Title: Death takes a tumble
By Author: Aimee Deschaine
Tag line: One thing was certain, Della’s descent had not happened by accident!
Police characters: Officer John Francisco and newspaper reporter, Cora.
The gist: Ms. Della Reed, the town’s wealthiest woman, had been found dead in her home by two of her school chums who had come back to town for a class reunion. Cora, a newspaper reporter, showed up at the home when she heard the news. When Officer Francisco, who was speaking to the two chums, saw Cora Reporter arrive, he walked over to her to fill her in.
Della had not shown up for the reunion event, and the next day her two chums came to the house, saw her through a glass door lying at the bottom on the staircase, and called the police. Officer Francisco at first thought the death was an accidental fall down the stairs, but became suspicious when he saw a large lump on the back of her head.
The three women had met for lunch the day before the reunion. Della’s brother, Carl, who also lived in the house, had been there during the lunch. Della liked to take Polaroid photos and Cora Reporter found three photos sitting beside the plate of cookies Della had planned to take to the reunion. Cora Reporter picked them up and examined them. The first photo showed the two chums standing in front of a coat rack that held umbrellas, hats, a couple of rain slickers and a man’s raincoat. Photo number two, taken by Carl, showed the three women on the couch drinking tea. The last photo showed the two chums leaning on a Mercedes in the driveway, while Carl in a plaid jacket and holding a briefcase waved from the driver’s side door. Carl was leaving for a business trip.
One of the chums said that a contractor’s truck showed up as they were leaving and that Della did not seem pleased to see it. Della and her brother had been warding off developers who wanted their property to turn it into a high-priced condo community.
Cora Reporter had heard that Della and one of the chums had been rivals all through school and wondered if that had played a part in Della’s death.
Carl, having been called when his sister had been found, came rushing in, dropped his raincoat and briefcase, and broke down when he saw his sister’s body.
Cora Reporter told the officer she knew who the killer was.
Crime scene: Rich woman’s home.
Clues: The photographs.
Suspects: Two female friends, her brother, a strange contractor.
Red herrings: The high school rival. And then Just a lot of stupidity to throw you off.
Solution: The brother, Carl, killed his sister after an argument over selling the house. The first photograph showed a raincoat hanging on the rack. Carl was not wearing a raincoat in the second photo where he was in the car leaving, but Cora Reporter saw him throw one down when he rushed in today. He must have come back, argued with his sister, killed her, and grabbed his coat on the way out.
My two cents: Okay, let’s start with the police. Officer Francisco is suspicious of a lump on the back of a woman’s head, a woman who fell down a flight of stairs? Really? Did he think she would fall to her death and not get a mark on her somewhere? Did you ever see the scene in Death Becomes Her where Meryl Streep falls down the stairs? It’s pretty horrific. She’s all twisted up and broken when it’s over. There’s even a bone sticking out of her neck. Anyway, my point is that a lump on her head is not suspicious in this circumstance.
Next, let’s talk about the photographs. So there’s a raincoat on the rack in one, and Carl is not wearing a raincoat while pictured seated in the driver’s seat. Um – maybe it’s in the back seat? Maybe after the photo was taken, Carl said, oops, I forgot my raincoat and he went back in and got it. This was a terrible and unbelievable clue.
“When Officer Francisco, who was speaking to the two chums, saw Cora Reporter, he walked over to her to fill her in.” And then he turned in his badge before the department had a chance to fire his butt. Any police officer that gives info to the press will be on desk duty for months, and it’s going to be really uncomfortable for him to sit at a desk with most of his ass chewed off. And a newspaper reporter is not going to be allowed to walk around the crime scene and talk to the witnesses for Pete’s sake. The detective bureau and crime scene haven’t even been there yet. She handled the photographs! She touched evidence! She’s dropping DNA and leaving prints all over the crime scene! Now look at that. This author made me use exclamation points. I must be really perturbed.
There was motive, barely. The pacing was okay. The writing was okay. The characters were unbelievable and the clue that was used could easily be explained, so really it was a non-clue.
Two stars. Reluctantly. Exclamation point.