Title: An unwelcome guest
By Author: Tracie Rae Griffith
Tag line: An open window and a missing watch told Ella Edwards there was trouble afoot!
Police characters: None.
The gist: Great Aunt Theresa invited her nephew and niece over for tea and to meet her friend Ella. The niece left the table at one point to fetch more tea in the kitchen. The nephew left the table to retrieve a rare book from the living room that Aunt wanted to show Ella. While the two were gone, Aunt told Ella that she had decided to leave all her worldly goods to her niece and nephew, including her money, some jewelry and her grandfather’s antique gold watch which was quite valuable. She hadn’t told them about their inheritance yet.
Suddenly a hoarse shout echoed through the house followed by a loud thump. The sounds appeared to be coming from the living room and the two ladies ran in that direction. They found the nephew sprawled face-up on the floor, his eyes shut and his arms thrown wide. A few feet away on the floor lay a large leather- bound book. He sat up and rubbed his head. At this time the niece appeared in the doorway with a pot of tea asking what happened.
The nephew said he was standing in front of the bookcase looking for the rare book when he heard a noise. He claims he saw a dark figure behind him reflected in the mirror and he pointed to an ornate mirror on the wall. Although he didn’t get a good look, he thought it was a man. This man hit him on the head and shoved him to the floor. When the aunt looked around she realized her precious gold watch was missing from its display case. The nephew pointed to an open window and claimed the man must have escaped through it.
Ella pointed at the nephew and demanded to know where he had hidden the watch. How did she know?
Crime scene: Aunt Theresa’s home.
Clues: The way the nephew fell to the floor.
Suspects: The nephew. Or some unknown burglar.
Red herrings: None.
Solution: If the nephew had indeed been hit in the back of the head, he would have fallen forward, not backward. The watch was found hidden behind some books.
My two cents: Here we have a mystery with no police involvement and basically only one real suspect. It’s a little unusual for WW. There were no red herrings. At first I pictured him browsing through a large bookcase and thought the man in the mirror story was his downfall because how could he see into a mirror that was behind him? I guess it must have been a smaller bookcase with the mirror on the wall next to it because the mirror wasn’t a clue at all. Kudos to the author for the misdirection if that was intentional. I've said it before...WW just LOVES little old ladies.
The motive was missing. Why would this man steal from his aunt?
It would have made a more interesting story if the niece was included as a suspect as well. When the older ladies ran into the living room, the niece could have been in there already throwing a little doubt her way. You could even have the friend, Ella, leave to use the restroom, throwing her into the mix.
The rest of the details needed for this crime were there: the opportunity and the timing. Otherwise you either believe the nephew’s story or you don’t.
This was a simple story but basically it worked. The pacing was good. What would make it Five Star? Better character development, more misdirection or red herrings, and a believable motive.