It was the night Ronald Adair had played cards with Mr Murray, Sir John Hardy and Colonel Sebastian Moran, that the tragedy happened. Adair was found in his sitting room – locked naturally – with his head horribly mutilated by an expanding revolver bullet.
Adair had played whist after dinner at one of the three card clubs to which he belonged – the Bagatelle. His game with the other gentlemen had taken place on the afternoon before his death. They told the police Adair had lost not more than five pounds, money he could well afford as he was rich.
This is, of course, the plot of The Adventure of the Empty House which appeared in the October 1903 issue of The Strand Magazine. (Number 154 if you’re interested.) It’s the most well known of the Sherlock Holmes stories to revolve around the outcome of a game of cards.
But it begins with Holmes off the scene and poor old Watson worrying about how he can possible crack the case himself. Of course, he doesn’t have to. Holmes, just returned from a trip to Tibet, has been lurking around disguised as an old bookseller. He calls on Watson in his bookseller get-up to offer him some books. And, hey presto, whips off his disguise while Watson is looking the other way.
Holmes solves the case when he reveals that Adair had been shot by a specially adapted rifle owned by Colonel Sebastian Moran, a lieutenant of the late Professor Moriarty who, two years earlier, had perished at the Reichenbach Falls. Moran faced ruin as Adair planned to expose him as a card cheat. Sorry, I’ve let out the spoiler. Still, I doubt whether there are many Crime Thriller Hound fans who don’t know The Adventure of the Empty House.
When you consider that card games and crime are such close bed mates – certainly cards and cheating, which is often the antechamber to crime – it’s surprising that cards don’t play a more prominent role in mystery fiction.
Well, I thought it was about time to change that.
It seemed to me that card games – poker in the case of my book – opened up all sorts of plot possibilities. There’s the game itself – and the motives of those playing it. There’s the tricks and ploys they use to win. There’s the jeopardy when a character stands to win or lose everything. There are the cards themselves which may become ciphers for some deeper meaning.
I’ve had great fun writing The Poker Game Mystery, not least in learning about the myriad ways sneaky players cheat. I’ve been inside a luxurious card club in my imagination. And played scratch card games in an underground bunker. I’ve puzzled over a mystery message left in a row of playing cards. And I’ve discovered that poker wasn’t invented in America – as I’d thought – but is derived from an ancient Persian game called As-Nas.
In short, I’ve learnt that a friendly game of cards may not be so friendly after all. And when friendship ends, murder begins…
The Poker Game Mystery by Peter Bartram is the fourth book in Crampton of the Chronicle Deadline Murder series.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Peter Bartram brings years of experience as a journalist to his Crampton of the Chronicle crime mystery series. His novels are fast-paced and humorous - the action is matched by the laughs. The books feature a host of colourful characters as befits stories set in Brighton, one of Britain's most trend-setting towns.
You can download Murder in Capital Letters, a free book in the series, for your Kindle from www.colincrampton.com
Peter began his career as a reporter on a local weekly newspaper before editing newspapers and magazines in London, England and, finally, becoming freelance. He has done most things in journalism from door-stepping for quotes to writing serious editorials. He’s pursued stories in locations as diverse as 700-feet down a coal mine and a courtier’s chambers at Buckingham Palace. Peter is a member of the Society of Authors and the Crime Writers' Association.
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Poker is a game for the dead lucky…
Crime reporter Colin Crampton discovers nightclub bouncer Steve Telford murdered. Colin can’t understand why five cards of a poker hand are laid out next to the body. As Colin investigates, he becomes entangled with three former special forces soldiers from the Second World War. All have motives to kill Telford. But Colin’s probe is derailed when a shock change at the Evening Chronicle puts the paper’s – and Colin’s - future in peril. The tension ratchets higher when the life of a young girl is on the line. Colin is forced to go head-to-head in a poker game with sinister newspaper owner Quentin Pell to save her. There are laughs alongside the action as Colin and his feisty girlfriend Shirley shuffle the cards and play the most dangerous game of all – with their own lives at stake.
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