Friday, August 22, 2014

Appearing in issue #34, August 25, 2014

Title:  The late Mr. Dobbs

By Author:  Shannon Fay


Tag line:     Someone had decided that the wealthy investor’s time was up!

Police characters:   Detectives Sonja Nager and Ryan Burnell.

The gist:    Mr. Dobbs, a wealthy man, was found dead by his nephew, Connor, who had had a 9:30 appointment to see him at his office. The nephew, who called the police, claimed he arrived and found his uncle lying on the floor, and the office was a mess. He said someone had hit him on the head hard (yep, that’s what he said), and while checking his uncle for a pulse the nephew got blood on his shirt.  Detective Burnell admonished Connor, telling him he should not have touched the body.  Connor retorted that he wasn’t exactly thinking about a defense when he checked to see if his uncle was dead.  When asked why he was there to see his uncle, he claimed he was just visiting to catch up.  The police told the nephew that they had spoken to Dobbs’s lawyer and was told Mr. Dobbs recently learned he had a terminal disease and was planning on changing his will.  This looked bad for the nephew who might be cut out of the new will.

The detectives viewed the crime scene more closely. The furniture was overturned and papers scattered all around.   Post-it notes were stuck everywhere with dates and notes on them. Mr. Dobbs seemed to be forgetful.  A battery operated mantel clock was found on the floor.  The battery had come loose, and the time on the face read 9:45.  As the detectives were looking around, a woman rushed into the office.  She paled at the sight of the body on the floor. She said she was Dobbs’s secretary.  She claimed she had come in late this morning because she was sick earlier. She said Dobbs was a kind and sweet man, and he had planned to leave all his money to charity.  She told police that both Dobbs’s nephews were unhappy with that news. (Ah, the plot thickens.  Two nephews.)  She also informed them that both nephews were scheduled to meet with their uncle today, one at 9:00 (Sam) and one at 9:30 (Connor).  

An alarm began to beep, and the secretary explained it was Dobbs’s wristwatch, and that he always set it to remind him to go the gym.  Detective Nager pressed the stop button and noticed that the watch read 11:35 but the actual time was 11:05.  The secretary told her that Dobbs always set his clocks fast because he often ran late.

Detective Nager knew who killed Dobbs.

Crime scene:    Mr. Dobbs’s office. (Don’t you hate that double S situation with names?  I never use a character name that ends with an S just because of that.)

Clues:    The appointment times and the clock times.

Suspects:  The two nephews.  

Red herrings:    One nephew had blood on his shirt.

Solution:  When the mantel clock fell and broke it read 9:45 but it was really only 9:15, the time when the first nephew, Sam, would have been in the office.

My two cents:    Well…let’s see, where do I start? 

Begin rant.

 1)  Another rich man who doesn’t have security in his office building.  Not realistic. 

2) The police called and talked to the man’s lawyer.  Really?  How did that happen?  They find a body and they call his lawyer?  Lawyers don’t give out that kind of info on their clients.  Attorney/client privilege.   So, not happening.

 3)  The police tell this info to the nephew.  Uh-uh.  Police don’t give out details like that.  That would give someone time to form a convincing alibi/story for themselves.

 4) Mr. Dobbs was quite forgetful and had lots of Post-its everywhere.  What am I missing here?  Who cares?  He’s got a secretary to take care of all that.  Waste of words here.

  5) This man who had recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness still goes to the gym.  Okay, maybe he loved working out.  But me…if I’m going to die…I’m eating cake and ice cream.  By the gallon. Oh, and drinking will be going on.  Lots of drinking.

6)  The police yelled at Connor for checking on his uncle.  Puuullleeze.  And if the man had not been dead, and Connor never checked on him and then later Dobbs died… who would be to blame, huh?  It would take a pretty cold person to look at a relative all bloody on the floor and just say eww and call the police.  Not believable.

7)  The place was tossed.  Why?  The nephews knew their uncle was leaving his money to charity.  They knew he had a lawyer.  What is this guy looking for?  A copy of the will?  Is he that dumb to think the lawyer doesn’t have the master? 

8)  I’m not a fan of the train left the station at 4:30 and was headed east to Dallas at 45 miles an hour, and another train left Houston heading north at 4:55, traveling at 40 miles per hour…so what did Mrs. Smith have for breakfast, eggs or donuts?   But beside the fact that you have to write up a timeline to solve this tragedy (and I don’t mean the man’s death) what was the murder weapon?  I guess we don’t need to know.  It was probably the mantel clock but it got cut and is at this very moment sitting on Johene’s floor, still all bloody and stuff.

9)  I’m not sure why Connor lied about why he was there.  Both nephews knew about the will change.  This wasn’t just a “catching up” visit.  He had scheduled an appointment.  Maybe that was a red herring.

10)  Was it just a coinkydink that both nephews had appointments with their uncle today a half hour apart and Connor didn’t know about it? 

11)  One has to wonder why the nephews came to their uncle’s office to talk to him.  Doesn’t he have a home for family visits? And they had to schedule an appointment to see this ‘kind and sweet man’?

12)  What kind of kind and sweet man cuts his relatives out of his will for no apparent reason?  Maybe his terminal illness was a brain tumor that made him loopy.

Lucky 13)  So what’s the motive here?   There was a murder here all right, but it wasn’t the one in the story.  This author ignored all the problems, paid no attention to common sense, and just dumped all these loose parts together and let them hang.  And it sold.  Go figure.

End rant.

Too many dumb things going on in this story.  I think this is my first “1 star”.


Mary Jo said...

Whew, Jody, you must have had some kind of week. Aside from jumping all over the writer who got paid after all, what about looking at the editing. Wouldn't you expect editors who specialize in the mystery story to know how to analyze the details before they sign on the dotted line? It isn't as if they didn't have more than one or two stories to choose from. Who knows what goes on behind closed doors? The Shadow knows.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Mary Jo. I know, right? We're trying to figure out what WW wants and they're all over the map. I'm thinking with their 2 million readers they're trying to throw every kind of story out there so everyone gets their favorite sooner or later. They sure don't want crisp, interesting writing that pulls all the pieces together. At least not this week.

RE: getting paid. When actors make a movie and it gets terrible reviews and Rotten Tomatoes slams it...the actors, the writers, the directors, etc...they all still got paid. Doesn't mean the work was good.

Jody E. Lebel said...

Just thought of something else. I (me, myself) don't like the writing on this story. A critique is very subjective. Many times those two movies critiques would disagree and one would give it a thumbs up and the other a thumbs down. So this blog is only MY opinion. Someone else might just LOVE this story. mother. :)

Tamara said...

Well, I hate to sound (read) like a broken record, but Jody, you should be writing sitcoms. Your hilarious comments made my day. Aside from that, it occurred to me that WW should hire you, with your knowledge, as a consultant for their mysteries.

Joyce Ackley said...

I didn't read this story, but Jody, your summary/critique was so funny! Although I didn't read this one, your remarks make me wonder why MY little story made it all the way to Seattle but didn't make the cut. I don't understand how some of these mysteries wind up in the magazine and others that seem to be well-written with good structure are turned down. Ah, sweet mystery of life...LOL

Mary Jo said...

Now Tamara has the right idea. WW would be worlds ahead if they ran their mystery choices by you before making the final cut. How often is a story spoiled because neither the author nor the editor know the protocol?

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Tamara. RE: hiring me as a consultant for the mysteries. That's Johnene's job. But even for their lowly intern first-reader position they wanted a degree in journalism. But thanks for the thought.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Mary Jo. They just have to read my blog for a few weeks. Without joking though, I have to assume (and we all know how that goes) that WW has qualified, talented and experienced editors that know what they're doing when it comes to pleasing their readers. Or most of their readers. Some of their readers. A few anyway. The fact that they offer diversified types of stories, different styles of writing, and they are all over the map with no consistency in the product, tells me that any one of our stories could make it. It's all in the timing and the whim of the editors. Every one of your stories that I've seen is better than this week's selection. Why it was chosen is the real mystery.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Joyce. Such is the crazy life of a magazine fiction writer. It's not all unicorn hats and rainbow poop, that's for sure. And when the time comes that our story is chosen, we will say it was because of the fabulous writing...when deep down we know that it's just luck. Maybe we should chip in and send Ms. Johnene some chocolates. :)

Mary Jo said...

Maybe the WW editor does read your blog, Jody. But we all know there are some people who do not like to be told what to do. That is a shame because you do offer an education here.

Anonymous said...

I get the distinct impression (from the stories of mine that WW has published) that there is more than one editorial hand at work. Some of the edits are so wonderful I slap my forehead that I didn't think of it in the first place. And some are so ham fisted they all but ruin the story. (I once had a story where info in the body of the story was contradicted by info in the solution. Yes, Jody ripped me mercilessly, and no, I didn't submit it like that.) We know the EIC has finally say on submissions; perhaps someone at head office is monkeying with the stories after Johnene passes them on.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Anonymous. Although you didn't leave your name you seem to be indicating that you are Shannon. We all know that our stories are changed, and almost never for the better in our eyes. I too have seen stories where there are contradictions and clues left out. What is WW thinking? I ripped apart this story as it appeared after they fiddled with it. I know a bad review hurts. Been there. And it's frustrating when it's out of your control. This story had so many problems I couldn't give it a pass. Myself, and the readers of this blog (who are worldwide by the way) are trying to analyze the weekly offerings and figure out just what the heck WW wants from us. After doing this for close to two years...I still don't know. And we can't figure out why WW doesn't just leave a good story alone. On my stories I've had them change the color of a dress, a silver frame to a teapot, and add a brother -- all silly things. There must be a reason. But we can't figure it out. You're way ahead of most of the readers of this blog. You got a contract. With success comes critiques and reviews. I spoke to Nora Roberts at a conference one time. She told me she gets slammed all the time and you have to build up a hard shell. You can't please everyone all the time. So to heck with them ... in this case me. You've got what it takes to get published. Hold your head up.