This short story is included in The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries: the Most Complete Collection of Impossible Crime Stories Ever Assembled / edited and with an introduction by Otto Penzler. A Vintage Crime/Black Lizar Original, 2014. Book Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 10617 KB. Print Length: 962 page. eISBN: 978-0-8041-7279-0. ASIN: B00J1ISJJQ. “The Tea Leaf” was originally published in the October 1925 issue of The Strand Magazine.
My Take: Two friends, Arthur Kelstern and Hugh Willoughton, were known for their bad character and their nasty temper and no one could believed that they would have become friends. One day, Hugh became engaged to Arthur’s daughter only to cancel it a year later. From then on they began to hate each other. They were both in the habit to have a Turkish bath twice a week, in the same place, at the same time, and on the same days. None of them changed their habits after their row and everyone sensed it was only a matter of time so that this relationship will end up in tragedy. Worst omens were fulfilled the day in which they found themselves alone, sharing a bath in the hottest room. After a heated discussion Hugh left the room in a bad mood and, shortly after, another customer entered the room where he found Arthur stabbed to death. When the police arrived, Hugh was arrested. After a highly rigorous search, no trace whatsoever of the murder weapon was found. The autopsy revealed that the fatal wound was caused by a long circular weapon that would need at least a 4-inch handle to inflict such a deep and gruesome wound. Even in the absence of the murder weapon, Hugh is brought to trial.
Though now-a-days its denouement may seemed to us pretty obvious, it still makes a fascinating read.
About the Authors: Edgar Alfred Jepson (1863-1938) was an English author best known for his adventure and detective fiction. He also wrote supernatural and fantasy stories. Robert Eustace was the pen name of Eustace Robert Barton (1854-1943), an English doctor and author of mystery and crime fiction with a theme of scientific innovation.