Title: Unhealthy appetite for murder
By Author: Phyllis Whitfield
Tag line: A careful diet and plenty of exercise couldn’t protect the fitness expert from a case of lead poisoning.
Police characters: Detective Bea Smart and Detective Charlie Young.
The gist: Wealthy TV exercise guru Mark had been shot and killed in his home. The detectives arrived within half an hour of the crime. The body, dressed in expensive gym clothes, was found sprawled on the kitchen floor. Next to him were two gym bags, one black and one purple. Both bags had splattered orange juice on them. Also found was the remains of a healthy breakfast; a partly eaten grapefruit, yogurt, and the broken OJ glass.
The victim’s fiancé was present, cover girl Meg. Meg called 911 when she found the body. She claimed that she and Mark walked to the gym every morning and that’s how she came to be at his house. The purple gym bag was hers. She said they were to be married next month. When asked if Mark had enemies, she told the police that he was a self-made man and had stepped on people on his way up. She told police to speak to his former tennis coach, Brad, who, according to Meg, despised Mark. She also suggested the police talk to Mark’s ex-wife, who also hated Mark.
Tennis coach Brad said that he had stopped by the house that morning, saw Mark’s car in the driveway, but that no one answered the door. He claimed that he had no love for Mark but that they were business partners.
The ex-wife was at a yoga class. She says she too was at the house this morning and had stopped to complain out his late alimony payments. When the police told her Mark was found shot this morning, she claimed he was alive when she left. She pointed a finger at Meg the Model, saying she was a gold digger and that rumor had it that Mark was going to dump her for someone who had a cable TV exercise show that could advance his career.
Detective Smart knew who the killer was.
Crime scene: Mark’s home.
Clues: OJ on both gym bags.
Suspects: His girlfriend, his ex-wife, and his business partner.
Red herrings: None.
Solution: Meg’s purple gym bag was splattered with OJ which told police she was there when the glass fell from his hand. She was angry when he told her that he was leaving her, fell into a jealous rage, and shot him.
My two cents: I thought the clue was neatly in place, and inserted early in the story so that the reader sort of forgot about it.
The tennis coach didn’t really have a good motive. I knocked him off the list right away. It had to be one of the two women. Unless she was in the will, the ex-wife didn’t have a motive to kill off her source of money, sporadic as it was. That leaves the current girlfriend.
Here’s the true life message, folks. Don’t mess with women.
Clue: Decent clue, well placed.
Motive: The motives were lacking. Only one suspect had a real one.
Police work: The detectives told the wife that her ex had been killed by gunshot. Not a detail they would have revealed. They asked the tennis guy if he owned a gun but didn’t ask the model.
Writing: The story flowed well. The pacing was good. A typical WW story.
Characters: Not the strongest. There was nothing memorable about any of them. No personality. They were neither likeable nor dislikable. Forgettable really. And that includes the detectives. Smart had the clichéd black coffee and a donut for breakfast.