From the way my father is carrying on, anyone would think that the murder which has just taken place was our fault – or rather, that it was Daisy’s.
Of course, this is not true in the least. First, holidaying on a train was his idea – and inviting Daisy too. And as for Daisy and me being detectives – why, it is just who we are. This murder would always have happened, whether Daisy and I had been here to detect it or not, so how can we be blamed for investigating it? If we did not, what sort of Detective Society would we be?
Naturally, murder is always rather dreadful, but all the same, after our last murder case (at Daisy’s house, Fallingford, in the Easter holidays), when every suspect was someone we knew, this seems rather separate to us, and that is a relief. With one exception, everyone who might possibly have been involved in this crime was a perfect stranger to Daisy and me two days ago. So although we are sorry that one of them is dead (at least I am, and I hope Daisy is too), more importantly we are detectives on the case, with a puzzle to solve and a murderer to bring to justice. And we will succeed, whatever my father tries to do to stop us.
Here is a list of everyone on the train on the evening of the murder.
COMPARTMENT 1 – Il Mysterioso, magician. He looks like someone who ought to come out of smoke, at night, with wolves howling. He has a huge black beard and a peaked nose – and even a cloak with a red lining, which swirls around him. But why is he on the train? Is he really practising a new magic trick, or does he have a more nefarious purpose?
COMPARTMENT 2 – Mr John Maxwell, secretary to Mr Wong. He is quite a dull person, and has not much to do with this crime.
COMPARTMENT 3 – Mr Vincent Wong, banker. Father of Hazel Wong, Detective Society Vice-President. He is not tall, but he is determined-looking, with a square jaw and little round glasses that nearly hide his eyes. He likes everything in the world to be ordered and understandable.
COMPARTMENT 4 – Mr William Daunt, owner of Daunt’s Diet Pills. He is very rich and unpleasant and he has a moustache and a thick neck like a bull. He seems to hate everyone on the train. Might he do something dreadful?
COMPARTMENT 5 – Mrs Georgiana Daunt, wife of Mr Daunt. She is very small and silly, and she is the owner of a fabulous jewelled necklace. Her mother died last year, and now she is using a medium to contact her spirit. Almost everyone on the train seems to hate her.
COMPARTMENT 6 – Madame Melinda Fox, medium. She is black-haired and thick-jawed and she dresses all in panels of silky black, beaded and fringed. There is not a spot of colour anywhere on her, apart from her lips, which are a deep heavy red. She says she is here to help Mrs Daunt contact her dead mother – against Mr Daunt’s wishes. But is this all?
COMPARTMENT 7 – Mrs Helen Vitellius, wife of Mr Vitellius, copper magnate. Her face is always perfectly made up, her heels are high and she dresses most fashionably. However, the Detective Society know that this is all a blind. She is on the train for a very important reason – one that may seriously affect the Society’s investigation.
COMPARTMENT 8 – The Countess Demidovskoy. She is a little, bird-like old lady from Russia, with white hair and immaculately tailored travelling clothes. She carries a thin silver cane and is very sharp. She believes that Mrs Daunt’s necklace belongs to her – what will she do to get it back?
COMPARTMENT 9 – Alexander Arcady, grandson of the Countess. He is American, though he goes to school in England. He is fair and thin-faced, with quite a lot of rather nice blond hair and good eyebrows; and he is still growing. But will he be a friend of the Detective Society, or its enemy?
COMPARTMENT 10 (two berths) – Hazel Wong, Secretary and Vice-President of the Detective Society.
Daisy Wells, President of the Detective Society.
COMPARTMENT 11 (two berths) – Hetty Lessing, maid. A good egg. Thin and red-haired, she has come from Fallingford to look after the Detective Society.
Sarah Sweet, maid to Mrs Daunt. She is small and blonde, very pretty and pink-cheeked. But she seems to really hate her mistress. Might she do something really horrible out of resentment?
COMPARTMENT 12 – Mr Robert Strange, crime writer. Skinny and tall, with fair hair and a very unkempt look. Brother of Mrs Daunt, he was left out of their mother’s will. He says he did not know that his sister would be on the train, and he is only here for research – but is this true?