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.


bettye griffin said...

There was a statement about the stairs being creaky or noisy when Margaret and Don descended them, something like that, which to me was a clue because no mention was made of it before Jason spoke, suggesting he'd been hiding in the basement. I found this story to be too simple for my taste....the murderer had to be Jason. You're very generous to give this 4 stars.

Chris said...

Welcome back, Jody, hope you had a good trip.

I agree, this was well written up to a point and bowled along nicely. I liked the sensory 'the musty basement smell swelled up towards them' line - made me think of a bubble of stagnant air wafting out. Good description. But the killer hidden in the room when they enter thing is nothing new and since all three other suspects had been together in the living room at the time of the shooting and gone downstairs together, there was really no other option but for it to be Jason, supposedly off walking around the house. The sentence you're thinking of, Bettye, described two of the brothers 'scrambling noisily down the wooden stairs', which isn't quite the same as the stairs themselves being creaky. It should have been, though. Margaret's deduction isn't made on anything tangible, just guesswork as far as I can see, and the absence of a squeak the second time around would have made a decent clue. I also think four stars is generous. I'd have gone for three.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Bettye and Chris. I believe the killer was hiding in the basement and never went down the stairs after the shot. Before the shot, the killer went quietly down the stairs while the three were in the living room arguing. So the stairs really are not a clue of any kind.

Seeing as how I had no police work and no clue, I was clueless on how to dish out stars. In reading over your comments 3 stars probably would have been more in line, one each for motive, pacing, and character building. But you're right, I was feeling generous last night after a glass of wine or two and after getting back from seeing Pippin... which was great by the way.

Chris said...

Yes, I got that Jason was already hiding in the cellar when they all came thudding down the stairs, that's why the absence of a creak, and Margaret cottoning on to that, would have made a great clue, had it been mentioned beforehand. But it wasn't, so how was she able to deduce that it was Jason - that's my point.

Mary Ann said...

I thought this was just too simple, too. I'm thinking that the locked door is supposed to be a "clue" of sorts to throw you off the trail. But for the most part, there really wasn't a clue given for the reader to pick up on, so you really couldn't solve it yourself. I was disappointed by this one.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Mary Ann. I was disappointed too. Murder or suicide were our choices, but neither were well developed in this story.

Joyce Ackley said...

I didn't think of the police work- that in real life, a gunshot residue test would have been done on the hands of all involved. For this reason, I think I would have given the story 3 Stars.

I've needed a glass of wine or three, Jody, ever since last week when I received a rejection for my mystery. It did reach Seattle. The last four or five subs have, and I'm grateful, for it tells me the stories have a chance of being accepted. But it's getting a little disappointing, too. Well, a lot disappointing. I still have one story out, so I hope for good news with that.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Joyce. RE: the gunshot residue test. Not everyone knows or thinks about that when they shoot somebody. Surprise! So I wouldn't hold that against the author. Most criminals are kinda dumb. Good thing, too, or we couldn't catch them.

I too have two stories still out. I understand when you say it's great they reach Seattle, but now what? What else do they want? Blood? Tears? Now it's all what tickles Johnene's fancy, and frankly nobody really knows what that is. One week it's old lady sleuths. One week it's teenagers on a bus trip. One week it's 3 suspects and a good clue. One week it's one suspect and the clue is in the solution. I just throw my hands up and send out good thoughts to Seattle.

So far everyone agrees this story should have been 3 stars. People don't like it when I'm hard and snarky. They don't like it when I'm soft and gentle. lol.

Mary Jo said...

I have wondered if all mystery stories go directly to Johnene. I really am not a mystery writer, but both of the mysteries I submitted were returned (rejected) from Seattle. So I submitted two more. We will see.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Mary Jo.
I don't really have the answer to that, but she's an editor pretty high up on the old ladder...I'm guessing there are underlings that do that sort of sorting and shuffling for her. I did get a rejection from NC last year, and it came back quite fast, like within 4 weeks. I reworked it, renamed it, and sent it right back out. That one made it to Seattle.

Chris said...

I always rewrite my rejects but not to resubmit to WW but to try with a different magazine. Recently had an acceptance of a mini-mystery that I rejigged into a children's story - that sold to Ireland's Own magazine. Not one of the blood and gore stories, of course, it was a little mystery about which of three suspects, a dog, a gull, or a cat, stole a fish supper! With a little bit of work, there could be another market out there for your rejects.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@Chris. What a cute idea. That was clever to turn your suspects into animals for a child's story. Did you use a solution or did you end the story?

Chris said...

The suspects always were those three animals, Jody, even in the original, but I introduced a child sleuth who wanted to be a detective when she grew up. When granddad's fish supper goes missing she sets out to find out what happened. I had to include the solution in the storyline, yes, but it was easy enough to do. A fun exercise.