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.


Kate Willoughby said...

I thought the solution mentioning a gambling problem came out of left field. I also thought the husband was an idiot for dressing her up for a barbeque.

Jody E. Lebel said...

Thanks for stopping by, Kate. I agree. Not the best I've seen. The last line just kills me. She THINKS the woman was murdered. I wonder what gave her the clue. Maybe the bludgeoned body laying in the closet? lol I wish I knew the author. I'm dying (good choice of words here) to know if WW put that line in.

Betsi said...

I hate when the "solution" is half as long as the story and reveals the murderer's motive, etc. How is the reader supposed to figure it out when all the important information is omitted? I struggle with writing these for that reason -- I want to "play fair" with the readers. Then they publish ones that don't. As for the police procedural stuff, I don't really expect that to be accurate in 700 words. I figure the investigator is just supposed to be making an educated guess at an early point in the investigation.

Jody E. Lebel said...

Betsi, thanks for stopping by. I agree with the solution thing. A good writer can weave in the proper clues without giving the story away. They can also throw in a red herring to make it more interesting. Even in 700 words. It is frustrating when WW publishes stories that are -- let's say -- lacking.

As far as the police procedural stuff, that has to be at least close to being real or the story won't come together. You can't have, for instance, the disptacher dusting for fingerprints. It just doesn't happen and it pulls the reader out of the story.