Friday, September 12, 2014

Appearing in issue #37, September 15, 2014

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.


Joyce Ackley said...

I really need to subscribe to WW so I can read every story. Instead, I buy the magazine at the supermarket. Sometimes I will miss an issue, and this is one of them.

I'd like to read the story. I figured out the killer from what you said in the summary, before I read the solution.

I thought exactly the same thing about crawling to get the piece of fruit. If the table was close by, he may have managed to crawl to it, painful as that was. But he'd have to pull himself up to his knees at least, to read the bowl of fruit and pluck that apple out. Right? He'd even have to raise up to get it from a coffee table, I would think, and such a movement would hurt like the dickens if he had a stab wound in the back.

My mystery that was rejected (but made it to Seattle) had a little incident that stretched credibility as well. I've got another mystery simmering in the pot, but I'm not sure the clue is even evident enough.Oh, well.

I'll have to read this one about the apple.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Joyce. Sometimes Chris has a scan of the stories and she shares via email.

Chris, do you have this one?

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Joyce. I charge for a critique of mini-mysteries, but I am offering you one for free seeing as how you follow my blog and participate on occasion. Let me know if you want to take me up on that offer, but realize I 'say it like it is'. I don't put these critiques on my blog, they are private and go straight back to you. I promise I won't draw blood. Well, maybe one or two drops...but that's it.

Joyce Ackley said...

Wow! Yes! I would love to take you up on that great offer! And don't worry about the drops of blood. I've got plenty of gauze and Band-aids. And a bottle of Riesling chilling in the fridge.
Is there a particular email address I should sent it to? Is an attachment ok?
Let me know. I'm excited!

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Joyce. Send it as a Word attachment in your email to I'll make comments right on the document and send it back all bloodied up. Obviously, I can't guarantee Johnene will buy it... she's rejected lots of my own mysteries...but at least you'll send it off knowing it has a good chance to get under her nose.

Joyce Ackley said...

Thanks. I'll shoot it over later. Need to check it to sure it's ready.

Mary Jo said...

Sorry, but I am not a fan of this Gladys and her son in law. She irritates me to death. As for this particular story, all you had to do was read the title and you have the solution in a nutshell.

I am hoping the mystery writers among you can come up with something riveting. Actually, the mystery in the September 22nd issue has a lot going for it. I might even give it five stars.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@Mary Jo. I didn't get the solution from the title. Or from the tag line for that matter. I never thought about Apple being a computer. And when I read the solution, I just rolled my eyes. It reminded me of the story where the guy grabbed the white knight in the chess game and the detective knew the killer was the guy whose name was the same as the Lone Ranger...or something stoopid along those lines.

I don't care for crabby Gladys either. She's the consummate bad mother-in-law. I'd like to see a story where she gets killed. But we would all know who did it.

Chris said...

Have emailed you three scanned mysteries, Joyce, so hopefully you'll get them soon. I can't get the mag here in the UK so it's thanks to Mary Jo for sending them to me each week.

Jody E. Lebel said...

What a nice group of writers... and now friends. Next goal: We all get a WW contract. Karma often works.

Joyce Ackley said...

Got the scans, Chris. Thank you so much. I will email you later this weekend.