Murder at Mallory Mansions

This is our solution to Murder at Mallory Mansions from the Mysterious Maths issue (March 2022)

The first thing we’re told is that this is a Murder Mystery weekend, so we can safely surmise that no one here has actually died during our trip to Mallory Mansions – it’s all pretend. Still, it’s fun to solve a mystery. So what on Earth happened? Let’s find out.

Hugo and Penelope have come to Mallory Mansions to spend time together somewhere private. Neither of them wants to bump into anyone they know – especially Penelope’s family, who do not approve of Hugo, the brattish bullion broker.

Penelope and Hugo have fallen in love. Well, Penelope certainly thinks so. On Saturday afternoon, during a romantic stroll through the grounds, Hugo shows his admiration by carving a coded message into a tree stump. The moment is only slightly spoiled when Hugo cuts his thumb. He loses his temper and shouts at Penelope, but all is quickly forgiven when she reads the message:

Hugo and Penelope Forever

Penelope can read the code because ‘hopeless romantic’ Hugo has hidden helpful clues on her shoeboxes. How sweet! Convinced that Hugo will soon propose marriage, Penelope dances back to her room at around 5.30, where she is duly spotted by the hotel manager.

Agatha Piskie has come to Mallory Mansions with an almighty case of writer’s block (’know the feeling, Ed). It’s okay though. Agatha has a tried and tested method for getting over these little obstacles. She’s brought her laptop, and intends to find an idea for her new novel, no matter the cost. When Agatha learns that Penelope Broguestrap also happens to be staying at the hotel this weekend, inspiration strikes. She tries to write the first chapter of The Cinderella Murders, but doesn’t get far. To find out for sure if the story will work, there’s only one thing left to do.

Agatha goes to Penelope’s room and knocks on the door. Penelope thinks it’s Hugo about to propose, so she opens it, delighted. Agatha introduces herself, talks her way in and then explains the plot of her new book. Penelope suddenly understands her motives. She takes off one shoe – a charming pink ankle boot – and chucks it at Agatha’s head. During the struggle that follows, Penelope trips backwards, grabbing the windowsill to steady her. Agatha sees her opportunity: she grabs Penelope’s right foot and, with surprising strength, tips her victim backwards out of the open window.

But wait! Who has arrived at the entrance to Penelope’s room in time to witness this terrible crime? It’s HUGO, with his beloved camera. He brought it with him to document the engagement (and so he could send pictures to reassure his investor clients). Instead he turned up just in time to photograph a major crime.

Agatha looks up to see Hugo in the doorway. He snaps a pic and scarpers. She seethes. Agatha needs to get her hands on that camera, no matter what.

Hugo runs back to his room in a blind panic and slams the door. He needed to marry Penelope. He needed her money and status to ensure the survival of his brokerage business. What is he going to do now? The answer arrives in a flash. He’s going to use the photo to blackmail Agatha into giving him some of her fortune. He goes to his desk, picks up the scissors and starts to cut out letters to make his ransom note. Then he remembers the cut on his thumb and decides to write it instead. He will keep the camera on his person until he receives Agatha’s payment.

Highly agitated and angry at her own stupid mistake, Agatha returns to her room. She paces up and down while she figures out what to do. A note appears under the door – the blackmail note from Hugo. Agatha becomes furious and trashes her suite. How dare he try something like that on a literary genius like her! She’ll show HIM. Agatha grabs the heavy paperweight, scattering papers around her room. She puts it in her pocket and heads towards the restaurant. She’ll get that camera back from Hugo if it’s the last thing HE ever does.

At 9.18 pm, Hugo is sitting in the restaurant. He’s written the letter and posted it under Agatha’s door, but a measly £1,000,000 is nothing compared with the entirety of Penelope’s fortune so he’s bitterly angry – plus his finger is still bleeding – ouchy. At 9.20 pm he leaves via the courtyard garden, where Agatha is lying in wait. She takes the paperweight out of her pocket, creeps up behind him and bonks him on the head. Then she grabs his camera and walks as fast as she can towards the hotel entrance.

How did you do? Did you add together all the clues and come to the same conclusion? Perhaps your deductions led you to an entirely different solution. Why not write to us at the usual address and we’ll share as many as we can.