Saturday, March 30, 2013

Title: Swan Song
By Author Kendra Yoder

Appearing in issue #14, April 8, 2013
For sale date: March 29, 2013

Tag line: A scene-of-the-crime-investigation revealed an open-and-shut case!
Police characters: Officer Phil Perkins and his partner Officer Wendy Kerr

The gist:  Ricky, a musician, is shot to death in his home garage where the band rehearses.  The coroner believed the victim was sitting on a folding chair, was shot by a known person, and slumped to the floor dead.  The makeshift practice area in the garage looked like this: catty-corner from the chair was a music stand with a song book, on the floor beside that was an open guitar case holding an electric guitar, and in the opposite corner stood a set of drums.
Crime scene:  In the garage with the garage door open.

Clues: Ricky knew his assailant.  When questioned Ricky’s wife stated she was in the kitchen making lunch when halfway through a song she heard a bang.  Officer Perkins told his partner that the wife was lying.
Suspects: Ricky fired Bo, the lead singer, last weekend. Bo was a bad influence, always staying out late and drinking. Bo was furious and called Ricky a dead man before he stalked off stage.  Ricky’s agent had just been accused of skimming money and they argued yesterday.

Red herrings:  The fight with the lead singer and the fight with the agent.  Both were orchestrated to throw you off the wife’s track.
Solution: The wife said she could hear Ricky practicing his guitar when he was shot, yet his guitar was still in the case.  The wife was tired of her husband’s drinking and carousing so she decided to end her marriage the quick way and try to frame one of the men.

My two cents:  It is possible for someone to enter through the garage door opening, wave to Ricky to stop playing, Ricky puts down the guitar (most musicians are careful with their expensive equipment and lay it in the case when not in use) , and when he looks back up he immediately gets shot.  I think the wife’s statement should have been written better.  “Halfway through a song and she heard a bang” is not clear enough for the officer to think she was lying.  Also Bo stating that Ricky was a ‘dead man’ was a bit of a forced clue by the author.  I don’t know that much about the music world, but do ‘garage bands’ even have agents?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Title: Just the right size
By Author Dede Hammond

Appearing in issue #13, April 1, 2013
For sale date: March 21, 2013

Tag line:  Daisy picked up on an important clue that everyone else seemed to have missed.
Police/characters: Chief of Detectives David Glenroy.  His sister Daisy.

The gist:  Daisy sees her brother, the detective, going into her neighbor’s house.  Then she sees the neighbor’s very tall business partner and very short nephew both enter the house.  She goes over to snoop and learns that the neighbor has been murdered.  Both men are bickering about how the other could have done it.  All three were at a lodge meeting the night before all wearing the maroon lodge jacket.  The business partner drove the victim, Mitchell, home, dropped him off and said he didn’t even come in.   He has no alibi for the rest of the night, saying he was home alone. There was a problem with an audit at work that the nephew threw in the business partner’s face.  The business partner noted that now that the uncle is dead, the nephew will inherit all his property.  He added that the uncle has had to bail the nephew out from gambling debts.  There is a maroon lodge jacket that had slipped to the floor.  Daisy picked it up and placed it on the back of a chair.  She noticed the hem dragging on the floor.
Crime scene:  The victim’s home.

Clues:  There was no sign of forced entry.  The victim knew his assailant.  The maroon jacket was large enough to hang to the floor.
Suspects:  The business partner or the nephew.

Red herrings: Trouble with the audit and gambling debts.  The business partner did make a good argument that if he had killed Mitchell he certainly would have a better alibi in place. 

Solution: Daisy realized the maroon jacket was too big for the neighbor and must belong to the business partner.  Turns out the business partner did come in last night and following a heated argument about the shady accounting he killed Mitchell.  In his haste to leave he grabbed the wrong maroon jacket.

My two cents:  Well, it all works.  Notice this author didn’t tell us how he was killed.  We don’t have any mention of a body, yet they are in the house where the murder took place.  This is a “cozy” murder. No gruesome details, no blood splatter, no knife sticking out of somebody.  The author portrayed the nephew as being a nasty little thing.  You almost wish he had done it.  That was a type of red herring as she was leading you to dislike one of the characters.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Title: Revenge at the gym
By Author Kendra Yoder

Appearing in issue #12, March 25,  2013
For sale date: March 21, 2013

Tag line:  It Turned out that someone’s workout was a real killer!
Police characters: Sheriff Mark Peters, his partner Officer Allie Cooper

The gist:  Someone bludgeoned the victim on the back of the head with a 10-pound dumbbell.  She was found dead in the locker room by the front desk clerk, Gina.  Vanessa, the victim, worked out every day between 4:15 and 4:45 AM. Gina told police that she didn’t know her personally but that Vanessa had a reputation with the men.

Crime scene: The BodySlim Gym
Clues:  The gym opens at 4:00 AM.  Police were called at 4:43 AM and arrived at 5:04 AM.  The victim checked in at 4:33 AM and was found dead at 4:43 in the locker room by the front desk clerk, who had immediately called the police.  As she was killed in the locker room 10 minutes after she checked in, Officer Cooper thought someone must have been waiting for her.

Only two other people logged in at the gym: Dixie, who was in the weight area lifting dumbbells, arrived at 4:15 AM; and Chelsea who was in the swimming pool.  Dixie told police that she had found Vanessa fooling around with her husband and she had nothing good to say about the woman, but she didn’t kill her. Chelsea reported that she had been swimming laps in the pool since the gym opened at 4:00 AM and told police that Vanessa had been a bridesmaid in her wedding.  Officer Allie Cooper enviously made a note of Chelsea’s great swimmer’s body, smooth skin and perfect manicure and pedicure.
Suspects:  Gina the front desk clerk, Chelsea who had had the victim in her wedding party, or Dixie who found her husband cheating on her with the victim.

Red herrings:  Dixie used dumbbells.  The victim had fooled around with Dixie’s husband. 
Solution: Chelsea.  She said she’d been swimming laps since 4:00 AM but her hands and feet were not wrinkly from her alleged 45-minute swim.  Come to find out victim Vanessa had been fooling around with Chelsea’s husband, too.

My two cents: Since all the evidence points towards Dixie you almost know she didn’t do it.  But this was a solid story.  It does take about 30 minutes to start pruning in water.  If Chelsea had thought it through and realized she needed to have wrinkled fingers, she could have swum for a bit first and then go and wait in the locker room as Vanessa usually arrived by 4:15 AM.  In that event she might have left a water drop trail along the way though.  At that time of day it was very quiet at the gym but she did take a chance that the front desk clerk wouldn’t go check the pool area, as she had the locker room area where she found the body.  If it hadn’t been for Officer Cooper being a bit jealous of her, Chelsea might have gotten away with it. This was a decent story where the author had all her ducks in a row.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Title: Going for the gold
By Author John M. Floyd

Appearing in issue #11, March 18, 2013
For sale date:  March 7, 2013

Tag line:  Angela Potts was scrutinizing the security tape when suddenly everything went black.  Was that a clue?
Police characters: Sheriff Jones, retired school teacher Angela Potts

The gist:  A robbery has occurred at Dalton’s Gold Exchange.  According to witnesses the security camera was shot out.  The video footage is located in a different part of the store and was retrieved.   The store owner, Wade Dalton, and two employees were present, Eddie Ruiz and Arthur Lane.  They claim a masked gunman came in through a locked alley door around noon, shot the security camera and made off with two pounds of gold coins and ingots.  Before the tape went black the head of the owner of the store could be seen moving into frame, then ducking down.  A pop of a gunshot could be heard just before  the screen went black.  The owner was the only person on tape.  The other men were behind the counter and out of camera view.  Mrs. Potts asked for a description of the employees and was told their clothing which included the owner wearing penny loafers. 
Crime scene:  Dalton’s Gold Exchange

Clues:  Sheriff Jones noted that all three men in the store were cooperative but nervous when questioned.   Ingots are hard to sell without attracting attention.  The robber had to have knowledge where to fence them.  The perpetrator came in through the back door where there was only one camera.  The tape shows the owner, Wade Dalton, walking in from the direction of the back door, making Sheriff Jones wonder if he unlocked the door to let the robber in.   Just before the tape goes black, Wade is seen ducking, indicating that he knew the camera was about to be shot.  When questioned, he told police he had bent over to tie his shoe.   
Suspects:  Unknown masked robber.  One of the employees.  The owner, Wade.

Red herrings:  It is mentioned that one of the employees is a young male with tattoos.  Also that neither of them has a record…yet.
Solution:  Because Wade Dalton lied when he said he bent over to tie his shoe when he had Penny loafers on, Mrs. Potts fingered him for insurance fraud.

My two cents:  The story works.  This time Sheriff Jones had one or two good lines.  “It’s a new store.  They buy, sell and trade anything gold.  Watches, rings, teeth, you name it.”  While watching the video he said, “Criminals one, businessmen zero.”

 I thought the clue was easy enough; penny loafers vs. laced shoes.  You have to wonder after so many years on the force why Sheriff Jones never sees the clue in front of his face – lol. 
My only comment is that during an investigation cops will ask for a description of the robber, not what the employees are wearing. Although Mrs. Potts asked that question, I doubt Sheriff Jones would have made those kinds of notes.  I would have changed that part so that we got a full head-to-toe glimpse of Wade on the video.  That way we could see what shoes he had on.  I also thought the ‘young man had tattoos’ was a bit of racial profiling.  Racial profiling is a process by which individuals are targeted for special attention, often by such things as height, weight, build, clothing, hair color, tattoos, hats, the car they are driving, etc.  Of course, cops do that in the real world but I thought it was a bit un-PC for WW. 

Also the tag line wasn’t the greatest, but this is often not the work of the author.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Title: In other words
By Author John M. Floyd

Appearing in issue #10, March 11, 2013
For sale date:  March 8, 2013

Tag line:   No one had to tell Angela Potts how to spell “murder”.
Police characters:  Sheriff Jones.  Angela Potts, Jones’ old school teacher turned amateur crime fighter.

The gist:  Senator Hill was found stabbed to death in the study of his mansion. Senator Hill was a mystery buff and had books lining the walls of his study.   A Scrabble board was on the desk, and letter tiles were scattered as he fell out of his chair to the floor where he succumbed to his injuries.  His private nurse of many years was distraught. They had been playing the game when the senator got a craving for peanuts and had sent her to the all-night store.  When she returned he was dead.  The only clue was Scrabble tiles spelling out niece did it.  Senator Hill had two unmarried nieces that lived with him and both would become heirs; Edith Hill and Mary Brooks.  
Crime scene:  Senator Hill’s study.

Clues:   Senator Hill was able to access the tiles on his rack only as he lay dying.  He had the letters in the message he wrote along with two Us, an H, a W and two Ps. 
Suspects:  Nurse Larkin and the two nieces.

Red herrings:  It was suggested that one niece may have committed the crime then left the message to frame the other niece.
Solution:  The senator had the correct letters to spell out Edith if he needed to.  What he didn’t have were the tiles to spell either Mary or Brooks, the killer.

My two cents:  This story was just delightful, right out of a Clue movie.  The niece did it in the study with a knife. Usually I don’t care for the long setup this author uses, feeling it wastes precious words that could be better used to amp up the crime, but in this case I found the intro charming.  It helped us understand the personalities of the two characters in an amusing way.  I found it funny that usually Mrs. Potts bugs the heck out of Sheriff Jones because she almost always solves the crime before he does, but in this case he came and woke her up at 11:40 at night to go with him to the murder scene.  And Mrs. Potts had some pretty good lines.   Their relationship is evolving. 
This story worked on all levels.  It was entertaining, the pacing was good, and Mrs. Potts solved the crime again…lol.  I couldn’t find even one thing to pick on.   And you know I looked.