Perfect Alibi by Anthony Berkeley

by Arun

Theme: Crippen & Landru Series

Source: The Avenging Chance and Other Mysteries

Story Number: 117

Roger Sheringham is meeting his friend Sir Wilfrid, the Chief Constable and is surprised to hear that the Chief Constable never had the chance to investigate a murder. When Sheringham eggs him on, Sir Wilfrid recollects a case which had murder written all over it but was closed as an accident only because none of the suspects had the opportunity to commit the crime.

It’s the story of the death of Eric Southwood, a lucky accident for so many people; for if ever a fellow deserved to be murdered it was Eric. He was a womanizer and he was hard pressed for cash! And he was making up to Elsa and her fortune; and Mr. & Ms. Allfrey(uncle & aunt to Elsa) took a dim view of him. But that didn’t stop them from having Eric as a guest for their house party. The other guests include a chap called Merridew and the Vesinet couple, invited only because of the well known affair between Eric & Mrs. Vesinet, an affair unknown to only Mr. Vesinet.

Amidst the party, Eric is found dead; shot from the front – the idea being the gun had caught in something and got fired accidentally when he tried releasing it from a thorny bush. Every one present at the party had a cast iron alibi for that particular duration – Elsa was picking berries and was under constant observation; Merridew was half a mile away; the Vesinets were sunbathing – they alibi each other; Mrs. Allfrey was inside the house all the time – vouched for by the servants; Mr. Allfrey was crossing the field and the alibi is provided by the constable on a beat; the constable is also able to provide an alibi for the Vesinets!

Roger Sheringham still believes that Eric was murdered and reveals his theory to Sir Wilfrid as to how one of the ‘Perfect Alibis’ was too perfect to be believed!

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