In 1925, two English families and their friends gathered together at the posh Royal Savoy in Funchal, Madeira, to celebrate the engagement between Tarquin Sinclair-Smythe and Clarissa Quartermane. John and I were going back in time, to attend the special occasion, among 50 honoured guests at the engagement party. Our host for the evening was Investment Banker Peregrine, father of the prospective bridegroom.
During the Reception lubricated with bubbling cocktails, Peregrine revealed that he was ‘forced’ by his wife Imogen to take various pills, white ones, yellow ones and red ones, and he had found that red pills had been making him feeling confused and sick, while the others had been harmless. So for a while he had been getting rid of red pills behind his wife’s back, and had asked us to help him reassuring his wife that he had taken them during her absence.
The family party arrived as cocktails were poured and consumed. Together with the happy couple were Clarissa’s mother Fenella and her godson Sigismund Pointdexter. Apparently Fenella’s husband disappeared many years ago when Clarissa was still a baby but nobody knew the true circumstances of that disappearance.
As congratulations were offered and drinks continue to go around, Sigismund, who grew up together with the bride-to-be, suddenly knelt down in front of Clarissa and declared his undying love for her in front of all guests. In return, she told him that she had loved him all along too.
All of a sudden, the cheerful party took a surprising and dramatic turn. The prospective mother-in-law went into hysterics with a shouting match starting between the two families. For a moment, it looked as if the gala dinner would be scrapped before we got to the starters.
Not quite as planned, the dinner went ahead and we were duly seated on our table, sharing the same space with another couple of guests from Leicestershire, and Fenella. We were a curious bunch, especially my husband John, since his passion and side job is as a private detective.
Fenella told us that her husband ran off with another woman when she was pregnant with her daughter, and she now had no idea where he was or whether or not he was alive. Sigismund, the godson she raised, because both his parents died when their ship to America was wrecked en route. According to her, Sigismund’s mother was her best friend and she was looking after him as the parents set off to America. That seemed to me a little mysterious, don’t you think?
When asked about what she thought of the unexpected proposal from her godson to her daughter, her answers were contradictory, to say the least. Clarissa should follow her heart, she said at one time. Then later, she said that Clarissa should do the right thing, marrying Tarquin and have a good and stable life. During our conversations between the first course and second one, it appeared that Clarissa will be marrying into a wealthy family, secure for life. As for Sigismund, he studied chemistry at University and was now working as a pharmacist apprentice. He had no money, but his love for his childhood sweetheart.
During the meal, Clarissa was being pressurised to make up her mind by everyone, both inside and outside her family. She promised to make her decision known by the end of the evening. However, by the end of the second course, as we were finishing off our tasty Madeira Rockfish with tomato sauce and sweet basil fragrance, Clarissa stood up to make an announcement of her choice of future husband. Before she could finish her sentence, she felt unwell and drank a glass of water which Peregrine handed to her. She clasped at her seat, and died instantly.
The family feud continued as we, the guests, continued our dinner. We got to meet the other members of the families at our table and questioned them, about their backgrounds and their intentions, and why Clarissa died so suddenly.
The rest of the courses were duly consumed as John continued to ask pointed questions.
Sigismund who was a chemist, or Imogen who had threatened that if Clarissa did not make a right decision about her son, there would be consequences? How about Peregrine who had all those red pills hidden away from his watchful wife? Fenella? She obviously lied about her husband’s mysterious disappearance and other things about her life? She also had a private chat with her godson and told him that he could not marry her daughter. Period.
Surely it couldn’t have been Tarquin, the mummy’s boy who had no interest in the family business as an investment banker and more interested in hunting and having fun. He told his mother that he had met Clarissa at the Pink Pussycat club, although his mother strongly disbelieved that her son would have gone to such a low class place.
As we were finishing our lovely desert, a delicious black current cheese cake, Sigismund made a toast, ‘to my godmother who ruined my life’. He drank his wine and made his way to the exit. He fell on the floor and died, just like that.
For a moment, we thought Fenella died too, but she only fainted. So by the end of the meal, we had two dead bodies. Were they both murdered? Or was one of them a suicide? Who was the murderer? Were we witnesses to a real life Romeo and Juliet?
All the guests were asked to write down their findings on a piece of paper.
Seven individuals solved the mystery and found out who was the culprit and who was the victim.
Out of the seven super detectives, only one came out the winner. The star detective of the night, proud winner of a bottle of Portuguese champagne , was none other than Detective Kirk, who had worked harder than anyone at the party by asking lots of questions and making several pages of notes.
As for who was murdered and who died of other causes, I’ll leave that to my readers to solve the mystery. You can either leave a message below or let me know on other social media platforms. There won’t be any champagne prizes but I’ll tell you exactly what happened that night in the beautiful hotel of Royal Savoy!