Title: A is for Apple
By Author: Herschel Cozine
Tag line: Was the apple clutched in the victim’s hand a clue – or just a piece of fruit?
Police characters: Unnamed detective and his mother-in-law Gladys.
The gist: Local citizen and attorney Forrest Matthews was murdered. He was found dead at a party thrown by Frank (a partner in Matthews’s law firm) and Judy Allen, where there were six guests: Matthews; Bill (worked at accounting firm) and Madeline Smart (a librarian); Patricia Mills (accounting firm) and Steven (techie type business owner); and Mary Owens (accounting firm). Judy, Bill, Patricia and Mary were co-workers. Matthews was found dead in the living room with a knife in his back and an apple in his hand, apparently clutched from the bowl of mixed fruit on a nearby table. He had to crawl to the table to get it.
This information is relayed to Gladys, who loves to stick her nose in her son-in-law’s cases. She begins to ponder the apple connection and comes up with every link she can think of much to the annoyance of the detective: An apple a day; an apple for the teacher; the Garden of Eden; Isaac Newton; William Tell; Adam and Eve; Snow White; Granny Smith, etc.
Gladys looked at the list of names and pointed out the killer. How did she know?
Crime scene: The home of the host, Frank Allen.
Clues: The apple and the careers of the guests.
Suspects: All of the guests.
Red herrings: None.
Solution: Apple is the name of a piece of fruit and also of a computer. Steven Owens was a computer expert. Turns out Matthews had lost a case that led to Steven’s cousin going to prison.
My two cents: WW just loves old lady sleuths. Author Cozine was smart enough to pick up on that and has created grumpy Gladys and her detective son-n-law who knows better than to discuss cases with civilians, but does it anyway to keep the peace in his home. You gotta’ feel for him. I may have lost count, but there are at least two stories that I can think of with these characters, and I suspect there will be more.
A couple of little things:
“You said there were no fingerprints on the knife,” was said by Gladys in this story, but this fact was never mentioned. I think some editing was done here that messed with the detail flow. It happens.
I know this is a cozy but think about it…you’re badly, badly hurt, stabbed for heaven’s sake. It hurts. You’re bleeding. You’re scared you’re going to die. All you want to do is get help, get to a phone. Your adrenaline is raging. You’re disoriented from it. Woozy and gasping what might be your last breath. Terror, panic, and regret may be buzzing around your head, but these stories always have the victim leaving a clue that takes thinking and connecting. My killer is a techie, he works with computers, Apple is a brand of computer, oh look, there’s a bowl of fruit. I’ll just painfully crawl over there and grab one and that will help the police figure it all out. Talk about painful; it hurt to read the solution.
This is not a criticism of the story but what kind of moron stabs a guy at a house party that he’s a guest at? Put on a mask and gloves, wear black, and ambush your victim as he’s getting in his car in the parking garage. That guy deserved to get caught.
Anyway, with all that said, the writing was good, the story flowed well. Cozine is developing his characters for the long haul. There’s wit and reader sympathy for the detective. By the way, maybe the name of the detective was cut here because I’m pretty sure he had a name in the last story. The clue was in the details and was not obvious. The only thing I can complain about, although it was novel, is the improbable scenario of a dying man connecting apples with computer techies.
Four stars for Herschel.