Friday, May 31, 2013

Title: Gone goes the weasel!
By Author: John M. Floyd

Appearing in issue #23, June 10, 2013
For sale date: May 31, 2013

Tag line:  The high school mascot was missing.  Was one of the students a thief?
Police characters: Sheriff Jones and his old school teacher and amateur crime fighter Angela Potts

The gist:  The school mascot, an otter, is stolen from the gym.  Teacher Teresa Garver gave the sheriff a list of students that attended a meeting in the gym on the night the mascot was stolen. The cleaning crew reported the otter missing when they came to clean one hour after the students had left.  There were no security cameras in the gym, nor in the parking lot.  
A note was left on the scene that read “For Sheriff Jones.  I’m vacation-bound. But if I’m to be found, just whittle me down, and then turn me around.  Nora Michael”.  There were no fingerprints on the note.

Sheriff Jones is studying the note when Ms. Potts drops in.  She figures out who stole the mascot.
Crime scene:  School gym.

Clues:  The poem and list of seven names.
Suspects: The list of seven attending students: Jo Nell Gorman, Kevin Higa, Stuart King, Brittany Raw Bourgeois, Joseph Cook, Leah Jean Cimaron, and Allison Wingo.

Red herrings:  None.  It is not this author’s style to throw in red herrings.  His interactions between the sheriff and Ms. Potts are what make the story interesting.
Solution:  Leah Jean Cimaron.  Her name, when whittled down to remove the Jean and turned around, spelled backwards is Nora Michael.

My two cents:  These two characters appear in WW often. This time the sheriff keeps calling the mascot a weasel and he seems a bit cranky. Ms. Potts feels the thief wanted to embarrass the school or maybe even the sheriff, but really students nab each other’s mascots (and even their own) and hold them for ransom just for the fun of it. It happens almost every year. The student even left a clue. This wasn’t really a theft, it was more of a prank.  As soon as I saw the list of names I started reading them backwards and found the culprit quickly. The story was mildly entertaining but not memorable.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Title: Self defense
By Author: Tracie Rae Griffith

Appearing in issue #22, June 3, 2013
For sale date: May 23, 2013

Tag line:  Willy Armbruster had dodged a bullet.  Dale Garrison hadn’t been so lucky.
Police characters: Detective Kay and Sgt. Morgan

The gist:  Willy called in to say he had just shot Dale in self-defense.  Dale was the president of the company, while Willy was VP of operations.  He claimed he had been suspicious of missing money and had told Dale an audit was necessary.  According to Willy, Dale called him into the office from home after hours.  Feeling funny about the late meeting, Willie brought his handgun.  He claimed that even before he got to sit Dale pulled out a gun from his desk drawer and shot at him putting a hole in the wall behind Willy.  (There was indeed a bullet hole in the wall opposite the desk.)  Willy then shot Dale dead.  When the police arrived Dale was slumped over his desk with a handgun in his right hand.  When asked where Dale had kept the gun, Willie told police he kept it in his right-hand desk drawer.  Det. Kay opened the right hand drawer and noted it was large enough to have held a gun.  When asked what Willie thought Dale might have told the police if his shot had not missed him, Willie claimed there had been burglaries in the area lately, which was why Dale had the gun to begin with.
Crime scene:  Dale’s office.

Clues:  Bullet hole in back wall.  Gun kept in desk drawer.
Suspects:  Only Willie.  It was Det. Kay’s job to determine if it was murder or self defense.

Red herrings:  None.  Sort of.  (See my 'writing tips' on this story.)
Solution:  Det. Kay realized she had to open the desk drawer to look inside.  If Dale had pulled a gun and shots were exchanged, the drawer would still be open.  Willie had been embezzling and had killed the boss to keep him from reporting the crime. He then put the gun in Dale’s right hand, but out of habit shut the drawer.

My two cents:  Another solid story from Author Griffith.  Again, we knew from the get-go who did it, it was just a matter of whether it was self-defense or not.  I expected the solution to include the same old tired left hand/right-hand explanation and was pleasantly surprised to hear the open/shut drawer clue.  I have to say because I was sure Dale was left handed, I didn’t even see it coming.  And that’s rare for me.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Title: Power play
By Author: Phyllis Whitfield

Appearing in issue #21,  May 27, 2013
For sale date:  May 16, 2013

Tag line:  It was a dark and stormy night when one of Pete Patton’s many enemies came to call.
Police characters:  County Sheriff Eddie Smith

The gist:  The power is out in River Falls for a half hour.  At 8:05 Sheriff Smith gets a call that Pete Patton, who lives in the neighboring town of Glen Oaks, has been shot.  Nobody likes Pete.  He’s bad tempered and has made a fortune selling organic potatoes to fast-food restaurants.   Sheriff Smith meets Alex Till at Patton’s door, who tells him the body is upstairs.  Alex, the plumber, had an 8:00 AM appointment with Pete.  He said no one answered the doorbell but lights were on and since Pete was expecting him, he just went on inside and found Pete dead.  Alex said he got along with Pete but that he didn’t always pay on time. The coroner announced Pete was killed an hour ago.   
Pete’s ex-wife, Helen, wasn’t happy in the divorce. She lives in Glen Oaks. She wasn’t sorry that he was dead.  When asked where she was at 8:00 she said she was working on her computer.

 Pete’s nephew Jesse fought with him all the time.  Jesse lives in River Falls.  He said his uncle used Jesse’s savings to start the business and even though the money was paid back, Peter wouldn’t give cut the nephew in on a share of the profits.  He said he had been home been watching TV all evening with his girlfriend and she would vouch for him. 
Pete’s sister Connie was treated poorly by Pete. She lives in Glen Oaks.  She said they were family and she just put up with his mean ways.  She claims she was reading a good book at the time her brother was killed.

 Crime scene:  Pete’s home.
Clues:  The power was out at the time of the death.

Suspects:  Ex-wife Helen, Sister Connie, nephew Jesse.
Red herrings:  None.  We had four 'suspects' but not one of them had a good enough motive to even be considered as a red herring.

Solution:  Jesse was the only one who lived in River Falls.  He claimed he was watching TV all night but there was no power for a short time.  He didn’t know the power was out in River Falls because he was in Glen Oaks fighting with his uncle, a fight then ended up with him shooting Pete.
My two cents:   Well, there are a couple of things here.  Just because the power was out in one city doesn’t mean it was not out in the neighboring city.  The sheriff never asked if the power was out in Glen Oaks.  And it was only off for 30 minutes.  The wife said she was on the computer.  Computers work without power.  The sister said she was reading.  You can read without a lamp.  Jesse said he was watching TV all night, and he could have been.  Just because he didn’t say I was watching TV all night expect for 30 minutes when the power went out doesn’t make him a killer.

How many plumbers do you know that just walk into your house when no one answers the bell?
There were four people to keep track of and two cities.  It was a bit confusing and crowded in the ‘ole suspect room’.   Nobody had a really good motive to kill Pete.  He had paid back the money. His divorce wasn’t pleasant but whose is?  (And we didn’t all kill our exes.  um...we didn't, right?) Pete treated his sister badly, but she didn’t have to take it.  There’s no compelling reason to kill here. That along with the vague inference that the power must have been on in the neighboring city makes for a ho-hum mystery

Friday, May 10, 2013

Title:  A silent theft
By Author Herschel Cozine

Appearing in issue #20, May 20, 2013
For sale date: May 9, 2013

Tag line:  The shoplifter got the computer out of the store without being noticed.  To amateur detective Gladys, that sounded all wrong!
Police/characters: An unnamed detective and Gladys, his mother-in-law

The gist:  A robbery occurred in an office supply store.  The clerk, who was alone on the sales floor, reported that a bold shoplifter grabbed a pricey laptop from the shelf and bolted from the store with the box under his arm.  The clerk had been talking to another customer and looked up just in time to see the thief jump into his car but he did not get the license plate.  He had no description of a car and not much of the shoplifter either. The customer corroborated his story.  It happened too fast to really get any details.  Gladys, the detective’s MIL, was eavesdropping on his conversation with his wife about the case.  She asked him if anyone heard anything to which he replied neither the sales clerk nor the customer had heard anything.  He said, “Why would that be significant?  It’s an office supply store not a dance hall.”  Gladys said that the clerk didn’t steal the laptop but that he (the clerk) knew who did.
Crime scene:  A modern office supply store in the middle of town.

Clues:  No one heard anything when the thief ran out the door.
Suspects:  Unknown shoplifter, the clerk.

Red herrings:  None.
Solution:  A store that sells expensive computers would have a security system with a magnetic tag on the merchandise and a detector at the door.  The tag is removed at checkout to allow the customer to exit the store without setting the alarm off.  Since no one heard any alarm it meant that the security tag had been removed, presumably by the clerk, before the thief ran out the door with it.  The clerk reported the theft to avoid suspicion.

My two cents:  Well, the author is asking us to suspend disbelief a few times in this story.  First, that a detective would come home and discuss a case with his family.  That almost never happens.  A family member could potentially know the thief (let’s say she recognizes that it’s her cousin), and once she hears all the details, she could go and warn him he’s about to be arrested and to get out of Dodge.  It’s happened.  So detectives don’t blab details about a case.  It could be believable that he pillow-talks with his wife, but giving case details out to his MIL?  Uh-uh.    
This author said that the MIL was eavesdropping, which implies she’s around and close but not in the conversation.  But she was at his home, presumably sitting at the kitchen table, listening to the chit-chat between husband and wife and taking part in it.   My gripe is about the word eavesdropping here.  Okay, it’s a little gripe.

 Next, we have a high-priced office supply store that leaves its high-buck merchandise out on the shelves?  The sample laptops are wired to the shelf frame.  If someone tried to remove one, an alarm would sound.  When was the last time you were in Staples or Office Max and saw a nice pile of boxes of laptops on a shelf?  You didn’t.  When you want to purchase one, the clerk goes in the back room, retrieves the item, and walks with you to the cashier.  You are not even allowed to hold it in the store.
High-end office supply stores have security video cameras in the store and out in the parking lot.  That would solve the not having any description of the perp and his car problem.

 Also…see how this goes on and on? … when was the last time you ever saw one clerk in a Staples?  Okay, granted, when you want help you can’t find anybody.  In this scenario there were three clerks; one on the floor, one in the back doing inventory, and one out on his break.  Why does it have to be the clerk on the store’s floor that is involved?  Why couldn’t it have been the guy in the back who disarmed the security tag?  Or the guy taking his break?
And lastly I don’t understand the detective's comment, “It’s an office supply store not a dance hall.”  Huh?

WW loves old

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Title: Recipe for murder
By Author Clare Mishica

Appearing in issue #19,  May 13, 2013
For sale date: May 3, 2013

Tag line:  Ingrid Walthrop had cooked up a story to cover her murderous tracks.  Unfortunately, she left out an important ingredient.
Police characters:  Det. Elliott Mead
The gist:   Ingrid's husband was suspicious of her activities and if he found out what she was doing it would make her prenuptial agreement void.  (The author never specified what those activities were.  She left that up to the reader's imagination.)  She decided she would rather be a rich widow than a poor divorcee.  Edward came home one rainy day with a bag of groceries and placed them on the table. At that moment Ingrid struck him from behind with a stone vase.  She cleaned and bleached the vase.  Ingrid took the full grocery bag, stood in the doorway and enacted his 'fall' scattering the groceries.  She then dragged his body over to the door and positioned it to look like he had taken the fall, cleaned up the drops of blood on the floor where she had clobbered him, and called 911.   When asked if her husband did his own shopping, the grieving widow told police that her husband loved to cook and he was going to try a new cake recipe today. 
Crime scene:  Their home.
Clues:  Edward always wore smooth sole loafers that were slippery in the rain.  He had recently twisted his ankle because of those shoes and had been treated for it.  When the body was removed there was a puddle of blood under his head, a few scuff marks, and a small packet of vanilla beans.  The victims pant legs were wet from the weather and the soles of his shoes were slick.  The ME advised that it appeared the victim died as a result of the impact of his head hitting the marble floor.
Suspects:  None.  This was a staged accident.
Red herrings:   None.  The author walked us through the story from the wife's eyes.  We knew within two sentences that she had killed him.
Solution:  When the victim was removed there was a packet of vanilla beans underneath the body.  Ingrid had accidentally dragged them beneath Edward's body when she was setting the scene so she couldn't see her mistake.
My two cents:   This was presented in an interesting way that we haven't seen before.  We knew who the killer was from the get-go; it was just a matter of 'will she get away with it or not'.   Supposedly her mentioning the fact that Edward was going to bake a cake today made the detective realize there were vanilla beans under the body.    My only form of editing on this piece is  I would have left out the baking the cake element as  it shouldn't matter what the grocery product was under the body, that is a clue the detective should have picked up on the minute he saw it.