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.


Chris said...

It's so much better when the clues are hidden away in the general narrative this way, rather than coming at you with headlights blazing as they so often do. This one slipped past me in a very satisfactory way. Nicely written story.

Tamara said...

Yes, mine are usually blinding. I like the title of this one.

Elizabeth said...

Yes, this story is better than most appearing in recent issues of Woman's World. The clue was nicely buried early on. Actually I missed it completely. I could easily imagine the housekeeper arriving back at the house with the groceries & being so distraught at seeing her employer dead on the kitchen floor, that she put the groceries away just to occupy herself with something mindless before calling the police. Or maybe that's just me?

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Elizabeth. No, that's not normal behavior. It is cold behavior though. Think of coming home and finding someone you care about dead in a bloody mess on your kitchen floor. Even if you didn't kill him/her, you wouldn't even think about groceries. You would start shaking. You'd probably start to cry. You might throw up. Your adrenaline would be racing around your system so hard that your heartbeat would pound in your head. You might even faint. Most people would back out of the room as fast as they could, maybe even falling in their haste. The grocery bags would be dropped and forgotten. And you'd be so upset you wouldn't go back in that room. Maybe for days. You might even have to be sedated. There's no little task in the world that would take your mind off such a horrible sight. Only a mentally unstable person could step over a body and do chores while she had a minute before the police arrived. So for the housekeeper to put away the groceries is a huge red flag. Either there never were any groceries in this story or she killed her after they were really put away. Either way, she was the only one there at the time of death.

Elizabeth said...

You're absolutely right, it would be way abnormal for the housekeeper to put the groceries away while there was a dead body on the kitchen floor. Why the @#$%! didn't I see that!! I guess I've been reading too many noir stories recently.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@Elizabeth. If there's one thing WW stories are not, it's noir, but they are also not always true to real life either. We have old ladies riding around with cops and open doors the top of construction sites and victims having allergic toxic reactions to almond extract when almond extract isn't even made of almonds. We have to strive to hit that cozy spot in between where the public buys it but it's not too outrageous.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Tamara. I also liked the title. I wonder if it was the author's?