A market basing mystery
‘After all, there’s nothing like the country, is there?’ said Inspector Japp, breathing in
heavily through his nose and out through his mouth in the most approved fashion.
Poirot and I applauded the sentiment heartily. It had been the Scotland Yard inspector’s
idea that we should all go for the weekend to the little country town of Market Basing.
When off duty, Japp was an ardent botanist, and discoursed upon minute flowers
possessed of unbelievably lengthy Latin names (somewhat strangely pronounced) with an
enthusiasm even greater than that he gave to his cases.
‘Nobody knows us, and we know nobody,’ explained Japp. ‘That’s the idea.’
This was not to prove quite the case, however, for the local constable happened to have
been transferred from a village fifteen miles away where a case of arsenical poisoning had
brought him into contact with the Scotland Yard man. However, his delighted recognition
of the great man only enhanced Japp’s sense of well‐being, and as we sat down to
breakfast on Sunday morning in the parlour of the village inn, with the sun shining, and
tendrils of honeysuckle thrusting themselves in at the window, we were all in the best of
spirits. The bacon and eggs were excellent, the coffee not so good, but passable and
‘This is the life,’ said Japp. ‘When I retire, I shall have a little place in the country. Far from
crime, like this!’
‘Le crime, il est partout,’ remarked Poirot, helping himself to a neat square of bread, and
frowning at a sparrow which had balanced itself impertinently on the windowsill. I quoted lightly:
‘That rabbit has a pleasant face,
His private life is a disgrace
I really could not tell to you
The awful things that rabbits do.’
‘Lord,’ said Japp, stretching himself backward, ‘I believe I could manage another egg, and
perhaps a rasher or two of bacon. What do you say, Captain?’
‘I’m with you,’ I returned heartily. ‘What about you, Poirot?’
Poirot shook his head.
‘One must not so replenish the stomach that the brain refuses to function,’ he remarked. ‘I’ll risk replenishing the stomach a bit more,’ laughed Japp. ‘I take a large size in stomachs;
and by the way, you’re getting stout yourself, M. Poirot. Here, miss, eggs and bacon
At that moment, however, an imposing form blocked the doorway. It was Constable
‘I hope you’ll excuse me troubling the inspector, gentlemen, but I’d be glad of his advice.’
‘I’m on holiday,’ said Japp hastily. ‘No work for me. What is the case?’
‘Gentleman up at Leigh House — shot himself — through the head.’
‘Well, they will do it,’ said Japp prosaically. ‘Debt, or a woman, I suppose. Sorry I can’t help
‘The point is,’ said the constable, ‘that he can’t have shot himself. Leastways, that’s what
Dr Giles says.’
Japp put down his cup.
‘Can’t have shot himself? What do you mean?’
‘That’s what Dr Giles says,’ repeated Pollard. ‘He says it’s plumb impossible. He’s puzzled
to death, the door being locked on the inside and the windows bolted; but he sticks to it
that the man couldn’t have committed suicide.’
That settled it. The further supply of bacon and eggs was waved aside, and a few minutes
later we were all walking as fast as we could in the direction of Leigh House, Japp eagerly
questioning the constable.
The name of the deceased was Walter Protheroe; he was a man of middle age and 17