A ‘locked room’ mystery is not merely a murder committed by person or persons unknown, but one in which the murder itself seems impossible, the corpse, say, found shot to death in a gunless room locked from the inside. Contrast it with the classic ‘cozy’ mystery, in which any number of people have means, motive, and opportunity and the (amateur, sensibly shod) detective’s role is to ignore the misdirection and see what’s hiding in plain sight. At first glance, this seems to be the latter sort. So, then: whodunnit?
Was it the contents of the bottle? — or the glass? — or does it matter? Which of them drank it? Which of them doctored it? Or was a third party responsible? If so, whom and to what end? Is there ash in the ashtray — and does it signify?
Is it the hat that has to be strapped tight to his head that’s ensnared him? Or is it the bite of the strap against his skin that’s holding him fast? Is the whole ensemble indicative of servility? Or is it a disguise that makes him blend in to the background even as it makes him stand out in front?
And speaking of standing out in front, at what point did that dick make an appearance? Ab initio or ex post facto? Is it a display of masculine strength? Or a chink in the armor of purity being exploited before our very eyes? What devilry is contained within those hidden balls? What fiendish substance has been smeared beneath that foreskin? Or is that proud member mereley a herring as red as the presumable but unseeen bush?
Is the gesture of the hand on the head one of affection? benediction? compulsion? dominion? encouragement? Or is it to be contrasted with its counterpart — as one open hand holds up the tray, the other holds down the boy? Is he stroking his hair for the sheer pleasure of it? Whose?
But then again, maybe it is the first sort of mystery — a hasitbeendunnatall. These two may not be culprit and victim, but instead a kind of corporate explanandum, a two body problem. They themselves are the mystery, their eyes shut in devotion, and we are helpless to look away.
Perhaps that in itself is the point. This is neither crime scene nor crime seen but mere diversion from the true villainy: our own befuddlement. Our inability to puzzle out the obscurity of the story’s solution leaves us at a loss, vulnerable, helplessly susceptible to the voice that says to us, ‘Mesdames et Messieurs, if you would only be so kind as to step into the drawing room, all shall be made clear.’