Who killed Agatha Mystry? No, not Agatha Christie, but yes, Agatha Mystry. Come with us to see this “mystry,” not a mystery with an e, but a “Mystry” without one.
To solve this whodunit, an eager audience of sleuths recently became detectives for a night as they attended a reception for Ms. Agatha Mystry, the famous “chick-lit mystery writer” at the Blackstone. She was there to promote her new book.
Naturally, the person who introduced Agatha to the audience at the onset of the evening was the Blackstone librarian. Not Karen Jensen, the real librarian of the Blackstone, though she attended the event. So did Katy Dillman, the development and outreach librarian. This librarian is named Lotta Books and she has been the head librarian since 1966. She was the host at the Agatha’s book signing, welcoming the crowd.
“We are here to welcome our own most famous mystery writer, Agatha Mystry.” Applause. “We are very fortunate to have Agatha with us tonight, what with her busy schedule. Agatha only agreed to be with us because an event scheduled was cancelled and there was nothing else on television,” she noted wryly. The audience clapped as Agatha rattled on about various subjects.
She was alive during the reception, of course, talking, talking, talking. “No,” she told us, it was not her idea to have the book signing at the Blackstone; No, no,” she said. “I just show up and look pretty and wave my file and sign my books.”
“Deader Than A Doornail”
And the title of her latest book? “Deader Than a Doornail,” she said.
Within an hour she became the title.
After our chick-lit mystery writer came on the Blackstone Library’s main stage to greet the audience, she said a few words and then collapsed. Stage center. The line, “Dead, for a ducat, dead!” Hamlet’s utterance after he stabs Polonius, whom he described as a “dead rat,” came to mind.
On stage she gave one last groan and then uttered her last breath. “Someone get the police,” Lotta Books, the librarian shouted. “Now the library won’t make enough money to get those two new books we were going to order. Oh dear, nothing this awful has happened in Branford since they tried to get Costco in here!” Lots of laughter followed that remark.
Soon after, a police official announced: “It looks as if she’s been poisoned.”
Sam Slayed, the chief of police for Branford and Guilford, told the audience that his men had blocked off all the exits from the library and taken control “of this alleged homicide. I ask all of you to remain here until we get to the bottom of this.”
Sleuths Get To Work
Then he asked the audience sleuths “to put on their thinking caps” because they were going to be doing some interviewing. “We are going to split up these here suspects to different areas so they can’t collaborate and get their stories straight. You are going to talk to each of them. Get their stories….We’re going to need all the help we can get.”
The suspects were taken to different library rooms. We caught up with the governor who would not identify himself by name. “Did Agatha have any dirt on you,” we asked. “Were you fearful she would expose you?”
“Dirt? What dirt? There’s no dirt on me. I’m a politician,” he said laughing.
Agatha, it would turn out, had her own private mystery, one that led to her murder. Soon, with the help of the audience, described as “CSI wannabes,” the mystery killer would be revealed. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.
First the audience had to meet the suspects, who after Agatha was killed, answered questions, sort of, as they gathered in the library’s adjacent rooms. The suspects, all in costume, were played by the Round Table Players of Branford. They were dressed in the costume of the day.
Six Suspects In All
There were six in all, including the Governor who skirted most questions. Asked again for his name, he said, “Name? I don’t have a name.” We asked him which state he governed. He stared ahead. “Connecticut?” we asked. “I don’t think so,” he said.
There was Dell Doubleday, Agatha’s publisher, who would become a suspect. “Any truth to the rumor that Ms. Mystry was moving to a new publishing house?” was one of the questions on everyone’s mind. He told the audience he had been Agatha’s publisher “since 1967. She was only two,” he joked.
He noted that Agatha had no formal schooling except for the education she picked up while working for the circus.” Yet she has “become the foremost chick-lit writer in America. She has sold more novels than that hack Agatha Christie.”
No formal schooling turned out to be a clue, a big clue. But no one knew it when Doubleday mentioned it.
There were other suspects, including Page Turner, the film critic for the National Enquirer, who acknowledged she had not always given “Agatha the best reviews.” She exhibited little emotion when her good friend collapsed.
There was suspect Dalton B. Walden, Agatha’s fiancé, who said he had known Agatha for eight years, “ever since we met on the Jerry Springer show. I was immediately attracted to her style, her mood, her dialogue, her income.”
There was suspect Kimberly Kashingin, whose husband was secretly seeing Agatha. Hmmm.
And we can’t overlook Lotta Books, the chief editor of Agatha’s books over the decades. The cops wanted to know if it was true that she “planned this fatal celebration?”
A librarian as killer? Really, now.
There were many questions the sleuths in the audience asked the suspects. One big question was whether cops knew what food or drink or medicine Agatha had taken before she collapsed. The cops were cautious with this information. But one of them let drop the words Pepto Bismol. Perhaps. Perhaps not.
After Agatha collapsed, the Governor grabbed a microphone and shouted: “This is a tragedy, an absolute tragedy and I, for one, will do everything in my power as governor to cover the whole thing up.”
A Police Report
After the sleuth interviews, Chief Slayed asked the audience investigators to fill out the police report, actually the back of the program. It asked them to name the murderer, the weapon and to state “your name.”
“Before you leave this room, hand these in and we will meet you out in the Rotunda for the arrest,” Slayed said. “You have five minutes.”
Soon everyone gathered in the Rotunda to hear the chief. “Thanks to your help I think we figured out who the perpetrator is.” The Governor, name still unknown, reacted, “No, you are not going to blame this on me!” He said he had “connections, special interest groups. The N.R.A, the mob, all right, even Costco.” A man in the audience, not in the cast, quickly shouted: “Not in Branford,” he said referring to Costco’s current effort to build a warehouse in town.
One by one the suspects explained their personal animus toward Agatha; they also explained why they could not possibly be the killer.
“I did It!”
Then, out of nowhere, Lotta Books, the demure head librarian, shouted: “All right, I did it!”
Without prodding from Chief Slayed, she began her confession.
First she explained that it was not easy to live on a librarian’s salary and library association fees were way too high. “You don’t make much on these book sales,” she observed. So she looked for free-lance work. One day, Agatha asked “if I would do a little editing on her manuscripts.”
That’s how it all began.
“But the manuscripts were unreadable. The work was illiterate. Then I realized she couldn’t read or write! So I had to write her book for her, too!
Soon, she informed the audience, she was on book 9 or was it book 6? And then she ran out of ideas. Her latest book? “The killer kills the victim with a Cuisinart! I mean get a clue!”
And her weapon?
“The only real weapon was my digitalis,” she said without using the word toxicity, which sometimes accompanies digitalis takers.
“So I guess, detectives, you are going to have to throw the book at me,” she said, smiling, a glint of irony in her voice when she used the word book.
Then, in the splendid rotunda of the Blackstone Memorial Library, she put her hands behind her back and before you could say,please check-out this book, she was handcuffed and led away.
Chief Slayed whispered to the Eagle he knew all along it was the librarian whodunit. “She fit in so well. She was the gorilla in the room.”