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The Kennel Murder Case (1933) - Plot Summary Poster

Plot

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Summaries

  • Philo Vance, accompanied by his prize-losing Scottish terrier, investigates the locked-room murder of a prominent and much-hated collector whose broken Chinese vase provides an important clue.

  • Archer Coe has been found dead in his locked bedroom. The cops consider it suicide, but Philo believes otherwise. When the Coroner shows up, he finds that Archer had been hit with a blunt object, stabbed and shot - making suicide unlikely. When the evidence points to his brother, Brisbane is found stabbed to death in the closet. Archer had a number of enemies, any one of which would have been glad to knock him off, but which one did and how did the murder occur in a room looked from the inside. Only one man, the keen, fascinating, debonair detective Philo Vance, would be able to figure out who is the killer.

  • Debonair private eye Philo Vance cancels his sea voyage to Europe when he hears that the wealthy Archer Coe was found dead in his home, an apparent suicide. Philo is soon on the scene of the crime and is quite dubious about suicide as the cause, despite the fact that Coe was found in a room that was locked from the inside. He had run into Cole the previous day at the Long Island Kennel Club and Coe was very much looking forward to the next day's competition and the possibility of his dog winning. It takes only a few minutes for Philo to convince Det. Sgt. Heath that it's murder. Finding the murderer isn't as easy however as Archer Coe was ruthless and had many enemies.


Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • Prominent local figure Archer Coe was found dead, locked inside his bedroom by butler Gamble. His secretary Raymond Wrede called the police.

    Detective Sergeant Heath was the first to arrive to the crime scene, followed by district attorney Markham and his friend, amateur sleuth Philo Vance.

    With the helpful hints dropped by Philo, the coroner completed his examination and deduced that Archer Coe did not commit suicide, but was murdered. The following rounds of questioning revealed that Archer Coe was not a popular man and just about everyone around him has a reason to kill him.

    The main suspects are:

    Archer's beautiful niece Hilda Lake, whom he obsessed about and kept under his control by abusing his position as the executor of her trust.

    Hilda's lover Sir Thomas MacDonald, whose prize-winning dog was believed to be maliciously killed by Archer.

    Archer's mistress Doris Delafield, who lived in an apartment building right next to his mansion, was cheating on him with Eduardo Grassi.

    Eduardo Grassi, representing an Italian museum, was about to lose the deal with Archer to buy the collection because Archer found out about him and Doris.

    And lastly, Heath's favourite suspect, Archer's brother Brisbane; with whom Archer had a serious brotherly feud with.

    After an enthusiastic pursuit after the missing Brisbane, Heath's hope of using his handcuff within the day failed when they found Doris' dog wounded and Brisbane dead, both hidden in Archer's mansion. The team was back where it started.

    Philo's investigation also brought out surprising new information on Archer's servants. Archer's Chinese cook Liang was really a graduate from Columbia who specialises in antiques; Gamble was a reformed professional gambler; and Wrede hated his boss and was looking for a new job.

    It turned out that Archer was killed twice. First it was Wrede, who both hit and stabbed him when Archer refused to give his consent for him to propose to Hilda. Thinking that Archer was dead, Wrede hit Doris' dog with the murder weapon, as it has strolled into the house at the wrong time. But Archer was not dead, he just fainted. He woke up, not realising that he was dying, walked up stairs and began to change for bed. Before he could change into his slippers, the internal hemorrhage caught up to him and he died in a sitting position.

    Brisbane, who had been reading a detective novel, decided to use the plots described in the story to kill his brother. Not realising that Archer's already dead, he staged the suicide and used a trick he learned from the book to bolt the door from the outside.

    When Brisbane was closing Archer's bedroom window, Wrede saw him through his apartment window and decided to come back and finish the job. Mistaking Brisbane as Archer, he killed him and hid both his and the dog's bodies in the closets.

    Philo now knew how Archer died and why his death appears to be both murder and suicide, but he had no way of making Wrede confess. He conspired with Markham to release all of the suspects; and with the help of Sir Thomas and Hilda, finally got Wrede to confess to the crime.

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