Title: A spotless reputation
By Author: B.K. Stevens
Tag line: Certain clues made it crystal-clear that this had been no accidental death!
Police characters: Lt. Alicia Mendez, Det. Frank Lane
The gist: William Camden was found dead at the bottom of a sleekly polished wooden staircase. He was dressed in an immaculate white shirt and sharply creased slacks. He looked to be about 70 years old. A sweater lay near his outstretched right arm. He was found by his niece, Meredith, who is 30 years old. She claims she found him dead, checked for a pulse, but touched nothing else. The television was on in the living room. Det. Lane surmised that William had been watching TV, had gotten cold, went upstairs for a sweater, and slipped on the way back down. He had died of an apparent head wound. Lt. Mendez noticed a TV guide open to last night’s programs on the coffee table next to a half-empty beer bottle ringed by a damp circle. The niece claimed she had stopped by tonight to pick up her uncle’s dry cleaning, which she routinely does on Wednesdays. When he didn’t answer, she let herself in. She has a key, as does her cousin Evan. The uncle did not have a housekeeper. He was very fussy about his furniture and hated clutter. He could not keep a housekeeper for those reasons. Lt. Mendez noticed how neat and clean and sparkly everything was.
Evan arrived just at that moment, having been called by Meredith. Evan claimed he had stopped by last night as his uncle was having dinner. Lt. Mendez noticed that Evan wore a loosely knotted tie over a wrinkled shirt, and he had disheveled hair. They went into the kitchen to talk, out of sight of the body. Lt. Mendez noticed dirty dinner dishes stacked in the sink and yesterday’s newspaper on the table besides William Camden’s glasses. Meredith accused Evan of stopping by yesterday to ask for money. Evan denied her accusation. Evan unwrapped a piece of gum, popped it into his mouth and tossed the wrapper on the table. Meredith snatched the wrapper and put it in the trash can. Evan claims he only stayed 15 minutes and then was out with his buddies until after midnight. Meredith noted that neither of them liked their uncle as he was always threatening to disinherit them and that frankly she would not miss him.
Noting that William’s glasses were on the kitchen table and he would need those to read the TV guide, Lt. Mendez suspects foul play.
Crime scene: Uncle William’s house.
Clues: Uncle’s glasses in the kitchen. A beer glass on the table ringed by a damp circle. Dishes in the sink.
Suspects: Evan and Meredith.
Red herrings: None.
Solution: Someone left dishes piled in the sink and placed a beer bottle on the coffee table without using a coaster. Uncle William would never do that, nor would his compulsively neat niece Meredith. Her sloppy cousin would though.
My two cents: This story has all its loose ends tied up pretty well. I can’t find any major problems with it, although it was pretty predictable with all the neat vs sloppy references. Again the story title gave it away.