Title: On the rocks
By Author: BJ Bourg
Tag line: The detective wondered if all three boys at the site had been happy campers…
Police characters: Detective Grace Winston, Detective Brandon Sharper.
The gist: Three teenage boys, age 17, went on a weekend camping trip. The first night was uneventful, but when they woke up Nick was gone. Thinking perhaps he had just gone home, the police checked with his parents but they had not seen him since he left for the trip. The police were combing the woods looking for the boy.
Detective Sharper had taken the remaining two boys’ licenses for ID, and handed them to Det. Winston. Winston took the first boy, Rusty, aside to speak with him. He said they had all set up camp yesterday, had talked by the campfire last night, he turned in around ten, and when they were making breakfast the next morning the two boys called to Nick but discovered he wasn’t in his tent. Rusty said neither of them had any problems with Nick. He said that Nick was a funny guy and everyone loved him, especially the girls. He claimed that Nick said he wanted to go rock climbing in the dark and the two boys told him not to.
Next Det. Winston questioned Rory, the second boy. He told basically the same story; that Nick wanted to climb the rock wall by the river and they both told him it was a dumb idea. Rory said Nick was still sitting by the fire when he went to bed. When the two boys realized Nick wasn’t in his tent they went looking by the rock wall and around the river to see if he had gone climbing but they didn’t see anything. Rory called his mom to report Nick missing. Rory also told Det. Winston that Nick is popular with the girls and that his girlfriend’s name is Theresa.
At this point a deputy, out of earshot of the two boys, informed Det. Winston that Nick’s body had been found. It appeared that Nick had indeed fallen from the rock wall and his body had traveled downstream with the current until it snagged on a tree branch.
Det. Winston formed the opinion that Nick didn’t fall, that he had been pushed. When she asked Rory who Theresa had dated before Nick, Rory told her she had dated Rusty, but Rusty was over it, and it was Rusty who had invited Nick camping.
Det. Sharper asked Det. Winston how she knew it wasn’t an accident.
Crime scene: Campsite in the woods.
Clues: Nick was liked by the girls. Rusty invited Nick camping. Nick was dating Rusty’s ex.
Suspects: The two boys, Rusty and Rory.
Red herrings: None.
Solution: When asked if they had any problems with Nick, Rusty referred to him in the past tense. (Nick was a funny guy, everyone loved him.) This made Det. Winston think he already knew he was dead. Nick did go to the rock wall. Rusty followed him to have it out over Theresa. An argument ensued and it became a scuffle, at which point an angry Rusty pushed Nick into the river.
My two cents: I figured it was girl problems because all the ladies loved Nick. This was pretty simple, but all in all it was a good story. I thought the clue was well hidden. I was glad to see it was a scuffle and a push, and not a planned murder. After all, they’re only 17.
The police work was spot on. The story read well, and was paced well. The author slid the clue in there like a pro. The characters seemed real. There was a motive for a fight, that then turned deadly. Five stars.