Friday, April 25, 2014

Appearing in issue #17, April 28, 2014

Title:  Family matters
By Author:  Tracie Rae Griffith

Tag line:    Josephine Miller learned the hard way that, when push comes to shove, it’s always all about money!

Police characters:   Det. Kristine Kay.  Sgt.  Bill Morgan. 

The gist:   The story begins with Josephine, an elderly woman, in the hospital with a broken leg.  Her dress, her best outfit, had dirt and leaves clinging to it and she was brushing it off and rubbing a black spot on the back of it while she spoke to police.   She claimed someone pushed her down a ravine.  She told Det. Kay that she believed one of her relatives wanted her dead.  And it could be any of them she said, as they all stood to inherit plenty.  She explained that her Cousin Arlene arranged for a family bus trip.  At a scenic stop the family got out to take photos.  Josephine was going to stay on the bus with Cousin Henry but his snoring drove her out.  She walked over to a flowerbed by a ravine and that’s when she claimed she was pushed.

Sgt. Morgan had gathered the relatives in a waiting room.   One of the relatives had a photo of the group from that stop. The group was posed in front of a cave.  Missing from the group in the photo were three people; the driver Cousin Conrad who stayed back because Henry was still in the bus; Aunt Marian who is afraid of caves; and Cousin Walter who won’t let anyone take photos of him since he had a run-in with the law.

Aunt Marian, who is afraid of bats in caves, said that Henry had walked up to her and asked her for a loan.  She said the discussion became a bit heated. She noted that Josephine had also turned Henry’s loan request down earlier today.   Henry did not deny asking the ladies for a loan and said Josephine told him he’d have to wait for his inheritance like everybody else.

Conrad, the driver, claimed he had been tinkering under the hood as he is a mechanic and owns an auto repair shop.  The group came back from the photo stop and Arlene told him Josephine was missing so he went with the group to look for her. They found her unconscious in the ravine.

Henry, who had been napping, told the police he had heard Marian and Henry arguing but he couldn’t see them because the hood of the bus was up. 

Det. Kay knew who did it.

Crime scene:    The photo stop on a bus tour.

Clues:  The black spot on the back of Aunt Josephine’s dress.

Suspects:  Everyone except Henry who didn’t get off the bus.

Red herrings:    The fact that Walter has a police record.  The fact that Walter was asking people for money. 

Solution:   Conrad knew the dozing Henry wouldn’t be able to see over the hood of the bus so when he had the opportunity he pushed Josephine down the ravine while the rest of the group was over by the cave. The black spot on the back of Josephine’s dress was grease from Conrad’s hand.  He admitted his auto repair business was floundering and he wanted his share of the money now.

My two cents:    I struggled with this story because of the bus.  When you charter a bus, they don’t let you drive it.  It comes with a qualified licensed bus driver.  You have to have a chauffer’s class license.  And Conrad certainly wouldn’t be tinkering under the hood of a chartered vehicle. They’re locked for one thing.  I don’t believe charter buses have front engines.  They’re in the rear.  The front part is taken up by a huge window.   All this bothered me.

With that aside, Tracie did have three people who were questioned.  She also had good red herrings although it was a bit heavy handed in pointing at our ex-con.  I thought the black spot was dirt so it was a good clue.  No problems with her police work.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Appearing in issue #16, April 21, 2014

Title:  Reading between the lines
By Author:  Phyllis Whitfield

Tag line:  When Detective Beth Smart conducted the investigation, she went strictly by the book…  
Police characters:   Detective Beth Smart
The gist:    Carter told the police that when he drove up to his uncle’s house he noticed a blue van parked on the side street, and his Uncle Oliver reading in his chair by the window.  As he was walking up the sidewalk he was shocked to see a person in the house.  Uncle Oliver sprang up from his chair, shouted and shook his fist and then Carter heard a shot.  He claims the killer ran out the back before he was able to get inside the house. He didn’t get a good look but said he or she was tall and dressed in a dark coat and hoodie. He had heard the back door slam and the squeal of tires. Uncle Oliver was dead so he called 911.   Oliver was a ruthless businessman who had made enemies.  The victim lay sprawled on the floor in front of his chair by the window.  On the table beside the chair was a novel with  a folded-up pair of reading glasses on top, and a half empty cup of coffee.  The dead man still had his expensive watch and wallet, so robbery was ruled out as a motive.
The niece showed up, Ellie.  She and Carter routinely had lunch with their uncle every Friday.  She told the detective that Uncle Oliver confided in her last week that he was having problems with some investors and they were threatening to sue him. 
Just then the front door burst open and a large man entered, Oliver’s brother Jake.  Jake said he couldn’t reach Oliver earlier by phone so decided to stop by.  Ellie informed him that ‘Uncle Oliver’s been shot”.
All said they would benefit from Oliver’s will. 
Det. Smart arrested one of them for murder.
Crime scene:    Oliver’s home.
Clues:    Well…the tag line gives it away.  The book with the reading glasses folded on it on the table.  
Suspects:  The nephew, niece, and brother.
Red herrings:    The blue van.
Solution:  Carter argued with his uncle about a loan.  When Oliver refused to give it to him, Carter shot him.  Carter’s story about seeing his uncle reading gave him away.  If Uncle Oliver had confronted a strange man in his home, he wouldn’t have removed his reading glasses and folded them neatly on his book.
My two cents:    The clue wasn’t too obvious and except for WW feeling the need to give it away with the tag line it might have been missed.    
When Ellie ran to her Uncle Jake and cried “Uncle Oliver’s been shot” why didn’t Jake ask if his brother was all right?  Shot doesn’t mean dead.  Even if he could see his brother lying on the floor, which I’m not certain he could with three people standing between him and the victim on the floor, wouldn’t he at least run over there to him, or ask if he was dead?  Is that an intentional red herring or an author brain fart? 
I think the solution is muddy and poorly written.
A portion of it read: “Carter admitted that he went to his uncle’s house to request a loan and found him reading.  As their discussion heated up Oliver put down his book and removed his glasses and set them on the book.”
If you were reading and a guest arrived I’m quite sure you would put the book down and take your reading glasses off, especially if you expected that person. Ellie said she and Carter had lunch with Uncle Oliver every Friday, so Carter didn’t go to the house to request a loan as the solution suggests.  Perhaps he went a bit early to speak to Oliver about it, but that wasn’t very clear.
Oh boy, there’s a police procedural problem here for me to carry on about.  J At a murder scene in a home uniformed officers are stationed at the entrances to the house because the police don’t let people just walk around a crime scene contaminating it.  So it would be impossible for Jake to ‘burst in the front door”.  Such a quick forceful action might even get him shot if he surprised the police inside. 

The police don't arrest people on a hunch.  The detective might have been suspicious of his story and decide to investigate but no arrest would have been made on the spot.  The story should have said that the "detective knew who did it".

By the way, a dark coat and a hoodie are two different animals.  
Because of all these little niggling things, I have to give this story 3 stars.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Appearing in #15, April 14, 2014

Title: The night shift

By Author: Adele Polomski

Tag line:   When the police arrived at the scene of the crime, they found one dead body and some unanswered questions…

Police characters:  Det. Holiday Price

The gist:   The story opened with Det. Price driving to the town’s industrial district to a brightly lit warehouse where police cruisers were already on scene.  A male, about 40 years old, dressed in jeans, a Hawaiian shirt and gray hoodie was under a blue tarp, the apparent victim of a single gunshot wound to the chest.  Det. Price raised the hole in his shirt to match the hole in his body. A shot straight to the heart.  Sonny and Nigel, the owners of the warehouse, arrived due to a call from their security guard, Archie.  The victim was identified as Rocco.   Nigel confessed that Rocco was an undercover investigator that he had hired because there had been some recurring thefts.  Nigel was sure it was an inside job but hadn’t been successful in catching the thief even with the company’s hi-tech security cameras.  Sonny was unaware that Nigel had hired this man.   Although the warehouse was insured, Sonny noted that reporting the thefts would have raised the premiums.  Nigel said, “This is clearly an accident.  Archie mistook, Rocco for a thief.”  Archie, who was neatly dressed and appeared to take pride in his appearance, said he had been with Alpha Security for over 30 years. He said in all his years he has never pulled his gun but tonight he said this man came at him and it looked like he was pulling a gun.  There was no weapon found on the victim.  Archie said he found this man coming out from behind the Dumpster. After the shooting, Archie called the owners and then called 911.   Det. Price asked Archie to open the trunk of his car, which he did.  Inside was a load of stolen merchandise. 

How did Det. Price know?

Crime scene:   A warehouse.

Clues:   The victim’s shirt.

Suspects:  None in the traditional sense. We know Archie shot this man.

Red herrings:  None.

Solution:  Because Det. Price had to lift the material of the shirt up to match it to the bullet hole in the man’s body, she knew the victim had had his hands up when he was shot.  Archie and the day guard were partners.  The day guard would store the goods behind the Dumpster and Archie would put them in his trunk when he came on his shift.

My two cents:    A private investigator carries a weapon.  Wonder what happened to it.  Must have been an interesting character.  He wore a Hawaiian shirt to work.  Way to fit in and not be noticed.  

Dumpster is a trade -marked named, like Kleenex, and is capped.

I can’t find anything majorly wrong with this story.  It was well written and it had a good clue, so it gets four stars.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Appearing in issue #14, April 7, 2014

Title: Hildy’s fortune

By Author: John M. Floyd

 Tag line:   Hildy Price’s boss was right when she figured the missing bank teller was tied up with personal business…

Police characters:  None.

The gist:   Angela Potts got a call from her friend Ruby asking if Angela had seen their friend Hildy. Hildy hadn’t shown up for work today and hadn’t called in. Angela promised to check on her. A newspaper article last week revealed that Hildy’s estranged father, a multi-millionaire, had passed and since Hildy was an only child there was speculation that he may have left his fortune to her.  Since that article Hildy had been flooded with calls from people asking for money and salesmen trying to sell her things, so Angela figured Hildy might be laying low, but thought it strange she didn’t call in to work.  Angela went over to Hildy’s house.  When she knocked on the door, a strange man answered claiming Hildy wasn’t feeling well, that he was Hildy’s nephew visiting from Mobile, and asked that Angela came back later.  Angela suspected this man and quickly made up a story about Hildy borrowing her work light and how she needed it back.  She pointed to the storm cellar in the back yard, and told the man it was in there and she’d just go get it.  The man asked if he could help and Angela told him there were some tall steps to maneuver and she’d be glad to have his help.  They walked out the back of the yard, pulled the heavy door open, and he descended down the stairs to the back shelves where Angela told him the light was.   As soon as he was down a few steps, Angela slammed the door and clicked the padlock over the latch.  She then went into the house and found Hildy gagged and tied to a chair.  She rescued Hildy and called the police.  Hildy told Angela that the man had been turning the house upside down trying to find hidden money and he kept asking her where the money was hidden.  Angela asked Hildy if she had any hidden money, and Hildy said no, that all of her dad’s fortune had been left to his second wife.

Crime scene:   Hildy’s house.

Clues:   Hildy is an only child.

Suspects:   None in the traditional sense.

Red herrings:  None.

Solution:  Angela Potts was suspicious of this man because he had told her he was Hildy’s nephew but Hildy is an only child.

My two cents:    This is a decent tale, but it’s not really a solve-it-yourself story.  I guess the question would be: How did Angela know this man was lying? This is a new format for WW and it opens up new story possibilities on the mystery page.  I gave it four stars because it flowed nicely and the clue was well placed.

There’s a missing piece to this story though, an odd sock so to speak.  Why did this guy think there was money hidden in Hildy’s house? People who inherit lots and lots of money don’t have it hidden in their house.  Hildy worked in a bank, so common sense would tell anyone that if Hildy did have money it would be either in an account or a safe deposit box.  Perhaps the reason someone thought there was hidden money in her house got cut and is sitting on Johnene’s office floor.

The tag line was pretty clever.