The Maxwell Mystery by Carolyn Wells
Author: Carolyn Wells
1. The Maxwell Mystery Synopsis
The Maxwell Mystery is a classic whodunit set in the grand Maxwell Chimneys estate. The story unfolds with Peter King receiving an invitation to a house party hosted by Philip Maxwell, where he looks forward to rekindling his acquaintance with Irene Gardiner. Amidst the genteel party’s flirtations and rivalries, a sudden murder throws the estate into chaos. As guests grapple with shock and suspicion, Peter and Irene find themselves drawn into a web of intrigue. Their investigation delves into hidden motives and secret relationships, revealing unexpected twists that challenge their understanding of loyalty and justice.
2. The Maxwell Mystery Summary
Chapter 1: Concerning Opportunities
Peter King receives a telegram from Philip Maxwell inviting him to a house party at Maxwell Chimneys, hinting at the presence of Irene Gardiner, with whom Peter is infatuated. During their train journey to Hamilton, Peter and Irene discuss the nature of crime and temptation, leading to a deeper conversation about human nature and morality.
Chapter 2: Maxwell Chimneys
Upon arriving at Maxwell Chimneys, the guests are impressed by its grandeur. The narrative introduces various characters, including the playful and charming Mildred Leslie, and sets the stage for the intricate social dynamics and relationships that will unfold during the house party.
Chapter 3: The Belted Earl
The arrival of Clarence, Earl of Clarendon, stirs excitement and curiosity among the guests, especially Mildred, who playfully contemplates how to interact with him. The chapter highlights the social maneuvering and playful banter among the guests, setting up potential romantic entanglements and rivalries.
Chapter 4: Saucy Mildred
Preparations for a dance at Maxwell Chimneys reveal Mildred’s coquettish nature as she navigates her interactions with the guests, particularly the Earl and Philip. The chapter emphasizes Mildred’s flirtatious and unpredictable behavior, creating tension and anticipation for the evening’s events.
Chapter 5: The Tragedy
During a dance at Maxwell Chimneys, Peter and Irene discuss Mildred Leslie’s treatment of Philip Maxwell and her true feelings toward Gilbert Crane. The conversation reveals Irene’s jealousy and suspicion towards Mildred’s motives. Later, a tragic event unfolds: Philip Maxwell is found dead, and Mildred Leslie is discovered unconscious with a pistol in her hand, leading to speculation and shock among the guests.
Chapter 6: “He Shot Me!”
After the tragedy, the guests and household are in disarray, trying to piece together what happened. Mildred’s condition is critical but stable, and she repeatedly mutters, “He shot me!” adding to the mystery. The chapter explores the immediate aftermath, the reaction of the household, and the beginning of an investigation into the shooting, hinting at complex relationships and possible motives.
Chapter 7: A Search For Clues
The focus shifts to gathering evidence and understanding the circumstances leading to the shooting. Peter and others begin to investigate, searching for clues around Maxwell Chimneys. Mildred’s cryptic statements and the discovery of a mysterious motor car led to further speculation about an intruder. The chapter delves into the efforts to unravel the mystery, highlighting the challenges of distinguishing between accident and intent.
Chapter 8: The Inquest
An inquest is held to formally investigate the deaths. Witnesses, including Gilbert Crane and Dr. Sheldon, provide their accounts, contributing to a complicated picture of the events leading to the tragedy. The discovery that Miss Maxwell heard shots at a specific time adds a critical piece of evidence. The chapter ends with the inquest’s attempt to determine the timeline and cause of the tragic events, setting the stage for further investigation.
Chapter 9: Further Testimony
Irene Gardiner’s testimony reveals her presence on the balcony during the crime, with Peter and others nearby. Her uncertain answers and nervous demeanor during the inquest raise suspicions. The Earl of Clarendon’s testimony about witnessing a mysterious motor car adds another layer of intrigue, suggesting a premeditated act by an unknown party. The chapter concludes with all witnesses, including servants and guests, providing no significant leads, setting the stage for Mildred Leslie’s crucial testimony.
Chapter 10: Mildred’s Strange Story
Mildred Leslie’s testimony offers a dramatic recount of the night’s events, including her refusal of Philip Maxwell’s marriage proposal, the sudden appearance of an intruder, and a struggle that ends with Philip being shot. Mildred’s attempt to intervene by throwing objects at the intruder and her subsequent loss of consciousness deepen the mystery. Her vivid description of the intruder, despite her inability to identify him, points to a premeditated attack rather than a random intrusion.
Chapter 11: The Black Spangles
The jury’s verdict of willful murder by an unknown person shifts the focus to identifying the mysterious intruder. Speculations about the intruder’s identity and method of entering the house without detection are explored. Evidence of scuffling and a discovery of black spangles near the crime scene suggest a possible female involvement, complicating the investigation further. The chapter explores various theories about the intruder’s entry and exit, highlighting the challenges in solving the case.
Chapter 12: An Interview With Milly
An interview with Mildred Leslie seeks to clarify her previous testimony and explore the discrepancies regarding the thrown objects. Mildred insists on the accuracy of her account, despite the physical evidence suggesting otherwise. The emotional and physical toll on Mildred from the incident and the subsequent investigation is evident, raising questions about the reliability of her testimony and the psychological impact of the crime on those involved. The chapter underscores the complexity of the investigation, with personal biases and emotions influencing the search for truth.
Chapter 13: The Mysterious Missiles
The chapter begins with Peter investigating a clue connected to a thrown bronze horse paperweight in the library, believed to be linked to Mildred’s actions. After finding a small piece missing from the paperweight, which matches a fragment found on the library floor, Peter confirms Mildred’s story. Further investigation leads to the discovery of red ink stains on the library carpet, matching the ink from a second, smaller inkstand, confirming another part of Mildred’s account.
The findings, while not solving the mystery, support the truth of Mildred’s statements and suggest someone else might have restored the thrown items to their places. The chapter concludes with a discovery of a significant clue: a topaz seal belonging to the Earl, hidden under a chair, which implicates him in the ongoing mystery, complicating the investigation further.
Chapter 14: In Pursuit of the Earl
With the Earl of Clarendon having left Maxwell Chimneys suddenly, Peter believes his departure is suspicious. Discussions with the Maxwell family and the detective, Mr. Hunt, reveal differing opinions on the Earl’s sudden departure, with some viewing it as an attempt to avoid the funeral and others suspecting his involvement in the mystery. Peter decides to confront the Earl in New York, hoping to clarify his sudden departure and his possible connection to the mystery. Despite the tense atmosphere of Philip’s funeral back at Maxwell Chimneys, Peter’s pursuit leads him to an unexpected encounter with the Earl, who provides a plausible explanation for his actions but leaves some questions unanswered.
Chapter 15: The Earl’s Story
Upon meeting the Earl of Clarendon in New York, Peter is offered an explanation for the presence of the Earl’s seal in the library. The Earl recounts giving the seal to Mildred Leslie, who admired it, thus placing her at the scene with the seal. He suggests that Mildred may have more information about the night of the crime than she has revealed. This revelation shifts suspicion away from the Earl and onto the unknown aspects of Mildred’s involvement. The Earl’s insight into the night’s events, including a mysterious motorcar seen on the premises, opens new avenues for investigation, hinting at a premeditated crime with potential witnesses yet to come forward.
Chapter 16: The Gray Motorcar
Peter returns to Maxwell Chimneys with a determination to solve the mystery, focusing on the gray motorcar the Earl saw on the night of the murder. Discussions with Mr. Hunt and Tom Whiting lead to a plan to canvass the neighborhood for witnesses who might have seen the car. Despite initial skepticism, they gather evidence confirming the presence of a fast-moving gray car in the vicinity of Maxwell Chimneys at the time of the crime. The chapter concludes with a commitment to trace the car and its occupants, seen as key to uncovering the murderer’s identity, despite diverging opinions on the Earl’s innocence and the potential involvement of other characters in the mystery.
Chapter 17: Big Jack Judson
The chapter opens with the group feeling hopeful about their plan to track down a mysterious car and its occupants, despite skepticism from their peers. Irene, especially, tries to dissuade them, raising suspicions about her motives. Their investigation leads them to Millville, where they learn about a group of men, including a moody “big Western man” named Judson, associated with the car. Despite mixed opinions and a curious incident involving Irene sending a letter to Judson, they press on with their investigation, driven by a mix of determination and concern over Irene’s secretive actions.
Chapter 18: A Pistol Shot
During a dinner, an important call reveals that the suspects have returned to Millville. Plans are quickly made to intercept them, leading to a high-speed car chase. Just as they catch up, Judson fires a shot, cleverly disabling their car. Despite their failure to catch the suspects, the incident further implicates Judson and deepens the mystery surrounding Irene’s connection to him, as well as her actions and motivations.
Chapter 19: Red Ink Spots
A new clue emerges when red ink spots are found on an automobile coat, pointing to a possible encounter between the wearer and the crime scene. Suspicion turns towards Gilbert Crane when similar spots are discovered on his coat. Despite doubts about Crane’s involvement, the evidence seems to incriminate him, leading to a deeper investigation into his actions and whereabouts during the crime.
Chapter 20: Irene Tells The Truth
Under pressure, Irene reveals that she had lied in her previous testimony to protect someone. She admits to witnessing a moment that could implicate Gilbert Crane in the crime, adding complexity to the case. However, her revelation raises more questions than answers, particularly regarding her motives and the true nature of the events she witnessed. The chapter ends with the characters grappling with the implications of Irene’s confession and the realization that the truth may be more complicated than initially thought.
Chapter 21: Circumstantial Evidence
Further investigation implicates Gilbert Crane in a crime due to the discovery of a pistol and his motive. Despite evidence, various characters express doubt about Gilbert’s guilt, including Mildred Leslie, who vehemently defends him. Peter visits Gilbert in jail, finding him hopeful rather than despairing, and decides to seek help from a New York detective, Fleming Stone, on Gilbert’s suggestion.
Chapter 22: Fleming Stone’s Discoveries
Fleming Stone arrives and begins his investigation with a keen and courteous demeanor. He requests private interviews with each household member, impressing everyone with his affable nature and detective skills. Stone discovers crucial evidence linking the crime to someone within the household and hints at a tragic revelation to come.
Chapter 23: The Confession
Alexander Maxwell is revealed as the true culprit behind the crime in a shocking turn of events. Fleming Stone methodically uncovers the truth through clues and Maxwell’s behavior. Maxwell confesses to the murder, driven by financial desperation and the fear of exposure. His confession is detailed, explaining his motives and actions leading up to the crime. Maxwell’s death shortly after his confession spares his sister, Miranda, from learning the truth, maintaining a promise to keep her unaware of his guilt.