Pueri Alleynienses

The May issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine arrived two weeks ago, but I’m so far behind in my reading that I’ve only just finished the April issue, which contained the delightfully well-written story,  “Pueri Alleynienses” by Stephen Ross. It opens with a wonderful example of how to grab a reader’s interest and hold it:

“Whatever happened to Tupper?” I asked. We had been chatting idly over a bottle of claret.

“I murdered him,” Coates answered, with all sincerity.

I believed him.

In four sentences, Ross establishes a lot of character and plants several questions: Who is Tupper? Why did Coates murder him? Why does the narrator believe him? Why does Coates so blithely confess?

The first and third questions are answered deftly and quickly, and the answers develop both Coates and the narrator, reveal their history of mutual animosity toward Tupper and each other. The other two questions, and their corollaries, aren’t answered until two masterfully executed twists near the end. There is very little action and yet the story is fascinating, filled with tension. This story was a great example of why I subscribe to Alfred Hitchcock.