Special Sub-Topic: Towards Zero
|The book opens with a prologue, in which several peripheral characters are discussing a recent murder trial in which the defendant was acquitted. Mr Treves, the only character to appear in both the prologue and the rest of the book, states that detective stories start in the wrong place. Where does he say they start?|
With the murder of a character. Mr Treves states that a detective story should begin with the events which lead to the murder itself, such as trivial events or external causes which "bring certain people to a certain place at a certain time on a certain day". He goes on to give examples of such trivial circumstances which all contribute to murder.
|Which character attempts to commit suicide at the start of the book?|
Angus MacWhirter. Mr MacWhirter throws himself off a cliff because he has lost his job and his wife. However, he is saved by falling into a tree and is then rescued. While he is recuperating, the nurse tells him that it is wrong to commit suicide because simply by being in a certain place at a certain time, he may accomplish something very important. It turns out that some months later Mr MacWhirter saves Audrey Strange from being hanged by being in the right place at the right time.
|Why was Superintendent Battle called to his daughter Sylvia's school?|
Sylvia had confessed to stealing. Sylvia confessed to stealing, when in fact she had not done so. She felt that everyone thought that she had done it, and it was too much of a strain on her, so she falsely confessed. Later, Audrey Strange confesses to a murder which she did not commit, and Superintendent Battle recognises what she has done because he is reminded of Sylvia acting in the same way.
|While dining at Gull's Point, he recounts a story of a child murderer he had encountered many years previously. The murder was passed off as an accident, but Mr Treves states that he knew it was murder and that he would recognise the murderer again by a physical peculiarity. What was that peculiarity?|
One little finger (pinkie) was much shorter than the other. Mary Aldin had one lock of white hair which she explains to Thomas Royde that she had had since she was "very young". Thomas Royde has a stiff right arm and leg because he was jammed in a door during an earthquake. Audrey Strange has a scar on one ear from being bitten by a dog when she was a child. Neville Strange's left-hand little finger is much shorter than that on his right hand, which Superintendent Battle tells Audrey Strange is "very unusual ... very unusual indeed".
|Lady Tressilian was killed by a blow to the head while she slept, and a niblick was later found with blood and hair on it. What was peculiar about the blow?|
It was a difficult angle for a right-handed person to strike. The blow appeared to have been struck left-handed because of the shape of the wound. Audrey Strange was left-handed. Neville Strange was right-handed, but he was a tennis player whose strongest point was his backhand. As Neville's ultimate goal was to frame Audrey, he struck the blow backhand to make it appear a left-handed blow.
|How was Mr Treves killed?|
By hanging a sign on a door. Mr Treves had a heart condition and had been told not to walk up stairs. His hotel room was on the top floor, and a sign was hung on the elevator door stating that it was out of order. Mr Treves therefore walked up the stairs and had a heart attack.
|Why did Audrey Strange and Neville Strange divorce?|
Audrey fell in love with Adrian Royde. Although everyone thought that Audrey had divorced Neville because of his affair with Kay; actually, she left him for Adrian Royde. Adrian died in a car-accident very shortly afterwards - Superintendent Battle suggests later to Audrey that Neville may have arranged this, or it may have been an accident.
|Why does Angus MacWhirter first take an interest in the murder of Lady Tressilian?|
He prevents Audrey Strange from committing suicide on Stark Head. Mr MacWhirter goes to Stark Head to think about the night he tried to kill himself. Audrey appears and he prevents her from jumping off the cliff. When he asks her why she wants to kill herself, she tells him that she is afraid of being hanged. Mr MacWhirter tells her to go home, and not to worry any more because he will see that she is not hanged for Lady Tressilian's murder.
|How is it proven that Ted Latimer cannot have killed Lady Tressilian?|
Superintendent Battle throws him off a motorlaunch. As it is shown by Angus MacWhirter's "eye-witness evidence", the murderer must have swum from Easterhead to Gull's Point and climbed a rope into Lady Tressilian's room. Ted Latimer has always said that he cannot swim, but to prove it, Superintendent Battle throws him off a motorlaunch into the sea. It later emerges that actually Mr MacWhirter did not see anything on the night in question, but realised what must have happened and lied to save Audrey.
|What was the motive for Lady Tressilian's murder?|
The death by hanging of Audrey Strange. The murder is planned months in advance by Neville Strange. He only kills Lady Tressilian so that Audrey Strange will be hanged for her murder. This is in order to punish Audrey for leaving Neville for another man, Adrian Royde. Superintendent Battle tells Neville "Death does not seem to be an excessive penalty for [Audrey] to pay ... you had to think of some special kind of death, some long drawn-out specialised death. And when you'd thought of it, the fact that it entailed killing a woman who had been something like a mother to you didn't worry you in the least".
Neville sounds like a real treat!
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