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.  



Chris said...

Agree with you on all the above, Jody (now there's a thing!) Good story, well plotted, and the missing scream got straight past me too. Nice red herring and clouded issues to throw us off the scent but, like you, I would have liked a stronger motive for the killing, some secret past with another character perhaps.

This gunshot residue thing... how long does it linger after the shooting? Wouldn't normal hand washing get rid of it? If the maid had shot the wife then gone and prepared breakfast to make everything appear normal she would have surely have washed her hands first. Just wondering.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Chris. That is an excellent question. I always say that the police will test a suspect's hands for gunshot residue, but in actuality they test more than their hands. When a gun fires it expels a burst of 'dust' that gets on the hands, arms, clothes, shoes perhaps, or maybe even the face of the shooter. Yes, washing your hands will clean the dust off. Even wiping your hands, or rubbing your hands against something, or even putting your hands in your pockets can remove a good 20-25% of the dust. If not cleaned off, it can last as long as any other dusty area lasts... but usually around 4-5 hours. Most people in the act of killing someone, unless they have planned it out and given it some thought, won't even think about gunshot residue, which is why it is a good test for the police to use. Keep in mind it doesn't point to the killer, it tells the police who was near the gun when it discharged. So if you and I were standing next to each other and I shot someone, you could also have gunshot residue on you. See the photo above...

bettye griffin said...

I also missed the clue in this story, which makes it a good story to me. Agree with you about the maid's motive.