THE ZEBRA-STRIPED HEARSE
The Innermost Nested Doll
After giving money to a beggar along the road, Archer finds Harriet in the village church. She is astonished at seeing Archer again. Her father had promised, when he sent her to Mexico, that he would call Archer off and that she would be left alone.
- Archer tells her that her father killed himself. When she brings her hands to her face, Archer sees that her wrists are bandaged.
- Archer tells her that her father killed himself to take the blame for two murders he knew she had committed.
- Blackwell also wanted to atone for Ronald Jaimet’s death, which Archer describes as “something less than a murder but something more than an accident.”
- Also, Blackwell knew that his affair with Dolly had led indirectly to Harriet’s murder of Dolly and Ralph Simpson.
- Harriet says she has been in the church all day, even though she is not a believer. She was despondent even before she learned of her father’s death.
- She admits she had tried to commit suicide in the Malibu beach house but that her father arrived and stopped her. That’s where the bloody towels came from.
- Blackwell bandaged her wrists and sent her on a plane to her mother’s home in Mexico. When she went to the house she says her mother refused to see her. She refuses to accept the explanations of Archer or her mother’s new husband that her mother had gone to LA to help.
- She says her father betrayed her by having an affair with Dolly Stone (?)
- Harriet killed Dolly because Dolly “first stole my father and then my husband.”
- Blackwell sent Harriet to deliver a blackmail payment to Dolly, which is where she met Campion. During their affair, Campion said that he wouldn’t leave Dolly for Harriet. He had made a promise to stay with Dolly even though the baby wasn’t his. (We will never know how much of this decision stemmed from Campion’s genuine sense of duty to his wife and how much to his lack of interest in Harriet. See He’s Just Not That into You.)
- She strangled Dolly so that Campion would be free to marry her. Then she recovered the blackmail money from under the baby’s mattress. The movement woke the baby and she decided to leave it in the neighbor’s car.
- Of course, she was wearing her father’s coat when she committed the murder. It happened to be in her car and it was cold. Ok, it’s a really good mystery. Don’t spoil it now.
- She killed Simpson when he came to the Blackwell house to see her father. Foolishly, Simpson had brought the coat with him. She asked Simpson to go for a drive where they could talk. They wound up near the beach house. She killed him with the icepick that had been given as a wedding present. She threw the coat into the sea but decided instead to bury the body on the old Jaimet property, probably to throw suspicion on Isobel.
- She agrees to waive extradition and fly back to California with Archer.
The book ends in the fine tradition of the best hardboiled fiction:
The beggar held out her hands to us as we passed. I gave her money again. I had nothing to give Harriet. We went out into the changing light and started to walk up the dry riverbed of the road.