Flair For Murder by Frances and Richard Lockridge

by Arun

Source: Ellery Queen’s Crime Carousel

Story Number: 84

The husband and wife team of Frances and Richard Lockridge created a series of sleuths including the husband and wife team of Pam & Jerry North, Nathan Shapiro, Bernard Simmons and Captain Merton Heimrich. This story was the last short story which Frances and Richard wrote jointly before the death of Mrs. Lockridge in 1963 and is considered one of the best from their output.

Martin’s dog has brought a soiled hat to his master which he immediately recognizes as belonging to John Adams; who is never seen without that hat on his head. When Martin stumbles across the spot where his dog has dug a hole in the garden, he finds the body of Adams buried in the asparagus bed.

John Adams, a gardener himself, was keeping a close eye on his friend’s daughter Nancy as though to protect her after her Father’s death. Nancy is wondering why John hasn’t visited her for two days and she decides to pose her problem to her husband who is working in another city. When he comes home, when she is about to get up from the chair, she cuts her finger on the arm of the chaise from  a jagged metal, which she hadn’t noticed till now even though she had used it on a regular basis. Her husband treats the bleeding fingers before Inspector Heimrich arrives to break the sad news.

Inspector Heimrich gets to use his nose as effectively as the dog which unearthed the body. He notices that the body was buried in a place where there was bone meal which would certainly attract a dog, a mistake which provides a decent clue to the identity of the murderer.  He investigates the gardener’s shed where he notices a series of poisons. He gets to link these facts to the actual murder when Heimrich gets to use his nose again when Nancy faints after hearing the news from him. He smells something on the wound that has been bandaged and he ends up preventing a second murder and at the same time apprehending a murderer whose only fault lay in the fact that he didn’t have the gardening knowledge which a country gardener would possess.

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