Friday, February 28, 2014

Appearing in issue #9, March 3, 2014

Title: A will to die

By Author: Shirley McCann                         

Tag line:   The murder investigation had turned up three suspects – and each one had a motive for doing away with the victim!

Police characters:  Detective Dan Roberts and Detective Shelly Ormsby

The gist:   The housekeeper comes back from grocery shopping to find the bloody body of Socialite Paula Haden on the kitchen floor.  Someone had stabbed the woman to death.  It was a Thursday, grocery shopping day.  The housekeeper had been gone for about an hour.  When she came home, she set the bags on the counter, saw the body, and called 911.  

The housekeeper pointed a finger at the nephew saying he was always coming around asking for money.  The last time Paula refused and the housekeeper heard him threaten her.

The nephew, who stands to inherit part of Paula’s estate, blurted out Aunt Paula was murdered? when the cops showed up at his home.  When asked why he would assume that, he stated that the police don’t show up for routine deaths.  He admitted he was in a bad financial state but said it wasn’t something he couldn’t dig himself out of.  He pointed a finger at his brother, Alan.  Alan was also in a bad money spot and he drank. He didn’t deny threatening his aunt but added everyone knew he, Alan and the housekeeper were all in the will and sooner or later they would inherit a nice chunk of money.

The police found Alan in a bar.  When the police asked where he had been that morning, Alan had an alibi with the bartender.  He pointed a finger at the housekeeper saying that Paula had been complaining about the woman slacking off and taking advantage of her position.  

Detective Roberts was leaning towards one of the two men. He noted that the nephew needed money and Alan clearly lied about problems with the housekeeper as the house had been immaculate.

Detective Ormsby agreed, but added that the clean kitchen was the clue.

Crime scene:   Paula Haden’s home, which was spotlessly, clean with uncluttered granite countertops and sleek appliances. The only thing out of place was the body on the floor.

Clues:   The clean floor. 

Suspects:  The housekeeper, the nephew, or Alan.

Red herrings:  Alan knew his aunt had been murdered before the cops revealed it, making him suspicious.  The nephew threatened his aunt.

Solution:  Detective Ormsby recalled that the counters were clear and uncluttered meaning either the housekeeper had lied about going out for groceries or she lied about her actions when she returned home.  Nobody would step around a body on the floor and put groceries away.

My two cents:   I’ve noticed that WW loves it when the females solve the crime.  In this story it makes a little more sense that she would notice the missing bags of groceries rather than the male officer, so it worked out well.  It didn’t really say, but I’m guessing the housekeeper, knowing she was in the will, either got tired of waiting or really was slacking off and about to be let go and therefore lose her chance at inheriting a nice sum.

The clue wasn’t ‘in your face’ and was placed in the first part of the story, so that by the time you finished dealing with the two men, it was a forgotten detail.  I thought this story worked and was well plotted out.  Even though Alan said the bartender would vouch for him, he could have promised the man money for lying.  So the fact that he had an alibi there didn’t impress the cops.

I would give this story 4 stars.

Now…some things to think about (that don’t ruin the story).  A rich socialite would have security cameras in and around her home that would have caught the perp on film.  At the very least it would have caught the housekeeper either coming in with groceries, or not leaving at all.  The housekeeper had time to clean herself up, but there must be bloody clothes somewhere in the house. Stabbing is a messy business.  In the real world, the detectives would remain at the crime scene and have their CSI unit look for things like that.  The detectives would not go chasing around town looking for the other two men. They would have uniformed cops go pick them up and bring them in for questioning.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Appearing in issue #8, February 24, 2014

Title:  Over a cliff

By Author:  Jean A. Davidson


Tag line:   Someone had been in a big hurry to get rid of Randolph Dunlop.  Question was, who?

Police characters:  Detective Josh Adams and Detective Tony Donato.

The gist:   The story starts out with the detectives watching the funeral of a millionaire, Dunlop, who had died a week earlier of a car crash where he lost control of his vehicle and careened over a cliff.  The police knew, but not the public, that someone had cut Dunlop’s brake lines. At the end of the funeral service three people remained, Dunlop’s second wife Carolyn who was almost as young as Dunlop’s daughter, his daughter Victoria who did not get along with her step-mom, and Carolyn’s brother, Fred, who lost a fortune taking the advice of Dunlop.  After Dunlop had married, he changed his will cutting out his daughter and leaving it all to his new wife.  After the funeral the detectives met with the three relatives and announced that it was not an accident that killed Dunlop and that someone has sabotaged this car.  Victoria pointed a finger at the new wife, calling her a greedy gold digger.  The new wife accused the daughter because she was angry that dad had changed his will. She added that Victoria’s boyfriend knew all about cars and that if anyone tampered with the brakes it was him.  Then Victoria turned on Fred, claiming he must have done it because he was angry about losing all his money.  Fred told the police he had heard Victoria yelling “I wish you were dead” to her father the day before he died.  Victoria denied saying that.   Detective Adams received a cell phone call from the police department saying that they had found a fingerprint on the car in an unusual spot and he now knows who did it.

Crime scene:   Tampered car.

Clues:   A fingerprint in an odd spot. 

Suspects:  The 3 relatives.  (WW loves three suspects.)

Red herrings:   The changed will.  The lost fortune.  The daughter wishing her dad was dead.

Solution:  The new wife did it.  Even before her fingerprint was found she gave herself away by accusing Victoria of tampering with the brakes, a tidbit of info no one else knew except the police.  She said she killed him before he could change his will back to his daughter.

My two cents:    Question was, who?”  Well, duh.  Extremely uninspiring, unimaginative tag line.  The killer gave herself away by knowing a fact that only the perp would know.  ((yawn))  Once you read that you might as well not even read the rest of the story.  Why can’t we have some fun, imaginative, interesting, makes-you-think kind of clues?  We really don’t need two detectives now, do we? 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Appearing in issue #7, February 17, 2014

Title: Perfect crime

By Author:  John M. Floyd


Tag line:   James figured he was too clever to get caught…but he never figured on Mrs. Potts!

Police characters:   Sheriff Jones and his deputy.  And Mrs. Potts.

The gist:   It was a snowy night.  James drove to his office, a law firm, which was located outside of the city limits on a piece of remote land, parked in the empty lot, took a bolt cutter and crowbar from his car, stomped through the snow, used the crow bar to splinter the front door and entered.  He used a flashlight to get to the door marked Private and pried that door open as well.  Within a short time he cut the padlock on the safe and took out bundles of cash from within.  He could now finally pay off his gambling debts.

Then he phoned the police and said he was calling from an office that had been burglarized at his firm’s building.  He hurried back to the car, stripped off his gloves and stowed them and the tools in his trunk.  He covered them, along with the bundles of cash, with a blanket. Then he went back inside to wait for the police. To his surprise a gray-haired lady showed up with Sheriff Jones and his deputy. Sheriff Jones asked if James had touched anything in the office.  James said no.  Was anything missing except the contents of the safe?  James said he didn’t know and that no one ever uses that office.  Mrs. Potts asked James why he had come into work on a bad weather night.  James said he often works nights and weekends.  Sheriff noted that not too many people keep a padlock on a safe these days and that the burglar must have known that because a bolt cutter had been used. (Frankly, the only real clue in my eyes.) The deputy swept the room that had been broken into for fingerprints and only found a few on the filing cabinet.  James said they were probably from the secretary.

 Mrs. Potts asked why there were two sets of footprints going and coming from James’s car to the office.  James said he keeps files in his trunk and he went out to get them for the corporate phone number as he was going to call their main office next to report the crime.  Mrs. Potts asked James “Mind if we check your car trunk”” and  “We could get a warrant if he’d like”.  James asked, “Why, because I left footprints in the snow?”  Mrs. Potts said it was because of something he didn’t leave.

Crime scene:   James’s place of work.

Clues:   Snow footprints.  Padlock on a safe.  No gloves on a winter night.

Suspects:   James or some random burglar.

Red herrings:  None.

Solution:  James had left his gloves on when he used the office phone to call the sheriff.  His fingerprints should have been on the receiver.

My two cents:   James could have come in the building with his gloves on (it was a cold night), saw the signs of a break-in, called the cops, went back to his car to get the phone number of the corporate office from the files in his trunk (although I don’t know why he wouldn’t have the corporate office phone number in his own office inside the building), took off his gloves to shuffle through the paperwork, and then left his gloves in the car at that point.  I don’t know why he didn’t just put them in his coat pocket instead of stashing them in the trunk.  It was winter after all.  People wear gloves.  It’s not a sign of guilt.

It always cracks me up when Mrs. Potts threatens to get a search warrant.  You have to have strong probable cause, write up a sworn affidavit, convince a judge that there is probable cause to do the search, and have him/her sign off on it before the search can be done. This all takes time.  You can’t invade people’s property and step on their rights to go on a fishing expedition, or for a hunch.  She could have been trying to gauge his reaction when she threatened him with that, but the story didn’t make that clear.   This guy worked in a law firm.  Even if he isn’t a lawyer, he’d pick up through his daily work with the other employees that it’s not easy to get search warrants.  Lawyers file petitions and motions to suppress and fight search warrants all the time in court.  The sheriff can’t hold him there and can’t impound his car.  He was free to leave. He should have known that.  Had I written the story, I would have made it some other type of business.

It was night.  It was winter and cold out.  She’s old.  Potts should have been in bed. It must frost the deputy’s cookies that the sheriff let’s her ride with them.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Appearing in issue #6, February 10, 2014

Title: The tip-off

By Author: Monica A. Andermann


Tag line:   A hundred-dollar bill was missing from TJ’s wallet – and he knew exactly who to blame for the theft!

Police characters:  None.

The gist:   TJ gets a burger at a diner.  It was greasy and overcooked.  When he complained, the waiter just turned and walked away without an apology.  So TJ didn’t tip him. He paid for his food and went to go buy antacid tablets at the pharmacy.  When he was at the cashier’s station, he realized he didn’t have his wallet.  It must still be on the table at the diner.  All he had left in there was one $100 bill.  TJ storms out of the pharmacy, heads back to the diner, bursts through the door and marches up to the hostess asking about his wallet.  Ms. Hostess is friendly and told him the waiter found his wallet and put it in the Lost and Found box which is located in the manager’s office.  Sure enough his wallet was in the box, but when he opened it, his $100 was missing.  “Where’s my money?” he demanded.  Ms. Hostess claims to not know anything about any money.  TJ’s gaze swept the room and he spotted his waiter.  He yelled, “You!  Get over here!”  About that time the manager comes out to see what all the commotion is about.  TJ accuses the waiter of taking his money.  The waiter quickly defended himself and said when he found the wallet he took in straight to the Lost and Found, and even though he didn’t get a tip he would never steal TJ’s money.  The manager claims the wallet was in his office from the time the waiter placed it there until it was claimed.  All eyes turned to the hostess, the only other person who had access to the manager’s office.  “Don’t look at me,” she said.  “I didn’t take your hundred dollars.”  TJ apologized to the waiter.

Crime scene:   A diner.

Clues:   The dollar amount of the bill.

Suspects:  The waiter, the hostess, and the manager of the diner.

Red herrings:  None.

Solution:  The hostess was the only one who knew it was $100.

My two cents:    The lesson learned here for WW writers is that WW loves three suspects.  We see it time and again.  The solving clue is also an old favorite:  “only the perp would know some tidbit of info”.  Overused?  Sure.  But a steady seller. 

    I don’t know why this TJ guy had to be so rude.  It didn’t add to the story for me.  In fact, I sorta’ hoped he never found his money and the heartburn ate a hole in his esophagus.   (Is that mean?  Can’t help it.  I don’t like him.)

     Other than that there’s really not much to say.  I can’t imagine why they chose such a humdrum story with an overused formula and an unlikable main character.  And to put the ‘solving clue’ at the very end of the story?  They didn’t even try to hide it or slip it in.  It doesn’t seem like much effort went into this week’s offering.  That the editors highlighted the word ‘exactly’ in the tag line was the only mildly clever thing about the whole page.