Friday, April 26, 2013

Title: In hot water
By Author Tracie Rae Griffin

Appearing in issue #18, May 6, 2013
For sale date:  April 24, 2013

Tag line:  Detective Kay arrived on the scene and wondered: Was this a slip-and-fall accident?  Or was it murder?
Police characters: Detective Christine Kay, Sgt. Bill Morgan

The gist:  A man is found dead in his home.  He is in his swim trunks by his hot tub. It appeared to Det. Kay that the victim was pushed, fell backwards, and hit his head causing a fatal blow to the skull.   Sgt. Morgan knows the victim.  His name is Joe and he’s partners with Pete at Two Guys Plumbing.  As Sgt. Morgan is examining the crime scene he finds a blue button near the body.  The police go over to Pete’s house to question him and find that he is wearing a shirt with a button missing.  Pete denies being at Joe’s house today.  Then when pressed he admits he was there but when he saw the dead body he ran because he has a past criminal record.  He said he went to Joe’s to talk business, Joe didn’t answer the door but Pete could hear the hot tub on so he went to the window to peek in.  He claimed the window was steamed up so he cleared a spot to see in. When he saw Joe on the floor, Pete kicked the door in and ran inside but Joe was already dead, so he fled.
Crime scene:  Joe’s home. 

Clues:  The hot tub is on and bubbling.  A small, blue button is found near the body.  The door leading in is smashed in.  A neighbor woman, who said there’s been three burglaries in the area lately, heard the crash of the breaking door, looked out, and saw what she thought might be a van leaving the area so she called the police.  Two Guys Plumbing uses blue vans.  
Suspects:  As the police return to their car they hear dispatch report a burglary close by.  Sgt. Morgan wonders if Joe was the victim of a burglary gone bad.

Red herrings:  The rash of burglaries in the neighborhood.
Solution:  Pete said he had wiped steam from the window to peek in…but steam doesn’t build up on the outside of the window.  Pete was lying.  He had been embezzling money and when Joe threatened to call the police, the men argued, Pete pushed Joe who fell and hit his head.

My two cents:  This all works.   By not having the neighbor be able to positively ID the van that drove away the reader was left wondering.  Pete had a good excuse for breaking the door in and for not reporting the death.  He also could have lost his button when he was checking out Joe on the floor.  All circumstantial...until he made the one error about wiping away the steam off the window.  This is a solid story that had good clues, a red herring, and was well written.

  He got caught by a little old lady…heh heh.  WW loves little old ladies… :)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Title: A doggone crime
By Author Emma Courtice

Appearing in issue #17, April 29, 2013
For sale date:  April 13, 2013

Tag line:  The detective was leery of giving a criminal the benefit of the doubt, but maybe this one time…
Police characters: Det. Sgt. Marie DeLuca

The gist:  Benny Goyette, aka Benny the Mouse, a well known burglar, was seen by police leaving the neighborhood where a murder had been committed and was brought back to the house for questioning.   The body of the woman who lived in the house was still at the scene at this point.  Benny denies killing the woman, claiming when he was in the house there wasn’t anyone else there.  So he doesn’t deny stealing from this house, but he denies killing the woman.  Benny’s MO does not include physical violence of any kind.  The safe in the master bedroom of the Darwins had been drilled out and a valuable stamp collection and jewelry had been taken.  According to Mr. Darwin, he and his wife had come home early from a dog show, surprised the burglar, who then hit both Mr. and Mrs. Darwin over the head with a fireplace poker.  Mrs. Darwin died from her injuries.  Mr. Darwin survived but had a gash on his head.  The Darwins owned a miniature poodle and the dog was seen by police running through the doggie door and into the backyard.  There were no fingerprints.  There were tool marks on the door. Benny, who professes to be a pro, said he would never gain entry by prying open a front door.  
     This is from the story: “You think I (Benny speaking) pried open that front door to get in?  Ha! Whoever did that was an amateur.  I had no need for a pry bar and I can prove it.”  With that he got up from the chair and strode toward the kitchen and the back door.  Before Marie could stop him, he was gone.  And almost as quickly a policeman marched him back inside.

Crime scene:  The Darwin’s home.
Clues:  There are no fingerprints.  Benny the Mouse doesn’t commit bodily injury crimes.  He’s strictly a burglar with a lot of experience.   There are pry marks on the door, something Benny claims he would never do.  If you believe Benny, there wasn’t anyone else in the house when he was there.  Their poodle ran out of the house through the back door doggie door.

Suspects:  The story is all about did Benny hit the couple over the head with the poker and kill the wife or not. 
Red herrings:  Not so much red herrings as false information.  See below.

Solution:  The solution was a full column.  Since Benny took pride in his work and considered himself a pro, he would never leave pry marks on the door.  He showed the cops how he got in by going through the doggie door.  When the Darwins came home to find their house had been burgled Mr. Darwin took the opportunity to kill his wife with the poker and knock himself in the head to make it look like the burglar did it.  The solution said the poker did have fingerprints on it…and they belonged to Mr. Darwin. Also Mr. Darwin used the poker to make pry marks on the door which was a mistake because the real burglar, Benny the pro, would never have done that.
My two cents:  First off, when you have to use a full column (there are only 4 columns to the whole page) to explain the solution, you haven’t set the crime up well enough.

The author didn’t make it very clear that Benny left through the doggie door.    She also gave us a false clue when she said there were no fingerprints, when there were.  The author didn’t tell us where the fatal blow was on the wife.  Back of the head?  Front?  Where was this gash on Mr. Darwin?  Could it have been self inflicted or not?  Did he fight the guy?  The killer didn’t conk them on the head, one-two, while they just stood there.  Did Benny have any jewelry or stamps on him when he was caught moments later leaving the neighborhood?  Mr. Darwin witnessed the whole thing, why can’t he identify the killer?  No one asked him to give a description of the killer?  None of this makes sense.
Although the solution took a whole column, the author used almost half a column in the body of the story telling us about the dog running around the house, and getting out the front door but a police officer grabbed the dog and got a bite for his troubles, and there was dog hair in the house, and how the Darwins had come home early from a dog show for their prize dog….on and on and on.  All wasted space.  All that adds nothing to the story.  Cut all that nonsense and give us some good clues, or even red herrings.  Benny could have had dog hair on his clothes from going through the doggie door.

This story was not well thought out.  Too much fooling around with the dog details and not enough setting a good crime scene.  There is no excuse for misleading the reader by saying they found no fingerprints and then at the end of the long solution throwing in, oh by the way, Mr. Darwin’s fingerprints were on the murder weapon.  So I guess he conked himself on the head.  I know I felt like doing that to myself after reading this disaster.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Title: The Missing Link
By Author Tracie Rae Griffith

Appearing in issue #16, April 22, 2013
For sale date: April 10, 2013

Tag line:  Trying to figure out who’d committed the burglaries was driving the detectives crazy!
Police characters: Det. Kristine Kay, Sgt. Det. Bill Morgan

The gist:  Ms. Dawson had gone to a doctor’s appointment. When she returned home she found her front door ajar and jewelry and $200 cash missing.  Det. Morgan examined the door and concluded that it had been jimmied.  The victim noted that her bad luck was coming in threes as her car had to go to the shop, her doctor told her she needed surgery, and now she had been burgled.
No sooner did the police begin to drive away but they got a call that another burglary had taken place.   This victim, Mr. Baker, had been attending a wedding during the afternoon and when he returned home he found his door ajar and his pocket watch collection missing.  Mr. Baker noticed a delivery van in front of his house before he left for the wedding.  He said he had had a few drinks at the wedding, but he was sure he locked the front door.  He told the police not to worry; he hadn’t been driving, but had taken a cab.

The next day the police received a third call from the same neighborhood.  This time Mrs. Dell reported she had gone to her hairdresser’s and returned to find her door broken into and her jewelry and late husband’s coin collection missing.  Ms. Dell was fuming, telling the police that her car had been stolen a week ago and it still hadn’t been found. 
Crime scene:  Three homes in a senior community. 

Clues:  Back at the station Det. Kay noted that the perp took only small items, no TVs or computers; that the targets were all in one senior community; and that the burglaries occurred within a 2-day time frame.  The first victim went to the doctor’s, the second went to a wedding, and the third went to the hair salon.  All three victims had car problems.
Suspects:  A delivery van guy.

Red herrings:   The delivery van guy.
Solution:  The cab driver who picked them up drove them to their destinations, then circled back and robbed them knowing they would be out.

My two cents:  This story works.  It makes sense and it is paced out well.  We were told about the car problems in different ways so we didn’t immediately think of the cab driver. 
My only comments are on the accuracy of the wording.  In order for a robbery to take place a victim must be present.  These houses were burglarized.  When the second call came in Det. Kay said, “Another robbery, let’s go.”  She’s a cop.  She knows the difference.  She would have said burglary.  (Mrs. Dawson said it correctly.)

 Also Det. Morgan examined the locks and pronounced they had been jimmied.  To jimmy a lock you take a small pick and insert it into the hole and manipulate the tumblers the way the key does.  There is no way you can tell that a lock had been jimmied from looking at the outside of it, any more than you could tell if someone had slipped a duplicate key into it.  Perhaps the door jamb should have been broken with some kind of sharp object, like a screwdriver. 
In the real world crime scene would have dusted those doors and locks for prints, and since all cabbies are fingerprinted they would have gotten their man… but in WW stories we only have about 700 words to get the story out.   And in a WW story we want the detectives to figure it out before they get the lab results back.  Of course we love that the female detective figures it out before the sergeant does.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Title: The drive-by detective
By Author S. Furlong-Bolliger

Appearing in issue 15, April 15,  2013
For sale date:  April 4, 2013

Tag line:  Mrs. Whortle was in the right place at the right time – which was bad news for the tire-slasher!
Police characters: Officer Christine Bell

The gist:  Someone slashed all four times of Nate Spencer’s sports car in the night.  He discovered it the next morning.
Crime scene:  On the street in front of his house.

Clues:  Mrs. Whortle, Nate’s elderly neighbor, had been driving late last night and saw what she perceived to be a man dressed in black running from Nate’s car.  When asked why she thought it was a man she replied “who else could have done this kind of damage?”  As she drove past the ‘man’ she saw that he got into a parked car and she saw the vanity plate in her rear view mirror.  It said HOT.  Nate believes that stood for Harold O’Toole, his partner.
Suspects:  According to Nate there were plenty of people who would slash his tires.  His co-worker Harold O’Toole had been furious that Nate got the promotion and had threatened that he’d get even.  Nate’s ex-wife wanted the car in the divorce and Nate wouldn’t let her have it.  She worked at a successful home brokerage by the name of Topsell Offices and Homes.  Nate also claimed that his brother had lost a bet on a game and was mad about it.

Red herrings:  Nate seemed to have a lot of people who would have a reason to slash his tires.  I don’t know that they are so much red herrings as much as Nate is a bit of a jerk that nobody likes. 
Solution:  That’s it…that’s all you get.  Can you solve it from the above info?  Officer Bell did.

My two cents:  The author did a good job of making the victim an unlikeable character.  That makes it harder to find your suspect.  I was thinking of slashing his tires when he whispered to Officer Bell that his nice elderly neighbor lady, who was trying to help give the officer some valuable information, was a busybody, and then he proceeded to roll his eyes.   
I don’t think tire-slasher as used in the above tag line should have a dash.  WW did that.  Those things are out of the control of the author.  And WW always uses a lot of exclamation points.  Not my favorite thing.  Looks very high school to me, but that is also out of our control.