Friday, November 14, 2014

Appearing in issue #46, November 17, 2014

Title:  Lights out!

By Author:  Tracy Green

Tag line:     Everyone was in the dark about who had robbed the jewelry store!

Police characters:   Detective Angela Chu

The gist:    In the middle of a city-wide power outage the city’s most famous jewelry store had been robbed. Police speculated that only a skilled thief could have pulled off that stunt, someone who familiarized himself with the work habits of the partners, became familiar with the building layout, and understood the state-of-the-art security system.  At the time of the blackout and the theft, the night before, there were only two people in the building; one of three partners (Kirk) and a trusted security guard.  Kirk claimed he had been working late to get the books in order for the accountant who was coming the next day.  As he was preparing to leave the building, the lights went out. He said he called for the security man but he wasn’t at his station in the lobby.  He said he was concerned for the guard, as he was a bit elderly and went to look for him.  He took the elevator to the parking basement and found him in his car passed out drunk.  He said he was agitated and just left the man in the car, and he went home.  

Partner #2 (Lincoln), who was not present when the theft occurred, said he and the partner #3 (Paul) had attended the gem and mineral show at the convention and had been there the entire day.  He said he went home after the show and assumed Paul did, too.  Lincoln told Det. Chu that Kirk has a large art collection and had recently been scrambling to gather money to purchase a painting he desperate wanted.  Det. Chu thought perhaps Lincoln was telling her this to divert suspicion from himself.  Chu also learned that partner Paul had hefty alimony payments.

When Det. Chu interviewed partner Paul he told her that partner Lincoln had a gambling problem and that the jewelry store was insured to the max.

Det. Chu spoke to the security guard who admitted he had been drinking and even left the premises for awhile to meet his friends in a bar.  He said he had had too much to drink and decided to sleep it off in the car, never thinking he’d be found.  He told Chu that Paul had overseen the installation of the new security system and had bothered the technicians with endless questions. 

Det. Chu knew who her man was.

Crime scene:   jewelry store.  

Clues:    the power outage.

Suspects:  the three partners, or the security guard.

Red herrings:    Paul’s detailed knowledge of the security system.  The fact that the accountant was coming in the next day to look at the books.  Det. Chu’s thoughts on Lincoln trying to throw her off the track.

Solution:  Kirk is the thief.  He said he took the elevator to go check on the security guard, but the power was out, so how could he?  He took advantage of the outage, and when it came back on he found the guard, so he used him to lie about how the events unfolded.

My two cents:    I guess no one has ever heard of backup generators.  This is a high-buck jewelry store in a multi-level building that has an elevator and a lobby, with a state-of-the-art security system -- that goes down and leaves them vulnerable when the power goes out.  Backup generators keep the security system operational, the emergency lights on, and the elevators running and are part of every “state-of-the-art” system.  This is where the author made his/her biggest mistake.  He/she should have kept it a bit low key in the security department.

The tag line was cute but the title was ho-hum.  I know these are not the author’s doing.

Sometimes we have no red herrings; here we have three good ones.

Well, every-single-body had a motive here.  I sure can’t squawk about ‘no motive’.  Gambling problems, pesky alimony payments, art lust.   Everybody pointing fingers at everybody else. And to top it off they have a drunk for a security guard.

 I have to give this story 3 stars.  The pacing was good, no problems with the writing, and it had motive out the kazoo, but the clue was not believable and the characters were all sharks and drunks.  A bit over the top.  Sort of a 180 from last week’s story that had blah characters and no motive.


Mary Ann said...

I thought the pacing, characters and motive were all very good in this story. However, whenever there is a "power outage" story, it only takes me a minute to figure out who used something electrical, or said they did, or said they turned on a light or watched TV (when they couldn't have if there wasn't any power.) So although the solution was not difficult, I still liked the set up.

Susan said...

Jody, my husband is a security specialist. You wouldn't believe the number of people who will spend thousands for a top of the line security system, but not want to buy surge suppressors or even battery-powered backups. Usually, he is able to sell them only after a lightning strike or major power outage. Some people are strange when it comes to money. I immediately thought it was Kirk because of the elevator line. :)

Susan said...

Oh, I thought it odd that Tracy referred to the detective as Detective Chu, the detective, Chu, Angela Chu, and Angela. Did take anybody else out of the story?

Tamara said...

I was impressed that they used "Chu" to name one of the characters. There is customarily no ethnicity in WW.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Mary Ann. I know, right? As soon as we hear that the power goes off we start looking for someone to say they used something that takes electricity. There must be a more clever way to use a power outage. hmmm... we'll have to think on that one.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Susan. It's amazing how cheap people are at the wrong things. I guess they're playing the odds that they're more likely to be robbed during normal conditions than in a power outage. Unless, of course, the thief caused it in the first place... :)

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Susan. RE: The many ways to address Chu...I suppose the author is trying to not be so repetitive. It didn't bother me, but I generally keep it down to two. Either 'the detective' or Detective So and So would be my choices in a story.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Tamara. I've seen them use Spanish names before. I'm sure they have a huge Hispanic readership.

Mary Jo said...

Spanish? Chu is a Chinese surname. I would like to see the WW stories use some ethnic characters. E Pluribus Unum, folks.

M D'Angona said...

I know it's off-topic but was wondering...Does anyone else write the mini-mysteries in first person? I do that in every story I submit, but I don't see it very often, or I just don't read enough of them to know for sure??

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Mary Jo. You were commenting on the unusual use of ethnic names and I was adding that I've also seen Hispanic references.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@M I don't see a preference in their guidelines, but most of the stories are in third person. I believe I've heard Kate say she runs across a romance in first person every once in a while, so they're not taboo. My thought is... don't give them a single reason to reject. Change your story to third person for the WW submission.

M D'Angona said...

It was just an inquiry to see if I was in the minority. The two stories that were accepted by WW were in first person, so I think I'm O.K. continuing with my preferred format. Plus, no matter if you don't give them any reason (at least in the author's mind) to reject, they will come up with one anyway...sometimes.

Jody E. Lebel said...

what a crappy job they have... crushing author's dreams.

Mary Ann said...

I've had a few romances published that were in the first person. I haven't tried that in the mysteries, but I don't see a problem with it. If it's done right, it can actually enhance some stories. I say stick with it if that's what you like!

Joyce Ackley said...

I've never seen a first-person mystery pubbed in WW, but I've read romances in both first person and third person. A friend of mine, Birdie Etchison, had a romance pubbed in WW a few years ago. Birdie wrote it in first person, present tense. I don't recall having read another one like that. It is beautifully written.

I love to write in first person. Sometimes it presents POV issues, however, especially with descriptions.

Tamara said...

I've had romances in firt person published, in present tense as well. I don't think it's a reason for rejection.