“Or You Can Drink The Wine…?” by Paul C. Doherty
Source: The Mammoth Book of Egyptian Whodunnits
Story Number: 103
A locked room mystery dating from almost 3500 years ago, features one of Doherty’s chief characters Amerotke, the Chief Judge of Egypt.
The Lady Tiyea was supposed to have committed suicide but the circumstances under which her body has been found troubles Amerotke. The poison was found only in the wine and not anywhere else in the room, the wine hadn’t been completely consumed, the lady had taken a lot of trouble to apply makeup before retiring for the night (as was the custom then) and she had planned and instructed her servants on the tasks for the next day – a few key points which a person about to commit suicide wouldn’t think of carrying out.
But the circumstances doesn’t allow for any other explanation – the wine was poured in to the goblet by her maid who tasted it before handing it over to another servant who also took a sip before giving it to the lady, both these servants notice the Lady sipping the wine as soon as it is handed to her, she goes inside her room and locks it and a servant takes guard outside her room. When the door is broken open the next day, the Lady is dead due to a venomous poison which is found in the wine. If there was no way a person could have walked into the locked and guarded room, how was the poison induced? The clues are fairly laid out, the interviews of the husband and the servants are quite vivid and the final clue which Amerotke finds after a very detailed examination of the makeup kit – all of them clearly point to one person as the murderer and the reader should have the pleasure of identifying the solution much before it is revealed!