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.


Mary Jo said...

I am going to give the author a pass on this one. With six months between these two very similar stories, it is entirely possible she never saw the previous one. You know how long it has been taking to get any response from the editor. It just may be that synchronicity strikes again. HOWEVER, the editorial staff certainly was familiar with this plot, so how would you explain the decision to publish it again? Dementia?

On the other hand, when you take a look at this whole little mystery genre, there is a striking similarity in the majority of the stories that make it to print. The detective and his/her partner, the three suspects, the dysfunctional family, etc.

Joyce Ackley said...

I haven't read this story, but I remember the similar one that involved a pizza delivery man and a Rolex watch.
It is possible the author of this story did not read the other one, but I would think the editor would remember it.
My story that I nave not heard back from involves a pair of detectives (male and female), 3 suspects, and a dysfunctional family. I thought those are the elements WW wants! Actually, you can take those 3 elements and write stories that are very different.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Mary Jo

I think the elements of a mini-mystery, the red herrings, the pattern of 3, the amateur sleuth, and the dysfunctional family are typical patterns that are often used and used successfully. Much like in the romance genre you have the pattern of boy meets girl, boy gets girl, trouble arrives, HEA. You could write a thousand stories with the same pattern, yet the stories are different. In this case, not only is the pattern the same, but the story line is almost a match to another published story. How that happened? Only the author knows that. Why WW chose it when they have a couple thousand fresh stories passing their desks every week...that's the real mystery.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Joyce. It is possible that the author never saw the original story -- but not probable. It's too similar. She did change up the end to add a partner in the crime, but she did it so clumsily that she had to have a 130-word solution to explain it all. Very poor job IMO.

I have 'copied' an author's idea that I thought was killer. We all do to some extent. But I changed it up to create an original story, I didn't just change the names and the type of item that was stolen. This story is a rip-off of the original one, right down to leaving the pizza man alone in the kitchen while she went to collect money. That WW allowed it is puzzling.

Tamara said...

I'm laughing my head off at your comments, Jody. I thought I had picked up an old copy of WW when I read this story. I thought, "Didn't I just read this a couple weeks ago?" How that happened, when they are inundated with submissions, is beyond me. Then I thought I was reading a brand new story when I viewed the solution. There's another one coming up that does the same thing. Mine will appear soon...I'm braced. I also had a romance selected to come out in a few weeks. I'm feeling lucky.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Tamara
Maybe we should just write one long solution and to heck with the story.

I've got my red pencil all sharpened up for you. Bwah-ha-ha.

Mary Jo said...

Jody, what if this plot turns out to be a favorite with the editors and we see it over and over again?

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Mary Jo

That's why we better get working on our versions. I have dibs on Chinese food and Bedazzler. You could do Mexican food and a diamond ring. He could stick the ring in the guacamole.

Tamara said...

I'm doing a flower in my upcoming story. I have another version (that was rejected because I left out the clue) if you'd like that one better. I hope your lead gets bent, Jody.

Mary Jo said...

By the way, the best thing about this story was the title. Flight of the Sparrows. Very evocative.

Okay, I am going to give serious thought to a Mexican Fiesta. Tamales, chili rellenos and cheese enchiladas with refried beans and spicy rice. Maybe I will put my diamond ring in the pinata. Ole!

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Tamara

Okay, leaving out the clue is really a no-no. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $500.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Mary Jo

Pinata, huh? I like it. Let the kids take it home. No one would suspect the little darlings are part of a heist. This is getting better and better. :)

Tamara said...

Right, Jody, I was kicking myself. All I needed was a sentence of dialogue from one of the detectives, and I realized my error as soon as I dropped it in the mail. If she'd overlooked it and sent me a contract, I was going to add it to my emailed copy, but she caught it (she doesn't always; remember, we've questioned some of them with no clues). You'll see what I mean when you read the one coming up; it's a remake with a different flower.

Chris said...

I had the same feeling of 'this isn't new' when I read this one, but it put me in mind of TWO old stories, not only the boys watching the game but also the kids in college and a missing trophy (I think). That one had a list of names that had to be matched up to the clue in the story. Maybe pick and mix is the way to go if you want to get an acceptance.

That aside, I thought the writer wrote a reasonable story here; it flowed well and the clues were all there, but it did feel like a rip-off. If that's not the case and the idea was original, then I wish they'd drop by and put us all right.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Chris
I don't think many of the authors even know about this blog.

I don't think I remember the college kids story. Might have been before I started all this. So now we have 3 versions of the same story. That's pretty sad really. I can see with all the stories they read, and with all the issues they have published, one editor might forget. But these stories get the stamp of approval from yet an even higher editor than Johnene. I'm sure that editor doesn't have to read the amount of submissions that the lower editors/readers do, and yet even she is letting these through. It's puzzling.