Friday, February 22, 2013

Title: An old hand
By Author Emma Courtice

Appearing in issue #9, March 4, 2013
For sale date: February 21, 2013

Tag line:  It took a real pro – an old pro – to put two and two together and come up with murder!
Police characters:  Sgt. Norman Bain, Lt. Allard and Det. Gates.

The gist:  Mrs. Winslow, a 92-year-old woman who was in poor health with diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, is found dead in her bed.  Near the bed was a call button, a telephone and a walker.  The paid companion, Anna, had been employed to care for Mrs. Winslow and had been doing so for twenty years. Mrs. Winslow has no family.  The victim was found clutching an empty prescription bottle (that had no label) in her hand, the hand that hung over the bed.  The childproof cap to the bottle was on the floor.  Anna claimed she doesn’t know where Mrs. Winslow got the pills from as she had removed all prescriptions into another room claiming the old lady had been sad and morbid.  Sgt. Bain asked Anna if she was the only heir which prompted Anna to retort, “And shouldn’t I be?  Have I not cared for her for almost twenty years?  Fed her, bathed her?” Sgt. Bain, who has his own aches and pains, pulled his own prescription bottle out of his pocket and tossed it to Lt. Allard, telling him to open it.  Lt. Allard realized that anyone could open a regular prescription cap, but not everyone could open a childproof cap. 
Crime scene:  Mrs. Winslow’s home.

Clues:  Childproof cap.  Anna’s demeanor. No label on the bottle.  
Suspects:  The paid companion Anna Stanley. 

Red herrings:  The mention of suicide  

Solution:  Mrs. Winslow could never have opened the prescription bottle that killed her. It had a childproof cap, which as Bain knew well, couldn’t be opened by anyone with severe arthritis.  Mrs. Winslow had been murdered and the open pill bottle placed in her hand to make it look like suicide.
My two cents:  I’m confused. Let’s start with the prescription bottle.  No pharmacy would send a senior citizen a prescription with a childproof cap.  There was no label on the bottle.  So it was obviously not her RX.  So an unknown quantity of some unknown pills that were obtained in some unknown fashion by a woman who was practically confined to her bed was ingested in an unknown manner by said woman who not only couldn’t even feed herself but had a paid companion looking out for her?  That was the purported cause of death?  Because if it’s not the old lady’s RX, toxicology will get to the bottom of that real quick.  And once a person dies every muscle stops working, so that container would have fallen to the floor…unless it was inserted into the hand after death.   This was all so poorly staged and not thought out by the killer.

So if the pills didn’t actually kill her, how did she die? The author didn’t tell us in the solution.  It’s a mystery all right.  A medical examiner can tell if someone is smothered. Did Anna smother the old woman and stage a suicide?  The woman is 92 and ill.  How much longer could she live anyway?  Now Anna was out of a job she had had for twenty years.  She would have inherited everything anyway when Mrs. Winslow died naturally. There was no motive given to kill her now.

Sgt. Bain has pains of his own, okay.  But he carries around his prescription bottle?  Even if you take a pill every four hours, most likely you don’t carry around the entire amount of drugs with you.  I thought him throwing his RX container at the lieutenant was theatrical. IMO Sgt. Bain should have told Lt. Allard to take Anna in for questioning instead of ‘throwing’ the solution to him. Especially if Allard is as annoying as the story states.  
Why was Det. Gates even in the story?  He didn’t do anything.

I don’t know why we need to know there was a call button, a phone and walker by the bed.
Unfortunately, there was too much left out of this story for me to give it a positive review.


Friday, February 15, 2013

Title:  Murder to go
By Author Susan Furlong-Bolliger

Appearing in issue #8, February 25, 2013
For sale date: February 14, 2013

Tag line:  Detective Ramos preferred to start her day with a cup of strong coffee, not a crime scene in a diner…

Law enforcement: Det. Sylvia Ramos, Det. Wes Weston
The gist:  Someone stabbed and killed Frank, the owner of Frank’s Diner

Crime scene:  Frank’s Diner
Clues:  Frank was found stabbed in his back in the kitchen of his diner.  Time of death was determined to be around midnight according to the coroner. The murder weapon was a knife pulled from the block of knives in the kitchen.   The waitress, Nancy, found the body when she arrived in the morning.  She stated that she came in at five, keyed in, turned off the alarm, got a pot of coffee going and then went into the back of the kitchen for creamers and found Frank.   She claimed Frank was a nice person and had no enemies but that the diner had not been doing well lately financially.   The dishwasher, Ted, claims he left at eleven last night and Frank was still there doing office work.  Ted claims a homeless guy has been hanging around getting free coffee.  
Suspects:  Nancy the waitress.  Ted the dishwasher.  Some homeless guy.
Red herrings:  Ted threw in the homeless guy. 
Solution:  Since the waitress had turned off the alarm when she arrived only an employee would know to set the alarm when they left last night. Since Frank was dead, that left Ted.  Under questioning Ted confessed that Frank had discovered that Ted had been stealing and confronted him about it.  A fight ensued that ended with Ted stabbing his boss.  Force of habit caused him to lock up and set the alarm.
My two cents:  This stabbing bothered me a little.  When two men start arguing and get into a physical altercation they are facing each other.  When Ted picked up the knife most likely Frank would have been stabbed in the front part of his body, not in the back.  Of course, Frank could have walked away from Ted and Ted took that opportunity to stab him.  Perhaps the solution should have been a little neater.  I also would have like a small clue in the story about the till being light at times.
Det. Ramos kept going on about wanting coffee.  Smelling coffee.  Wanting to pour a cup but not wanting to disturb the crime scene.  At the very last part of the solution Ramos asks Nancy, who is distraught over finding her boss dead (a stabbing is a bloody mess), to get her a cup of coffee.  Seems a bit cold.  And now she doesn’t mind disturbing the crime scene?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Title: Diamonds are forever
By Author John M. Floyd

Appearing in February 18, 2013 issue.
For sale date: February 7th

Tag line:  A diamond heist let Sheriff Jones show off his crime-solving skills to Angela Potts!
The characters:  Sheriff Jones, Angela Potts, Deputy Dawg (just kidding…seeing if you’re alert) Deputy Prewitt.

The gist:  An armed robber stole three diamond necklaces while one person, Danny, was manning the jewelry store. Only one other witness saw Danny going to his car.  The witness did not see any other suspects. When the call came in from Deputy Prewitt, Ms. Potts was in the sheriff’s office and listened to the call on the speaker phone.  Ms. Potts had just been lecturing Det. Jones on how you catch crooks by watching for inconsistencies.
Crime scene:  Fowler Jewelers.

Clues:  The owner of the store was out sick.  His son, Danny, was minding the shop.  Danny described the robber as a white male, 40ish, dark hair, blue shirt and jacket, tan pants with a belt that had “J” on the buckle.   A witness down the street saw Danny walking back to his car afterwards.  Danny claims he ran to his car to give chase but gave up realizing it was useless.  Danny said the getaway car was a black Ford Escort.  Danny added that the thief wore running shoes and red suspenders, which he saw when the man pulled his coat back to draw his gun.  The woman never saw anyone else besides Danny.

Suspects:  Danny and an unknown male.
Red herrings: There are usually no red herrings in a Jones/Potts story.  Ms. Potts usually solves the crime before Det. Jones can figure it out…much to the embarrassment of a frustrated Jones.

Solution:  Suspenders and belts are both designed to hold up trousers, but most men don’t wear both at the same time leading Det. Jones to question Danny’s story.   Mrs. Potts was pleased that Jones followed her advice about inconsistencies. Det. Jones told Deputy Prewitt to ask Danny if the police could search his car.  Deputy Prewitt balked asking “Don’t I need a search warrant for that?”  Jones replied, “You don’t need one to ask him.”  Which led to Danny falling apart and admitting that his wife wanted a bigger house and made him steal the jewelry.
My two cents:  This all worked very well.  For once Sheriff Jones got to solve the crime before Ms. Potts did, but of course, only because she just gave him a lecture on how to solve crimes – lol.  My only comment is that a search warrant from a judge is not necessary.  If the police ask permission to search your car and you give it to them, they have implied consent.  You will be asked to sign the implied consent form and then the police will search the car. If you do not give them permission, then they will have to get a standard search warrant, and for that they have to apply to a judge in a written request, and they have to have probable cause to want to search.  But just the threat of a search could very well scare the suspect.  And it did.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Title: An eye for fashion
By Author M.J. McGovern

Appearing in February 11, 2013 issue.
For sale date: February 1, 2013

Tag line:  The murder victim was all dressed up … but with no place to go except to the morgue.
The police characters:  Sheriff Trudy Conway, Deputy Troy Logan.
The gist:  The victim, Marlene, was found dead on the floor of her walk-on closet, a heavy brass candlestick lying on the floor next to her.  The husband, Gary, claims he saw his wife alive two hours ago around 5:15 or 5:30.   Said they were going to a birthday barbeque and that he left early to help set up the party.  Marlene was going to be driven to the party by Stella.  Stella arrived at 7:00 as planned.  The door was locked and when Marlene didn’t open her door or answer the phone call Stella made, Stella called Rachel who lives nearby and has a spare key.  Stella had called Gary to find out if the plans maybe had changed.  The two ladies found the victim.
Crime scene:  a walk-in closet in victim’s home.
Clues: Victim was dressed in a flower-print dress with black patent-leather pumps.  Stella was dressed in purple gingham Capri pants.  Stella and Marlene had spent the day together getting facials and French-tip manicures and pedicures.  They wanted to look nice for the party.  Rachel didn’t go out with the girls claiming she had to babysit her granddaughter.
Suspects:  The victim’s husband, and two friends; Rachel and Stella.
Red herrings:  The nearby neighbor Rachel had a key.  She claimed she was babysitting all day. 
Solution:  Gary and Marlene had argued about Gary’s gambling debts.  He had struck her with the candlestick, then to disguise the time of death he dressed her for the party pairing a summer dress with black patent leather shoes, which is an odd choice to begin with, but also not knowing she had had her toes done to wear sandals.
My two cents:  First of all, Deputy Troy made a snarky comment when he first saw the body and was standing over it.  He said, “Uh-oh.  It looks like someone’s night out just got cancelled.”  I thought it was disrespectful.  But with that said it’s very true to what happens in real life.  Cops and crime scene people are exposed to such a sad parade of misery that black humor is often their way of coping.  If they gave even 10% of their emotions to the victims, they would be used up in a week.  To avoid that, they try to stay cold and distant and often use gallows humor.  However, I’m not sure it belongs in WW.   I would have cut that line.
     Regarding time of death, the ME can tell time of death pretty accurately by body temperature, rigor mortis, and lividity, which is the color or lack of color of the skin.  When a person dies, the blood in their body (and other fluids) gets pulled down by gravity and pools turning the bottom of the body a darker color.  When Gary moved the body and dressed his wife, he interfered with that flow which would cause a different pattern that the ME would immediately pick up on.  Of course, Gary doesn’t know all this as he tried to stage the scene.
    When you hit someone with a blunt instrument, there will be blood.  There was no mention of blood on the dress, and if she had been killed in the dress blood spatter patterns would have been detected.
     There was no mention of fingerprinting the murder weapon.  Had it been wiped clean? 
     Gary didn’t even try to make it look like a home invasion gone bad.  He didn’t break a window or scatter furniture or have anything of value go missing.  He deserved to get caught.
     Capri pants are named after the Italian island of Capri and can be known as Capris, but the name is always capped. 

      The last sentence was the worst:  "I think Marlene was murdered -- and I know who did it."  Duh. Did the sheriff think she hit herself with a big candlestick while getting ready for a party? 

     All in all I thought this murder story was clumsy and not well thought out.  It didn’t work for me.