Friday, May 29, 2015

Appearing in issue #21, May 25, 2015

Title:  Unhappy heirs

By Author:  Elizabeth Hawn

Tag line:     There’s nothing like the reading of a well to bring out the worst in people!

Police characters:   None.

The gist:    Helen’s will divided her assets equally between her three grandchildren.  When told this by Martha, the executor of the will, only Paula seemed happy.  Jake and Adam were unhappy claiming that Paula had plenty of money and that they needed it more.   Paula’s comment was that she worked hard and was a success and that grandma would never penalize her for that by leaving her a lesser share.  Grandma’s house and most of her assets were sold at auction.  When handed the list of items sold along with the selling price of the home though even Paula was not smiling.   Another list was given to each showing which family heirlooms Grandma wished to leave to each grandchild.  Jake grumbled that Paula’s list had more items of value, particularly a set of silverware, and told Paula she should sell the silver and divide the proceeds.  Paula responded that the silver was left to her because grandma knew she would keep it in the family whereas the boys would sell it.

The items the grandkids were left were stored in a storage unit in town.  They all drove to the facility.  A code was needed to unlock the front door, but no security cameras were seen.  This was noted by Adam who was the only one there when the code was entered by Martha.  The four of them then proceeded to the storage unit where Martha opened it using a key from her purse.   There was much complaining about how to move/ship/store the items that were left to them; heavy desks, boxes of old books, etc.  Paula was smiling though as she inspected not only the silverware but the china that was left to her.

That night each grandchild had their own bedroom.  They were sleeping in Helen’s home.  Helen slept on a pullout bed in the basement.  The next day  while the two boys were out (one was renting a trailer and one was going to a shipping company to get prices) it  was discovered that the silver was missing out of the storage unit.  Martha recalled that her purse had been in the living room all night.  Martha knew who had taken the silver.

Crime scene:    Storage unit.

Clues:    Only Adam was there when the front door code was entered.

Suspects:   Supposedly the 3 heirs.

Red herrings:    None.

Solution:   Only Adam was there when the front door code was entered.  He took the key out of Martha’s purse in the night and hid the silverware in one of the boxes of books his grandma had left him.

My two cents:    A female executor of a will is called an executrix.  

What woman goes to bed in the cellar and leaves her purse on the living room when there are strangers in the house?  None I know of.

We have to eliminate Paula right away as she was the only one happy with the will.  That leaves the two boys, of which only one was present when the code was entered.

You don’t have to be Sherlock to figure this one out. 

How stupid is Adam to think Paula wouldn’t notice one of her two items was missing from the storage unit the very next day.  Did he really think he was going to hide the silverware in a book box and ship it home, and that was going to be the end of it?  Did he not think Paula would call the police and report a theft the minute she realized it? 

Clue:  Yes, the story had a clue.  It was not cleverly hidden… but it was in the body of the story. 

Motive:  Clear motive.  Greed.

Police work:  None.

Writing:  Not particularly impressive.  Executor vs. executrix.  We have a woman leaving her purse unattended; phone, credit cards, money, car keys.   How convenient for the story, but not very believable.

Characters:   Cardboard characters, malcontents for men. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Appearing in issue #20, May 18, 2015

Title:  Package deal

By Author:  John M. Floyd


Tag line:     Sheriff Jones was right in thinking that Angela Potts could help him deliver a thief to justice!

Police characters:   Sheriff Jones and amateur sleuth Angela Potts

The gist:    A neighbor saw a delivery man leave a package at her neighbor’s door.  She then saw a man dressed in dark clothes steal the package and walk into another neighbor’s house, said property being a rooming house with four tenants.  The neighbor was old, had bad vision, and it was past sundown when she saw this.

Sheriff Jones picked up Mrs. Potts and put her in the front seat of his squad car and they drove to the rooming house.  The landlord gathered all his tenants, except for one who was not home at the moment.  All the tenants were men.  Mrs. Potts told him it was not a good idea to interview them as a group, but he said it would be fine. Sheriff Potts asked if any of the men had seen anyone unusual around the neighborhood and explained the missing package problem.  They all denied having anything to do with it.  Just then the 4th man returned home.  Man #1 said he’s never stolen anything in his life.  Man #2 said even if he were inclined to steal he wouldn’t do it that way.  Man #3 said he’s never been in trouble.  Man #4 said he wouldn’t steal a package right off someone’s porch.

Sheriff Jones told Mrs. Potts she was right, he was going to have to interview them one at a time.  Mrs. Potts told him to not bother, she knew who did it.

Crime scene:    Neighborhood.

Clues:    Only the thief knew the details.

Suspects:  The 4 men in the rooming house and the landlord.

Red herrings:    None.

Solution:   Man #4 talked about not stealing a package off the front porch but he wasn’t there when that detail was revealed.

My two cents:    ((Yawn.))

Police work:  I don’t know what police academy Jones graduated from, but he sure doesn’t remember any of his training.  Even Mrs. Potts, a school teacher, knows enough not to interview suspects in front of each other. I don’t even want to talk about the fact that a civilian is in the front seat of a cruiser. 

Gawd help them all if he ever has to do a murder investigation.  In fact, if you want to kill someone, do it in his town.  I guarantee he won’t figure it out.   Hey… how about we knock off Mrs. Potts?  Jones will just have to retire I guess.

Motive:  None given.

Clue:  Yes, there was a clue.  Same old stuff we’ve heard a thousand times but there was a clue in the body of the story. 

Writing:  Nothing to write home about.  You have to wonder why the landlord wasn’t a suspect?

Character work:  Nothing remarkable.  Nothing makes you say ahhhh!  What fun!  Or … very clever!  Now look what you did.  You made me use three exclamation points.    Tsk.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Appearing in issue #19, May 11, 2015

Title:  Double-crossed!

By Author:  Marianna Heusler


Tag line:     The wealthy murder victim raised a question for the police: Who benefitted from this death?

Police characters:   Detective Lola Wheeler, Detective Kevin McCarthy.

The gist:    A rich man was found dead by the reservoir, shot in the heart.  His wallet was missing but he still had an expensive ring on.  No blood was found at the scene.  Rich man’s fortune was willed, half to his only living relative, his niece, and half to his housekeeper.   The niece, a petite woman in her 50s, is heavily in debt and furious that the housekeeper is involved, and talking about contesting the will.  She claimed the housekeeper only started working for her uncle six months ago.  The detectives do not suspect the niece right away, although she had motive, because the body was moved and they don’t feel she could have done it herself.  When the detectives visited her home, the niece said she phoned her uncle weekly. She wiped tears and said she couldn’t believe he was dead, and couldn’t believe that he was the victim of a random robbery. She suggested the police question the housekeeper.  

The detectives found the housekeeper to be a plump, middle-aged woman with rosy cheeks. They allowed the niece to accompany then for the interview as the niece said she had never met the housekeeper and wondered if she was a floozy. The housekeeper had just baked a pie and invited everyone in for coffee and pie.  She asked the cops what they took in their coffee and she handed the niece the creamer. She said she was shocked to learn she was in the will.  On the night he was killed the housekeeper said she left early because she wasn’t feeling well.  Rich man was about to take his evening run and was in his running clothes when she left.

Det. Wheeler figured it out.

Crime scene:    Down by the reservoir. 

Clues:    The niece said her uncle was the victim of a random robbery, yet the cops never said anything about a missing wallet.  The housekeeper handed the niece cream for her coffee, yet the two supposedly have never met.

Suspects:   The niece and the housekeeper.

Red herrings:    None.

Solution:  The two woman worked together.   Why?  Dunno.  Money I suppose.

My two cents:    Geez, her only living relative was just found shot to death, and the niece is furious and hollering about contesting the will.  The housekeeper is baking pie and making coffee.  Nice folks.

I suppose money is the motive for everyone here.  The housekeeper was only 6-months into the job and not loyal or friendly with the man.  The niece was in debt. 

I guess the niece wanted to go with the police to make sure she knew what the housekeeper, her partner in crime, was saying.  Too bad.  That’s how they gave themselves away. 

I thought the comment about it being a random robbery was also a clue, as the police hadn’t mentioned anything about the wallet gone missing yet.

I’m not sure why the uncle even put the housekeeper in the will to begin with.  He left half his fortune to a new housekeeper that he wasn’t involved with romantically? 

Why would the niece point the police to the housekeeper when she knew the housekeeper was guilty, saying she must be a floozy and that she couldn’t believe the woman was in the will?  What a moron.

No mention of if the niece had tried to borrow money from her rich uncle and he had turned her down.  It would have been a nice piece of info for the reader. Although they didn’t appear to be very close.

The tag line wasn’t given much thought. 

Police work:  It’s off.  They don’t let suspects tag along on their investigation.  And they don’t sit and have pie in an interview.

Motive:   Not bad.  One woman was in debt, one woman was apparently greedy. 

Writing/Pacing:  Not the worse I’ve ever seen.  Not the best either.  There were too many story problems.

Clue:  There were two clues but the solution only mentions the coffee creamer.

Characters:  Not believable.  Nobody acted in character. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Appearing in issue 18, May 4, 2015

Title:  The cover-up

By Author:  Joyce Laird


Tag line:    Sheriff Clements quickly discovered which hand had been in the cookie jar!

Police characters:   Sheriff Bob Clements, Deputy Jeff Long

The gist:    Ms. Emma sat staring at an empty cookie jar, while her beloved cat sat in her lap.  $800 was missing from the jar.  Emma’s home was quite warm and all of the occupants were feeling the heat. Emma sat with her neighbor, May, her granddaughter, and her granddaughter’s boyfriend while the police questioned her.   Emma had been gone for a few days, and neighbor, May, had been able to enter the house to care for the cat.  Emma said her mailman knew she’d be gone, and also some of the seniors at her club. Emma’s granddaughter knew she was away. The granddaughter told the police that everyone knows that Grandma Emma keeps money in her cookie jar. 

 Emma left a spare key in the shed, which the handyman and a few others knew about.  May told the police she hadn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary while Emma was away.  While Emma was telling the details, Deputy Long groaned and looked away.  Emma started to cry and when the sheriff tried to put a consoling hand on her arm, the cat hissed and tried to scratch the sheriff.  May showed them the scratches she had on both of her arms that she got while feeding the cat.  May started thinking, then told police that she did hear the cat yowling two nights ago.  She said she went to check on the house but it was locked tight so she left.  At that point the granddaughter spoke to her boyfriend, telling him he’d better go and get changed for his interview he had in an hour.  The boyfriend nodded and wiped the sweat from his face with the sleeve of his sweater and got up to leave.

The Sheriff knew who the thief was.

Crime scene:    Emma’s home.

Clues:    The heat in the house, the cat that scratches, and the guy wearing the sweater.

Suspects:   The way the story unfolded there were numerous suspects, including the handyman. 

Red herrings:    None.

Solution:  The solution was a whopping 106 words long, when probably two sentences would have done it.  The granddaughter’s boyfriend knew about the shed key, knew about the cookie jar, but didn’t expect to be pounced on by the cat.  He wore the sweater to cover up the cat scratches.

My two cents:    I’m having déjà vu with this story.  Cat scratches and a long sleeved shirt.  Seems like that’s been used more than once in the past year.

Police work.  This loses this author one star because police don’t interview all of the suspects together. 

Character work.  When Emma was telling her story, Deputy Long was groaning and looking around.  Nice guy.  He’s sitting with the victim, an old lady who is upset, and he can’t act proper?  There was no reason to have him act like a cad.  It didn’t add anything to the story.   I wish the cat had scratched him. 

Motive.  None was mentioned.

Clue.  Kinda easy.  It’s hot in the house and one guy has on a sweater.  Duh.

Writing/pacing.  Nothing to write home about.  AND the solution was 106 words long.  IMO more care could have gone into the story, and less fluff in the solution.

BTW: I’ve owned cats all my life.  They don’t scratch you when you put down their food. They don’t jump on you and attack you when you walk in the house.  I doubt this author has ever been around cats and thus I’m surprised she didn’t add the clichéd saucer of milk.