Title: A party to die for
By Author: Gary Delafield
Tag line: Nothing kills a good party like cold-blooded murder!
Police characters: Detective Frank DeSantos
The gist: Mayor Palmer threw a party. All of the city’s most influential people were there. He had a jazz quartet, top shelf caterer, bartenders; the works. The Mayor liked to have members of the police department at his parties as guests hence Detective DeSantos and the Commissioner were in attendance. The Mayor planned to run for state office. His tough-on-crime platform had garnered him some media interest, and he even started showing up at crime scenes. At least the ones covered by the press. The Mayor was greeting everyone at the party, and introducing people to his wife Lena, who didn’t appear to fit in as well as the gregarious Mayor. When the Mayor shook Detective DeSantos’s hand, the detective noticed his pricey diamond tie tack and gold cuff links. After a few hours, feeling that he had made his appearance and could go, Det. DeSantos was about to leave when he heard screams. A woman using an upstairs bathroom had discovered the body of Lena on her bedroom floor, a window open, her jewelry box broken, and two bullet wounds in her head.
The coroner was summoned and the crime scene arrived. Marks in the grass below the window suggested a ladder had been placed there. All of the guests had been detained and were being interviewed. Detective DeSantos announced that since a gun had been fired they were going to do gunshot residue tests on everyone before they released them. The Mayor, who appeared to be trying to control his emotions, volunteered to go first to show his guests how easy it was. He sat in a chair, unbuttoned his shirt, and rolled up his sleeves. Everyone’s hands and clothing were tested, as is customary for this type of test. The process took nearly an hour but there were no positive test results. Detective DeSantos knew who the killer was.
Crime scene: The Mayor’s home.
Clues: The Mayor’s jewelry.
Suspects: Per the story, some random burglar who broke in in the middle of a huge party to steal jewelry.
Red herrings: None.
Solution: When the Mayor shook hands, the detective noticed his expensive cuff links, yet when he went to do the test, the Mayor unbuttoned his cuffs to roll up his sleeves. Knowing the gunshot residue test included shirts, the Mayor had changed his after he shot his wife, who was standing his way for state office. He had staged the ladder marks before the party.
My two cents: This was an interesting clue. I didn’t catch it. My only comment is about the gun. Have you ever fired a gun? Ever been around when one was fired? They’re quite loud. How no one heard two gunshots go off upstairs at a party filled with people is baffling. There was no mention of a silencer. Or perhaps the Mayor’s home was huge and sprawling, but then people wouldn’t be allowed to wander around upstairs. That was the only loose end for me. But it didn’t spoil the story.
At first I thought it was a bad choice for the Mayor to kill his wife when there were dozens of people around, but on second thought maybe it was brilliant. Someone breaking in in the middle of a party would raise questions with the cops, but crooks aren’t always that bright and often do dumb things, so it wouldn’t be so odd that they would dismiss a random burglar theory right off.
I don’t know about mayors showing up at crime scenes, but I do know the State Attorney does on occasion, so it’s possible. The SA shows up at particularly heinous crimes where there’s good media exposure. Hey, that’s the reality of public office. The man does get voted in.
The story was paced well; the police work was good; the motive was solid. The title and tag line fit and didn’t give the killer away. Four stars.