Title: A difference of opinion
By Author: Tracie Rae Griffith
Tag line: Investigating a suspicious death, the detectives wished the deceased could speak for himself!
Police characters: Detective Kristine Kay, Sgt. Bill Hunt
The gist: A call comes into the station and Det. Kay answers. A novelist, Graham Harris, was found dead by his secretary. Det. Kay turned to the sergeant and said, “Okay, Bill let’s go.” When they arrived at the home a visibly shaken woman answered the door and pointed them to the den where the body was. She explained that she was supposed to work half a day today and came in after lunch. She has a key. She said she found him unresponsive, checked for a pulse and called the police. Det. Kay told Sgt. Hill to stay with the secretary while she checked the body out. She found Harris, a burly man, slumped across his desk, and an empty coffee cup by his right hand. There was an empty container of prescription sleeping pills in the trash can next to the desk.
The secretary asked if it was a heart attack and was shown the RX container. “More likely suicide,” said Det. Kay. “I suspect sleeping pills in his coffee.” The secretary was alarmed. She said she had picked up those pills for him yesterday and she produced a to-do list from her purse. The list was in Harris’s looping handwriting (Det. Kay had seen his handwriting on some papers in his office) and it said “cancel dentist appointment, return reference books, take car in for oil change, pick up prescription.” When asked if Harris had been depressed, the secretary said it was just the opposite; that he was writing well, and lately had gone on a diet. She added, “He finally decided to end things with Victoria.” Victoria turned out to be Harris’s money-hungry (according to the secretary) wife. Just as they were speaking of Victoria, she showed up at the house. Seeing the police she asked what was wrong. When told her husband was dead, she asked, “Was it suicide?” She claimed her husband had been depressed, that his books hadn’t been selling well, that his health wasn’t good, and their marriage had been having problems. She added that she told him she would stay with him if he got rid of his secretary, who she claimed was causing problems in the marriage. She said he agreed to fire the woman and was going to give her a month’s salary.
Det. Kay knew it wasn’t suicide.
Crime scene: Author Harris’s home.
Clues: The list of things to do.
Suspects: The wife or the secretary.
Red herrings: None.
Solution: Victoria killed her husband by putting sleeping pills in his coffee. Harris had not been depressed. A man who is contemplating suicide does not have the oil changed in his car. By killing her husband before the divorce, the wife would get all the money.
My two cents: What a great clue. I didn’t figure it out. So refreshing to have a decent clue that makes sense. We have two suspects. We have motive, both women disliked each other and wanted Harris. This was well written and the pacing was good.
Now here’s my gripe about the police work. The police are a paramilitary organization, in other words organized similarly to the military. They have a ranking system. Sergeants do not get ordered around by mere detectives.
First of all, Det. Kay would never answer the phone from a citizen. Those calls go through dispatch; dispatch sends out a unit, the patrolman would see the body and then call in the detectives. There’s a system they follow. Det. Kay could get the phone call from the officer at the scene, but not the reporting party.
Next, Det. Kay would never say to her superior, ‘Okay, Bill, let’s go.” He might say that to her, as it’s his decision to take either take the call himself or hand it off to another detective.
Then Det. Kay tells the sergeant to stay with the secretary while she goes and views the body. It would be the other way around. The sergeant makes those calls. He might still choose to stay with the woman and continue interviewing her and send the detective in.
Det. Kay is telling a possible suspect her thoughts on the cause of death. This is just not done.
But other than the police ‘stuff’ I thought this was a spot-on story. The average reader won’t even pick up on the police protocol boo-boos. This is a 5-star story, and I hope we see more from Ms. Griffith.