Friday, July 26, 2013

Appearing in issue #31, August 5, 2013

Title: Coin return
By Author:  Adrian Ludens

Tag line:  The thief was going to end up paying a high price for stealing the valuable coin!

Police characters:  A non-identified security officer.  

The gist: Karen, the manager of the convention center, was on hand while the coin show was being set up.  There were to coin dealers at the moment in the center setting up their booths.  A heavy-set dealer accused the taller vendor of stealing a valuable coin while he was busy bringing in cases of coins.  The coin, a quarter, was in a plastic holder, a two by two, and had a price mark on it of $1600.00.  It went missing while the heavy-set dealer was away from his table.  The only other persons in the room were a janitor who was putting trash bags in the cans, and a soda vendor who was filling up the soda machines.  Karen called for security and security got the story and asked both men to turn out their pockets.  In the meantime, Karen went around and looked in each trash can.  In the can nearest the soda machine she found the empty coin packaging and an unopened soda can.  

Crime scene:  Convention center. 

Clues:   The empty packaging and the unopened soda can. 

Suspects:  The four men involved; two coin dealers, the janitor and the soda man. 

Red herrings:  None.

Solution:  The soda delivery driver took advantage of the vendor’s inattention while setting up.  He spied the valuable coin and stole it.  After restocking the soda machine he threw the empty coin packaging in the trash, put the stolen coin in the vending machine with other quarters, bought a soda so that the coin would drop in the collection bin and not be available if someone pressed coin return, then threw the unopened soda in the trash.  He planned to return after the event and collect the valuable coin from the machine. 

My two cents:  I was pretty happy with the way this story was going until the soda guy threw the unopened can in the trash.  Huh?  He was stocking the soda machines for the event, right?  Why wouldn’t he have just put the can he just bought back in the case with the rest of the soda?  Why throw it away?

 If you stole something valuable, wouldn’t you discard the evidence a little further away than the trash bin right next to where you’ve been seen standing?  I would have had him flush it down the toilet in the men’s room.  

Another thought, if this guy had the key to the vending machines why didn’t he just open the machine, pretend to add soda or count stock or something, and place the coin amongst the other quarters inside the coin collection tin and lock up?  

I wasn’t crazy about the tag line.  It was a bit lame.  All thieves end up paying a high price for their crime.  Something along the lines of ‘coin collecting’ would have been sharper.  
Once again the title to the story gave too much away.  It could have been titled Coin Collector without giving up the clue.    

No sense even mentioning there are three exclamations points in the first three sentences.  ((sigh))

I did like the fact that this author didn’t use any names except for Karen.  It’s much easier to keep track of the players when they are just described.  The heavy-set man, the taller man, and the security guard; as opposed to John Jones, Bill Smith and Adam Carlton.  Using this method the reader is not pulled out of the story to try and figure out  -- Who is Bill Smith again?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Appearing in issue #30, July 29, 2013

Title: Another crime undone
By Author: S. Furlong-Bolliger 

Tag line:  Detective Dunn may have retired but he hadn’t stopped working! 

Police characters: Retired Detective Charlie Dunn, Officer Tony Willmot, and Officer Jake Taylor.

The gist:  Retired Detective Dunn heard the call on his police scanner and arrives on the scene just as Willmot and Taylor are about to put cuffs on the suspect, Tim, for the stabbing murder of his employer Calvin Lewis.  Lewis was a friend of Dunn’s and Dunn had gotten Tim the job there. Tim is an ex-con that Det. Dunn believed in and gave a chance to.  The police say they found Tim holding the bloody murder weapon (a letter opener) and fleeing the scene.  Tim claims he was going towards the den to ask his boss for a raise when he saw the letter opener on the floor.  He didn’t notice it had blood on it and picked it up to return it.  When he walked in he found the man dead on the floor.  Panicking because of his past record, Tim started to run away from the scene.  Tim was fingered by the housekeeper, Ms. Hudson who said a valuable ring was missing.   When questioned by Dunn, the housekeeper said “I saw Tim running from Mr. Lewis’s den with a letter opener in his hand.  He must have used it to stab Mr. Lewis in the back before taking the ring.  I’ll never forget Mr. Lewis lying there staring up with lifeless eyes and clutching his wife’s empty ring box to his heart.”  (Mr. Lewis had been waiting for a jewelry appraiser as he was going to sell his late wife’s valuable ring.)

Crime scene:  Mr. Lewis’s den.

Clues:  He was stabbed in the back.  He was clutching an empty ring box.

Suspects:  Tim or the housekeeper.

Red herrings:  The fact that Tim was an ex-con. 

Solution: The housekeeper gave herself away.  She said Mr. Lewis was stabbed in the back but how did she know that if she found him lying on his back? Secondly, she claimed Mr. Lewis was clutching an empty ring box.  How would she know it was empty unless she had taken the ring herself?   

My two cents:  You’ll have to forgive me; I’m a little woozy from the déjà vu.  Didn’t we just go through this exact same ‘couldn’t have seen it was a stab in the back’ solution just two stories ago?  The slip of the tongue about the empty ring box should have been enough to question the housekeeper further.  

It was said that the housekeeper saw Tim fleeing the scene, yet there he was standing between two cops about to be handcuffed.  Either he fled or he didn’t.   He could have been 30 miles away from there by the time the housekeeper called the police and they arrived.  But nope, he was still there…fleeing…very, very slowly apparently.

There was a lot of character building of retired Det. Dunn in this story that I didn’t include in my summary above.  They call him Charlie “Not-Dunn-Yet” because he wouldn’t give up until a case was solved.  Several times it was mentioned that ‘he’s not Dunn yet’ or “he’s never Dunn”.   It was cute but maybe a tad overdone.  I would have preferred that the author concentrate on a more interesting, less trite, solution.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Issue #29, July 22, 2013

Title: Picture this
By Author: John M. Floyd

Tag line:  Sheriff Jones and Angela Potts witnessed a serious crime.  It took them just a little less than a minute to realize it!

Police characters:  Sheriff Jones and amateur sleuth Ms. Potts, the sheriff’s old school teacher.

The gist: Ms. Potts sits next to Sheriff Jones on a down town park bench on a hot summer day.  She’s got a new camera and is snapping photos.  She shows one to him of some bingo winners from Friday’s game two days ago.  Then she snaps one of a man strolling along behind the buildings.  He climbs into a small parked car and leaves.  The man had been wearing a long baggy overcoat.  Sheriff Jones said he had noticed him coming out of the back door of the bank.   Ms. Potts told him to call his deputy and stop that car as the man had just robbed the bank. 

Crime scene:  Downtown bank. 

Clues:   The man was wearing a long overcoat on a hot day and he came out of the back door of the bank.  Ms. Potts had shown Sheriff Jones her photos of the bingo winners from Friday’s game, two nights ago. 

Suspects:   Just the man in the overcoat. 

Red herrings:   None. 

Solution:   The Friday night bingo game.  If it was taken two days ago today would be Sunday and banks aren’t open on Sunday. 

My two cents:   These two characters are favorites of WW and there are a lot of Sheriff Chunky Jones and Ms. Potts stories.  I have a hard time liking either character.  Ms. Potts is usually mean to Jones, calling him Chunky (a nod to the fact that he was a fat kid in school?)  and reminding him he never really made the football team, things like that.  

And Jones is very cranky.  Even in this story you will find:  “looked grumpy but that was nothing unusual”  “it’s not working, he growled” “he stayed quiet, scowling” “he’s depressed” “the sheriff sighed and rubbed his face” “I need a vacation, he mumbled” “Or maybe I need to retire” “the sheriff gave her a weary look”  “he got disconnected and was scowling again”.  And he made a comment about the bingo winner's photo, insinuating she was ugly enough to scare rabbits out of the garden.  Not a nice man. 

This is not a happy guy and I grow weary of putting up with him.  Maybe he should find a new line of work if he’s on duty on a Sunday, sees a guy walk out of the back door of a closed bank, and doesn’t think anything of it.  Maybe Ms. Potts should run for sheriff.

That said, how come the bank’s alarm didn’t go off?
I’m a fan of author John M. Floyd.  Just not this particular line of his stories.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Issue #28, July 15, 2013

Title: Eyes wide open
By Author: Richard Jones

Tag line:  The rookie detective’s attention to detail helped her figure out who had a murderous grudge against Charles Higgins!  (Anybody know why that exclamation point is there?  I don’t.)

Police characters: Detective Matt Howell and rookie Detective Amy Tedesco

The gist:  The employer, Mr. Higgins, is found stabbed to death in his study.  His male private secretary called 911.  When the police arrive he tells them that Mr. Higgins has been stabbed and that he (secretary) did not enter the room but saw all the blood and knew he must be dead.  The secretary claimed he arrived at 8:00 AM as usual and finding no daily schedule on his desk went to look for Mr. Higgins and found the body lying face down on the floor. There was no sign of a break-in, but the study was in disarray.  The only people who had keys to the house beside the secretary were the two sons.  Both worked for Mr. Higgins, but son Graham was absent a lot and just had had an argument with his father about it.  Son Gordon was seen in the study with his father last night around 9:00 PM.  The medical examiner estimated the time to death to be about two hours prior.  The medical examiner had to peer beneath the body to see the weapon (a letter opener). 

Crime scene:  Mr. Higgins’ study.

Clues:  It was not a robbery.  There was no break-in.  The medical examiner had to move the body to see the stab wounds. 

Suspects:  Both sons and the secretary.

Red herring:  Graham had argued with his father.

Solution:  Rookie Amy remembered the secretary said he didn’t enter the room when he found the body.  Higgins was lying face down. How could the secretary know that Higgins had been stabbed when he couldn’t see the wound?  During questioning the secretary admitted he had been embezzling money and when confronted he had killed his employer. 

My two cents:  Twice in this story the veteran detective told the rookie to keep her eyes wide open.  That was also the title.  Rather contrived but at least it didn’t give the solution away.

Okay, there are a couple of things.  If you find a bloody mess and your boss of nine years is lying still on the floor, you don’t go see if maybe he’s still alive?  Lots of blood doesn’t mean death.  Ever had a bloody nose?  It seems like gallons of blood goes everywhere.   I could understand being afraid and being grossed out but wouldn’t you check for a pulse at least?   To me that made the secretary suspicious.   We have read so many stories that use the same solution; the killer couldn’t have seen or known something.  Not going to check on your boss, to me, was a good indication of guilt and would have been a better, more fresh, clue. 

 There was no mention of blood, or lack of it, on the secretary.  We have to assume he cleaned up before he called the police.  When you stab someone, you make a mess and are most likely to get splatter on yourself.  Although killers don’t always think things through, if he had gone over to the body to check him, and stepped in some blood or got some on his clothing as he bent over the body or rolled him over to take a better look, it would be a good reason for him to have blood on his person.   Just thinking ahead to the