Friday, June 28, 2013

Issue #27, July 8, 2013

Title:  He said, she said
By Author: Clare Mishica 

Tag line:  Trying to determine which version of events was true, the sheriff found himself wishing the dog could talk …

Police characters: Sheriff Witt  

The gist:  Neil is driving his little red sports car.  He takes his eye off the road to change a CD and runs a four-way stop sign, running into a big blue pickup truck.  Both cars had damage but no one was hurt.  The driver of the truck was a teenage girl and she had a little white dog that had a pink bow.  She had a cell phone and called the police about the accident.  Neil has had several traffic violations and is worried about his insurance.  He looks around and sees that there are no other witnesses and the jewelry store on the corner isn’t open yet.  He decides to blame the girl.  He knows better than to claim she was texting as phone records can be checked so he claims she was fussing with the dog and ran the stop sign hitting him. She tells him that she stopped and that he didn’t.   When the sheriff arrives, they both tell their sides to the sheriff.  The girl added that she was not fiddling with the dog, and the dog, in fact, has her own safety seat.  The sheriff then tells Neil it’s against the law to make a false accident report and that he was going to get the security film from the jewelry store camera. 

Crime scene:   At a four-way stop on the road. 

Clues:  The size of their respective cars. 

Suspects:  None. 

Red herrings:  None.

Solution:   Neil’s sports car is low to the ground.  The sheriff realizes that Neil couldn’t possibly have seen the dog in the doggie car seat from the sports car seat as the truck is too high. 

My two cents:  This was a rather long, rambling story.  We read about the accident and how Neil was the actual guilty party and how he planned to frame the girl.  Then he gets out of the car and he confronts the girl and she denies it, telling her version of what happened.  Then the cops come and they both tell their sides of the story AGAIN.  ((yawn)) 

Just because the dog has a car seat doesn’t mean he was in it.  All of us have seen little dogs peering over car steering wheels, standing or sitting in the driver’s lap.  Neil could have seen that from his car. Why the sheriff believes her story over his is puzzling. Neil was sneering and the girl was crying but that shouldn’t sway an officer. Men bluster and women cry whether they’re at fault or not.  The only thing that will really save this girl is that the sheriff thinks the jewelry story has security cameras and he said he would check them.  

This was a ho-hum story.  At least the tag line didn't give it away.  I'll bet the sheriff not only wished the dog could talk, but that he could get himself a stiff drink. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Title: The art of murder
By Authors: Tracie Rae Griffith and Robin Christine Ireland

Appearing in issue #26, July 1, 2013
For sale date:  June 21, 2013

Tag line:  It wasn’t long before Detective Kay and Sergeant Morgan had the case all buttoned up!

Police characters:  Detective Christine Kay and Sgt. Morgan

The gist: Stephanie called 911 to report that she had found her step-mother dead.  The victim, Allison, was found in an upstairs bedroom, lying face down, dead from an apparent blow to her skull.  Her black dress and heels suggested she was getting dressed for an evening event.  The dress had jeweled buttons, which were now bloody, that fastened at the neckline.   A statue nearby was the suggested weapon.  The bedroom window was open, but there was no mention of a ladder.  Det. Kay noted it was not an easy window to get to from the outside.  A jeweler’s box was found empty.  The victim had a cast on her arm from a tennis mishap a few weeks earlier. Stephanie said she had last seen her step-mother about an hour ago when the woman had gone upstairs to get ready for the opening at an art museum.  She said she often helped her step-mom get dressed because of the cast, but she hadn’t helped her tonight.  She did admit that she and her step-mom had had a fight earlier about how much money Allison had donated to the museum.  Stephanie said the only reason she went upstairs to get her step-mom had been because the cook had asked her to. 

The cook was found sitting in the kitchen with her shoes off complaining of sore feet.  She had been cooking risotto, a rice dish that Allison insisted on having prepared in the classic way, which includes non-stop stirring.  The cook claimed to have been standing doing just that for the last hour, and admitted she asked Stephanie to go fetch her step-mom so she could check the dish, as was the woman’s habit, before the cook served it.  The cook noted that she wasn’t too upset that Allison was dead because she had heard the woman trying to convince her husband to remove the cook, who had been a faithful servant for 20 years, from his will. 

The husband, Walter, was in his study obviously upset.  He had married a younger woman who liked to spend his money but he said he really didn’t mind because he loved her and they both loved art.  He was an artist himself at one time and showed the detectives a landscape that he had done.  But he said his arthritis now prevented him from painting anymore because he couldn’t hold a brush. 

Crime scene:  Allison’s home.

Clues:  Allison is dressed in a dress that has jewel buttons at the neckline.  She and Stephanie argued over money being given to the museum, money that would otherwise be Stephanie’s inheritance.  Walter is unable to hold a paintbrush with his arthritic hands.  The cook learned of Allison’s plan to cut her out of the will.

Suspects:  Stephanie or the cook.

Red herrings:  The open window and empty jewel box.

Solution:   Stephanie lied when she said she hadn’t helped her step-mom dress.  Det. Kay knew that with a cast on her arm Allison would never be able to fasten those buttons by herself.  Walter had such bad arthritis he couldn’t manage it.  The cook hadn’t been able to leave the risotto or it would have burned.  Stephanie was angry over her inheritance being wasted.  She opened the window and took the jewelry to stage a burglary.

My two cents:  Another solid mystery from Ms. Griffith and Ms. Ireland.  Two suspects had motive but only one had the opportunity.  Had the bedroom been on the first floor, Stephanie might have gotten away with the fake burglar trick.  I have cooked risotto and you really do have to tend to it because it sticks quickly.  She was cooking it during that hour that the murder took place, preparing dinner for Allison and Walter, who were then going to go out to an art museum opening.   All of the author’s (these two authors) details worked and were believable. 

My only gripe is with WW for almost spoiling the story with a tag line that points you right to the clue that will solve the case.  Those tag lines are added by WW and are out of the author’s control. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Title: Scratch that
By Author:  B.K. Stevens

Appearing in issue #25 June 23, 2013
For sale date:  June 13, 2013

Tag line:  A clever friend and a protective kitty helped Evelyn discover exactly who had stolen her money …

Police characters:  None. 

The gist:  Evelyn always kept cash in a candy tin in her bedroom.  She knew how much she had in there.  When she went to get some cash for church, she found she was missing $350.  She was so upset she didn’t go to church. Evelyn had two nephews, Carl and Tom, who were at her house working by the pool and swimming. The one working by the pool, Tom, had on a long-sleeved sweatshirt in the heat.  The boys knew about her tin of money, as she had given them money from it in the past.  Both boys also knew where she kept her spare key.  She suspected one of the boys took the money.  Her friend, Liza, stopped by when she didn’t see Evelyn in church.  Evelyn’s cat lunged at Liza, hissing at her, when she came to the door.  Evelyn scooped up the cat and said “She won’t scratch you.  Fluffy is a fierce guard kitty and very protective of me but she’s an excellent judge of character.”  

Evelyn didn’t want to accuse the wrong nephew.  She had a plan.  She invited both boys into the house for a cool drink.  She told them that to thank them for their hard work she was going to go upstairs and get them each $100 .  Both boys declined the money but Tom urged Carl to hurry up and finish his drink so they could get going.  Evelyn knew he was the thief, as he didn’t want her going up and looking into the can and seeing there was money missing. 

Liza tried to get Tom to take a swim before they left, stating that he looked hot from working.  He declined and both boys left.  Evelyn wondered why Liza wanted Tom to take a swim.  Liza said to get extra proof. 

Crime scene:  Evelyn’s house. 

Clues:  Tom had a long sleeved shirt on.  Tom tried to hurry out of the house when Evelyn said she was going to get money from her bedroom for them.  The cat. 

Suspects:  Tom and Carl, the nephews. 

Red herrings:  None. 

Solution:  Despite the heat, Tom’s wearing a long-sleeved sweatshirt.  He wouldn’t take it off to go swimming because it’s hiding scratches Fluffy dug into his arms when he stole Evelyn’s money.

My two cents:   Really?  That’s the solution?  The cat?

This story was actually solved when we saw Tom get nervous and rush his brother out of the house.  Up to this point I had no problems with this story -- until they had to go and involve the cat.  Both boys had been in her house before many times.  The cat was familiar with them.  The cat didn’t lunge at them when they came into the house, and as a matter of fact, didn’t attack them when they came in for lemonade this time.  Why on earth would the cat attack and scratch Tom when he went into the money tin?  Are we supposed to believe the cat knew he was stealing?   I’m speechless.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Title: The truth stings
By Author:  John M. Floyd

Appearing in issue #24, June 17, 2013
For sale date:  June 5, 2013

Tag line: To Angela Potts, it was clear as day who the guilty party was…

Police characters:  Sheriff Jones and retired school teacher Angela Potts

The gist: Someone shot Justin through the driver’s side window of his car when he was pulling into his girlfriend’s driveway.  His girlfriend, Marge, got cut from the flying glass.  She jumped out of the passenger side of the car and took off through the woods, which she knows well.  It was pitch black, no moon, but the killer had a flashlight. Marge was trying to hide behind a tree but the killer had the flashlight trained on her and was approaching.  She took off her shoe and threw it at a wasp nest she knew was between her and the killer.  The wasps came out in a flurry and headed towards the light.  The killer took off screaming.  Marge told the police that the killer was her ex-husband, and she knew this because she had seen his face as he came towards her in the woods with that flashlight.  

Crime scene:  Marge’s driveway.

Clues:  The wasp nest and the flashlight.

Suspects:  Marge’s ex-husband and Alvin Hollis.  Who is Alvin Hollis you ask?  Someone Ms. Potts remembered had vowed to get revenge on the ex-husband because he testified against him.  Ms. Potts happened to know that Alvin was out of prison on parole because her cousin knows Alvin’s wife and the wife said he was out. 

Red herrings:  None. 

Solution:  If a flashlight it shining directly at you on an otherwise black night there is no way you can see who’s holding it.  Ms. Potts called Alvin’s wife and she confirmed that Alvin was full of wasp stings.  

My two cents:  Well, it seemed a bit coincidental that there just happened to be a wasp nest by the tree Marge was hiding behind.  And what a good arm she has, to be able to throw her shoe and hit the nest in the dark.  But as readers we are often asked to suspend disbelief a little bit.  My real gripe with this story is two-fold.  One is about the way the killer was introduced.  The story is 5 columns long but we don’t get to hear about this Alvin character until the 4th column. It’s sort of like reading an entire book only to find out the killer was some character that they introduce in the last chapter. And of course Ms. Potts knew all about him but the sheriff didn’t.   My second gripe is about police procedures. The deputy went and arrested her ex-husband and put him in lock-up, yet he didn’t have a mark on him from any wasp stings.  Whatever happened to questioning a suspect?   Why did Marge wait until the next day to report a murder? (Or maybe the question should be Why is the sheriff waiting till the next day to question her?  Police get the skinny right away while it's fresh in the victim's mind. They don't let them sleep on it.)   Why did Marge want to frame her husband?  She actually told police she saw his face, when she didn’t.  I believe that’s obstruction of justice.  She’s the one who ought to be in lock-up.