Friday, August 9, 2013

Title: Sister dearest
By Author: Marianna Heulser

Appearing in issue #33, August 19, 2013

Tag line:  Lily and Violet were always so close.  But now Violet was alive…and Lily was not!

Police characters:  Detectives Kevin McCarthy and Lola Wells

The gist: Two well-off sisters live together in a mansion on Park Avenue.  The police were called to the home by the maid, who had worked for the two women for over 20 years.  She had been told to call the funeral home by sister Violet, as sister Lily was found dead in her bed from an apparent suicide, but the maid summoned the police.  Violet is a doctor.  She tended to Lily who was a diabetic, giving Lily daily doses of insulin.  The story goes that Lily was so depressed about her poor health that she took an overdose of pain medicine the dentist had prescribed for an abscess.  The maid claimed she never heard Lily complain and didn’t feel she was depressed. A check of the scene of the death revealed Lily still lying in her canopy bed, and a bedside table containing a Tiffany lamp, a crystal pitcher filled with water, an old fashioned alarm clock, a romance novel and an empty orange plastic pill bottle.  When police spoke to Violet, she demanded they address her as Doctor as she is not yet retired.  She claims she had been so concentrating on treating her sister’s diabetes that she missed the signs of depression. Violet found the body and told the maid to call the funeral home.  When questioned why she didn’t call the police, Doctor Violet retorted that it was perfectly clear what happened and that she could sign the death certificate.  The sisters’ nephew showed up claiming that the two ladies did not get along well.  Violet wanted to sell the house and all the belongings and travel, but Lily would not sell. Detective Wells studied her notepad and decided to take another look at the bedroom.  She said she realized they had overlooked something important.

Crime scene:   Lily’s bedroom.

Clues:  The clue in the story is the pitcher of water and the items (or lack of them) on the bedside table.   See more on that below. 

Suspects:  Violet. 

Red herrings:  None.

Solution:  Detective Wells recalled seeing a pitcher full of water but no water glass.  If Lily had swallowed the pills herself there would be a glass on the table and the pitcher would not be filled to the brim.  Instead of injecting her sister with insulin, Violet administered an overdose of the painkiller.  

My two cents:  Okay, let’s analyze this a bit. 

 Violet is a doctor.  She demands the police address her as doctor as she has not yet retired.  This is puzzling to me.  A doctor is addressed as such until the day he/she dies…and even then it might still be on the tombstone.  What is she talking about?  

And as a doctor, she knows very well that best practices frown on doctors signing death certificates of close relatives.  Just like they don’t perform surgery on relatives unless it was an emergency situation.  But she was ready to just sign on the dotted line and be done with it which would raise eyebrows and cause people to ask questions.   Not too smart for a killer who doesn’t want to go to prison.

Next thing, a doctor, of all people, knows that a death that is not a natural death MUST be reported.  She can’t be that stupid.  Even if the maid did call the funeral home, THEY would have reported the death.  You just can’t go shipping bodies off to be buried.

The story said the crystal pitcher was filled with water.  It didn’t say it was filled to the brim.  To make the solution read: and the pitcher would not be filled to the brim is just unfair. The reader counts on the author being straight with the facts.
If Lily wanted to take those pills herself, she could have very well gone to the bathroom, downed the pills in there, come out and made herself comfortable in her bed to await her final sleep.  In fact as there was no glass on the nightstand she would have had to go in the bathroom to take the pills.  So to say that because there is no glass on the table it must be murder is pretty thin. 

Dr. Violet gave herself away by foolishly trying to get rid of the body.  That’s the real clue.


Chris said...

The amount of stuff on the bedside dresser emphasised its importance, I felt. Might've been better placing a couple of them elsewhere. Must admit the lack of a glass didn't seem like a clue to me either - I'd have quite happily guzzled from the jug (slob). I'm with you on the issue of a doctor signing a close family member's death cert. There are protocols in place about even treating a family member (it's advised against on both sides of the pond), so I'm sure that issuing a death cert must be even more closely controlled. So that was like a big red marker pointing to the killer to me.

Jody E. Lebel said...

That's a good point. Those table items should have been tucked in the story here and there instead of one lump. It was obvious the author was trying to give us a clue there, but she mislead us by changing something in the solution. That's the bigger sin to me.