Saturday, May 24, 2014


I'll be moving to a new state on Tuesday. That means this blog will be on holiday until June 6th.  If I did my math right, and you see by my tag line that math is not my thing, I will only have missed reviewing one mystery, the June 2nd story.  I'll do a double post and get all caught up on the 6th.

Behave while I'm gone. There are snacks in the fridge.  Last one out, hit the lights.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Appearing in issue #21, May 26, 2014

Title:  Rosie’s clue

By Author:  Marti Attoun


Tag line:    It appeared Miss Helen’s cat had some information she wanted to share with the detective …

Police characters:   Detective Jack Phillips

The gist:    Retired bank president, Helen Horton, lay dead at the foot of her townhouse stairs. Detective Phillips watched the EMTs load her body onto a gurney. Helen’s niece, Mary Ellen, her only relative, had split with her husband and had been living with Helen.  She heard the fall and called 911. She told police that her aunt had knocked on her bedroom door to tell her she was going for her morning walk and that she’d leave the door open for the housekeeper. Helen walked each day and was often seen with her colorful track suits, styled hair, and red lipstick.  Mary Ellen said the cat, Rosie, probably tripped Helen.  The housekeeper arrived and was distraught to hear that Helen was dead.  Helen had kept her on even though she didn’t need a full-time housekeeper since her niece had moved in.  The townhouse was immaculate and the detective noted that the bed was made and the bathroom fixtures gleamed.   The vanity held a soap dish and a denture cup.  He knew that Helen had recently reported some jewelry missing.  He speculated aloud that Helen may have interrupted another robbery.  When Mary Ellen heard that she claimed to not know anything about stolen jewelry but pointed a finger at the housekeeper.  The housekeeper was stunned that she would be accused of such a thing, started crying, and went to the bathroom to get a tissue.  While in there she saw that the cat, Rosie, had  knocked over the denture cup onto the counter top.  When the detective saw the spill, he knew who to arrest.

Crime scene:    Helen’s townhouse.

Clues:    The denture cup.

Suspects:  Mary Ellen, the housekeeper, or some random burglar.

Red herrings:    None.

Solution:  Mary Ellen wanted an advance on her inheritance and was angry when her aunt refused.  She argued with her aunt while Helen got ready to go for her walk.  Infuriated by Helen’s refusal she pushed her aunt down the stairs.  Though dressed for her walk Helen did not have her teeth in, but Mary Ellen had not noticed. As for the stolen jewelry last week the detective and Helen had been amused to find that the cat had taken the sparkly gems and hidden them.  Det. Phillips used the missing jewelry to explain the ‘crime scene investigation’ and to see who jumped at the chance to place blame.

My two cents:    Well, well, well.  Where do I start? 

There was the bit about the bed being made.  Well, who made it?  The housekeeper hadn’t arrived yet.  Was that supposed to be a red herring?

Next Helen said she was going to leave the door open for the housekeeper.  This full-time housekeeper doesn’t have a key?  Mary Ellen couldn’t let her in? What was the purpose of that bit of info?

So Helen did not have her teeth in yet.  Perhaps it was the last thing she did every morning before her walk.  Hardly a smoking gun.  

I’m confused about Det. Phillips using the missing jewelry to explain the ‘crime scene investigation’. For gawd’s sake, a woman was dead.  Isn’t that enough?

The story said that Helen had kept the housekeeper on even though she didn’t need to since her niece had moved in.  Well, her niece isn’t a housekeeper.  In fact, now the housekeeper has to clean up after two people.

The cat accidently knocked over the denture cup?  Those things are square and low and they have a snap-on top. How do you knock that over so that it spills out onto the counter top?  If it had fallen off the counter onto the floor maybe…

Once again the story was not complete.  You have to read the solution, which was almost a column long, to put the pieces together.   The cat knew who the killer was and tipped off the police.  Puuullleeese.  Two stars.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Appearing in issue #20, May 19, 2014

Title:  Flight of the sparrows

By Author:  Wendy Hobday Haugh


Tag line:     When a valuable heirloom flew the coop, the sheriff was stumped!

Police characters:   Sheriff Paul Marco and Deputy Barb Grant.

The gist:   At 7:00 the book club met at Shirley’s home.  The book club members were Bess Long, Tanya Piper, Claire Hoover, Josie Burns, and Shirley Denton. The book discussion began and at 8:30 Kenny Drake, the pizza delivery boy, arrived at the kitchen door with the usual half-time order.  Shirley left Kenny in the kitchen while she went into the living room to collect the money for the pizza.  When Shirley brought the dishes out to the kitchen later she realized her valuable set of silver salt and pepper shakers, in the shape of sparrows, was missing. She had dusted them just this morning.  She called the police.  When the sheriff questioned who else had been in the kitchen beside Kenny, Claire said that she had used the powder room that was just off the kitchen.  Bess said that she too had used that bathroom.  Tanya and Josie both had gone into the kitchen for sodas from the fridge.  Tanya added that Shirley herself had been alone in the kitchen several times and suggested Shirley may have hidden them herself for the insurance money. 

The sheriff drove to the pizza shop and spoke to Kenny. A search of his person and his car revealed nothing.  After delivering the pizza at Shirley’s house Kenny had made 5 more stops before returning to the shop.  His delivery list of names read: Denton, Baron, Mosher, Long, Crandell and Reynolds.

The sheriff had Kenny hop in the cruiser and they retraced his delivery route.  Sheriff Marco found the sparrows.

Crime scene:    Shirley Denton’s home.

Clues:    Timing of the deliveries and the names of the patrons.

Suspects:  Shirley Denton, Bess Long, Tanya Piper, Claire Hoover, Josie Burns, and Kenny Drake.

Red herrings:    None.

Solution:   Bess Long paid Kenny Drake $50 to pinch the sparrows and put them in her prepaid pizza box.  Sheriff Marco found the pizza box with the silver sparrows in it behind a bush at Bess’s home.

My two cents:    I’m having déjà vu here.  Didn’t we have a story about some guys, some salesmen or something, over to Kip’s house for football, and one of them was a slob and had to clean up, and one of them went into the kitchen for chips, and one guy went into the garage for something, and the pizza guy came, and they collected the money for him, and then the host realized his Rolex watch was missing?   And it was the pizza guy.  Right?   November 2013, Tracie Rae’s story.  

It sounds like this author just changed up the players a bit.  And WW coughed up $500.  I’m gonna start doing that.  Every story that comes out I’m going to copy (but change) and send it in.  Let’s see… I think I’ll make my story about a bunch of women who meet every week to do arts and crafts, and I’ll have Chinese food delivery, and the delivery guy will snatch a valuable Bedazzler and stick it in the lo mein, and then one of the ladies will volunteer to take the rubbish out.  (wink wink) She digs into the garbage, snatches up the goods, sticks it in her pants, and waddles home.  She gets caught because her husband now has Bedazzled hearts on his boxers.

Hey, it’s just as good as the story that sold.

The solution on this story was a whopping, astounding, mind boggling 130 words long.  In my opinion when you have to explain something at that length, then the story didn’t work.

Why have Deputy Barb there?  She didn’t do anything.

I hope Sheriff Marco got permission to search Kenny’s person and his vehicle.  The cops can’t just frisk a person or look in their car without a search warrant or the owner’s permission. I would say that perhaps the short story just didn’t have time to add ‘with his permission’, but I suspect the author just didn’t know any better.

The tag line doesn’t work.  It says the sheriff was stumped, but he wasn’t.  He figured it out ‘right quick’ as they say in my area.

One star.  It was an old rehashed story.  You could figure out it was Ms. Long from the story, but adding the pizza guy on in the solution doesn’t seem fair.  The solution was waaaaay too long.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Appearing in issue #19, May 12, 2014

Title:  A hole in the story?

By Author:  Clare Mishica


Tag line:     Uncle Eli had an unhealthy diet, but was it really the doughnuts that did him in?

Police characters:   Det. Delia Thorne and her partner Det. Barker

The gist:    A 911 call brings Det. Thorne and her partner to Eli’s house where his nephew, Gage, reported he found him lying on the floor. Thorne took photos as she surveyed the kitchen where Uncle Eli’s body lay.  There was a half-eaten doughnut on the table along with other pastries, a frosting smeared newspaper, a cell phone, a set of keys, a cracked coffee mug that had rolled towards the sink leaving a trail of coffee, and a briefcase leaning against a nearby cabinet with coffee splashes on it.  The ME announced Eli had been dead for less than one hour and could not rule out a heart attack until further tests were done.   Eli was on heart medication and was not known to eat healthy. Eli was wealthy and a major supporter of various wildlife organizations.  In fact he had publically stated that he had already made bequeaths for the animals. 

Nephew Settler said that Uncle Eli was fine last night and that his uncle had invited him to go fishing this weekend.  Settler was at work when his brother called him with the news.

Nephew Gage said that Uncle Eli had asked him to stop by this morning to talk about a fund raiser he was planning.  When Eli didn’t answer the door Gage used his key (both brothers had a house key) and went in.  He said he found him face down on the kitchen floor. He dropped down beside him and checked for a pulse, found none, and called 911.  He then rolled his uncle over and tried to administer CPR.  The EMTs took over when they arrived but they could not revive Uncle Eli. Gage said his keys and briefcase were still in the kitchen.

Det. Thorne looked over her photos again and knew it was not a heart attack but murder.  She suspected poison and she knew who did it.

Crime scene:    Uncle Eli’s home.

Clues:    Coffee spatter on the briefcase.

Suspects:   The two nephews….or his own heart.

Red herrings:    His bad heart, his poor eating habits. 

Solution:  Gage supposedly arrived after Uncle Eli had fallen, but his briefcase had coffee splatter which could only happen if he were there when the man fell and dropped his coffee.  Gage had gambling debts.

My two cents:    If Gage had dropped to the floor, turned over his uncle, and attempted CPR wouldn’t his clothes have been wet from the coffee mess?  The lack of that should have been a huge clue for the detectives but it wasn’t mentioned.   Maybe it got cut.

Detectives don’t generally take photos of the crime scene, but they can.  Maybe it was a quirk of hers.  I don’t think this story really needs photos but they didn’t spoil the tale.

Seems like a lot of people in these stories have gambling debts.  That’s getting a bit old.  Along with the scads of rich uncles and aunts making their heirs wait for the money. 

There was nothing wrong with the story.  It was just okay.  It wasn’t particularly entertaining or clever.  The clue was quite easy.   Three stars.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Appearing in issue #18, May 5, 2014

Title:  The coffee-break bandit

By Author:  Laird Long


Tag line:    One of the firm’s employees had sticky fingers, and Max Mann, office manager, was going to find out who it was…

Police characters:   None. 

The gist:    Someone stole $200 of petty cash from Bea’s side drawer while she was on coffee break.  She always took her break between 10:15 and 10:30.  Bea immediately reported the theft to Max, the office manager. Max quickly determined who was in the office and who was out in the field and began to question the three possible perps.  He asked accounts payable clerk, Annabeth, where she had been for the last half hour.  She said she had been at her desk working all morning and as a new employee she hoped he was happy with her work.  Next he visited the Sid the salesman’s office. When asked if he knew anything about missing petty cash the salesman showed Max his telephone which showed he was on a sales call from 10:13 to 10:32.  The last person he asked, Leslie the accounting manager, didn’t respond well to what she saw as an accusation and said she was nowhere near Bea’s desk this morning, then added, “Why doesn’t Bea put the money in a locked drawer anyway?”

After speaking with the three possible suspects, Max knew who did it.

Crime scene:    Office.

Clues:    The time of the theft.

Suspects:   The three employees, Annabeth, Sid, and Leslie.

Red herrings:    Annabeth had no real alibi.  Leslie knew the money was in an unlocked drawer.

Solution:  Max never mentioned the time of the theft, but Sid the salesman immediately knew what it was and had created himself an alibi with the phone call.  Sid admitted that his commissions were light and he needed the money.

My two cents:    Although this was a simplistic tale with an easy clue I found it entertaining because of the style.  Author Long captured a film noir flavor with this piece.

“I shoved a chair out with my foot, shut the office door with my hand. My office is that small, my responsibilities that large.  I’m Max Mann, the firm’s office manager, the one they all come to with problems.”

I can almost see Max with the sleeves rolled up on his crumpled white shirt, in need of a haircut, with an overflowing ashtray on his desk.  Great characterization.  I’ll even overlook the trite ‘a light bulb switched on’ because it fits the style of the tale.

Long used the ever popular three-suspect pattern and inserted red herrings.  The piece was well written. I couldn’t find any errors of any sort.  I’m inclined to give it 5-stars for the interesting twist to an old story format.