Lord Dunsany: Two Bottles of Relish

May 15, 2009

The speaker in this famous first-person narrative  is a salesman of a branded relish. He chooses London as his base, but as he cannot afford the rent of an apartment in the big city, he manages to persuade an Oxford-educated scholar to let him share the latter’s premises.

One day the hot news of a murder in a suburb comes up during the conversation between the two room-mates and the narrator, who has great respect for his co-tenant’s knowledge, appeals to him to try and solve the crime which is baffling the police and the detectives.

The educated man agrees he will, though he observes that a chess problem is more interesting to solve than a murder mystery. He never leaves his flat. He does the thinking while the narrator does the footwork.

The narrator  goes to the suburb in the course of pushing the relish and gathers details of the murder, the suspect who cannot be pinned down for lack of evidence (in any murder case corpus delicti is important, you know), the scene of crime, the policemen’s findings, the detectives’ reasonings and so on.  He gossips with the villagers from whom he gathers a lot of information about the suspect – his movements, or lack of them, the purchases he made in the local grocery store and so on.

As the two roommates sit down for their supper one evening and talk of this and that as they eat, the scholar sees it all in a flash. He has solved the crime and the murderer can be be nabbed.

Try as I might I did not get a link to this 1932 story, which is included in two books that I have.

See if you can get it in any anthology in the local library.

I had a companion story in mind and did not expect the text of that one by a recent author to be available online, but it’s there! What ironies! About that story, tomorrow!