The Harlequin Tea Set - A hole in the plot.

I've just reread this story for the umpteenth time, and only now have realized a major problem with the plot (SPOILER!!!!). The story has two young stepbrothers - Ronald, the grandson and heir of Tom, and Timothy, his stepmother's son - both almost the same age, brought up together and good friends. According to the end, Beryl, Timothy's mother and Ronnie's stepmother, has tried to kill "Timothy" because he is really her stepson Ronnie, Tom's grandson and natural heir, and she wants her real son, "Ronnie", to inherit. However, she has already switched Timothy and Ronnie when they were babies, presenting Ronnie as Timothy and vice versa. That means that at the present point in the story, The young man who is known as Ronnie, and is going to inherit, is really her son Timothy. So why does she need to kill "Timothy" (who is really Ronnie)? 

The only reason I can think of is because "Timothy" (like his real grandfather Tom) is colour blind, besides resembling his real mother, Tom's daughter. There is always the danger, as soon as people realize he is colour-blind, that they will connect the dots and suspect a substitution. However, AC doesn't even hint at that as a reason - she just presents us with the motive of having Beryl's real son inherit, which he is going to do anyway as things stand. 

So can anyone tell me what I'm missing here?


  • shanashana Paramaribo, Suriname
    Well @taliavishay-arbel, I have not read this story, but going by the info you just provided it sounds like there is no plot "left" if the apparent reason to the murder is not there.

    Unless, ....... Stepmother has discovered someone switched the children back???!
     Just guessing here!

  • edited October 2015
    Great idea, Shana, but no - the boy who looks like Tom's daughter, and who is colour-blind like Tom, is the one called Timothy and supposed to be Beryl's son (and not Tom's grandson) - and he is the one she tries to kill.
  • I only can think of two reasons why she wanted to kill her stepson. The fist is mentioned by you and since they've returned from Kenya for good the risk of discovering the truth has increased significally. Mr S presumes it was greed.
    Another reason might that the Timothy want to marry his cousin Inez... And she wants to prevent this...

    But Satterthwaite doesn't find it all important. The boy wasn't murdered.

    I find it strange that the father didn't notice the switching...My theory is that this story was written many years before its publication in Winter's Crimes in 1971. And that she gave it to the editor who wanted new stories.
    I'm glad it was published because it has some interesting clues in it!

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