1. EstherMayRose

    EstherMayRose Gay Souffle Contributor

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    Does this Case Solve Make Any Sense Whatsoever?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by EstherMayRose, Jun 15, 2019.

    This may turn out to be a badly-explained thread, but I've just finished working out exactly how an amateur detective solves a case and I'd rather run into problems now than 60,000 words in. Since I've known all along who did it, why, etc., I'm worried that the method relies on information that isn't obvious or that there are too many coincidences.

    A French Count and his family, the de Moignets, visit the Cavallian court where our young heroine, Princess Henrietta, lives. Count Jean-Richard has a vicious argument with his wife, Marie (which is overheard and tattled about to everyone at court from count to chambermaid), and she locks herself in her chambers in distress. The following morning, Henrietta's lady's maid, Lillette, gossips to her about two servants, Marin and Euphrasie, who have run away together. (Which also helps set up the dynamic between master and servant, and is not the only unrelated thing to happen in the book.) The following afternoon, Henrietta and her friends come to check on Marie and find her dead, but without a wound. There is a dropped cup of coffee a few feet away, which leaves an orangey-yellow stain on the carpet. A prominent member of the Cavallian court, Giovanni, also becomes very sick. A pot of poison (yellow powder) and a letter talking about getting rid of Marie is found in the room of the Crown Prince, the fiercely honourable and quick-to-anger Francois, Henrietta's older brother, and his wife Elise admits having coffee sent to Marie less than an hour before she was found. Believing him to be innocent, Henrietta, two of her sisters, Cecilia and Charlotta, her cousin Magdalena, and her friends Arabella and Rose, turn to investigating the murder.

    * They ask to see the letter and the poison that were found. Cecilia suggests it could be fake and covering up a different weapon, so the palace kitchens lend them a mouse that they have caught. They feed it some of the poison and keep watch for the next two hours, until it dies. (RIP mouse.) They then analyse the letter closely and realise that because of the slope of the tall letters, it is not Francois's handwriting. However, it's not enough to exonerate him.

    * Arabella suggests Jean-Richard as a suspect, possibly hoping to gain inheritance. One of his children mentions he and his wife were not close and she spent an awful lot of money, but doubts it could have been him. After tailing him and searching his chambers, they don't find anything, and one of his adult children mentions that as the daughter of a second son, Marie does not have much inheritance, whereas Jean-Richard is very rich indeed. With his main motive gone and no evidence, Jean-Richard is ruled out.

    * When they ask the Count's children who else could be a suspect, one of them mentions their governess, Mirabel, has been acting especially crabby and won't talk to any of them. Another mentions she and Marie hated each other and she doesn't know why she kept her on, so she probably isn't acting that way due to grief.

    * While they wait for an opportunity to investigate Mirabel, Henrietta asks Lillette to ask around the servants if any of them saw anything suspicious.

    * Rose suggests Elise could have killed Marie, which causes a rift in the group as the three sisters refuse to believe such a thing of their beloved sister-in-law and Magdalena is unsure. Rose and Arabella question some servants and discover that Elise communicated often with Euphrasie, who delivered Marie food during her visit and is therefore believed by some to have been involved. Not evidence, but still fishy.

    * To distract themselves from this, the sisters capitalise on an opportunity to search Mirabel's room and they find a set of coded letters and a box of money in her desk, but find another box of money under a loose floorboard.

    * Lillette comes back and says Marie was seen running from Giovanni's chambers clearly in distress at half past midnight the night before she was murdered.

    * The group make amends and pool their evidence. Rose and Arabella have searched Elise's chamber but found no evidence. However, since she has constant access to Francois' chambers, she could have hidden her evidence there. The sisters grudgingly agree to keep her on the table as a suspect.

    * Their next move is to search Marie and Giovanni's chambers to find links between them and their suspects, and each other. In Marie's, they find a note from Mirabel demanding one final payment or "her secret" becomes common knowledge. In Giovanni's, they find more coded letters, and see that they are the same code as Mirabel's. They put her letters back before she notices they're gone and enlist the help of Henrietta's fiancé, Henri, a code-breaking enthusiast, to help crack them. However, he is unable to.

    * The next day, Giovanni is deemed well enough to receive visitors. Henrietta goes to visit him and catches him with Mirabel. She confronts him later, after Mirabel is gone, and he admits to having an affair with Mirabel and planning to elope with her. He confesses to a past affair with Marie, which was what Mirabel was blackmailing her about. However, Jean-Richard already knew. He says that Marie came to see him on the night before she was murdered, hoping to resume their affair, but also caught him with Mirabel. This meant that if Mirabel continued to blackmail Marie, Marie could make their plans public knowledge. Jean-Richard also knew Marie's intentions that night, which puts him back under suspicion.

    * They question Jean-Richard's eldest child about Jean-Richard's behaviour after Marie's death, and he tells them that he has not seemed any different, and also mentions that he noticed a bag of money on Jean-Richard's desk the night they arrived, post-argument, which was gone when he went in the previous day. He believes it went towards funeral costs, although it was not a very big bag of money.

    * Henrietta discovers a pair of Jean-Richard's gloves, stained with yellow, hidden underneath a window seat where she sits to write in her diary. She shows them to the others and they agree that the evidence would be conclusive if he had not spent the entire day Marie died with the King and Queen.

    * Lillette's younger sister, a chambermaid, tells Henrietta that Marin and Euphrasie were never seen together before the de Moignets' arrival at court, after which they were seen discussing something quite often, and before their disappearance, Euphrasie seemed distressed and not excited. They conclude that the two servants were paid by Jean-Richard to poison Marie.

    * They decide to track Marin and Euphrasie down, reasoning that the amount of money they were given probably wouldn't take them far if they wanted to have some left over. They track them down to a village about two hours' ride away and question them. Marin turns violent, whereas Euphrasie is distressed and confesses that she was given money by Jean-Richard in exchange for bringing Marie coffee, and told to disappear. She did not know at the time that it was poisoned, but suspected something was up. Marin bought the poison and brought it to Jean-Richard for inspection, hence the yellow-stained gloves, and also poisoned the coffee. They take the two servants back to the palace and accuse Jean-Richard, who eventually confesses.

    Sorry this was so long. But were you following? Did it make sense to you? Thanks so much.
     
  2. making tracks

    making tracks Active Member

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    It sounds like you've put a lot of thought into this and there are some really interesting characters!

    There were a couple of things that stood out to me as a bit too convenient, but they could still work depending on how you work them in.

    The fiance being a code breaker enthusiast seemed a bit random (although the fact he can't break the code helps this). Also finding the yellow gloves - I think I would find it hard to believe if you knew they had been used to handle poison that you would stuff them in a chest instead of burning them or something. Especially in a castle where you'd expect there to be lots of fireplaces. And they didn't seem to be all that important in figuring it out in the end anyway?

    Also, why did it take so long for anyone to say that the two servants were acting so oddly? It feels like more people would have thought it strange they 'eloped' right around the time of a murder. Furthermore, how did they manage to track them down? Did they use servants and guards etc or do it themselves, and what are the implications of a princess riding around local villages looking for them?

    I would also consider who else is investigating, especially with Giovanni unwell as well - there would probably be a lot of mistrust and accusations and fear of someone else being poisoned, particularly the royals. Did you ever watch the drama Versailles on BBC? They had a poisoning storyline in that and there were a lot of interrogations and extra food testers brought in. How does this affect Henrietta's own investigations - do they get annoyed with the princess getting in the way or are they grateful for her help? Are the members of the court more or less likely to lie to her as their princess? Also, only a small thing but if Elise also sent Marie a cup of coffee, what happened to the second cup?

    There are some things I really like about it too! I like that the characters aren't immediately taken in by everything, like how they think their brother might be framed and I especially liked them checking it really was poison that had killed her (although poor mouse!).
     
  3. GrJs

    GrJs Active Member

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    This is complex and scandalous and I love it. Your solve is extremely well thought out and highly plausible considering your characters test their evidence as it comes up.

    But what about law enforcement in your world?
     
  4. EstherMayRose

    EstherMayRose Gay Souffle Contributor

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    So, thank you both for your responses. I've thought about them quite a bit and they were both really helpful.

    One thing I forgot to mention is that it's set in the eighteenth century, so there's no proper law enforcement. The palace guards, however, are likely to be investigating, and I'd somehow forgotten that. I just remembered that there was some reason they needed to be secretive, and it's because the palace guards would like this gaggle of teenage girls to butt out and let them do their jobs. However, they're looking for a botched foreign plot and Henrietta doesn't trust them to do their job. Also, because of her naïve, idealistic viewpoint (which, as you can imagine, is smashed to bits by the end of the book), she feels that this is a favour she is doing for her friends, and she needs to do it herself or it doesn't count.

    Henri and his code breaking is introduced when he is - it's not just brought up right when they need it, don't worry. He's the bookish, scholarly type and I felt it would be the kind of thing he'd find fascinating. (It also means he's actually useful to the plot.) People would often make up codes when they had something to hide.

    The gloves are under a loose window seat, not in a chest, so not somewhere anyone would think to look had Henrietta not been familiar with the spot and noticed it was wonky. I also found that burning some poisonous plants can create toxic fumes, which would obviously lead to more illnesses (which, of course, no-one wants with the palace under a microscope). The gloves are their conclusive evidence, or become so when Jean-Richard loses his alibi, so they do play a role.

    The girls don't announce who they are when they go looking for the servants, and they try to keep their faces hidden. Almost no-one outside the capital has seen them anyway, so once they're out of there it doesn't really matter. Of course, they are in danger and they get thoroughly told off for it. The main reason that it takes them so long to hear about Marin and Euphrasie's disappearance being suspicious is that, like you said, people are weird about talking to their princess. None of the servants except Lillette (and Minetta, who's sort of been given permission) will speak to them about the murder because it wouldn't be appropriate. (And they have no reason to, because she's keeping it a secret that she's investigating.) And also, what would two servants have against a guest they've never met?

    And Marie drank the second cup of coffee prior to collapsing, in the vain hope that it would help her sudden sickness.
     
  5. making tracks

    making tracks Active Member

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    It sounds to me like you've got it pretty much covered! Good luck!
     

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