Title: Cool in a crisis
By Author: Joan Dayton
Tag line: The thief targeted an easy victim. Or so he thought!
Police characters: Chief Wagner
The gist: Ms. McGillicuddy, head librarian, spoke to a group of book club ladies about all the home invasions that had hit the news in a neighboring town. She said the police chief informed her, and asked her to pass along, that he believed the thief was targeting their town next. It was noted that most people in the town don’t lock their doors. The thief tended to case the neighborhood, see who was home, who lived alone, and then broke in and stole cash hidden in odd places. He never took TVs or large items, which is why neighbors might never see anything suspicious. So far no one had been hurt. And no one had actually ever seen the thief, so it wasn’t known if it was a man or woman. Two of the ladies, Ruth Ann and Maribel (friends since third grade), took in the info and noted that they were always out at the same times each week; Wednesdays at the book club, Thursdays it was lunch at Joanne’s Diner, and Saturdays it was the movie matinee.
When Ruth Ann got home that day she surprised a man dressed in workman’s clothes in her kitchen. She noted he was on the small side and didn’t appear to be armed. He had been rifling through a drawer where she kept her grocery money. “Hey, you’re not supposed to be back yet,” he said. The phone rang. The man told her not to pick it up. She thought fast and told him if she didn’t her friend would be worried, so he let her answer the phone. It was Ms. McGillicuddy who claimed she was calling all the book club ladies to see if everyone was okay. Ruth Ann told her she was fine but when she called her friend Mable to please tell her she couldn’t make lunch tomorrow.
Within five minutes four patrol cars pulled up to Ruth Ann’s house, summoned by Ms. McGillicuddy. How did she know something was amiss?
Crime scene: Ruth Ann’s home.
Clues: The ladies’ schedules and the name Mable.
Red herrings: None.
Solution: When Ruth Ann asked Ms. McGillicuddy to give a message to Mable, Ms. McG recognized the warning. Ruth Ann would never call her friend the wrong name and they never missed Thursday’s lunch.
My two cents: The thief said Ruth Ann wasn’t supposed to be home yet, but the book club was over. So…she was supposed to be home. That part didn’t work for me. I think a quick line about the library meeting breaking up a bit early should have been included to keep the timeline straight. Ruth Ann calling her old friend by the wrong name was a great move on her part. But Ms. McG telling the police she knew it was a plea for help because these ladies never miss lunch is a bit lame.
The story said within five minutes the police got there. Why was the thief still there? Having tea, was he? He had his money, he could have warned Ruth Ann to not call the police for twenty minutes or he’d be back, or some such threat, and dosey-doed out of there. Five minutes is a long time. Don’t think so? Try standing on one foot for five minutes and see just how long it is.
All in all not a bad solve-it-yourself. I don’t pay much attention to names in stories so I didn’t catch the wrong name clue. I thought maybe Ms. McG got to thinking that something might be off because Ruth Ann would probably not have someone else call her friend to cancel lunch. I know – that was a stretch, but remember I didn’t catch the name. For a minute there I thought maybe Ms. McG was involved and had told the thief when people would be home from the book club meeting. I thought her call was a little suspicious, sort of checking to see if all went well or not.
4 stars because of the timeline thingy. Can you tell I got tired of typing McGillicuddy?