Friday, January 31, 2014

Appearing in issue #5, February 3, 2014

Title: A friend of the family

By Author: Laird Long

Tag line:   Trevor was dead, and to Marguerite, it sounded like a case of murder!

Police characters:  None.

The gist:   Marguerite and Trevor were sweethearts.  They had planned to spend a lovely weekend in his country home, but Trevor’s three kids, adults in their 30s, showed up uninvited: Brandon, Bruce and Beatrice. The kids had spent much of the day arguing with their estranged father, quarreling about how he should still be supporting them and what a tightwad he was.  The night before had been a bad night with Brandon snoring all night, Bruce tossing in his sleep, and light sleeper Beatrice yelling at both of them to quiet down. Tonight at midnight they finally all retired to bed.  A loud bang awakened Marguerite from a sound sleep an hour and a half later. She went to investigate. She saw Trevor’s bedroom door ajar at the end of the hall, which was unusual.  She went to his room and found him dead, sprawled face-up on the floor with a bullet hole in his forehead.  On her way back to her room to get her cell phone to call the police, she peeked in each of the children’s rooms. Brandon was lying on his back, eyes closed, seemingly asleep.   Bruce was on his side apparently sleeping. And Beatrice was curled up under her bedcovers fast asleep.  Marguerite called the police and then knocked loudly on each kid’s door.  The three roused themselves and stumbled into the hallway rubbing their eyes.  Marguerite told them their father was dead and the police were on their way.  There was little emotion from any of the kids. None of them claimed to have heard a gunshot.  Marguerite was sure it was murder and she knew who did it.

Crime scene:   Trevor’s home.

Clues:   How the three siblings slept.

Suspects:  All three kids.

Red herrings:  None.

Solution:  All three siblings did it.  For a loud snorer Brandon was dead quiet when Marguerite opened the door.  Bruce was still, dead asleep.  And for a light sleeper Beatrice was pretending to be asleep despite the loud gunshot that awakened Marguerite.

My two cents:    I’m underwhelmed.  So let me get this straight.  All three adult kids got up and went into their father’s room and one of them shot and killed their father, and then they all crept back to bed and pretended to be sleeping.  Have I got that right?  Marguerite was awakened by the gunshot.  She was just down the hall.  She got up to investigate.  There were no lights flashing on or off, no noise of doors closing, feet running, excited utterances…just one bang and all is silent.   Maybe they’re zombies.  Zombies are pretty cold, can see in the dark, and are dead quiet.  

Snorers don’t snore every second they’re sleeping.  Nor do tossers toss all night.  Light sleepers may not sleep well all night but they do fall into deep sleep for a portion of the night.  What Marguerite saw when she opened their doors for a moment proves nothing as far as who killed dad.  

If Trevor had shot himself there would have been a gun at the scene.  At least tell the reader that no gun was seen, so we can look elsewhere.

Three last comments from me:  I think Trevor should be shot for naming his offspring Brandon, Bruce and Beatrice; this case would make a defense attorney salivate; and  I don't get the title.


Tamara said...

I don't get the title either. Wonder if it was created by author or editor. I find your critiques infinitely more entertaining than the stories. Anyway, I think it's more farfetched than even some of my rejects.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Tamara.

Faaaaaar-fetched. All of our rejected stories, and I mean ALL of them, were better than this one. I see this author's name a lot in WW. Maybe the "John Floyd syndrome" is in play here.

After another read I think Marguerite wasn't a sweetheart but a good friend of Trevor's. The title makes a bit more sense that way. Although she sure wasn't a friend to the siblings. The title should have read "A friend of Trevor's" or "A friend in need" or some such thing.

Or "Zombies in the house".

Tamara said...

I use those big letters at the beginning of my stories (just because I can), and almost all magazines use them. I make breaks in my stories with little stars to indicate time lapses. The editor ignores my spaces and runs everything together, but I notice in a lot of these mysteries, she puts in those big letters, with breaks, when there's no time lapse or other reason for a space. She does it twice in this one. And, shouldn't the solution read "Whom" rather than "Who"?

Chris said...

Three people guilty when there's only one bullet wound? How? Did two of them hold him down while the third fired the gun? In which case why no bruises on the victim, no cries for help? And what about blood spatters on the siblings? With no gun at the scene and no clues - or, at least, only ridiculous ones about sleep patterns that don't mean a thing - this one was weak. The author may be a regular in the pages of WW, but, sorry, this time I couldn't see why.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Tamara.

I believe you're right on both observations. The story is broken up at odd places. In looking back over old copies of WW I see that there are always 3 large letters in each story. They are always in the 1st, 3rd and 4th column and are not at any sort of natural break in the story. Odd. It must be a visual color break WW uses for the page.

As far as 'whom' you are correct. Nice catch.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Chris. Well, if the siblings conspired to kill off good old dad and they all went in, even though only one pulled the trigger, they're all guilty. The gunman would be charged with murder and the others would be charged with conspiracy to murder/joint venture. They might all get the same sentence. Or sometimes the gunman gets a little higher sentence and the joint venture people get almost as high. I don't believe the joint venture peeps could get the death penalty...I'd have to research that. Maybe if the crime was particularly heinous.

Mary Jo said...

Ha, Friend of the Family as in his "very good friend". Evidently Dad liked to keep his liaisons secret from his "kids" and was really put out when they showed up and ruined his weekend. I am surprised he didn't dump them out on the street and save his own life. Marguerite is well out of that family. Jody, you are right. The logistics simply do not add up, as with many WW stories of both genres.

As for who and whom, I think you will find that most American grammarians have just about given up on whom since no one uses it any more. Same for the word me. Even supposedly educated people are afraid of it and resort to I and myself constantly. Ever watch TV?

Tamara said...

Mary Jo, The "I" error is one of my pet peeves; just can't stand it and don't understand why it is so common (Betty sent books to Joe and I -- oh, really, she sent books to I?) You're right; I hear it on TV by journalists all the time.

Mary Jo said...

Tamara, the thing is, the American ear is becoming so accustomed to the "I error" that it is now almost impossible to convince anyone that it is wrong. Language is the one thing that binds us all together. It does deserve more respect.

Tamara said...

I agree, Mary Jo, and I think one reason is that we hear the correction from parents and teachers, "Johnny and I went to the store" rather than "Me and Johnny", and people get it into their heads that there is no place for the word "me", that it is always wrong.