Friday, March 6, 2015

Appearing in issue #10, March 9, 2015

Title:  Family ties

By Author:  Emma Courtice


Tag line:    The detective was looking for a sign that would put her on track to find the murderer!

Police characters:   Detective Marie DeLuca

The gist:    The butler was acting odd; giddy almost, sitting in a chair smoking a cigar and waving around a large snifter of brandy.   He was complaining that the death of Uncle Dunbar, his employer, was going to leave him without work and he was annoyed. Portly nephew, Donald, told the butler to button up, that the uncle never liked him anyway.  Nephew #2, David, responded back that uncle never liked Donald either.

On the day of his death Dunbar had been working in his library.  He had had no appointments and no one had called.  The two nephews had arrived late in the afternoon and found him slumped in his chair with a letter opener lodged in his chest.  The two nephews were the only ones that had keys and could bypass the butler to enter the home.

Donald blamed the butler, saying Dunbar was going to leave him something in his will. The butler said the amount he was going to be left wasn’t much, and that Dunbar was worth more to him alive than dead.   He added that that fact wasn’t true of either of the nephews.

David said he had come to call on his uncle because he needed him to sign a loan for his failing business. He produced a sealed, stamped envelope to the detective.  When opened by crime scene it revealed a loan agreement with a blank line where the uncle was to sign.

Donald told police that his uncle had lent him some money several months back and he had come to pay him back.  He showed the police a wad of money that he withdrew from his pocket.

Detective DeLuca knew who had killed Uncle Dunbar.

 Crime scene:    Uncle Dunbar’s residence.

Clues:    None that could be discerned from the body of the story.

Suspects:  The butler, Donald, or David.

Red herrings:    The butler was acting odd.  Was he trying to cover up his guilt with strange behavior?  He was in the will but said it wasn’t for a large amount.  What is ‘a large amount’ to him?  This was left unanswered to throw the reader off.

Solution:  David, who had come for the loan, was the killer.  Uncle Dunbar had refused to sign the loan and while David stood at his desk Dunbar had made a show of folding the unsigned papers, sealing the envelope, stamping it and handing it back to David.  Furious, David stabbed his uncle then arranged to find the body with his brother later on.

My two cents:    Good grief.  Anything else the author wants to leave out?  How can the reader ‘solve-it’ when the story doesn’t have the needed details?  This is not hiding a clue, this is misleading by leaving information out. 

The fact that the envelope was sealed and had a stamp on it wasn’t a clue in my eyes.  Who was it addressed to?  David could have planned on sending the papers to his uncle but instead decided to visit him in person and brought the envelope with him.

This story was poorly executed.  The police work was off, as the detective was interviewing everyone together. This is not done.  She announced to everyone that it was murder.  Not done.  They opened the envelope in front of everyone.  Not done.  The crime scene tech opened the envelope and read it and decided what it was and announced it in front of the detective who was assigned to the case.  Not done.

There was motive.  The usual motive; money.  

Not much was included in the way of character development. Both nephews were overweight, both were irritated, both had money problems.  ((yawn)).  The only entertaining character was the butler.

 The pacing was off.  A few rather long sections of info and a few parts that were too short.  Way too much in the beginning about the butler (although it was the best part of the story).  Way too much to-do about the crime scene tech opening the letter.  The rest of the story was fed to us in quick spurts, almost as if it didn’t matter.  

Donald, David, Dunbar.  Nuff said?  One star.


Julia said...

What happened to "Catch Me if You Can" by John M. Floyd? It came between this one you reviewed today and the Maria Gregory story. Didn't it? BTW, I noticed in "Catch Me" that John calls Angela Potts a "retired English teacher and amateur sleuth." In the past, she has been referred to as "Chunky's" fourth or fifth grade teacher, I believe; this is an "upgrade" for her!

Joyce Ackley said...

I wondered about John's story, too. In the current story, I thought the clue about the sealed envelope was confusing.

By the way, my own mystery has been out since Oct. 15. Getting impatient!

Mary Jo said...

I guess I read this the way the average WW reader would. I thought it was a hoot, loved the writing style and the comical characters. The clue about the envelope stuck out like a bright light. I was ready to give it at least four stars.

Jody, you rained on my parade.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Julia and Joyce. I don't seem to have the March 3rd issue in my pile. I asked Chris for a copy but she sent me March 9th. If anyone has a scan, I'd love it... then I'll catch up. ladyrprter at aol dot com

Joyce... any day now... there's going to be a contract in your mailbox. Any day now. I feel it.

@ Mary Jo. There'll be another parade very soon.

I did like the butler but the story spiraled down from there unfortunately.

The envelope was made a big deal of so you knew something was up, but I never would have guessed that the uncle taunted him with it, refused to sign it, folded it and sealed it in the envelope AND put a stamp on it. How could the reader possibly figure that out from the story text?

Four stars, huh? You're a generous woman.

Julia said...

Dear Jody,

Sorry, but I do not have the ability to scan a story and send it; otherwise, I would do so. Julia

Tamara said...

I could scan it, Jody.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Tamara. Thank you for your offer. Mary Jo just sent it to me this afternoon. :)

Chris said...

I share your frustration over the missing info that turns up out of the blue in the solution and we're still supposed to be able to solve it. I always feel cheated when that happens, although I suspect that in-house editing is sometimes to blame for that. What is more puzzling to me is why authors use the same initial letter for their characters, or give them similar sounding names (Freddy, Teddy, Eddy). It happens quite often and seems such a basic error to make. Distinctive names help put a marker on each character in the reader's mind. Using similar ones just blurs the edges, makes it harder to remember what they did, why they did it. Was it Sally worked in the jewellery store, or Sarah? Did Susan have the ex-con boyfriend and Sophie was the nun, or the other way around? Confused? You will be, after this week's episode of...

Julia said...

You raised an excellent point about names, Chris. Thank you for putting into words (well, I guess that's your job, sort!) what bothers me too.

bettye griffin said...

I did pick up on the clue about the sealed envelope and figured out whodunit, but never understood why it was sealed. Thank you. I did think it was pretty stupid for that nephew to make a big show about it.