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.