much. 

Eoghan demands Oonagh comes back home, saying his father sent him to fetch her. She refuses. Dr Hailey tells Eoghan he rescued Oonagh from the water, but makes it sound as if she slipped. He then talks to them both about the murder, saying Mary was killed by someone ‘possessed of great strength and using a weapon taken from a fishing boat’ and explains about the fish scale found in the wound. He also says the murderer remained in the room while Mary died, which took some time after the stabbing, as if the weapon had been removed before death then there would have been lots more blood. Eoghan says he bought some herrings on his way across the loch yesterday and there are scales all over his boat. He also says he tried to visit Mary at 11pm last night but her door was locked and there was no answer when he called her name. Oonagh then says she went to Mary’s room just after 10pm as Christina was leaving the room, that Mary looked terrified at the sight of Oonagh when she approached her bed, like she had seen a ghost, and Oonagh then became frightened and left the room. She heard Mary lock her door, she tried the handle a few times thinking Mary may have needed help but it was locked, she also called to Mary but she didn’t answer. She said she had gone into Mary’s room as they had quarrelled earlier. Dr Hailey then tells Eoghan that Oonagh had tried to drown herself and that it was possible that Duchlan was watching, he says he believes Oonagh did this because she believed Eoghan had murdered Mary so she tried to shield him by committing suicide and making herself look guilty. He says he believes Eoghan also suspected Oonagh of committing the murder. He says the wound could not have been done by a woman so Eoghan need no longer suspect Oonagh, and because Eoghan suspected Oonagh this shows he himself must be innocent. They are both relieved and go home. Phew, what must have been going on between them all at the castle?!

Dr McDonald tells Dr Hailey that the local people and the castle inhabitants are unhappy with Dundas’ interrogative and domineering methods of questioning, ‘Dundas possesses nothing of the subtlety which can set a suspected man at his ease and so loosen his tongue’. He also says that Dundas had found a second fish scale in the wound and believes the weapon came from the kitchen and has found an axe there with fish scales on it, that he has also discovered that Duchlan’s wife, who was also Irish like Oonagh, had consulted a local witch wanting to be informed about her future and the witch said she could see evil in her future, that Duchlan’s wife died suddenly soon after that and that no-one seems clear what she died of, Duchlan never spoke about it at the time and no-one dared ask him, no-one was invited to the funeral but it is a tradition of the family to bury their dead quietly at night, as they did with Duchlan’s father. Dr Hailey says he’d like to know if Mary attended Duchlan’s wife’s funeral. Dr McDonald also says Oonagh is very similar in looks to Duchlan’s wife. He also says Dundas has discovered that Eoghan is in debt, and that he’s Mary’s heir. Dr McDonald also says Duchlan and the town have struggled now the fishing has fallen off, as it used to be much more successful and bring in lots of money. 

Dr Hailey speaks to MacCallien about the Gregor family, who confirms how similar Duchlan’s wife and Eoghan’s wife are in looks, how unbending Mary was in her views of sin, particularly sins of the flesh, and how Mary controlled the housekeeping and the management of the house during Duchlan’s wife’s time there and treated his wife like a visitor and many people wondered how she tolerated it. He said Duchlan’s wife died suddenly of diphtheria. Hmmm, this is very interesting with Duchlan’s wife dying suddenly and mysteriously, and it sounding like Mary tried to control and take over her as she was also doing with Oonagh.

Dr McDonald tells Dr Hailey that Dundas is stuck with the case and is keen for his help. Dr Hailey, however, doesn’t want to work alongside Dundas, he wants to work on his own, but says he will share anything he discovers. Dundas agrees to these terms. Dr Hailey and Dr McDonald go to Dundas that night. He meets them in his room at the castle. Dr Hailey notes that Dundas seems to have lost his self-confidence and is weary. They discuss Mary, Dr Hailey feeling that it seemed like she had no close friends and that she gave her confidence to no-one and consequently no-one really knew her, that she helped the poor from whom it was safe to assume would never be overly-familiar to her, but that she avoided her equals, and he concludes she lived a secluded life. Dr McDonald says everyone knew her, that she intruded on everybody’s business, particularly doctors such as himself. Dundas said no-one, including Duchlan and the servants, has admitted they knew anything about Mary’s former wound. Dr McDonald confirms the chief business of Mary’s life was bringing up Eoghan, and Dr Hailey wonders how she spent her time before she took over his care. Dundas says Duchlan is poor, but Mary was rich, having been left money by an uncle ten years before who made his money in business, but Duchlan got nothing. Duchlan has sent up champagne and glasses for the three men, and the butler fills the glasses. Hmmm, is this a strange thing for Duchlan to do, or is he wanting to celebrate the fact that Dr Hailey is now involved in the case? And it also seems a bit strange why Mary inherited this money and Duchlan got nothing. 

Dundas also shows them the lock cut out from Mary’s door, he says the key enters at a different level on each side of the door, which means it couldn’t have been locked from outside with another key, and the key in the lock couldn’t have been turned from outside with pliers. Dr Hailey ponders why Mary’s windows were closed on such a hot night, Dr McDonald confirms she wasn’t a woman who was scared to have the windows open at night. Dr Hailey thinks that Mary locked the door and windows after she was so scared of seeing Oonagh in her room. Hmmm, this is intriguing about the keys, I really have no idea how the murderer entered and exited, I just hope the answer is as good as my anticipation of it.

Eoghan knocks and enters the room asking for Dr McDonald to come and see Hamish as he has had another fit. After Dr McDonald leaves with Eoghan, Dundas tells Dr Hailey that the child is subject to fits and had one a few days before Mary’s death, and he asks if the fits could be due to nervous weakness, saying he’s heard that both Hamish and Eoghan are highly strung, and that he’s heard that Mary had second-sight. Dundas also tells Dr Hailey that he fears he will be recalled by his superiors soon if he doesn’t make a breakthrough in the case, and he then fears he’ll never be offered another case. Dundas says he believes Eoghan is the murderer. Dr Hailey says he always proceeds from the people to the crime, that he always aims to know all he can about the murdered person first and this then leads him to the identity of the murderer. He says he is interested in all the many things that Mary kept in her room as he knows that some people believe that the virtue and personality of a person is communicated in some way to their material possessions so perhaps Mary felt this and this is why she had so many possessions, he says Mary’s character was rooted in her past, and that she was also probably concerned with whether the next generation would also treasure and respect those possessions, that one reason why she could have been so eager to bring up Eoghan was that she wanted to instil this respect in him and she doubted if Eoghan’s mother would do so. Dr Hailey adds he is also keen to find out more about Eoghan’s mother. He also says the family’s reticence to speak about the past is likely due to a connection between the present and the past, and that Mary’s previous wound is a clue to some great family upheaval, the effects of which are still being felt, and that the family probably suspected that murder was to be the eventual outcome of this. Dr Hailey adds that due to Mary’s self-centred and domineering personality, everyone at the castle hated her, including Duchlan and Eoghan, and that the idea of murdering Mary has probably been in people’s minds for years and this is why no-one will talk. Dr Hailey says he thinks it will be possible to persuade people to talk about the earlier wound by urging them to refresh their memories. They turn to see Dr McDonald standing in the room. Hmmm, is it significant what he could have heard of their conversation? And nice to get some of Dr Hailey’s thinking, with him talking to Dundas.

Dr McDonald asks Dr Hailey to see Hamish as he is puzzled about him, unsure if it is indigestion or brain. They say goodbye to Dundas and leave, shutting the door. Dr Hailey then realises he has left his fountain-pen in Dundas’ room, Dr McDonald offers to go back for it and finds Dundas lying on the floor beside the bed, murdered by an injury to his head that has fractured his skull. Omg, this is such a shocker, I never imagined Dundas would be murdered! I can’t believe it! 

Dr Hailey and Dr McDonald can’t understand how this has been done, as they met no-one in the corridor, and there is no other door along the corridor, and there is nowhere that anyone could hide in Dundas’ room, and they estimate they were out of the room for only about half a minute. Dr Hailey asks Dr McDonald if the door to Dundas’ room was shut, and he confirms it was. The window is open but the wall is even steeper than outside Mary’s room so Dr Hailey is convinced that no-one entered or exited by the window. Dr McDonald is very shocked and full of nerves. Phew, to kill a policeman! And I am puzzled as to why he was killed, as it didn’t sound like he needed to be silenced because he was about to reveal the murderer, as he seemed to have very little clue himself who had done it and why and how. Was he killed in anger because he showed disrespect to the murderer and their values, I wonder? And I initially wondered if Dr McDonald killed Dundas, as he returned to the room on his own and found the body, but I think not as it was Dr Hailey who asked Dr McDonald to go back to the room to collect his pen so it wasn’t Dr McDonald who engineered to return, and he can’t have known he would be asked by Dr Hailey to go back to the room. 

When Duchlan is told of Dundas’ murder, he says he and Eoghan would have seen anyone descending the staircase. He says he thinks he saw a gleam out on the water earlier, like a fish but larger than a fish and it didn’t leave the water, and he then mentions old tales that his father used to tell him of a half-fish-half-man in the loch. Dr Hailey examines the wall of the house and the grass infront of it, concluding there is no sign that anyone placed a ladder there. They speak to the fishermen who say they heard no cry from the house. A fisherman later comes to the house saying he saw a big man and later a little man at the lighted window of Dundas’ room, Dr Hailey realises he was the big man. He asks questions about the little man but the fisherman can give him no details apart from that he was only at the window a moment, he says he heard no cry and saw nothing unusual on the house wall or roof and confirms he would have seen a ladder against the house due to the moonlight. Dr Hailey can find no weapon in Dundas’ room and concludes the murderer brought it with him and took it away again, he wonders if it was a bludgeon or knuckle-duster. He also searches the grounds and doesn’t find the weapon so concludes it wasn’t thrown from the window. He finds a fish scale in Dundas’ hair. He wonders if the murderer wanted it to be thought that a supernatural force had done the murders so therefore planted the fish scales for this reason, and that if so then it must have been an intelligent person to think of this and therefore the servants could probably be excluded. Omg, I am still stunned by this and even more stumped as to how it was done! So are we thinking the little man at the window was Dundas, or the murderer? This book will be a great one, if the solution is equally as clever as the tantalising mysteries.

Dr Hailey and Dr McDonald continue with their visit to Hamish, and Oonagh meets them in the nursery saying he has had another fit. Dr Hailey strokes his fingernail across the boy’s arm and a weal appears, he says this is a sign of a certain type of nervous temperament, that it will soon pass off but may return, but there is nothing to fear and gives guidance on treatment. He asks about bruises and is told the boy bruises very easily. The nurse says Hamish has been lifeless and depressed lately and seems frightened of somebody or something. Dr Hailey tells Dr McDonald that superstitious beliefs exist about people who bruise easily, and back in history they were thought to be in touch with God or the Devil or were witches. 

Dr McDonald tells Dr Hailey that he has attended the family for more than ten years but had never physically examined Mary as she had a horror of this, so had therefore never seen the wound on her chest. Dr Hailey tells Dr McDonald that he suspects that Duchlan’s wife could have been involved in the first wound of Mary’s, as he says there is no portrait of Duchlan’s wife at the castle, which he finds strange for a family who hoard things but her being involved with the wound may explain this, and that if Oonagh looks similar to Duchlan’s wife then this may explain Mary’s panic when Oonagh came into her room, as she was reminded of the attack from Duchlan’s wife, so she locked her door and bolted her windows, and that the quarrel that day between Mary and Oonagh may also have been similar to the quarrel between Mary and Duchlan’s wife, also then bringing Duchlan’s wife and the attack to Mary’s mind and making her fearful. He asks Dr McDonald if Mary was the type of woman to resent the wives of her menfolk, to view them as interlopers and seek to estrange them from their husbands and children. Dr McDonald confirms Mary was this type of woman. He says he is probably Oonagh’s only friend, that Mary maintained that Hamish was not being properly brought up and began to persecute Oonagh when Eoghan left for Malta, that things came to a head a month ago when Hamish had a fit, and Oonagh told him that she feared Hamish’s fit was because of her nerves and that she had decided to leave Eoghan if he wouldn’t make a home for them away from the castle. He says that Mary then spoke privately to him saying the fit was caused by Oonagh’s lack of experience, and she asked him to persuade Oonagh to have complete rest with her siblings in Ireland and to leave Hamish in her care, but that he had told Mary that any decision on this must wait until the child was better. He says that his advice wasn’t received well by Mary and he felt that Mary decided at that point to make things difficult for him, and that she hated him from that point and would have sent for another doctor if there was one available but there wasn’t. He describes Mary as having ‘a stubborn nature’ and ‘a wicked quality, which took joy in hurting the people she didn’t like’, and that she viewed Eoghan as her child and ‘meant to hold him and his forever’ and that she represented ‘motherhood, hungry, unsatisfied, implacable’. He also describes Duchlan as ‘clay in her hands; like most cowards he has a cruel streak in his nature’. He says three weeks ago, Oonagh knocked at his door late at night, she was weeping and hysterical and near to collapse and breakdown, she said she had left the castle forever, saying she had had a violent quarrel with Mary because she had found her administering a stimulant to Hamish, knowing that the advice was that these weren’t to be given, that Mary had then accused Oonagh of ill-using and trying to kill Hamish. He says that Oonagh told him that Duchlan had then insinuated that Dr McDonald had been sent for quite enough, that then Eonagh had written to Oonagh accusing her of being in love with Dr McDonald and being slack in her care of Hamish and of displaying ingratitude to his father and aunt. He says that Oonagh told him that she then lost control of herself and that now didn’t care what happened to her, saying she had left her husband and child and had gone to Dr McDonald for advice and shelter. Dr McDonald admits that he loves Oonagh but says that he knows she doesn’t feel the same and she will forever be loyal to Eoghan and has never guessed his own feelings and thinks he acts from purely professional considerations, and that Oonagh is a woman who can’t act alone and who needs a friend to support her. He adds that Oonagh returned to the castle because Christina came to his house to tell Oonagh that Hamish was crying for her and Christina comforted Oonagh saying that her troubles would soon be at an end. Dr Hailey asks if he can tell the new detective what Dr McDonald has told him. Dr McDonald agrees to this. Dr Hailey also asks why Eoghan suddenly came back, Dr McDonald says he presumes it was because he needed to borrow money, but also because Oonagh had sent for him and asked him to take her away but that he presumes Eoghan refused this request. Hmmm, Mary really sounds more and more like a nasty person, although part of me felt briefly sorry for her with her frustrated wish of motherhood and how desperately sad this seems to have made her. And it sounds like behind closed doors at the castle, tensions and strong feelings simmered and simmered.

Dr Hailey then goes to the local priest, Rev Dugald, and asks him about Dr McDonald. Dugald says he is a good man and a poet and an artist who lost his way and became a doctor, but that there have been rumours about his intimacy with Oonagh. He says that Mary came to him in distress about Dr McDonald and Oonagh, that he had suggested she speak to Dr McDonald herself, which she refused to do, so he told her that he couldn’t advise her further but offered to speak to Dr McDonald himself, but that Mary also refused this offer. He says he didn’t believe the rumours and says that he trusts both Dr McDonald and Oonagh, but thought that Mary had shared her suspicions with others as well. Dr Hailey suggests an attempt was being made by Mary to blacken Oonagh’s name, and further suggests that Mary was driven to do this by jealousy. Phew, life at the castle sounds very complicated!

There are some lovely descriptive phrases in the book too, ‘Autumn was dressing herself in her scarlets and saffrons; already the air held that magical quality of light which belongs only to diminishing days and which seems to be of the same texture as the colours it illuminates’, and ‘the small coin of birch leaves a-jingle in the wind’, and ‘he listened to the soft babbling of the burn at his feet, in which chuckles and gurgles were mingled deliciously’, and ‘the drought had tamed this fierce stream till only its laughter remained’. 

Inspector Barley arrives to replace Dundas, he immediately suspects Dr McDonald, as not only did he go to Dundas’ room alone, he was also at the castle the night of Mary’s murder when he was tending sick Hamish and wasn’t heard leaving, his wooden leg usually making quite a lot of noise, and Barley has discovered the suspicions held by Mary and the villagers about Oonagh and Dr McDonald having an affair. Hmmm, Barley is a nice contrast to Dr Hailey, he is quite Poirot-like with his demonstrative ways and French phrases and combing his moustache, he is quick to jump to theories and he voices these too, in contrast to Dr Hailey who doesn’t share much of his theories with the reader. 

Barley respects Dr Hailey’s reputation and is keen for his cooperation. Dr Hailey describes Barley as having ‘an extraordinary quickness of mind and an excellent imagination which never appeared to escape from the control of his reason’ and also that he was a ‘most un-Scots-like Scot’. Dr Hailey also realises that Barley recognises the effect that his dramatic gestures have on the people he is questioning, making them discomposed or distracted or often unguarded as they think they are dealing with a fool, and he plays to this as he ‘looked like a shop-walker and spoke like a decayed actor in a Strand public house’. Hmmm, this is the third type of detective we’ve been shown in this book, it’s interesting to see the differences between them all. There’s also several references made to the differences between Highlanders and Lowlanders, and how each judges the other and deem themselves judged.

Barley states that only Duchlan, or Angus the butler, or Dr McDonald, or Eoghan could have killed Mary, and he discounts Duchlan as being too weak and elderly to administer the blow. He thinks that only Dr McDonald could have killed Dundas, and that the two murders appeared to have been done by the same person. Hmmm, I just remember how shook up and scared Dr McDonald seemed after finding Dundas’ body, this did seem genuine, and I remember too how Dr McDonald didn’t engineer to go back to Dundas’ room, it appeared to just be chance that he did so, so I guess I’m not really thinking Dr McDonald is the murderer.

Oonagh tells Barley that Dr McDonald was her only friend and that they often met privately on his boat, she says they had to meet secretly like this because Mary deliberately misunderstood everything and was ready to find evil in all that Oonagh did because she wanted control of Hamish, so it was impossible for her and Dr McDonald to meet openly without arousing Mary’s suspicions. She also says she had threatened to leave Eoghan unless he provided her with a home of their own. Barley says Dr McDonald knew Mary could have him struck off if he was found to be having an affair with one of his patients, and that he believes Oonagh offered herself to Dr McDonald and was refused by him. Hmmm, I wonder if she really did do this, somehow I don’t really see her acting like that.

Eoghan tells Barley that he came back suddenly from Ayrshire because he needed to borrow money and he came by boat as it was the quickest method. He says Oonagh had stated two weeks ago that she wanted them to have their own home and that she had told him that she had run away from the castle. He also admits that Mary had written to tell him this as well, but that he’d not told Oonagh about Mary telling him this. Barley states to Eoghan that Oonagh did not tell him that she offered herself to Dr McDonald and was refused by him, he also goes on to tell Eoghan that he will shortly accuse Oonagh of aiding and abetting Dr McDonald in the murder of Mary. Eoghan is angered by this and grabs hold of Barley, he then states it was he who murdered Mary. Oooh, this is getting more and more confusing, I really don’t have a firm conviction myself on who did this or how. 

Eoghan says he killed Mary for money to pay gambling debts as he inherits her money and his father has no money, that Mary disapproved of gambling so wouldn’t have lent him money for this reason, that he would have been expelled from the army unless he could pay his debts, that he killed her with the axe from the kitchen which he collected when he earlier took herrings down to the larder, that he entered and exited her room by the door, and that Oonagh had lied when she said Mary locked her door and he lied when he told others it was locked when her body was discovered, he says he had actually put a wedge under the door when he exited after killing Mary and then locked it later when the lock was cut out from the door. He says he killed Dundas by hiding under the eiderdown mattress on his bed and that he did it as soon as Dr Hailey left the room and because Dundas suspected him. Dr Hailey remembers they looked under the bed but not actually in the bed. Oooh, this surely can’t be true! I remember Dr Hailey didn’t suspect Eoghan of killing Mary because Eoghan had clearly suspected Oonagh, meaning he hadn’t done it himself. And I don’t see how he could have been hiding under the eiderdown mattress, as he came into the room to ask Dr McDonald to see Hamish, then Dr Hailey and Dundas stayed in the room until Dr McDonald returned to ask Dr Hailey to help him with Hamish, so Eoghan wasn’t under the eiderdown mattress beforehand and had no chance to get under it undetected afterwards. 

Eoghan drops his cigarette case and stoops to pick it up, Dr Hailey then suddenly tackles him to the ground and takes his gun which he had spotted Eoghan had concealed. Eoghan says he is allowed to carry a gun as a soldier, and that he intended to kill himself with it. He asks that Oonagh isn’t told about what he has confessed, and asks Dr Hailey to tell Barley about Oonagh. Dr Hailey therefore tells Barley about Oonagh trying to drown herself and Duchlan apparently allowing this to happen, Barley says he thinks this was because Duchlan thought Oonagh had killed Mary so he felt that her drowning herself was a just punishment and would avoid the scandal of a trial. Dr Hailey says that Eoghan seemed to also suspect his wife, but that Oonagh seemed to suspect Eoghan and her attempt to drown herself was to shield him, but Barley is not convinced that Oonagh was shielding Eoghan as he believes she had already discarded her husband in favour of Dr McDonald. Barley’s gesture ‘executed with both hands, consigned the house of Gregor to bottomless depths’. Tee hee, I know how he feels, this is getting very elaborate and complicated!

Barley questions Duchlan about Oonagh, he admits seeing her and Dr McDonald secretly meet at night on the shore, and that Mary was with him and also saw this, and that Oonagh saw them there, that Mary had then told Oonagh she would have to tell Eoghan of this on his return, though Duchlan tried to persuade Mary to wait before telling Eoghan but she said she had already written to Eoghan hinting of it before she knew of the meetings. He says Mary wished to only do good, that she hoped Eoghan’s and her influence could stop Oonagh on her path. He also confirms that Oonagh and Eoghan were dependant on Mary for money as Eoghan’s army pay was small, that Oonagh had no money of her own and that Mary would supply her with clothes but only from certain shops, and that on the evening of Mary’s death Oonagh had said she was going to earn her own living, even if this was as a maid, and would not be indebted to Mary for anything again. Barley points out that Oonagh’s position was worse than a servant, and that after Oonagh had revealed this to Dr McDonald it was in both their interests to silence Mary. Duchlan does not deny he suggested to Oonagh that she kill herself, and that her death promised safety for all the family. Oooh, Duchlan really is very cold and also very cowardly.

Dr Hailey tells Barley what Dr McDonald said about loving Oonagh but that he said she has never given him any encouragement. Dr Hailey adds that he views Dr McDonald as an honest man. Barley is not convinced, and he and Dr Hailey go to speak to Dr McDonald. He states he arrived at the castle at about 9.30pm on the night of Mary’s death, to examine Hamish, that Oonagh told him about the quarrel with Mary and that Mary had threatened to tell her suspicions about Oonagh and Dr McDonald to Eoghan. He says Mary and Duchlan mentally tortured Oonagh, that Mary was determined not to lose her reign at the castle when Duchlan died so aimed to separate Eoghan and Oonagh so she could raise Hamish as she had raised Eoghan. Dr McDonald is shocked when Barley says he suspects him of murdering Mary with Oonagh’s help. He asks how he was supposed to have got into Mary’s room. Barley repeats Eoghan’s statement that the door wasn’t locked, but Dr McDonald insists he saw the carpenter check the lock several times that morning and it was locked. Barley asks who the first person was to enter Mary’s room that morning after the lock had been cut out, and Dr McDonald says it was him. Barley asks if the blinds were drawn, and Dr McDonald says they were and that he opened them. Barley asks Dr McDonald about his wooden leg, and he says he wears a special shoe on that wooden leg with nails in the sole which grip well. Hmmm, I wonder if Dr McDonald having a wooden leg has been brought into the story for some particular reason.

Barley later meets with the carpenter, who swears that the door was locked with the key turned on the inside. Barley also checks Dundas’ mattress and finds that it is filled with hair not eiderdown, so concludes that Dundas must have requested the change and that Eoghan was unaware of this change. Hmmm, so are we thinking now that Eoghan didn’t do the murders? 

Barley takes Dr Hailey to the flowerbed under Mary’s window and uses bellows to disturb the soil, which then reveal marks that match Dr McDonald’s shoe print with the nails on his wooden leg, Barley says he believes that the shoe print was afterwards carefully covered up by Oonagh. He says he believes that Dr McDonald used an iron rod sticking out from the wall just above Mary’s window, which used to hold a sunblind, to lower himself with a rope to the ground after murdering Mary and locking the door from the inside and closing the window behind him when he exited via it, and he then climbed through the window of the downstairs room and exited by the front door, knowing he’d be summoned when the household raised the alarm about Mary, giving him then the chance to enter her room and bolt the window from the inside. They examine the rod from above and can see a patch where the rust has been knocked off, Barley says he believes this was due to a rope being hung over it. Dr Hailey agrees with his explanation, although he still says Dr McDonald and Oonagh don’t seem the type of people to have done this. Omg, I can’t believe this of Dr McDonald! Could someone have taken a spare shoe of Dr McDonald’s in order to leave a shoe print to frame him, perhaps? 

Christina speaks privately to Dr Hailey, she states that she knows Oonagh is not guilty of killing Mary or of helping Dr McDonald kill her. She then tells Dr Hailey about the first wound on Mary’s chest, she says Duchlan was very much in love with his wife but that Mary hated her and used cunning and cleverness to drop hints to Duchlan about her housekeeping and care of Eoghan, telling him to speak to his wife about these things, which he did. She says Duchlan’s wife then accused Mary of causing trouble between her and Duchlan and trying to take her child from her, and Mary repeated these accusations to Duchlan who then quarrelled with his wife. She says that his wife grew so unhappy she began to go mad, and that she was drowned on the same night as Mary was taken ill. She says that she never knew the nature of Mary’s illness but she saw the doctor with lots of bandages so believes this was when the wound happened, and when Mary was a little better she and Duchlan went away for a trip to England. She says on their return, Mary visited Eoghan in the nursery every day, insisted that he call her mother and when he was older she told him that his mother died of a cold. She also adds that Hamish is scared of Mary and his fits began after she tried to give him some medicine of her own. Hmmm, so we don’t really have an answer to Mary’s wound, just the implication that Duchlan’s wife did it and then killed herself, or that his wife was compelled by Duchlan to kill herself as happened with Oonagh. 

Dr Hailey is walking in the woods and is approached by Oonagh asking for his help. She says Dr McDonald has told her of Barley’s suspicions against him, and she states that Dr McDonald didn’t do the murders. She says her and Mary were rivals, but that she can see now that Mary must have been very sad and lonely and bitterly hungry for the things Oonagh has, such as a husband’s love and a child’s love, that Mary wanted to have a hand in the future of the Gregor family but couldn’t as she couldn’t bear a child herself so wanted to steal other women’s children in order to stamp her personality and ideas on their mind. She says she had accused Mary of interfering, and Mary had complained about her to Duchlan, which then made the atmosphere in the house intolerable for Oonagh, resulting in her running away and going to Dr McDonald for help. She says she planned to return to Ireland and then force Eoghan to provide her with a home of her own but she realised that she and Eoghan were completely dependent on Mary as Eoghan doesn’t earn enough to keep them, and that Dr McDonald convinced her to return to the castle. She says that when she then secretly met with Dr McDonald the following day to talk more, Mary followed her and reported this meeting to Duchlan, and that she told Mary and Duchlan she was leaving Eoghan unless he took her away. She says she then received a letter from Eoghan saying he had lost a lot of money and was coming home to borrow money from Mary otherwise he’d have to leave the army in disgrace, so he asked Oonagh to be nice to Mary which was why she went to Mary’s room that evening. She says she then met Dr McDonald in the room downstairs after he had been called to see Hamish, that this room is directly under Mary’s room and they heard her close her window, they then heard Eoghan’s boat and then Duchlan coming downstairs to meet Eoghan, so Dr McDonald climbed out of the window to avoid seeing them both. Hmmm, so this explains the shoe print. But I’m now wondering what made Barley think to use bellows to move the soil in the flowerbed to reveal the shoe print, was this hinted to him by someone else who had perhaps seen Dr McDonald exit that way and realised the shoe print could be used to make him seem guilty of murder? But if so then why would that person either cover the shoe print or allow someone else to cover the shoe print? And I guess Mary’s murderer must have exited her room via the window and the old sunblind rod, as there is evidence that a rope had been hung around the rod, but then where are the murderer’s footprints in the soil, and of course who was this?

Oonagh continues to explain that Eoghan went first to Mary’s room and then came to her, angry at her for jeopardising his chance with Mary as he had found Mary’s door locked and she didn’t answer him when he knocked and called to her. She says she told Eoghan that Dr McDonald had offered to lend them money, and this angered Eoghan further as Mary had written to Eoghan hinting that Oonagh was in love with Dr McDonald. Dr Hailey asks her if Eoghan had tried to strangle her, causing the bruising on her neck that he had seen, but she says she can’t tell him about that. She says she thinks now that Mary was already dead when Eoghan knocked on her door. He tells her that Eoghan has confessed to killing Mary but adds that he doesn’t believe Eoghan. She says she knows that Dr McDonald didn’t go into Mary’s room. She says Duchlan can’t be the murderer as there is no way he could have murdered Dundas. Dr Hailey says that Duchlan must have somehow known that Dr McDonald left the house by the downstairs window and he then covered up the shoe print, and Oonagh confirms this was the case as she says that Duchlan told her that the shoe print showed that Dr McDonald had jumped from Mary’s window, and that Duchlan also told her he believes that she and Dr McDonald had plotted Mary’s murder together, and he told her that he had covered up the shoe print in order to save Eoghan and Hamish the shame of knowing Oonagh was involved and that he then urged her to further save them the shame of this by killing herself by drowning. She says that she attempted to drown herself because she thought Eoghan may have killed Mary and wanted to divert suspicion from him. She says she thinks Duchlan didn’t tell Barley about the shoe print and that Barley just discovered it himself. Dr Hailey says Eoghan also believes that Oonagh is guilty of murder. He says the murders can’t have been committed by either Eoghan or Oonagh or Dr McDonald or Duchlan, which just leaves Angus. Oooh, really? But Angus as the guilty person also seems unlikely. I honestly can’t think who could have done this, it is supposedly not Christina as the killing wasn’t done by a woman, that just leaves Hamish which would be a fantastic twist but surely a child couldn’t have had the strength to do it if a woman was deemed not able to have the strength. Omg, I’m getting desperate now if I’m suspecting Hamish, tee hee! But who did it! I’m glad Dr Hailey hadn’t forgotten about the bruises on Oonagh’s neck too, as I had in my mind that we still needed an answer to them. And I’m still puzzled as to why (as well as obviously how!) Dundas was murdered.

Duchlan approaches Dr Hailey and Oonagh, saying he has heard that Eoghan has confessed to the murders so he must state his conviction that Dr McDonald and Oonagh did the murders, and mentions the shoe print and their secret meetings. Dr Hailey defends Oonagh, saying she sent for Dr McDonald due to concerns about Hamish, but because Mary was excluded from Hamish’s nursery when the doctor visited, Mary and Duchlan then put this exclusion down to suspicious reasons. He declares that Mary made Oonagh’s life intolerable in order to separate her and Eoghan, that Duchlan was made suspicious of Dr McDonald and Oonagh’s relationship by Mary and by the previous experience of Mary’s accusations about Duchlan’s own wife, because these rivals threatened Mary’s position in the castle, that Mary drove Duchlan’s wife to violence and Duchlan then convinced his wife to kill herself. Wow, that was quite intense!

Barley gathers everyone together in order to explain his belief that Dr McDonald committed the murders with Oonagh’s assistance, and the police then arrive to arrest them. Oonagh is allowed to say goodbye to Hamish in the nursery, with Sergeant Jackson watching her from the stairs. Barley goes outside to speak to the police woman waiting by the car. He then walks towards the house and is suddenly killed. Omg, Barley is dead now too! And, as Dr McDonald points out, why kill him, like why kill Dundas? Barley wasn’t on the right track with guessing the murderer. Would it not have made more sense to murder Dr Hailey, wasn’t he more of a threat in deducting the murderer? And I have absolutely no idea how Barley’s murder was done! I am beginning to wonder if it’s a clever double-bluff, like someone we’ve thought was guilty and who has then been ‘proved’ not guilty so we’ve then discounted them as being guilty, such as Eoghan, did he confess to the murders of Mary and Dundas describing a method he knew could be disproved, thinking that once he was arrested and released then he couldn’t be re-arrested for the same crime? Could it be that Oonagh and Eoghan are in it together, that Eoghan always hated Mary for mentally torturing his mother and for her part in the death of his mother and then seeing her do this again to his wife? If there were two people involved, then does that make it easier to imagine how the murders happened? Omg, I think I am going crazy here! But surely there is too much left to chance with Barley’s murder, surely anyone could have gone outside with Barley, the murderer wasn’t to know that Barley would be alone. And again, why kill Barley and Dundas anyway? Is it worth wondering why Barley walked over to the house where he was then killed, did someone call him over in order to murder him?

The servants and Angus report to Dr Hailey that they heard a splash before Barley’s body was found, and they had heard these splashes before when Dundas and Mary were killed, and they are convinced it is a supernatural monster that comes from the loch to do the killings. Hmmm, I’m almost beginning to wonder the same thing! I just can’t see a solution to this.

Duchlan comes to Eoghan, who is with Dr Hailey, and apologises for his part in what happened to Eoghan’s mother, he explains that there was an outbreak of diphtheria in the area, that Christina’s son contracted it and his wife selflessly nursed him and then contracted it herself, and that one of the symptoms is temporary insanity and it was during one of these periods of insanity that she attacked Mary. Duchlan said he always was a weak man and was totally dominated by Mary, but Mary became engaged to be married so he went to Dublin for a holiday which is where he met his future wife, he felt nurtured there in Ireland with her and her family and hoped to stay there and not return to the castle and hoped to therefore have a better life, but Mary broke off her engagement as she couldn’t bear to not live at the castle and to lose her Gregor name, so Duchlan returned temporarily to the castle, with his new wife, to support Mary. He says Mary then dominated him completely, turning him against his wife, and all his plans for living a better life fell by the wayside, until his wife attacked Mary and he then told his wife to kill herself by drowning, which she did, and which he repeated again with Oonagh, believing she had killed Mary. He begs for Eoghan’s forgiveness, Eoghan is reluctant to grant this but Dr Hailey urges him to do so. Hmmm, what a family!

Dr Hailey speaks to Christina and Oonagh in the nursery asking them if they heard splashes, Oonagh says she heard two splashes and that she looked out of the window after hearing the second splash and saw something which resembled a black seal’s head, which glimmered like a fish’s body, in the stream entering the loch. Christina says she was dealing with Hamish so didn’t see this, but that Oonagh had told her about it. Dr Hailey tells Christina that a maid heard a splash when Dundas died, and he is surprised that Christina says she didn’t hear this as she had the nursery window open. He tells Oonagh he wants to conduct an experiment, so he will exit the house by the window in the downstairs room and will cough when he exits the room, that she should not move from the nursery but she is to listen for the cough and for possible splashes and to say also if she can hear doors and windows being opened, and to also try and distinguish if she hears his cough through the open nursery door and therefore from inside the house or whether she hears it from the window and therefore outside the house, and to also see if small objects on the surface of the water are visible from the windows. Hmmm, I’m sensing Dr Hailey thinks he knows how this has been done, and by whom.

Dr Hailey goes to Eoghan and Duchlan, he tells Duchlan to stay in that room and that they will report back to him, and asks Eoghan to come with him but first to get some black cotton and pins but not to go upstairs for these things. He then tells Eoghan to put on an overcoat, and puts one on himself, and they then climb out of the window and lay down in the grass near the water. Dr Hailey then tells Eoghan to stay there, and he then creeps towards the window of the downstairs room and coughs. Eoghan then hears Dr Hailey shout ‘Don’t come out’, and he sees a gleam of something and hears a thud, then something comes down the bank towards him and passes him and he then hears a splash and sees a black object, like a seal, heading out in the water to the loch. He then hears a low groan and his name being weakly called. He goes to the house and sees Dr Hailey bent over Duchlan laid on the ground by the window where Barley died. Duchlan says he is about to die, and that he has been struck on the head the same as Barley was. He asks again if Eoghan forgives him, and Eoghan assures him he does. Duchlan then dies after saying his wife’s name, Kathleen. Dr Hailey tells Eoghan that Duchlan exited by the window even though Dr Hailey warned him not to. There is then the sound of another thud and heavy breathing and a cry. Dr Hailey and Eoghan run to the water’s edge and then Dr Hailey dives into the water and pulls out Christina. Omg, the drama doesn’t stop!

Dr McDonald examines Christina and pronounces her dead from drowning, and examines Duchlan and agrees that his wound is the same as Dundas’ and Barley’s wounds. Dr Hailey then explains to Eoghan and Oonagh and Dr McDonald that the killer was Christina. He says she killed her victims by dropping a block of ice on them from the window above, the ice cracking their skulls and then slithering down the bank to the water. The difference with Mary was that the ice block hit the sunblind rod first and split into shards, and one of these shards stabbed Mary and later melted. He says Christina hated Mary for what she had done to Duchlan’s wife who had given her life for Christina’s son during the diphtheria epidemic, that she was able to still serve Mary when Eoghan was a child as Mary was Duchlan’s sister and she felt her duty was to Duchlan and his family, but when she saw Mary harming Oonagh and Hamish, and saw Mary was going to poison Eoghan’s mind against Oonagh after her flight to Dr McDonald which would then bring about the end of their marriage, she felt that Mary was acting under evil and supernatural influences so needed to be stopped. He says that on the night of Mary’s death, Oonagh wore a blue dressing gown when she went to try and conciliate her after receiving Eoghan’s letter asking her to keep on Mary’s good side due to his financial needs, but dressed like that she reminded Mary of Eoghan’s mother when she stabbed her with a knife, so Mary then locked her door and windows but when she bolted her windows she heard Eoghan’s boat approaching so leant out of the window to look further, and Christina was in the pantry above chipping ice from a large block to refill Hamish’s ice-bag, she too looked out the window at the sound of Eoghan’s boat and knew Mary would tell him about Oonagh, so dropped this ice block onto Mary from above, the ice hit the sunblind rod and a shard of it stabbed Mary like a dagger which severely wounded her, Mary continued with bolting her window and staggered to the bed where her heart gave out, and the ice shard then melted. He says Christina killed Dundas and Barley because they threatened to arrest Eoghan and Oonagh, both of whom she adored. Oonagh confirms that Christina wasn’t in the nursery when Dundas or Barley were killed, and that both times Christina had gone to the pantry. Dr Hailey says that when Christina heard that Dundas suspected Eoghan, she waited in the pantry above his room and heard him wish Dr Hailey and Dr McDonald good night so knew he was then alone, she waited for him to come to the window due to the heat and then dropped the ice block onto him and it rolled down the bank and into the stream. The same for Barley, but she needed him to be under the window so she dropped part of the ice block first to make him walk over to the house to investigate, and then dropped the rest of the ice block, hence the two splashes heard. Dr Hailey says he meant to make Christina act against himself tonight, hence the instructions to Oonagh in the nursery knowing Christina would hear these, he arranged his hat so when pulled on a thread it would swing out from the window and he then coughed as the signal, but Duchlan stepped out first and was hit instead. He says the knowledge she had killed Duchlan was too much for Christina so she threw herself out of the window to kill herself, however she didn’t die so dragged herself to the water to drown. Dr Hailey says the ice came from the local fishmonger so there were fish scales on it.

Hmmm, this is a bit of a stretch, isn’t it?! It’s clever, as the weapon disappears due to melting or sliding into the water, and it explains beautifully the locked room of Mary and the swiftness of death of Dundas and Barley with no-one being nearby and no weapon left behind. But Mary’s death, hmmm, what a coincidence that the ice splintered and a shard stabbed her in a very similar place to her earlier wound, and that she’d earlier been scared by Oonagh’s resemblance to Duchlan’s wife so locked her door and then closed and bolted her windows, after being stabbed with the ice shard, which then created the locked room. So there isn’t really a mystery about how the murderer killed her and then escaped that locked room, as the locked room wasn’t engineered by the murderer, it was just incidental, I’m not sure if that seems a bit like cheating and I’m disappointed in that aspect of it. And the same with Mary having a near identical wound to her earlier wound, that also wasn’t engineered by the murderer and was just incidental, so again feels a bit like cheating and disappoints me. And my main puzzles with Dundas’ and Barley’s murders were that they didn’t appear much of a threat to the murderer for them to warrant the trouble and risk of killing them, and I think that still stands, yes, they did suspect Eoghan and Oonagh so this was why Christina killed them, but she knew Eoghan and Oonagh weren’t guilty so surely she could have been fairly confident they wouldn’t be charged with murder even if they were briefly suspected, wouldn’t it be more likely that she’d wait for them to prove their innocence or the police to realise their mistake, rather than take the huge risk of murdering again, particularly murdering policemen, and opening herself up to discovery? 

And following on from Christina’s determination to remove people who could have harmed or suspected Eoghan and Oonagh, why on earth did she not punish Duchlan for encouraging his wife and Oonagh into trying to kill themselves? Maybe she was unaware of his hand in these things, as it seems like when Duchlan admitted his involvement to Eoghan when begging his forgiveness, that this was the first time he had spoken about it, so I guess it was very unlikely that Christina would ever have known or suspected about Duchlan’s wife, but did Oonagh never speak of Duchlan’s encouragement in her suicide attempt? I guess Oonagh’s discussion of this with Dr Hailey happened outside in the woods rather than at the castle so Christina couldn’t have overheard it, but Oonagh seemed to share a lot of her worries and concerns with Christina so wouldn’t Christina have questioned, or Oonagh shared, the reasons for her being so desperate that she tried to commit suicide? Perhaps not though, with the class difference of servant and lady.

The whole thing with Duchlan covering Dr McDonald’s shoe print in the soil from when he exited the window after speaking to Oonagh, did bother me a bit though as it seems now very far-fetched and convoluted. I can see it was all another beautiful red herring designed to make us suspect Dr McDonald, but it seems strange that Duchlan covered the shoe print up in the first place, I can see he didn’t want Oonagh publicly accused of complicity in the murder of Mary due to the shame it would bring on the family, but why would he want Dr McDonald to escape justice if he really believed Dr McDonald killed his sister? And it was strange that Dr Hailey didn’t discover the shoe print himself, if Barley discovered them so easily even though Duchlan had covered them up, I presumed at first that Duchlan had told Barley of the shoe print but I think that wasn’t the case and that Barley just discovered them himself. And again a huge coincidence that Dr McDonald handily exited the house and left his shoe print in the soil which happened to also be under Mary’s window, hence leading to him being suspected of actually exiting Mary’s window after he’d killed her. Another huge coincidence there, I feel.

And I think Eoghan strangling Oonagh is a bit of a stretch too, it doesn’t really seem to fit his character, even though at the time he was desperate with fear of being expelled from the army due to gambling debts, and fearful that Oonagh had unintentionally jeopardised his chances of convincing Mary to lend him money, and his fear that Oonagh was having an affair with Dr McDonald, but he is obviously passionately in love with Oonagh and willing to be hanged for murder in order to save her from being suspected by the police, so would he actually harm her? The bruises on her neck were a tantalising little mystery, but I think the solution is a bit of a stretch. 

But huge credit to Wynne for providing answers throughout the book to all the puzzles and mysteries he’d raised. I’ve just gone through my notes again to check there are answers to everything, such as the bruises on Oonagh’s neck and the death of Duchlan’s wife and Mary’s earlier wound, etc, and I think everything has been answered, which pleases me greatly.

I also see from my notes that Wynne had hinted at Christina’s superstitious nature and her likelihood of believing in the supernatural, hence her readiness to believe that Mary was acting under supernatural evil influences and this justifying her actions in stopping Mary, added to her concerns about Hamish’s illness and him bruising easily which superstitious people believe hints at influences by God or the devil or witches. And Wynne had also hinted at Christina being likely to take action to stop Mary when she reassured Oonagh, after she had run away, that soon her troubles would be at an end. I do like being able to see the clues and hints afterwards, and that they were provided, if I’d been clever enough to interpret them of course.

And I realise too, looking back at my notes, how sneaky Wynne was by having Dr Hailey insist early on that Mary’s murder couldn’t have been done by a woman due to the great force needed, and also was unlikely to have been done by a servant due to intelligence and plotting needed. Hmmm, I guess at the time Dr Hailey was thinking the murderer had stood opposite Mary and used great force to stab her so discounted a woman doing this, when actually the force of the stabbing was due to gravity. And he thought a servant unlikely to be clever enough to plant fish scales in the wound in order to infer the local area’s superstition of a half-fish-half-man creature in the loch, when actually the murderer hadn’t followed this train of thought at all. I still doubt I’d ever have suspected Christina, to be honest, as Wynne’s writing was too clever for me, but stating it couldn’t have been done by a woman and unlikely to have been done by a servant was quite effective in diverting my consideration of her as a suspect. Sneaky Wynne! 

And I realise looking back at my notes, what a fiendishly clever red herring Eoghan’s confession was, Wynne wrote all that beautifully, with Eoghan stating that the door to Mary’s room wasn’t actually locked and that he hid under Dundas’ eiderdown mattress to murder him. It really blew my mind at the time and thoroughly confused me.

I also liked Wynne’s descriptions of nature, and his descriptions of Barley, these being quite poetic and quite amusing.

It was a great read which I thoroughly enjoyed and it entertained me hugely and I was totally obsessed by the mysteries and puzzles of it all, and especially loved the novelty of the weapon being a block of ice which then melted and disappeared, but I think I am disappointed slightly in the ending, it was clever but relied on a few too many coincidences. The locked room aspect of this book reminds me of It Walks By Night by John Dickson Carr, which I read recently. I can’t see that British Library Crime Classics have published any more of Wynne’s books, but if I came across any then I’d read more of his. But happily I have several British Library Crime Classic books waiting on my shelves to be read (I try to ration myself, otherwise I’d never read anything else!) so I look forward to reading them, I might go for some outdoors ones next, for a change, so perhaps The Cornish Coast Murder, and The Lake District Murder, both by John Bude.

Murder of a Lady by Anthony Wynne available on Amazon
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