Friday, April 24, 2015

Title:  Crime of passion

By Author:  Risa Hutson


Tag line:     The killer’s alibi wasn’t quite picture perfect!

Police characters:   Detective Samantha Washington, Detective Glenn Sullivan

The gist:    The detectives were called to the scene of a dead man sprawled on the floor next to a coffee table.  Time of death was estimated to be at four o’clock and the cause of death was bludgeoning with a heavy candlestick holder.  (Very Clue-like.)  The holder had blood on it   Sarah Johnson called in the murder. Her sobs could be heard from the kitchen.  Detective Sullivan rolled his eyes when he heard her crying and told Det. Washington that Sarah had called in the death.  Sarah told police she believed she knew who the killer was, telling the detectives that Mitch, the deceased, was trying to end things with his former girlfriend, Allie.  According to Sarah, Allie had asked Mitch to come home early to talk things out.  Mitch had promised Sarah he would text her when Allie left, but when he didn’t Sarah rushed over and found the body.

The neighbors told police they heard Mitch and Allie in a shouting match at around four in the afternoon.   Another neighbor told police that Sarah was the new girlfriend, but that Mitch had never really broken it off with Allie. 

The detectives drove across town to meet with Allie, who was crying when they arrived.  Allie told them that Sarah had already called and accused her of killing Mitch. When asked where she was that afternoon, Allie claimed she was at her yoga class from four to five.  She said that Mitch had told her that he wanted to get back together and that he was going to dump Sarah and that he was going to end it at around four that afternoon, adding that Sarah had a horrible temper.  Allie’s home contained many photographs of her and Mitch together. There was also a photo of Allie standing next to her sister who wore a hat and sunglasses.

Later at the yoga studio the detectives asked if Allie Meyer had been in class.  The yoga instructor replied that they must mean Ellie Meyer but when the police showed her a picture of Allie she concluded that that photo was of the woman who had been in class and that she must have registered the name wrong when Allie enrolled.

The detectives noted that both Sarah and Allie have motive and that both their fingerprints would be in the apartment.  Detective Sullivan said that the neighbor swears she hear Allie shouting but she had an alibi and Sarah didn’t.

Detective Washington said Allie was in two places at once and she knew how she did it.

Crime scene:  Mitch’s home.     

Clues:    The photograph of Allie and her sister.  Mitch never really broke it off with Allie.

Suspects:   Sarah and Allie, the two girlfriends.

Red herrings:    Sarah’s horrible temper.

Solution:   When Detective Washington looked at the photographs she noticed that Allie and her sister were twins.   Ellie never missed a yoga class, so Allie decided it was the perfect alibi.  If she couldn’t have Mitch then neither could Sarah.

My two cents:    Here we go again.  The clue to the mystery is in the solution.  Twins for gawd’s sake.  Notice the story didn’t mention the sister’s name.  If it had it would have made a better story.  The police could have mused over the similarities in the names.  At least the reader would have some inkling of how it could have been done. 

The photograph could have shown the sister in a yoga outfit.  That would have been a good clue even if you couldn’t see her face well because of the glasses and hat.

The neighbor swore she heard Allie yelling.  Twins sound alike so I guess this one is okay. 

The police asked Allie where she was that afternoon and she immediately jumped to the 4-5 hour mark. To me that would be another clue right there.

The male detective was not likable.  What kind of human being raises his eyebrows in annoyance at a woman crying over the death of a loved one?  What a terrible cop this author portrayed. 

I didn’t find this particularly well written and it had more than a few clumsy spots.  The clues were missing and/or found in the solution.  The character building was pretty lame.  There was motive.  The police work was okay.   So… two stars.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Appearing in issue #16, April 20, 2015

Title:  Double vision

By Author:  Tracie Rae Griffith


Tag line:     Jackson’s business partner saw things a little too clearly!

Police characters:   Detective Kristine Johnson, Sgt. Bill Morgan

The gist:    Jackson’s business partner, Ken, accused him of embezzling.  He gave him seven days to return the money, but even then he was going to call the police and report the crime.  Jackson asked if they could talk further about it in Ken’s home office the next day.  They agreed to meet at noon.  Jackson decided to deal with Ken permanently and had no intentions of returning any of the money.  When he had a chance he slipped pills into Ken’s ever-present glass of bourbon in his office, he falsified documents to make it look like the company was losing money.  And he wrote a fake suicide note for Ken.  Then he waited and watched until Ken drank his liquor and slumped over the desk.  Using gloves he placed the empty pill container in the waste basket next to the desk, placed the falsified documents and suicide note under Ken’s hand.  He even took Ken’s reading glasses out of his pocket and placed them on the dead man’s face.   He then called 911.  He told police he thought it was a suicide.  When the detectives arrived, Jackson told them that the business had been losing money, that Ken had poor health issues, (rattling off several health problems),  a failed marriage, and that he drank too much.  When asked who inherits Ken’s shares in the business, Jackson admitted he would, but added a failed business isn’t worth much.

A week later Jackson was shocked to find the two detectives at his door.  They arrested him.  Detective Johnson told him that his business partner saw things a little too clearly and that’s why Ken killed him.

Crime scene:    The office of Jackson and Ken.

Clues:    The reading glasses.

Suspects:   Suicide or Jackson the business partner.

Red herrings:    None.

Solution:  At the time of his death Ken was wearing contacts.  He would never have put reading glasses over his contacts.  The police knew the scene had been set up.

My two cents:    I thought the story read well, and was paced in a brisk manner.  The characters were believable and there was ample motive.  There were no problems with the police work, and I noticed this author kept it simple in that department; no time of death, no witnesses to sequester for questioning, no initial crime scene or patrol officers arriving.  Simple is good.  Not much chance to go wrong. 

My only gripe is the contact thing.  The reader is supposed to be able to figure out the perp by the body of the story (no pun intended).  How would the reader know the guy wore contacts?  And why would he have reading glasses in his pocket if he wore contacts?   Ken and Jackson had been business partners for at least a year according to the story, yet Ken didn’t know his partner wore contacts?  He knew plenty of other health details that he gave the police, even high cholesterol.

If I were going to commit suicide by pills, I’d down the pills and wait for death.  I don’t think I’d be sure to put the RX container in the trash.  It would be right there on my desk next to the glass.  Yet, I’ve seen that done many times in these stories.  Curious. 

It’s too bad WW gave the whole thing away in the tag line.   Even the title is a giveaway. Why do they do that? 
4 Stars…because the reader is not able to figure it out.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Appearing in issue #15, April 13, 2015

Title:  The sound of murder

By Author:  Rosemary Hayes


Tag line:     After replaying the scene in her head, the detective finally figured out whodunit!

Police characters:   Detective Tanya Tate, Officer Pete Andrews

The gist:     Axel Green’s wife’s body was found slumped in a chair behind a desk in the Green’s mansion. The only thing of note in the room was an open window and a dropped tea tray that had contained a teapot, teacup, and saucer, which was now shattered on the carpet.  Mrs. Green had been a journalist and had met and married Axel after only a four-month romance.  The victim had been shot in the chest.  The time of death was estimated to be 9:30-10:00 that morning.  There was no sign of a weapon, but next to the victim’s outstretched hand the police found a digital recorder.   The ‘record’ button had been pushed but no voice was found on the recorder. It was surmised that she had pressed the record button but had died before she could identify her killer.  The only sound that could be heard was the ticking of her desk clock.  At about the 12-minute mark there was the noise of a loud crash.  Three minutes later there was the sound of a distressed sounding male saying, “No!  Sharon, no!” Then a short time after that came the sounds of the police arriving.   It was explained that the crashing sound was the maid who had discovered the body and had dropped the tray. 

Det. Tate interviewed Axel who said that over the years his journalist wife had ruffled some feathers.  He also said she had planned to fire the household staff and hire new people.   He said he had been shooting a movie late into the night last night and had still been asleep when the maid woke him with the news.  He said he always slept with earplugs.   He was sobbing but Det. Tate reminded herself that he was an actor.

The maid told police she knew the staff was about to get fired.  She said the gardener had told her yesterday.  She also told police that Axel had been heard on the phone with his agent talking about a secret diary his wife was keeping.  The staff suspected the wife was planning on writing a tell-all story about her new husband.   As the kitchen is in a far wing of the house, she did not hear the gunshot.   She brought tea to Mrs. Green at 10:15, which is her normal routine. She said when she walked in and found the body, she screamed, dropped the tray, and went to tell Axel who called 911.  At about that time she said she saw the gardener arrive for the day. 

When questioned, the gardener denied killing his employer and said that he did know about the impending firing and also about the secret diary.

Det. Tate replayed the recording in her mind and realized she had missed something.

Crime scene:    Movie star Axel Green’s mansion.

Clues:    The recording.  The open window.

Suspects:   Axel, the maid, or the gardener.

Red herrings:    The open window.  The fact that the sobbing husband was an actor.

Solution:  The maid did it.  Angry that she was about to be fired she shot Mrs. Green, then went to prepare the tea.  She returned at 10:15 to ‘find’ the body, dropped the tray to leave evidence.  But she said she screamed when she dropped the tray.  There was no screaming on the recording.  She knew Axel was sleeping and wore ear plugs, and she knew the gardener hadn’t arrived yet, so no one was around to hear the gunshot.

My two cents:    I thought it was a good clue.  I knew the recording was the key, but I didn’t catch the maid saying she screamed before she dropped the tray.  I was thinking about that darned open window and leaning towards the gardener.  

Let’s talk about the motive.  Most of us have been fired from jobs in our lives.  We don’t kill our old employers because of it.  I would have liked to have  had a better motive.  Like the maid was in love with Axel and couldn’t stand the wife writing a tell-all book.  Or perhaps the maid was going to be mentioned in the book as his old lover and once her husband found out, he’d surely leave her.  Something along those lines. 

As I mentioned last week, the police would perform gunshot residue tests on everyone and the maid would have been found out.  Perhaps this maid should have used some gloves.

The police work was good.  The writing was good, as well as the pacing.  The characters were believable. This story had a good clue, not too obvious.  There were a couple of red herrings and three suspects to think about.  This is the perfect story for WW and I can see why it was chosen. 

4 stars.  I’m not crazy about the motive.  


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Appearing in issue #14, April 6, 2015

Title:  Family Feud

By Author:  Shannon Fay


Tag line:     A gunshot, a locked door and a body.  You didn’t have to be a detective to know there was trouble at the lodge!

Police characters:   None.

The gist:    Margaret and her husband Don were spending the weekend at Don’s father’s lodge, along with Don’s father and his brothers Jason and Eric.  The two brothers bickered over money and their inheritance. Don’s father was in poor health and did not have long to live. Don wanted to spend some quality time with his dad, but his brothers seemed only concerned with getting in a good word about their share.  Jason went for a walk around the property. The father went down to the basement to get his fishing tackle and rods.  There were also hunting rifles in the basement.  Shortly after Jason left for his walk, Margaret, Don, and Eric heard a gunshot from the cellar. They hurried to check on dad, but the basement door was locked. They finally gained entry by popping the lock with a knife.  Dad was found dead in front of his work bench, a bullet wound in his head.  Don and Eric were crying and in shock.  A voice behind them asked, “What happened?”  It was Jason at the bottom of the stairs.   When he saw his father dead, he appeared upset.  Don thought perhaps his father had been cleaning his gun and it had gone off.  Eric thought his dad may have committed suicide so as to not suffer from his health problem.  Margaret thought it was murder.

What had Margaret figured out?

Crime scene:    The family lodge.

Clues:    None really.

Suspects:   Only Jason was missing when the gunshot was heard.

Red herrings:    None.

Solution:   Margaret realized that while his brothers argued in the living room, Jason had sneaked down to the basement and shot his father to eliminate any change his father intended to make to his will.  He locked the top door then did the deed.  When the others hurried down to see what had happened, he had hidden behind the stairs and then appeared as if he had come down the stairs.

My two cents:    The way it reads it sounds like Don is there with his father and his father’s brothers…but they are Don’s brothers.  Clumsy sentence.  

 As only Jason was missing when the gunshot was heard, it had to either be an accident or Jason was the killer.  Frankly, Margaret would not have been able to deduce that Jason had snuck in and down the stairs.  I’m not sure how she “realized” that.

So, yes, we have motive.  We have no police work to fiddle with.   We have no clue to find.  The characters were believable up to the point where Margaret solves the crime. The pacing was good.  The writing was fair.  I say that because of the clumsy sentence mentioned above and the sorry way that the author had Margaret solve the crime.  It could have and should have been more creative.

In real life the police would do a gunshot residue test on everyone’s hands and the killer would be found quickly.  Ah’m jus say’n.

Four stars.  Minus one for the “Margaret realized” nonsense.