March 23, 1978 Sense and Nonsense
I am a “whodunit” addict. Contrary to popular opinion, lovers of the classic murder mysteries are not necessarily prone to violence. The only time we readers become unreasonably vicious is when our favorite author resorts to cheating on his plots. A writer who conceals crucial evidence from his readers until the final paragraph should himself be considered guilty of a crime. He should be tried in a court of law and possibly sentenced to a lifetime of writing campaign speeches for politicians or composing Aspirin commercials for T.V.
The hero, of the following “mini-whodunit” is Inspector Renior. He is investigating the apparent suicide of Joan Richwoman. Her husband Paul discovered the body and notified the authorities.
Inspector (reading suicide note): “Dear Paul, please forgive me, Joan”…[written on a manual typewriter]
“Why would such a beautiful lady do away with herself. She seems to have taken such good care of herself until now. Beautiful hair, lovely clothes and those hands…they do not indicate that she worked at domestic chores. You are very rich, Monsieur, no?”
Paul: “Well yes, Joan inherited her money when her mother died. She was very depressed lately. She was a Cancer you see. People born under the Cancer sign of the Zodiac often become depressed when the moon phases are not in their favour.”
Inspector: “Hmm. That suicide note intrigues me. You were surprised Monsieur that your wife used a typewriter to write it. Why?”
Paul: “Joan did not type. Oh once in a while she would type out recipes and things like that. She was very slow … used the one-finger method.”
Inspector: “It is possible that this note was by typed someone with a little knowledge of touch typing. Notice the letter “a”. It is less distinct than the others. The “a” on a typewriter is reached with the little finger on the left hand. An amateur typist has difficulty applying sufficient pressure with that little finger… especially a right-handed person. Your wife was right-handed, Monsieur?”
Paul: “No, my wife and I and our daughters, Jill and Susan are all left-handed. Do you think my wife was murdered, Inspector?”
Inspector: “It is possible, but I am not saying that it is so. Are there any right-handed people living in this house? By the way, this typewriter, is it yours Monsieur?”
Paul: “Aunt Jane and Uncle Joe are both right-handed. They also stand to inherit a lot of money now that Joan is dead. The typewriter is Jane’s. She is a very proficient typist, having worked in an office for many years.”
Inspector: “Then Jane did not write this note. The person who typed this was not a good typist. For some reason the letters which are located on the right hand side on a typewriter, show up most distinctly in this note. The letter “p”, the letter by the way that most left-handed people have trouble with is very distinct. A good typist, as you say Jane is, has learned to apply equal pressure on all the keys.”
Joe: “I understand you want to talk to me Inspector? I can’t believe that my sister was murdered.”
Inspector: “You are right handed, Monsieur? You can use a typewriter, no?”
Joe: “Not very well, sir. A family deficiency I suppose. My sister and I were always unable to utilize more than one finger to type…the hunt and peck system I suppose you would call it.”
Inspector: “A thought just occurred to me…Paul, you and your daughters are left handed but have any of you suffered a recent injury to the little finger on the left hand? Aha! The little lady who I understand is learning the touch-typing system in college has a Bandaid on her little finger?”
Jill: “I did not murder my mother! I cut my finger in the kitchen just a few minutes ago! So now that mother is dead, Susan and I can quit college and do what we want to do…go live in a hippie commune! But neither of us murdered our mother! Susan has never touched a typewriter in her life!”
Inspector: “Paul, your daughters seem to have inherited your nervous habits. They are nail biters, no?”
Paul: “All right Inspector I’ve had it! Who murdered my wife? I suppose you think I did it! I’ll admit that we were on the verge of divorce. She would have cut me off without a cent. I will also admit that I know a little about typing … but you are right. I, being left-handed have trouble with the letter “y”. You said yourself, Inspector, that in the note the letter “y” was very distinct.”
Inspector: Calm yourself, Monsieur! These interviews have convinced me that only one person could have typed that note and undoubtedly that same person was responsible for your wife’s death, Solution to “Whodunit” next week.
Answer to last week’s Whodunit: The suicide note was genuine. Joan typed with one finger which should have resulted in a fairly even script. However, as the Inspector mentioned, her hands were admirable: “They do not indicate that she worked at domestic chores” Lovely hands are best complimented by long manicured fingernails and we can assume that this was the case. Being left-handed, she would have naturally used her left forefinger to pick out the letters. It would have been hard for her to apply sufficient pressure on the letter “a” as the fingernail would be a hindrance on that key. To strike the keys on the right-hand side of the typewriter would be easier. The finger would be bent at a less acute angle with the nail angling off to one side of the keys.