Title: Cleaning house
By Author: Marianna Heusler
Tag line: The detectives wondered if the cleaning lady had been up to her dirty tricks again…
Police characters: Detective Kevin McCarthy and Detective Lola Wheeler
The gist: A friendly and hardworking cleaning lady, Penny Bartell, was found shot to death in her home. he had a number of clients in the building close by. When the police checked her out, they found she had a long criminal record that included larceny and check fraud. She also had a habit of romancing older men and swindling them out of their money. Her real name was Doris Dupree.
The two detectives began to interview Penny’s clients. Eleanor Stafford said Penny was nosy and she talked a lot. Eleanor had a photo of her deceased father on the piano. She said he died six years after his wife had passed and that he never got over her death. She had hired Penny from a notice on the bulletin board.
The next client’s name was Amelia Gordon. She said that Doris asked a lot of questions of her and seemed interested in her family. Amelia confided that she had told the cleaning lady about how she had just moved her uncle into a nursing home and they commiserated over the cost. She had hired the cleaning woman because Mrs. Mason recommended her.
Next the detectives spoke with Mrs. Mason. She said Penny was an odd duck and she always felt she was prying as she was cleaning. She said she overheard Penny talking to her boyfriend on the phone one time. She hired her from an ad posted in the laundry room.
Detective McCarthy said to his partner, “Time to question the boyfriend.”
Detective Wheeler replied, “I don’t think so, I think the cleaning lady’s past finally caught up to her.”
Crime scene: The cleaning lady’s home.
Clues: Penny’s past.
Suspects: Her clients, Eleanor, Amelia, and Mrs. Mason.
Red herrings: Eleanor's father's photo. It was just thrown in there to get us off the trail. And it did.
Solution: Amelia. She knew Penny’s real name was Doris. She recognized her as the woman who had swindled her uncle and she decided to take revenge.
My two cents: Now, is this the same uncle who is in the nursing home? Or a different uncle? There was no mention of how much this nursing home uncle was worth and, in fact, the niece was complaining about the cost. It seemed to contradict the whole gist of the story of this money-grubbing woman going after rich old men. I realize that people who have money often complain about the cost of things, but it didn’t serve this tale well.
I know there were a lot of names to confuse the reader, and it did the trick. I got a little lost on this story and after a few paragraphs of trying to keep everybody straight, I didn’t really care who did it anymore.
There didn’t seem to be a clear motive. A mysterious boyfriend on the phone? Could have been anybody.
The clue is the same tired clue we always get. Only the murderer knows a detail that they blab about.
This story is too loosey-goosey for my taste. But it was well written and had good pacing. There was a general motive in that the cleaning lady swindled old men and had been jailed for it in the past. It had a female detective who solved the crime and it had three suspects – both favorites of WW. And there were no police procedure problems. So it gets five stars. But I'm not happy.