A stupid but sweet middle-aged woman is murdered in her bed in the midst of a lovely little house party. The other guests find her body within a minute, the room is locked, there are no footprints outside the window--the case seems insolvable. Three great amateur detectives show up the next day to solve the case--parody versions of Lord Peter Wimsey, Hercule Poirot and Father Brown.
Lord Simon Plimsoll: "He stepped out of the foremost of three Rolls-Royces, the second of which contained his man-servant, whose name I afterwards learnt was Butterfield, and the third, a quantity of photographic apparatus. I happened to be outside the front door at the time, and heard him address his man. I was at first a little startled at his idiom, for it reminded me of a dialogue I had heard in a cabaret between two entertainers whose name I believe was Western, and it took me a few moments to believe that this was his natural mode of speech."
Amer Picon: "He interrupted me. 'I know all that you know, mon vieux
, and per'aps a leetle more. Oho, tiens, voila
!' he ended not very relevantly."
Monsignor Smith: "'Why, I've actually heard that an American has risen from the ground and moved through the air with wings,' he said, 'and without sharing the fate of Icarus.'
The little cleric was staring out of the window through the thick lenses of his spectacles. 'But there are so many kinds of wings,' he murmured; 'there are the wings of aeroplanes and of birds. There are angels' wings and'--his voice dropped--'there are devils' wings.' Then he nibbled at a piece of bread which he had been crumbling.
We were silent at once. My acquaintance with all of this remarkable man that had been made public, led me to look for something in his words which would turn out to have some bearing on our problem.
'But there is flight without wings,' he went on, 'more terrible than flight with wings. The Zeppelins had no wings to lift them. A bullet has no wings. A skilfully thrown knife, flashing through the air like a drunken comet, is wingless, too.'
This was too pointed for Alec Norris, who began to talk hastily of motor-cars."
The detectives guide us through twists and turns of hidden ropes, servants with criminal pasts, and various wills, until at last, they each give their rendition of how this locked room murder was committed.
And then Sergeant Beef, the ponderous, slow-witted police officer originally assigned to the case, says "But I know 'oo done it" and unravells it all.