Saturday, March 29, 2014

Appearing in issue #13, March 31, 2014


Title:  Room Service

By Author:  Tracie Rae Griffith


 

Tag line:   The breakfast special was murder on Sophie Andrews’ health!


Police characters:  Detective Kristine Kay and Sgt. Bill Morgan

The gist:   A maid saw a breakfast cart in front of Sophie’s door.  It held a covered plate, a side dish of fruit, and a carafe of coffee.  She cleaned the hall and still Sophie had not retrieved her food.  The maid knocked; no answer.  She opened the door to peek in to tell her that her breakfast had arrived, and found Sophie dead on the floor.  The maid told police that Sophie was a nice lady who, in fact, tipped her the night before.  She also told police that Sophie’s family was staying at the hotel and were on the next floor down. Sgt. Morgan observed a heavy lamp with the base wrapped in a towel and assumed that was the murder weapon. There was no sign of forced entry.  Det. Kay picked up the order form lying on the food cart and saw that breakfast, one Diamond special with coffee, was ordered at 7:35 and delivered at 8:02. 

The police gathered the family in the conference room to tell them the bad news, that their Aunt had passed.  Ellen asked if it was a heart attack.  Ellen was the executor of her aunt’s will.  Arthur said if Ellen had shown up for dinner on time last night instead of just showing up for dessert she would have heard Aunt Sophie talking about how she joined a swim class and had become a vegetarian and that she was in the best of health, unlike how she looked when she lived with Ellen for a year.

When asked where they all had been between 7:30 and 8:00 this morning, Ellen had a receipt for the gift shop with a time stamp of 7:55.   Della, the third relative, said she had been walking in the nearby park alone. Arthur looked down at his hands and said he was in his room watching the weather channel.

The detectives left the family and went to have coffee and review their notes.  Sgt. Morgan ordered breakfast also, the Diamond special, which consisted of pancakes, eggs and bacon. 

Det. Kay figured it out.

Crime scene:   Hotel room.

Clues:   Aunt Sophie is a vegetarian. Breakfast was ordered at 7:35 and Della’s gift shop receipt read 7:55, enough time to have killed her aunt.

Suspects:  The three relatives.

Red herrings:  Della has no alibi.  Andrew is acting guilty.

Solution:  Ellen killed her aunt.  She went to her room at 7:00 AM and a fight ensued over the will.  She then called room service and ordered breakfast, unaware that her aunt is now a vegetarian and would have never ordered bacon. Then she went to the gift shop for an alibi.

My two cents:    This is a well paced story.  The tag line gives it away, but that is not usually the fault of the author as WW makes those up.  The clue was pretty obvious when Andrew said Ellen missed the dinner conversation where Aunt Sophie revealed she had become a vegetarian.  The time stamp on her gift shop receipt didn’t help but at least Ellen tried to get an alibi.

The police acted appropriately in the way they gathered the family in a private area to inform them of the death of their aunt in such a way as to not reveal she was murdered. But, I’m thinking the police would have looked at the plate on the food cart in the hallway to see if it was untouched.  Aunt Sophie might have eaten a little bit and decided it was cold or not good or whatever, and pushed the cart back into the hall.  If that were the case the time of death would have changed a bit.

The only mistake I could find is that a female responsible for managing the affairs of a deceased person during probate is known as the executrix. 

 

All in all another good story from Tracie Rae.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Appearing in issue #12, March 24, 2014


Title: Murder’s all the rage

By Author: Richard Ciciarelli

 


 Tag line:   Heather had made someone very angry. Now the detective had to figure out who!


Police characters:  Detective Penny Gray and Sgt. Mike Howard.

The gist:   Det. Penny is called to the scene and let in the house by Sgt. Howard, who tells her the back door was open and it was his opinion that’s how the killer got in. Penny noticed the dining room was set with a lace tablecloth, china plates, and a vase of pink roses in the center.  The lady of the house was lying on the kitchen floor dead, with a knife jutting from her back.  Her husband told Penny that he and his wife had been having problems but tonight’s dinner was a celebration of their reconciliation.  He said he even stopped on the way home at the florists to buy her her favorite pink roses, but when he came home he found her dead.

Additionally he said his wife was the school principal and just a few days ago had suspended two students for smoking in school.  The fathers of the two students ‘went crazy’ and confronted her. Things got so out of hand security had to be called.  The first father said his son was just offered a basketball scholarship but will now not be able to qualify because of the suspension.  The second father was upset that his daughter, who had a good shot at becoming class valedictorian, was now out of the running.  Both men felt the principal could have given a less harsh punishment that wouldn’t ruin the plans of their kids. 

Father number one had been siding a house when the murder occurred and said the occupants were on vacation and he had no witness.  The second father owned a convenience store and stated he was the only one working that day.  The second father acted a bit hostile at being questioned.

It was noted that the victim’s home address was easily accessible from the phone book, and that her house backed up to a patch of woods where someone could approach unseen.

Penny knew who the killer was.

Crime scene:   Principal’s home.

Clues:   Pink roses in the vase.

Suspects:  The husband, one or more of the two fathers, or some crazy man who came out of the woods.

Red herrings:  Father #2 was acting hostile.  Neither father had an alibi.  The back door was open.

Solution:  The husband said he stopped to buy roses and came home to find his wife dead…yet the roses were in the vase on the table.  After further questioning he admitted that his wife was not interested in reconciling and was going to file for a divorce. 

My two cents:    Let’s start with the police, my favorite part.  The sergeant wouldn’t call in a detective, who is of less rank, to work the case.  They might work it together, but the story has him basically being the doorman, waiting for a ‘real’ detective to show up.  The door would be manned by a uniformed officer.  Perhaps they were called in together and he just got there first. But that’s not the way it reads.  Okay, I’m picky about stuff like that.  So sue me.

Next:  the clue was revealed pretty much at the beginning of the story.  Once I read it, I didn’t feel the need to read further…but I had to to do this blog.  The clue wasn’t hidden well.

Next: this is just an observation on my part and doesn’t reflect on the story or the author.  The two fathers, in my opinion, should have put the blame where it belonged, on their two smoking kids.  Those kids messed up their opportunities, not the principal, who was following school department protocol.  That the parents confronted the principal and caused a scene just shows that the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree.   

Next:  There are sets of rules that each principal must follow.  These rules are mandated by the school board in their district.  Principals have little leeway.  To be angry at the principal because she is following the rules when she imposed sanctions against kids who were not following the rules is just ignorant.  More importantly, does it warrant murdering someone over?  And you might get one moron father in this situation, but two?  The circumstances in this story lack credibility.

Next:   What’s the motive again?  Many, many people want to get divorced.  They don’t stab their spouses for asking.  Was he going to lose his house, his business, his reputation?  Did they have a terrible fight?  I would have liked more in this area.

This wasn’t a bad story.  But it wasn’t a great story either.  Sort of in the middle, hence the two stars.

By the way, in the tag line, it should read ‘whom’.  A’hm jus sayin’.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Appearing in issue #11, March 17, 2014


Title: Murder is a black tie affair
By Author: Michael D’Angona
Tag line:   The detective knew she had to get the dirt on all the guests at the fancy party…
Police characters:  Detective Kara Peterson.  (WW loves female detectives)
The gist:   Austin Fairbanks was at his 70th birthday party at the lavish Billington Club.  He left the festivities to have a cigar in the smoking room. A half hour later he was found dead, an apparent poisoning. 
Detective Kara spoke to Austin’s daughter, Margot who was standing with her husband looking distraught.  Margot was the last person to see her father alive.  Margot was stunning, as only the truly wealthy can be, and was perfectly flawless in a white satin gown.   She told Det. Kara that just before the party was going to toast the birthday boy, Austin decided to have a cigar.  After a short time had passed, Margot sent her husband to bring him back.  Austin wasn’t done with his cigar and remained in the smoking room. After another 15 minutes Margot went to fetch him and found him standing with his back to the window, clutching the wine glass with one hand, cigar in the other hand, looking a bit odd.  His eyes were wide and he was trembling. She rushed to him and he collapsed on her sending them both to the floor knocking over a table and smashing his glass.  She noted it was a miracle they weren’t sliced up.  She reported that Austin muttered one word before he died…Terri. 
Terri is one of Austin’s grandchildren and somewhat of a black sheep in the family.  Austin had a soft spot for her nonetheless and wouldn’t take her out of his will as everyone suggested.  Terri told the police she was at the bar getting her granddad a glass of merlot when Margot came running out yelling to call an ambulance.  Terri added that most of the relatives were just greedy vultures and all wanted a piece of the fortune, but couldn’t get one cent until Austin died.  Terri admitted she knew she was in the will, and that her boyfriend also knew.
Detective Kara had a suspect.
Crime scene:   Billington Club, a prestigious club that caters to the rich.
Clues:   Wine.  Will.  Muttering the name Terri.  White satin gown. Terri was getting wine for her granddad.  Terri’s boyfriend knew about the money.
Suspects:  Margot, her husband, Terri, Terri’s boyfriend.
Red herrings:  Granddad muttering the name Terri.  Terri’s boyfriend, who wasn’t at the party.  Or was he?
Solution:  All had motive (the money) but Margot’s story was not believable. If her dad had fallen on her and they both crashed to the ground breaking the glass, her white satin gown should have some red wine on it.  Her husband poisoned Austin when he went in the first time.  Margot lied about her father uttering the name Terri to throw suspicion on the granddaughter.
My two cents:    I have to say I’m pretty impressed with this author.  There were a couple of red herrings, he buried the clue early on, and the whole thing flowed along seamlessly.  I didn’t find any police procedural issues. The story was written in first person, which worked for this tale.
So here we have two killers, Margot and her husband.  The husband did the dirty deed and Margot planted false evidence. Terri didn’t even know her granddad had his favorite wine and was getting him a glass when the murder took place, which took her out of the picture for me.  I was a little suspicious of her boyfriend, but he wasn’t in the story enough to be really considered.  I was pretty sure Margot’s husband did it.  So much so that I didn’t even think about Margot being involved. That was a nice twist.
 ‘Stepped off the page of a fashion magazine’ is clich├ęd, but I know what the author was trying to do there; cement the flawless image in our minds, so I’ll forgive him.  This time.
I can’t find any reason not to give this story 5 stars.




Friday, March 7, 2014

Appearing in issue #10, March 10, 2014


Title: A safe bet

By Author: Janie Turnbull


 Tag line:   The burglar had made a pretty good haul, but the police were intrigued by what had not been carried away …

Police characters:  Detective Nina Lucas, Rookie Patrol Officer Reilly.

The gist:   The Copelands returned home after a weekend in the country to find a glass panel in their front door shattered.  They called 911.  They didn’t enter before the police got there and didn’t touch anything. Detective Lucas, who usually doesn’t get called in on B&Es, was asked to oversee this investigation because the patrol officer is new.  When the police arrived the patrolman reached through the broken glass panel and unlocked the door.  The alarm sounded when he opened the door.  The cops noticed that the artwork and expensive pieces were still in the house untouched, including jewelry in the upstairs bedroom. The Copelands did a quick inventory and reported that the only thing missing was a portable safe normally kept in the closet that contained 20K.  The only two that knew the combination were Mr. and Mrs. Copeland. Their son knew they were going away for the weekend, as did the housekeeper (who was out of town) and the gardener.  It was mentioned that the next door neighbors also knew but that they were with the Copelands in the country.

Crime scene:   The home of the victims.

Clues:   The door was locked and the alarm was on.

Suspects:  The Copelands themselves, the son, the housekeeper, the gardener or some random thief.

Red herrings:  None.  This story wasn’t clever enough to have a red herring.

Solution:  The Copeland’s son took the whole safe, not knowing the combination.  From habit he had reset the alarm and locked up when he left.

My two cents:    What kind of dummy steals from his parents, then locks the door and resets the alarm?  He deserves to go to jail.

The solution, which was quite lengthy and took up almost one whole column, mentions that the son was the only other person who knew what was in the safe.  Really?  Where did it say that in the story?

I was leaning towards insurance fraud, but 20K really isn’t enough to temp a rich guy now, is it?

It was a waste of words to mention the next door neighbors.  We had enough suspects.  Instead a nice red herring would have been welcomed.

Technical faux pas: Patrol officers respond to 911 calls.  Period.  They don’t call in detectives to do a patrolman’s job because he is new.  They call in backup officers.  The detective bureau would get involved with the case because that is exactly their job…to detect.  They would be called next, along with Crime Scene.  This author doesn’t know her way around the police or a crime scene.

Kind of ho-hum this week.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

WHODUNNIT? A MYSTERY CONTEST

Although I am not a part of this group, I think this is great little contest.  And fun.  Pick out one of your best stories and send it in.  Preferably not a reject because the whole idea is to get feedback from authors who have sold to WW before you  actually submit your story. Of course, it's never a sure thing with WW, but for $5 you may up the odds a bit by working out the wrinkles first.


                                          sponsored by
                                 SLEUTHS' INK MYSTERY WRITERS
                                            Springfield, MO


Join the ranks of mystery writers and try your hand at writing a mini-mystery. If you've never written this genre, we suggest you read Woman’s World magazine, which publishes a new mystery weekly. The mysteries are located near the back, are always 700 words, and a solution is provided.


These mysteries are fun and interactive. And who doesn’t like to solve a whodunnit? Put on a Columbo trench coat and try your hand at this genre.
Guidelines and Word Count:
Simply write a short "solve-it-yourself" mystery of 700 words. That count must include the narrative and the solution. Stories should be fun and entertaining with an ending that challenges to the reader to figure out whodunnit or howdunnit. 


Submission information:  Send your entry to Sleuthsink95 [at] gmail (dot) com. Write "Contest Submission" in the subject line.
Payment information:  Include a $5 entry fee per entry. (You may enter as many times as you want, but you’ll need to mail $5 for each entry.)


You’ll need to mail your entry fee to:


Stephanie Jarkins
Sleuths' Ink Treasurer
6911 N. 23rd Street
Ozark, MO 65721

You will receive a confirmation once we’ve received your entry and your fee.
Cash Prizes for first, second and third place winners. Additionally, all entries will receive feedback by at least two published WW authors! What have you got to lose?


Deadline: May 31, 2014.  (winners will be announced in early July)
Note: This is a contest sponsored by Sleuths' Ink Mystery Writers, and has no affiliation with Woman’s World Magazine. We do, however, encourage you to submit your finished story to WW. Remember, you are eligible to win cash prizes, plus your stories will be judged and critiqued by at least two published Woman’s World authors.


Questions? Email us at Sleuthsink95 [at] gmail (dot) com and good luck!