Police characters: Sheriff Travis Brown
The gist: Real estate agent Terri had been showing a couple a house that had some appliances included in the price. A large freezer in the basement was one of them. When they went to look at it the husband jokingly said, “I wonder if they left us any steaks?” When he opened the chest freezer they found another real estate agent. He had been clubbed and stuffed into the freezer. He had been at the house the day before and crime scene estimated that his body had been in the freezer since yesterday.
The real estate manager said that the victim irritated a lot of people and that he had a nasty sense of humor. She checked her log and found that three other agents had shown the house yesterday. The victim was the listing agent, so he insisted on accompanying all of them for the showings. The victim did not have a key to the property, only the showing agents had keys.
The first agent, Marion, was a petite woman in her 60s. She confirmed that the victim had been with her when she showed the house, but had been alive when she closed up and they all left. She suggested the police talk to the skinny blonde who just joined the agency, saying that the victim liked to flirt with the new ones.
The skinny blonde turned out to be Terri, the woman who had found the body. She said she forgot to mention that she had been with the victim the day before. The same buyers who looked at the house yesterday with her had asked for a second look today, and that’s how they found the body. She said she had left the victim a voice mail so he’d know the house was showing again today, but he never showed up. She claimed that she and the victim were not romantically involved.
The third agent who showed the house yesterday was a man name Mike, a retired contractor. He claimed that when he showed the house the victim told him he had a meeting later. Mike didn’t know what the meeting was about and assumed the victim was headed off to a bar.
The sheriff knew who did it.
Crime scene: The basement of a house being shown for sale.
Clues: Where the body was found. The time of death. The victim had a nasty sense of humor.
Suspects: The three agents who showed the house on the day he died. Marion, a petite older lady. Terri, a skinny blonde woman. Mike, a former contractor turned real estate agent.
Red herrings: Terri lied about being with the victim on the day he died.
Solution: Mike did it. He was the only one of the three that could drag and lift a dead body into the freezer. Mike had asked Terri out but she had declined. The victim teased Mike relentlessly about it even saying that Terri had accepted a date with him. In a fit of jealous anger Mike clubbed the victim then put him in the freezer. He was hoping to dispose of the body the next day, but Terri showed the house before he could do that.
My two cents: Okay, I’m ticked off. At first I thought, “What a great story, I can’t find the clue.” Only a man would be strong enough to lift the body into the freezer. But the story didn’t say the how old the male was or talk about his build. He could have been 85 years old for all we know. And what if the two women teamed up? An older lady and a skinny blonde could do it if they worked together. So the clue lies in the motive. I went back and read the story again. No motive.
The victim was the listing agent, so whoever sold the house, they would both make money. Nobody really liked him, but nobody hated him either. The older lady commented that he liked the ladies and hit on the new agents. Still no motive. The agent, Terri, who found the body, omitted the fact that she had been with the victim the day he’d been killed. So she lied. That’s suspicious, but that’s not a motive. It was, however, a good red herring.
I anxiously turned the magazine to read the solution. Then I frowned. The reason I couldn’t find the motive was because the author didn’t give us one. The motive was in the solution. It was a long and drawn out. It explained how the fact that the victim had a nasty sense of humor played into the motive. Readers hate that they can’t figure it out from the story. They feel cheated, and rightly so.
There are only seven reasons a person will kill (other than war, social violence, or serial killer/sociopath). Jealousy is one of them, but you have to love someone to be jealous enough to take action. You don’t kill every man who comes along and gets a date with a woman you just asked out and who said no. The motive sucked.
Loved the title. The tag line was clever. There was a missing word and a bad comma in the second column. (Harrison Walsh, had been clubbed in the basement the washer, then his body stuffed in the freezer.) I’m thinking it was a fast edit and it got missed in the chopping. Even after three edits by the publisher, my book still has one typo. Very annoying. But it happens.
It was an interesting premise, the writing was crisp (although I’m not a fan of She said with a sneer. Too much telling vs showing) and the pacing was good. Two stars for the above. The unbelievable motive and missing details in the story eat up the last three stars.