A classic Agatha Christie short story, available individually for the first time as an ebook.A personal advertisement written in code attracts the attention of Tuppence Beresford. When Tuppence suspects that the code involves the Three Arts Ball, she persuades Tommy to attend dressed in costume. Tuppence’s suspicions prove to be correct when a murder takes place, but as all of the guests are dressed in masquerade, identifying the killer may be more difficult than first thought…
FINESSING THE KING
A Short Story
by Agatha Christie
Published by HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 1 London Bridge Street London SE1 9GF
‘Finessing the King’, combining the later book chapter ‘The Gentleman Dressed in Newspaper’, was first published in The Sketch, 8 October 1924. McCarty and Riordan were created by Isobel Ostrander (1885-1924).
Copyright © Agatha Christie Ltd 2012
Agatha Christie asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
This short story is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.
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Ebook Edition © 2012 ISBN: 9780007486687
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‘Finessing the King’, combining the later book chapter ‘The Gentleman Dressed in Newspaper’, was first published in The Sketch, 8 October 1924. McCarty and Riordan were created by Isobel Ostrander (1885–1924).
It was a wet Wednesday in the offices of the International Detective Agency. Tuppence let the Daily Leader fall idly from her hand.
‘Do you know what I’ve been thinking, Tommy?’
‘It’s impossible to say,’ replied her husband. ‘You think of so many things, and you think of them all at once.’
‘I think it’s time we went dancing again.’
Tommy picked up the Daily Leader hastily.
‘Our advertisement looks well,’ he remarked, his head on one side. ‘Blunt’s Brilliant Detectives. Do you realise, Tuppence, that you and you alone are Blunt’s Brilliant Detectives? There’s glory for you, as Humpty Dumpty would say.’
‘I was talking about dancing.’
‘There’s a curious point that I have observed about newspapers. I wonder if you have ever noticed it. Take these three copies of the Daily Leader. Can you tell me how they differ one from the other?’
Tuppence took them with some curiosity.
‘It seems fairly easy,’ she remarked witheringly. ‘One is today’s, one is yesterday’s, and one is the day before’s.’
‘Positively scintillating, my dear Watson. But that was not my meaning. Observe the headline, “Daily Leader.” Compare the three – do you see any difference between them?’
‘No, I don’t,’ said Tuppence, ‘and what’s more, I don’t believe there is any.’
Tommy sighed and brought the tips of his fingers together in the most approved Sherlock Holmes fashion.
‘Exactly. Yet you read the papers as much – in fact, more than I do. But I have observed and you have not. If you will look at today’s Daily Leader, you will see that in the middle of the downstroke of the D is a small white dot, and there is another in the L of the same word. But in yesterday’s paper the white dot is not in DAILY at all. There are two white dots in the L of LEADER. That of the day before again has two dots in the D of DAILY. In fact, the dot, or dots, are in a different position every day.’
‘Why?’ asked Tuppence.
‘That’s a journalistic secret.’
‘Meaning you don’t know, and can’t guess.’
‘I will merely say this – the practice is common to all newspapers.’
‘Aren’t you clever?’ said Tuppence. ‘Especially at drawing red herrings across the track. Let’s go back to what we were talking about before.’
‘What were we talking about?’
‘The Three Arts Ball.’
‘No, no, Tuppence. Not the Three Arts Ball. I’m not young enough. I assure you I’m not young enough.’
‘When I was a nice young girl,’ said Tuppence, ‘I was brought up to believe that men – especially husbands – were dissipated beings, fond of drinking and dancing and staying up late at night. It took an exceptionally beautiful and clever wife to keep them at home. Another illusion gone! All the wives I know are hankering to go out and dance, and weeping because their husbands will wear bedroom slippers and go to bed at half-past nine. And you do dance so nicely, Tommy dear.’
‘Gently with the butter, Tuppence.’
‘As a matter of fact,’ said Tuppence, ‘it’s not purely for pleasure that I want to go. I’m intrigued by this advertisement.’