Title: All in the details
By Author: Bern Sy Moss
Tag line: It was a bad day for balding, not-too-tall guys in downtown Springfield!
Police characters: Deputy Jimmy Willis, Sheriff Trudy Trueworth
The gist: Five men got their pockets picked in town and were waiting at the police station to report the crime. In addition the postman dropped off a bunch of wallets that he found in the mailbox near the post office. The five men were all short and bald, and all wore glasses. None of them knew where the theft had occurred, but they knew when they realized their wallets were missing: hardware store, dry cleaners, café, grocery store and the library. The sheriff drew up a map of where those locations were, and of the post office where some of the wallets were dumped. Four of the men got their wallets back but they had been cleaned out of their money. The fifth man did not get his wallet back. The sheriff studied the map and announced that ‘a downtown locale’ was missing from the map. She then drew in the bus station which was central to all the locations. From this she knew where to find the thief.
Crime scene: Downtown Springfield.
Clues: The men all looked the same. One wallet was missing.
Red herrings: None.
Solution: Because the men all looked the same, the sheriff knew the thief was looking for a new ID. She went to the bus station and searched for a man who looked like the victim who didn’t get his wallet back.
My two cents: Almost the entire first column is spent talking about Deputy Jimmy waiting to take over Sheriff Trueworth’s job. I mean who cares? Another quarter of a column was taken up with the five men bitching about having their pockets picked, and wanting to know where the sheriff was, and when are the police going to find this guy. What a waste of space. Finally in the third column we get some information but the solution took up almost the whole last column. This would have been a 400-word story if you cut out the extraneous material.
I wish the sheriff would have just noticed that the bus station was close to all the spots where the men noticed their wallets had been stolen instead of the clumsy “A downtown locale was missing from the map.” There was no time frame in the story. We have to assume these thefts occurred within minutes of each other as all five men ended up going to the police station at the same time. Did they walk to the police station? Drive there? Of course, these wallets could have been stolen hours before the men finally noticed them missing, so realistically that map of where they discovered them gone is rather useless.
That town sure had a lot of short, bald men.
The sheriff told the deputy in the beginning of the story to always pay attention to the details. So that’s where the title comes from. It’s not a strong tie. And it’s not a strong title.
I’m not impressed with this story. The writing was stilted. The pacing was off. The timing of the crimes wasn’t clear. The setup was way too long. There were clumsy spots. The solution was laborious. The only thing I did like was the fact that the sheriff had a hunch and headed to the bus station to look for a short, balding man with glasses that looked like the guy who never got his wallet back. Good thing for her the perp didn’t have time to take an earlier bus.
One star for a decent clue. Oh, and the tag line was clever.