Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Appearing in issue #9, March 2, 2015

Title:  Catch me if you can

By Author:  John M. Floyd


Tag line:    Angela Potts wanted to know the whole story about Lizzie Martin’s kidnapping!

Police characters:   Sheriff Jones

The gist:    Sheriff Jones’s niece is engaged to a criminal with a past record who is now linked to a kidnapping.  Lizzie, the victim, went jogging Wednesday night and never came back.  Security cameras at her building confirm she did not return home, nor did anyone else enter her apartment. Lizzie made the ransom call herself to her parents saying that her abductor had her at gunpoint and demanded two hundred thousand dollars to be left in a bag at midnight on Friday at Highway 8 and Cypress Road where there is nothing but swamp and woods, a hard area to stake out.

 Lizzie’s shoe was found in her parents’ mailbox.   It was a shoe that only Lizzie could have had since her parents ran a boutique and had just gotten them in exclusively in their store and Lizzie had taken a pair for herself before they were even put out for sale.  The she had a note that read, “Just to prove it’s her.” The note was signed COD, which made Sheriff Jones, whiz cop that he is, to think it was from Clayton Owen Darrow, his niece’s fiancé.  Clayton had dated Lizzie for almost a year and according to Lizzie’s mother Clayton was pretty distraught when Lizzie dumped him.  But a few months later he began dating Jones’s niece.

When the police tried to find Clayton to speak to him they learned he was conveniently up in the hills fishing, a spot with no cell reception.   Jones’s niece said Clayton was innocent and that he dumped Lizzie, not the other way around.

Mrs. Potts believed Lizzie faked her own kidnapping in order to get money from her rich parents so she could run away from them, and at the same time get to blame the guy who jilted her.

What does Ms. Potts see that Sheriff Jones doesn’t?

Crime scene:    Unknown.  Kidnapping on a street.

Clues:    The shoe in the mailbox.

Suspects:   Clayton or Lizzie.

Red herrings:    None.

Solution:   If Liz had been abducted while jogging she wouldn’t have been wearing an expensive heel.  Her apartment didn’t record anyone coming to her apartment so the ‘kidnapper’ couldn’t have gone in to acquire the shoe after the fact.  

My two cents:    I’m not going to bore you with a long rant on police work and the fact that Sheriff Jones blabs about his cases to a civilian, he’s an idiot who never does a decent or proper investigation, yada-yada-yada.  Waste of my breath.  (Minus 1 star for police work.)

Sheriff Jones is still quite unlikable with his whining and long faces and dejected manner.  I’d like to just slap him.  Hard.   (Minus 1 star for character development.  There was none.)

The clue was hinky.   Nowhere in the story did it say the shoe in the mailbox was a fancy high heel.  It said it came from her parents’ boutique, that it was expensive and exclusive, and that Lizzie had grabbed herself a pair before they even went on sale.  They could have been pricy running shoes.  (Minus 1 star for bad or misleading clue.)  I’m not even sure why the ‘kidnapper’ had to ‘prove it was her’ with the shoe in the first place.  Didn’t Lizzie call her parents and tell them she had been kidnapped?  Duh.

This story actually read well and the pacing was good, and there was a believable motive earning this story 2 stars.

Angela Potts is being mentioned in the tag line now.  I guess she’s the draw for these stories.  Go figure.  At least she wasn't mean to him.  In fact, she was rather tame in this story. 


Chris said...

Agree, this was well paced and nicely worked out, as I'd expect from a John Floyd story, but the 'kidnapping' being staged by the girl herself was obvious from the start. The shoe clue wasn't one at all, because the high heel wasn't mentioned anywhere in the story, which meant we couldn't draw any conclusion from it. The cost of some designer trainers (running shoes) is so astronomical they could easily have been the exclusive ones taken from her parents' store. Who knew, without that extra detail?

That aside, the pairing of Angela Potts and Sheriff Jones works fine for me. Yes, we know he's dumber than a box of bricks with even less charisma, but that's the point. So are half the detectives in crime fiction and TV shows, to allow the enthusiastic amateur to do their thing. You don't 'bore' us by giving us the reality check of proper copwork, Jody, but maybe if you could read them without the harsh glare of How It Should Be Done beating on your brain all the time you'd enjoy them a bit more. Without inept cops to work off there'd be no Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, Hercule Poiroit, Dr. Mark Sloan or Jessica Fletcher. Think how dull our lives would be without Father Brown, Jonathan Creek, or even Scooby Doo. Be careful what you wish for, that's all ahm sayin' ;¬}

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Chris. I'm not a fan of dumb males. Hicks and dull witted men give me a rash. Gomer Pyle, Andy Fife -- not for me. Columbo, who acted a bit homey and clumsy in his manner of investigating, was actually very clever. Scooby Doo is a cartoon... it's supposed to be moronic. And it is.

Amateur sleuths do things that the cops can't, like go into crime scenes through windows to take a peek around. And the reader accepts that. I accept that. Even enjoy it. Cops have to adhere to the law and have a certain protocol they must follow to not only protect themselves, but their department from getting sued, and to protect the rights of citizens from unfair practices. Pair a cop and an amateur together and it can be very entertaining but each side has a role. When you start to blur those roles, the story suffers IMO, and the reader feels cheated.

So yes, once again, I can't close my eyes when there's bad police work in a story, and it doesn't matter how many times you tell me to relax and enjoy the ride. I can't. It's jarring to me. I do get a bit weary having to write the same things over and over in the blog, hence the 'I won't bore you again' line. The police work is part of the analysis and is one of the rating stars. The story either has it, or it doesn't. And when it doesn't, I tell the reader why. It's okay, and even good, that you (and lots of others) don't agree that the police work should be spot-on in these stories.

I don't hate Angela Potts and I'm glad she's lost her mean streak. I don't like Jones being so angry, and always glowering, always whining, and quite unlikeable. I like to read about characters that I can relate to, characters that are sharp and fun and witty and interesting. Someone I'd like to be friends with. Or even date. I don't see why these stories can't have him be a nice guy, do a good job police-work wise, but still have her see some little detail a man might miss; a cleverly written story that makes the reader smile and go Ahhhh, good one, he didn't see that coming.

And yes, that's the beauty of variety, but I can't write a good review on something I don't like and that doesn't work. For sweetness and light, and 'all is forgiven no matter how dumb' you'll have to visit Disneyworld. :)

Joyce Ackley said...

I read this story and would love to have read it again after your comments. But, my cat Prunella harked up a hairball right on the magazine, and I had to throw it away. (Now Jody, don't say anything. I know you want to, but show some restraint!) Prunella is 16+ years old, and I guess I should cut her some slack. She seems hell-bent on aiming for anything except the bare floor, which would be easier to clean up. Her favorite targets appear to be the rugs, clothes on the floor, shoes, books...even my closed laptop once. Oh, the joys of being a cat owner. Sigh.

As I recall, I thought this story was pretty cute. The botched police work doesn't always jump out at me, but I'm not trained in the field, so I don't notice some of the things you do. I just assumed the shoe left in the mailbox was a boutique type of shoe - something dressy and cute. Usually boutiques sell specialty clothing and shoes that are expensive and unique. I don't think such a store would carry just one type of athletic shoe. There are so many types - running shoes, walking shoes, crossovers, etc. It seems if a store carries athletic type shoes, there are options. For instance, I wear only New Balance. I buy the "orthotic friendly" kind that will accomodate my custom orthotics. They also have a roll-bar to stabilize the foot and keep it from turning over. I order from Online Shoes, because I can't always find what I want in the stores. Considering all the different types, it seems unlikely that a boutique would carry only one kind of running shoe. Just my opinion.

I didn't figure out the clue, however. I did guess that the kidnapping was staged.

The stories aren't always entertaining, but your reviews are! I always enjoy what you have to say.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Joyce The bottom line on the shoe thing is that the story never said it was a heel, but the solution did. And that's how Mrs. Potts figured out Lizzie had set the thing up herself. She said if Lizzie was out jogging, then how did a high heel end up in the mail box? We all thought, what high heel? This could have been an editing snafu and not John's fault at all. When WW cuts the stories for space issues, sometimes important details get screwed up. Very annoying to the author but out of author's hands.

I have two cats. Mine are also 16, a brother and sister. I understand cat gack very well. They never go for the open floor... always the rug or some papers. Once in a while... on the bed. Sheesh.

If you really want to read this story I can send you a scan of it. Drop me a line at ladyrprter at aol dot com.

Joyce Ackley said...

No, Jody, that's okay. I had read the magazine before Her Prunsehip threw up on it. I wanted to read it again after the review, but I'll pass. I've got other things I need to do. Thanks anyway, though.

Mary Ann said...

In my head I only saw a high heel so I thought the clue worked and was a clever one. Just goes to show you how we can all see different details from words that are used. Once boutique was mentioned I assumed it was a pricey designer heel but now that it 's been brought up I guess to describe it as a stiletto or something would have been better.

Mary Jo said...

This is why I think the mini-mysteries for WW should be written to print space length. If even ten or twenty words have to be cut by the editor, they could be the words that justify the solution. I would be interested to know if the editor ever finds it necessary to add to (augment as it says in the contract) the mysteries. I suspect it is more a matter of making cuts to fit the space. As I have mentioned before, pulling the wrong piece from the puzzle can make the whole thing collapse.

Anonymous said...

In my experience, they augment more often to the solution, than to the story. So, stuff gets mentioned for the first time in the solution, and Jody goes ballistic.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Anony

"Jody goes ballistic."
That's my job.

This section of WW magazine is titled "solve-it-yourself". But the reader can't possible do that because the clue is missing. Or wrong. Where's the integrity in that? As a reader and subscriber you should go ballistic.

Anonymous said...

More soapbox than job, I think.
If you're saying it 'shouldn't' happen, I absolutely agree with you. If you're claiming it 'doesn't' happen, well, maybe you should sell a mystery or two.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Anony

It's very simple. Don't like the content? Don't drop by. I'm not everyone's cup of tea.

Obviously I never claimed it 'doesn't' happen. It happened in this story. Duh.

You just love to rub my nose in the fact that I have yet to get a mystery contract, don't you? Enjoy yourself Mr/Ms I-Don't-Have-The-Balls-To-Leave-My-Name. I'm confident it will happen. All of my submissions make it to Johhene. I was about to ask if yours do... but frankly, I don't give a rat's ass about some anonymous heckler.

Julia said...

Glad you weighed in on this story, Jody. I noticed not only a "softening" of Angela's snippiness, but a change in her designation. No longer a former fourth grade teacher, she is called a former English teacher. That sounds like she taught high school, which would be, I guess, an up-grade? Also, I think most adults are more apt to keep in touch with their h.s. teachers than those they had way back in 4th or 5th grade. John is such a good writer, this story flows beautifully, but I agree totally with you that the clue was incomplete and therefore unfair. Is it against some law for writers to tell us exactly what the editors changed between submission and final print version of a story? (I mean unwritten law, of course, not courtroom-ready law!) I agree with you about people who post anonymously. I hate to see that on any site, and give short shrift to whatever an anonymous person says. Thanks for reviewing this story. I enjoyed your review and I thought it was fair. John is such a good writer that I can't understand his lapses in plotting. Seem like he doesn't respect his readers, and I hate to think that of anyone.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Julia. No, there's no law about discussing changes made to one's story. I'm sure John could tell us, but seeing as how I'm not a fan of his Jones/Potts series I don't think he'll be stopping by any time soon. I do support him as a writer and I have purchased a book of his. And I look for his name on the short stories in the Saturday Evening Post and those are very good. We follow each other on FB. We're not enemies. He takes it in stride that I don't care for the premise of these stories. I hardly matter, really when WW loves them and their readers love them.

All publishing venues that I know of edit your work to best suit their magazine/publucation. I have no idea why WW would want to now make her an English teacher instead of a 5th grade teacher. With respect to perhaps how Sheriff Jones might remember her better as a high school teacher, in a small town I feel pretty sure someone might remember their 5th grade teacher if she was prominent in his school life or was known around town, perhaps was on committees, etc. Maybe she lived down the street from him.

I don't think these lapses in plotting are coming from John, I believe they are the victim of word cutting by the editors. WW isn't some junior high school newspaper, yet the editing on the mysteries doesn't seem to be up to par with the other big-name paper magazines. I don't know what's up with that. They can cut and change all they want, but they need to make sure the story line is cohesive and makes sense. Why that's not happening is the real mystery here.

Another thought that came to me is perhaps WW doesn't care if the clue is in the story. Maybe they want the reader to use their imagination in solving the crime. I've seen a number of stories that throw the clue in the solution and WW seems to be fine with it. It's hard to know what to do, what to write, when WW doesn't issue guidelines and we just have to wing it.

Mary Ann said...

First of all, I don't really know what Anonymous was trying to say? Just that the editors do change up things? I didn't really get the comment. Secondly, although I didn't have a problem with this story in particular, I do agree that the information should be hidden in the story somewhere to solve the mystery. That's the point, right? And when it comes to that, the solution should be short. Not more than a few sentences. When the editing (or the author) makes the solution long and detailed,the mini-mystery just doesn't work for me.I have had rejects on the mini mysteries mostly for this reason--you couldn't figure out the solution very readily from my text. I'm trying to get better at this point and hope that it matters.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Mary Ann. I agree about the clue. I always try to get a clever clue slipped in the story somewhere. It's tough to do. And when I read these stories that don't bother, it rankles. But I'm sticking to my guns and writing a good you-solve-it with clue intact. Sooner or later one will catch Johnene's eye.

As far as the heckler, this is my take on him or her: I must have given him/her a bad review and they are bitter. Some people don't take it well. I understand that. And my type of sarcasm doesn't always sit well with people. Also understood. It bothers this person that I'm slicing and dicing stories when I don't have a mystery under my own belt yet. They don't feel I have the cred to do it. To that I say Siskel and Ebert didn't direct or produce a single movie themselves but they sat there every week and critiqued them.

I think he/she is afraid to leave their name fearing that I'll rip them to shreds on their next story. I don't roll like that and I'm not punitive when it comes to critiquing stories (the stories stand for themselves, good, bad or ugly) but I can see where they might be cautious. When they give me a hit, I just spark back at them. For awhile. Then it becomes tiring and I let it go.

But it makes for good drama on the blog. It probably would irritate them to know their comments help me rather than hurt me. I don't block anonymous posts. Fire away, Anony. You're just showing the world your character. Bad behavior reflects back on the giver. Another reason they won't identify themselves.

Julia said...

I want to thank Joyce for her story about Prunella. It lightened the mood of the blog and made me laugh. We're "dog people" in this house, more than we are "cat people," but can still relate. We say we don't need to go to a gym - just picking up after the dogs keeps us limber.

bettye griffin said...

I didn't like this story because of the detail left out about the shoe. What's with these editors, anyway?

Tamara said...

Just a note (albiet long) about WW letting stories through without a clue. I recently had one published about a flower ("A Serious Case of Murder") in which I had a detective comment to another detective that the flower bloomed only in sunlight, which was the clue: The killer mentioned seeing the white blooms at a time when he said he wasn't there and when the murder took place. Well, several months prior I sent in a story about a different flower that bloomed only at night. I forgot to have the detective mention it in that story, and I got it back from Johnene with the instruction that the clue must be stated in the story. So, sometimes the rule stands, and sometimes it doesn't.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Bettye

"What's with these editors, anyway?"

They don't have a clue. ((groan))

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Tamara. Ah, interesting. I'm wondering if Johnene gives her okay, then passes them up to the EIC who then feels the need to tinker with it. hmmmm....

Tamara said...

It was my distinct impression that this was Johnene's ruling. I think she didn't send it through. Usually, when she does, she says "sorry it didn't make it" or some other revealing comment. I get so curious as to how this process takes place. BTW, I re-sent two stories that were rejected without comment by first editor, presumably Gaddis--but maybe not. I decided to try them again after one of the bloggers on here said she wondered whether Gaddis could have time to read all those submissions. It's been over two months, and they aren't back yet, so maybe Gaddis never saw them.

Mary Jo said...

I thought the EIC just said yes or no to Johnene. I am really ignorant about what goes on in an editorial office. Or I guess WW is a work from home business. I wish I knew more about how submissions are handled.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Tamara. You resent the same story with the same title and it made it by Gaddis the second time but not the first? Interesting. Very interesting. I have resubbed a story but I change the title (and tweaked it a little) just in case they log them in with title and author somewhere. My resub made it to Johnene. Still got rejected but it was from SEA.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Mary Jo. Well, when the EIC says yes, she may very well play with it before it gets sent off for final typeset. I'm sure they do that via computer these days as opposed to the old typeset plates but I don't know the name for the modern version.

Seems like Johnene will send over a batch of stories she thinks will work, and the EIC picks one and returns some. Then Johnene passes down the bad news to the authors.

BTW, for those that don't know, the EIC's name is Stephanie Saible and she's in New Jersey.