Friday, March 14, 2014

Appearing in issue #11, March 17, 2014

Title: Murder is a black tie affair
By Author: Michael D’Angona
Tag line:   The detective knew she had to get the dirt on all the guests at the fancy party…
Police characters:  Detective Kara Peterson.  (WW loves female detectives)
The gist:   Austin Fairbanks was at his 70th birthday party at the lavish Billington Club.  He left the festivities to have a cigar in the smoking room. A half hour later he was found dead, an apparent poisoning. 
Detective Kara spoke to Austin’s daughter, Margot who was standing with her husband looking distraught.  Margot was the last person to see her father alive.  Margot was stunning, as only the truly wealthy can be, and was perfectly flawless in a white satin gown.   She told Det. Kara that just before the party was going to toast the birthday boy, Austin decided to have a cigar.  After a short time had passed, Margot sent her husband to bring him back.  Austin wasn’t done with his cigar and remained in the smoking room. After another 15 minutes Margot went to fetch him and found him standing with his back to the window, clutching the wine glass with one hand, cigar in the other hand, looking a bit odd.  His eyes were wide and he was trembling. She rushed to him and he collapsed on her sending them both to the floor knocking over a table and smashing his glass.  She noted it was a miracle they weren’t sliced up.  She reported that Austin muttered one word before he died…Terri. 
Terri is one of Austin’s grandchildren and somewhat of a black sheep in the family.  Austin had a soft spot for her nonetheless and wouldn’t take her out of his will as everyone suggested.  Terri told the police she was at the bar getting her granddad a glass of merlot when Margot came running out yelling to call an ambulance.  Terri added that most of the relatives were just greedy vultures and all wanted a piece of the fortune, but couldn’t get one cent until Austin died.  Terri admitted she knew she was in the will, and that her boyfriend also knew.
Detective Kara had a suspect.
Crime scene:   Billington Club, a prestigious club that caters to the rich.
Clues:   Wine.  Will.  Muttering the name Terri.  White satin gown. Terri was getting wine for her granddad.  Terri’s boyfriend knew about the money.
Suspects:  Margot, her husband, Terri, Terri’s boyfriend.
Red herrings:  Granddad muttering the name Terri.  Terri’s boyfriend, who wasn’t at the party.  Or was he?
Solution:  All had motive (the money) but Margot’s story was not believable. If her dad had fallen on her and they both crashed to the ground breaking the glass, her white satin gown should have some red wine on it.  Her husband poisoned Austin when he went in the first time.  Margot lied about her father uttering the name Terri to throw suspicion on the granddaughter.
My two cents:    I have to say I’m pretty impressed with this author.  There were a couple of red herrings, he buried the clue early on, and the whole thing flowed along seamlessly.  I didn’t find any police procedural issues. The story was written in first person, which worked for this tale.
So here we have two killers, Margot and her husband.  The husband did the dirty deed and Margot planted false evidence. Terri didn’t even know her granddad had his favorite wine and was getting him a glass when the murder took place, which took her out of the picture for me.  I was a little suspicious of her boyfriend, but he wasn’t in the story enough to be really considered.  I was pretty sure Margot’s husband did it.  So much so that I didn’t even think about Margot being involved. That was a nice twist.
 ‘Stepped off the page of a fashion magazine’ is clichéd, but I know what the author was trying to do there; cement the flawless image in our minds, so I’ll forgive him.  This time.
I can’t find any reason not to give this story 5 stars.


Chris said...

Wow, five stars, Jody, you must have been really impressed. I thought the story was nicely paced, with a well-hidden clue and a solution that didn't have me throwing up my hands in disbelief. I also liked that it was the ABSENCE of something (wine stains on the dress) that made the cop suspicious. That was logical and clever.

One thing I did wonder was how they knew so quickly that Austin had been poisoned. It was too early for forensic results, or a PM, so what made them suspect that as the cause of death? Had he frothed at the mouth, vomited, were there powder traces in the wine glass, what? When I did a poison story last year (rejected, naturally) I was surprised at how few poisons there were that would kill quickly and without trace. Most seem to take a while to do the job, and those that don't aren't exactly available in the supermarket. I'd have just liked a bit more detail. Or am I being too picky?

M D'Angona said...

I first want to say thank you for all your kind words.
The line 'Stepped off the page of a fashion magazine' was the editor's line added in...I had a simple description of Margot describing her hair and lovely gown only. Also, the detail of the falling and breaking of the glass table was also added. I simply said Austin had a full wine glass and a cigar and collapsed toward Margot and they both fell to the floor. Perhaps the editor thought the clue was too subtle?
Concerning the poison, I could have inserted...suspected he was no firm conclusion was determined, but that was their best guess.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Micheal

Don't you just love it when the editors mess with your story? We try to write 'fresh' and they pop in a cliché. Arrrrrghh.

The WW version doesn't say the table is glass, which made it a little more plausible to me that she should have wine stains on her. Or a tear in her pretty dress. It wouldn't be normal for dear old dad, if he is not feeling well, to be standing with the glass over his head or out to his side, in which case it would be propelled away when he fell. I pictured him with the glass held in front of him, he's a bit confused, scared and shaking because something bad is happening to him, and when he toppled over onto Margot the glass was in between them. Anyway, that's how it read to me.

@ Chris. The way the story read Margot came running out screaming for an ambulance as though she didn't know what had happened. I assumed one showed up (and maybe I shouldn't ever assume) and that Crime Scene and the ME had already been there and maybe even collected the body. This story starts with the detective showing up to start her investigation. She's telling the story, and she's saying it was poison.

Yes, this is a first for 5 stars and such a good review. I hope it doesn't hurt my reputation. :)

Tamara said...

I thought this was good, Michael. The clue was there but not so remote no one could figure it out and not so obvious the reader didn't have to think. This is a good sample of what WW mysteries are supposed to be.

Jody, you took the words right out of my mouth -- about the cliche. I just want to yell, "WHY?" Wouldn't WW's readers like the stories just as much if they were our fresher versions?

Elizabeth said...

I'm so upset that I missed this 5-star story!! Too bad Johnene thought she needed to add a few clichéd bits to such a fresh, original story! A huge blizzard hit us here in upstate New York & we didn't go anywhere for several days. By the time we did, the following week's issue was on the newsstands. Maybe I should just go ahead & subscribe to Woman's World.

Tamara said...

One of us could send you a copy of the story, Elizabeth. I have a copy machine on my printer.

See, Michael, you're all the rage.

Chris said...

Elizabeth, I have a scanned version of the mystery and the romance you missed, so if you'd like to email me I can forward them. csutton45 at (leave out the gaps and use @)

Elizabeth said...

Thank you SO much, Tamara and Chris! Very thoughtful of you to offer to help another hopeless WW addict get her weekly fix. I'm going to take Chris up on her offer to email me the scans.

M D'Angona said...

It's also funny that this was the least of all my submissions that I thought would make it through. I guess you just never know. Don't discount ones that you may think are weak, while keeping all your hopes on ones that you think...can't miss. It's all up to the mood and mindset of the editor at that precise time they are reading your story, I guess.