As usual, Sherlock Holmes was getting bored by the easy cases coming to him. He decided to learn some new languages to kill some time. Being the genius he is, he learnt five languages on that mundane Sunday. And as he was practising his newly acquired linguistic skills, he heard a knock on the door. 221B came alive...

It was a woman, in her mid-fifties, dressed well enough to be in the upper middle class; hair was tied -- had taken her time to decide to come to meet him -- but looked in distress as if she had seen a murder. Deductions aside, Sherlock asked her to sit and tell what had happened. She started telling her story, controlling her tears.

"My husband was in military."

"Sorry to interrupt you, but 'was'?" said Holmes.

"Yes, he died last night," she replied, barely controlling her tears.

"Oh, I am sorry. Please continue..." Holmes said whilst sitting on a chair next to her.

"He was a very good man, a great husband. We had a happy marriage, been married for almost thirty years. He had come home after retiring about a week ago. He was happy to have served the nation with all his intelligence and strength. After taking a rest the whole day, we had a good dinner last night at the best restaurant in the city. He started watching a movie, I can't remember the name, but it was about Indo-Pak war. He was all nostalgic about his glorious epoch in army, also boasted about the good direction and appreciated the dialogues. I can't understand Hindi, but I agreed with whatever he said. After the movie ended, we went to sleep. He was having a dream about his life in Africa. After that, I too dozed off. The first thing I did after waking up in the morning was kiss him on his forehead. To my surprise, his skin was cold. I tried to wake him up, but he didn't respond. I tried to feel his heartbeat, he had none. He probably had a heart attack. I immediately called a doctor, who came after an hour. After the checkup, the feel of his face told a horror story. My husband was dead. The doctor said it was indeed a cardiac arrest. I am not able to digest that the person who was so happy in the day, who had no medical history of any disease whatsoever, died of a heart attack. I have no hope left. I think someone murdered him. He had enemies who have access to military level tech. They must have killed him for something. Please help me."

After hearing all this, Holmes, who was already suffering from linguistic information overflow couldn't speak. All his mastery over language came to a standstill. Coming back to his senses, he asked whether they had any other family members. She replied that all they had was a cook, who was like their son. He was with them for the last twenty years, helped in household work and cooked great food. It was not possible that someone had bribed him to murder her husband.

All this was too much information, even for someone like Sherlock Holmes to process.

He knows that there is an awesome puzzle solving community on StackExchange that can help him to solve this case which is a bit awkward for his tired brain to handle.

So, can you help him solve the case?

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ OK, clarify something for us: when she says she can't understand Hindi but just agreed with him, was she saying she couldn't understand the movie's dialogue, but agreed with her husband who was speaking English, or that she couldn't understand her husband, who was speaking Hindi for some reason? $\endgroup$ Commented May 25, 2016 at 17:20
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ @Zymus I don't think she'd say "I don't understand Hindi" in Hindi. $\endgroup$
    – paste
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 18:04
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @question_asker He was only responding to her (in English) about the movie( which is in Hindi). $\endgroup$
    – ABcDexter
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 18:09
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ There are several Indo-Pak wars. Does the exact one make a difference? $\endgroup$ Commented May 25, 2016 at 19:15
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ I'm so tickled at the idea of a "checkup" for a corpse who's been cold and had no heartbeat for an hour. "Well, doctor, how is he?" $\endgroup$ Commented May 25, 2016 at 21:02

9 Answers 9


She poisoned him at the restaurant.


1. They didn't eat at home that night.
2. She couldn't have known what he was dreaming.
3. She assumed a heart attack before calling the doctor.
4. Dissonant mention of assuming a heart attack, then wondering why.
5. Utilizing the cook and stating "I could not digest". A slip leading to the idea that there was something she should not ingest to begin with.

EDIT: Glossed over a detail that would have been #6

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ +1 for the reasoning, except #6. In her story, she says she tried to wake him up. And welcome to PSE :) $\endgroup$
    – paste
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 18:21
  • $\begingroup$ It was very close to the original puzzle I was asked years ago by my friend in a 'Whodunnit'. But only one answer can be marked as accepted, keep answering :) $\endgroup$
    – ABcDexter
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 10:30
  • $\begingroup$ @ChristopherGergler Your answer is marked as correct because I cross-checked with the person who asked me this puzzle and after a lot of discussion with him, he confirmed that it's the wife who was the devil. $\endgroup$
    – ABcDexter
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 5:29
  • $\begingroup$ But he must have [spoiler (don't know how to hide this in comment) woke up before she killed him as it's the only way she'd have known what he was dreaming. ] $\endgroup$
    – komodosp
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 10:26
  • $\begingroup$ @colmde That is the giveaway statement of this puzzle. There is no (normal) way in which wife could possible know about his dreams, so she is the one who killed him, most probably to get the wealth she was about to inherit. $\endgroup$
    – ABcDexter
    Commented May 28, 2016 at 4:44

Most likely,

the cook killed him using an untraceable poison that was engineered to be indistinguishable from a heart attack.

A key point is

the timing of the incident. Why now? Because he'd just returned home, permanently, after being stationed overseas for many years.

The motive was

a combination of international espionage and jealousy.

Though not explicitly stated,

we can deduce that the husband was a relatively high-ranking officer in the army, and thus privy to classified intelligence.

Several lines of evidence point to this:
They have enough money to dine at the best restaurant in London.
He seems to have been a career military officer.
The wife is upper-middle-class-looking.
He speaks multiple languages which suggests education.
For a British military man to have active stints in both Africa and an Indian/Pakistani conflict, it's most likely the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya in 1952-60 and the Indo-Pakistani war in 1947. (Making present-day in the story circa mid-1980s.) And in the 1947 war, only British officers played a major role. If he was an officer that early in his career, it suggests he would be fairly high-level by now.

Which makes him a

target for espionage.

Meanwhile, the wife knows

the cook is the culprit, but is afraid for her life and ashamed of committing treason, and so can't go to normal authorities.


the cook was a spy (possibly Pakistani) who was tasked with turning the wife into an asset as a means of stealing British state secrets from the husband.

There are some clues to this effect:
A domestic servant will likely have (at times unsupervised) access to the home.
The cook shows up after 10 years of marriage, when the woman is in her mid-30s, the at-home wife of an absent military man, and vulnerable.
He's young enough to be her son and is a wonderful cook, which is basically wife-bait.
At this point, the husband would be well into his career and likely to have access to more significant intelligence.

So the cook then

seduces the wife and they begin an affair. Once she is in love with him, he begins asking her to do small favors such as asking her husband about troop strengths and movements, then larger favors like acquiring documents until she begins to become suspicious.

But he didn't count on

falling in love with the wife himself. Once she eventually confronts him, he admits he works for a foreign government, but takes a carrot (their love) and stick (revealing the affair) approach to get her to continue supplying information.

So for over a decade they

continue to be lovers and partners, and the cook continues to gather intelligence for his government.


the husband tells her that he's returning home under the guise of retirement to take a leadership position in British Military Intelligence, having acquired (this being the mid-80s) key information about Pakistan's attempts to nuclearize.

Note that she slips up and tells Sherlock she used the past tense "was" because he's dead when it would've made more sense to use it because he's retired. That's because in fact she knows that he's not actually retired.

She tells the cook

about her husband's new job and his return. The cook is conflicted, because he may get access to new intelligence, but he is pained at losing his life with the wife to a now-present husband.

After the husband returns,

the cook bides his time for a week, until he's forced to cook the husband and wife meals while they "take a rest all day" ;) and his jealously boils over. Then, while the married pair are at the restaurant, he discovers that the husband has not yet turned over the documents on Pakistan's nuclear program to HQ, and decides to kill two birds (or one man) with one stone.

After they return from the restaurant,

the cook indicates somehow to the wife that they need to talk, perhaps a pre-arranged signal. During the movie, she's obviously distracted and nervous, and so doesn't pay attention to things like the title and just agrees with everything her husband says.

Once the husband falls asleep,

the wife sneaks from bed and lets in the cook, who implores her to run away with him, because if not terrible things must happen. She refuses, and their arguing wakes the husband. Though it's a bit odd, he's not all that surprised to see the cook there, since the cook is like a son to them. The husband tells the wife and the cook about his dream of his time in Africa (another slip up she makes talking to Holmes) while the cook makes him a cup of tea.

He drinks

the tea, not realizing it is poisoned, and collapses, clutching his chest. The wife immediately realizes what the cook has done, and his brutal side is revealed to her for the first time. He again asks her to run away with him, but horrified by his calm demeanor and her dead husband on the floor, the wife refuses and breaks down in tears.

The cook

moves the body to the bed, and tells the wife that he must leave. He informs her that the poison was developed by his government for covert assassinations, and breaks down fully in a matter of hours, so she should wait until the morning and then call the authorities. The husband's death will appear to be an accident. The cook turns to her with a darkness in his eyes that terrifies her, a wordless threat, and departs.

So in the morning,

after not sleeping and spending hours running scenarios in her head, she deliberately calls a doctor rather than police or an ambulance (which would arouse more suspicion). She calls a doctor who she knows will take a while to get there, so she can still claim to have called immediately after waking up while allowing a bit more time for the poison to break down.

So now

her husband is dead, her lover is a killer who may kill her, and she has nowhere to turn because going to the police would mean admitting her role in divulging state secrets, and also likely open her up to assassination as a loose end.

She has no hope left, and she needs

someone who can figure out what happened to her husband without necessarily revealing it to the authorities. So with one last roll of the dice she goes to Sherlock Holmes, who is known not only for solving crimes but also for discretion and an often antagonistic relationship with the police and government.

During her meeting with Holmes,

she gives him just enough to entice him to take the case and push him in the right direction but, remembering the dark eyes of her former lover, can't reveal too much. She's terrified that the cook could be anywhere, even listening, and doesn't dare tell Holmes directly of his involvement, but does mention specifically that he couldn't have been "bribed" to kill her husband, leaving other motives open rather than simply saying "he would never kill him."

Her final remarks of "I have no hope left. I think someone murdered him, he had enemies who have access to military level tech. They must have killed him for something. Please help me." are

as close as she can come to telling him what happened, and of course how would she know he had enemies with high-level tech access anyway, unless she'd been poking around in his business.


her only hope is that Sherlock can somehow deduce what's happened, eliminate the cook as a threat, and retrieve the stolen documents about Pakistan's nuclear program. Lucky for her, he can!

  • 16
    $\begingroup$ good fanfic, would read again $\endgroup$ Commented May 26, 2016 at 12:06
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @ABcDexter Really, this is the right answer? I was certainly trying to make everything consistent, but didn't really believe that this is what you had in mind. $\endgroup$ Commented May 26, 2016 at 13:33
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ This answer is longer than some of the actual Sherlock Holmes stories. +1 $\endgroup$
    – paste
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 13:36
  • $\begingroup$ @DanRussell great work and logical approach $\endgroup$
    – A J
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 13:58
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ This sounds more like an actual Sir Doyle story rather than a kids' version of Sherlock. $\endgroup$ Commented May 27, 2016 at 15:25

The wife is definitely suspect, since

she could not have known what he was dreaming about if he died before being able to tell her.

  • 13
    $\begingroup$ She could if he was talking in his sleep $\endgroup$ Commented May 25, 2016 at 16:58
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm, but she didn't give much information about it. $\endgroup$
    – ABcDexter
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 17:02
  • 12
    $\begingroup$ If the wife is the killer, why would she seemingly get away with it (since the doctor claims heart attack) and then go to Sherlock Holmes to further investigate? $\endgroup$ Commented May 25, 2016 at 18:57
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @DavidStarkey Nobody said she was bright. $\endgroup$
    – Mike M.
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 19:20
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Also a bit odd that she responded to SH's question about past tense with the death explanation rather than the retirement explanation. $\endgroup$ Commented May 25, 2016 at 20:01

He was killed by someone in the restaurant, having been recognized as someone who fought in the war. It wasn't the wife: she would have no reason to draw attention to the case if she were involved and getting away with it. It wasn't their cook, he had no apparent motive. The doctor is suspicious for taking an hour to arrive to an emergency call, but there's no other reason to think he's involved. That leaves the restaurant. We know the husband fought in the war and spoke Hindi, so it's likely he was Indian and fought on the side of India. Taking a stab, I'll wager the "best restaurant of the city" was Pakistani. So a former enemy working in the restaurant recognized him and poisoned his food.

  • $\begingroup$ +1 A good answer, but only one answer can be marked as accepted, keep answering more :) $\endgroup$
    – ABcDexter
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 10:29


He committed suicide.

The only real motive I can see in the story for his death is that he is nostalgic and may no longer feel useful. Someone in the movie may have said something along those lines and the following may have taken place:
Guy in Movie (in Hindi): I am now retired and have no reason to go on. I'm going to commit suicide.
Husband: That guy has some good ideas, huh?
Wife: Sure, whatever you say. I don't understand Hindi.

Thus, with his wife on board with it, he slipped himself something and died later.

  • $\begingroup$ Again an interesting answer, but I can accept only one :0 $\endgroup$
    – ABcDexter
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 9:08
  • $\begingroup$ Good answer though, but one little detail, the wife might have agreed but not added that she can't speak Hindi as that would have let the husband know she didn't really agree. $\endgroup$
    – komodosp
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 10:21
  • $\begingroup$ @colmde Yeah, I was just kind of pointing out the absurdity of her husband expecting her to agree with anything he said about the movie since she didn't understand it. $\endgroup$
    – paste
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 13:37
  • $\begingroup$ Also, she said he was happy. Suicide victims may exhibit a change in mood from being very sad to a general calmness and/or in some cases, appearing happy.. Maybe he had gone through a phase of depression as his retirement day approached and was already through the calmness/happiness phase in that last week. Maybe he took her out to dinner as a way to say goodbye before ending it all. $\endgroup$
    – Yay
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 14:54

I think he was killed by

No one. He died of Cardiac Arrest.


1. He was nearly 60. A bit of an old age. The incidence of sudden cardiac arrest increases with age.
2. She said "He was happy to have served the nation with all his intelligence and strength." Maybe he wanted to serve more. He might feel that he couldn't give his country what he is supposed to give. The movie on war might have worked as a spark on his thoughts. He got stressed and died.
3. Just because she thinks that someone murdered him doesn't mean that someone really murdered him. It just mean that she can't take this for granted that her husband is dead.

But hey. It's just me being real.

  • $\begingroup$ I like the idea that it could possibly be a natural death, but then, it will be boringgg :P $\endgroup$
    – ABcDexter
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 5:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @ABcDexter I like the idea that it is boring, but then it will be so less likely. :p $\endgroup$
    – manshu
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 5:32
  • $\begingroup$ I do not know which answer should be marked as accepted :-/ $\endgroup$
    – ABcDexter
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 5:42
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The answer having better valid points, less assumptions and most interesting would have been my personal choice. $\endgroup$
    – manshu
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 5:45
  • $\begingroup$ You are right, done (y) $\endgroup$
    – ABcDexter
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 10:34

What happened?

The retired soldier was murdered.

Who did it?

The family cook.


221 Baker Street is in Great Britain. So we are assuming this is a retired British soldier. The only way a British soldier of that age could have been involved in India / Pakistan is as an observer in the United Nations Military Observer Group. He is too young to have been over there in 1947. The UN observers were tasked with observing and reporting on cease fire between India and Pakistan. Pakistan made numerous complaints about violations, but India never complained.
The fact that the soldier knew the Hindi language indicates extensive time with folks in India. The cook was a Pakistani, and didn't know the retired soldier knew Hindi. When the cook realized that the soldier may not have been objective in his UN observer role (after all, his knowledge of hindi indicates a little too much contact with India), and took his own vengeance.


  • $\begingroup$ +1 It's the closest to the answer marked as accepted, only one answer can be marked as correct. Keep answering such good answers :) $\endgroup$
    – ABcDexter
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 10:31

Simple hitman-style poisoning at the restaurant...


He was old; at least 60. The movie that he watched happened in 47/65/71/99. She did not mention which one, but it was nostalgic. And she didn't say anything about conversation between them. Like he was haunted by the instances. However, the film was nostalgic to him, which means maybe he was there as a UN soldier or as a spy. As we know after partition of British India in 1947, wars started... It is possible he made some serious enemies while there. That lead to murder!

  • $\begingroup$ +1 It's also a good answer. Also, keep answering :) $\endgroup$
    – ABcDexter
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 10:32

But wait a minute:

While I agree she would have no way of knowing what he dreamt had he not woken up and told her, why would he speak Hindi if he were stationed in Africa? India and Pakistan are not in Africa.

  • $\begingroup$ is this a serious question? if so, why? $\endgroup$ Commented May 26, 2016 at 17:09
  • $\begingroup$ Added a comment above. $\endgroup$
    – Raydot
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 17:14
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You do realize people can be in more than one place on the earth over the course of their life, no? You do realize people are able to speak languages outside of the main place where that language is spoken, yes? $\endgroup$ Commented May 26, 2016 at 17:16
  • $\begingroup$ Of course I do. Just looking for relevant information. Seems like it takes a bit of a left turn there. And since the initial clue involves the learning of languages, this seemed relevant. Apparently it isn't. $\endgroup$
    – Raydot
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 17:17
  • $\begingroup$ @DaveKaye You have a valid point about the initial cues involving learning languages, but that was just to create a diversion. $\endgroup$
    – ABcDexter
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 3:00

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