“Suspicion” opens with Mr. Mummery, who, on his way to work, increasingly feels a stomachache. He tries to ignore it and continues to browse the paper, reading about, among other items, a cook who poisoned a nearby family. At the office, he works with his partner, Mr. Brookes. At one point, Mr. Brookes asks if Mr. Mummery’s wife knows of a good cook. Mr. Mummery says no, in fact, they have just found a new cook themselves. The conversation turns to the arsenic poisoning case, for the still-at-large woman, Mrs. Andrews, may be seeking a situation as a cook.
By the end of the day, Mr. Mummery feels better. When he gets home, Mrs. Sutton, the new cook, tells him that his wife Ethel is not feeling well herself. Mr. Mummery visits her in the bedroom and decides that he will send her supper up. If she doesn’t take care of herself, he says, she will not be allowed to go to the Drama Club meetings, and the Welbecks had been asking for her there.
Over the next few days, Mr. Mummery feels better himself, which he ascribes to his home cure of drinking orange juice. One night, however, he gets so violently ill that Ethel calls the doctor, who says his stomach problem is a result of combining orange juice and pork. He is not able to leave his bed for several days. On his first day up again, he must attend to the household accounts. After speaking with his wife, they decide to keep on Mrs. Sutton, who has only been with them a month and came without references.
The next day, Mr. Mummery feels fine. He decides to do some gardening. In the potting shed he finds a tin of weed-killer and notes with some excitement that the brand he uses is the same one that Mrs. Andrews used. He also notices that the stopper has been put in quite loosely. When he goes back inside, he finds that Mrs. Welbeck and her son, young Welbeck, have come for a visit. He takes Mrs. Welbeck to the garden to get some cuttings, leaving his wife alone with Welbeck. In the kitchen, where he goes to get newspaper to wrap up the cuttings, he makes another surprising discovery: every mention or picture of Mrs. Andrews and the poisoning case has been cut out of the paper. Mr. Mummery begins to review the past month. He realizes that he has been feeling poorly since Mrs. Sutton came to work for them and that her appearance coincides with the disappearance of Mrs. Andrews. He suspects that Mrs. Sutton may be Mrs. Andrews, but he determines that he must sort this out on his own, without scaring Ethel.
Over the next few days, nothing out of the ordinary occurs, and Mr. Mummery begins to feel foolish for his suspicions. On Thursday evening, he goes out with some men after work, and when he gets home, he finds some cocoa Mrs. Sutton has prepared waiting for him. He takes a sip but the cocoa tastes strange. He pours the cocoa into a medicine bottle. Then he goes out to the potting shed and pulls out the tin of weed-killer. He finds that the stopper is loose again, but he clearly remembers that he had tightened it the last time.
The next morning he brings the cocoa to a chemist friend and explains what he wants it analyzed for and why. At the end of the day, he picks up the sample. The chemist tells him that the cocoa had been laced with a strong dose of arsenic, a main ingredient in the weed-killer. Mr. Mummery rushes to catch the train home, afraid for Ethel, and asks the chemist to call the police. Approaching his house, Mr. Mummery fears he is too late, for he sees a car parked by the door and thinks it must be a doctor. He is quite relieved when a man comes out of the house, followed by Ethel, and drives off. He makes himself calm down and goes in the house, where Ethel is surprised to see him. He asks about the visitor and learns it was young Welbeck come to discuss the Drama Society.
Mr. Mummery tells Ethel he has something unpleasant to tell her. He is about to begin when Mrs. Sutton comes into the room. Among the other news she has to report is that Mrs. Andrews, the poisoner, has been caught. Mr. Mummery feels immediate relief. It had all been a mistake! But then he thinks about the cocoa. If Mrs. Sutton had not poisoned it, who had? He looks at Ethel and notes “in her eyes . . . something he had never seen before…”
Jennifer Smith – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 12, Dorothy L. Sayers, Published by Gale Group, 2001.