Title: Scared of his shadow
By Author: Mary L. Johnson
Tag line: The detective wondered if the burglary victim would recover from the shock!
Police characters: Officer Glen Stills, Det. Becka Davis
The gist: A house was burgled. The victim, Henry, lived a quiet life. He didn’t go out and never had visitors. His house was spotless. He said he was agoraphobic and suffered from xenophobia; that he feared crowds and strangers. He also had severe claustrophobia and pathophobia; fear of tight places and disease. The detective had taken a psychology course in college and knew what he was talking about. She clued in the officer, who seemed to have little patience for all this man’s problems. He sighed heavily, for example, when the man was talking. Henry reported that he had left his home to get his mail and must have forgotten to lock his door, which he almost always does. A while later when he was in the kitchen he heard someone in his study, a lovely room filled with bookshelves. Henry said he had an on-line business of buying and selling rare editions but lately those e-readers had cut into his profits. Henry peeked into the study and saw a man wearing a ski mask and gloves taking jewelry from his late mother’s jewelry box that had been kept in a locked drawer. The drawer had signs of being forced open. The jewelry was valuable and had been insured and Henry had a list of the items he had prepared for the insurance company. Henry did not confront the thief because he has a severe case of traumatophobia, fear of injury. He said he was scared and fled into a tiny coat closet and hid until he heard the man go away. Det. Davis peeked in the closet. It was overstuffed with coats and boots, and it smelled like moth balls. The officer whispered to the detective that he was getting a phobia just listening to the victim.
Det. Davis answered that Henry did not have a fear of money and that she was going to canvas the pawn shops as she didn’t believe him. How did she know?
Crime scene: Henry’s home.
Clues: All the phobias. Henry’s business. Insurance on the jewelry.
Suspects: Some unknown intruder…or Henry.
Red herrings: Perhaps all the phobias acted as a drug to put the reader to sleep so they missed the clue.
Solution: Henry slipped up when he claimed to have hidden in the closet. A man with severe claustrophobia could never have done that. He faked the break-in for the insurance money because his book business was failing.
My two cents: I have stoopidaphobia. Fear of wasting my time on dumb stories that don’t gel. Henry bought and sold rare books. But his business was being hurt by e-readers. Huh? The detective was going to canvas the pawn shops. I guess she missed the clue that the jewelry was insured.
The title fits, but the tag line is off base. Although no one says the police have to be nice, usually WW likes kind people in their stories, not police who make fun of victims. Maybe Johnene has a little mean streak in her? Mean enough to make us suffer through this story.
Two stars. At least it was paced well. There were lots of phobias to keep the reader busy missing the clue.