Title: Murder in the mansion
By Author: Joan Dayton
Police characters: Detective Marsh. Officer Toomey
The gist: A 911 call brought the police to the old mansion, a place that needed work and was crumbling away. That call was made by David, the victim’s brother, who reported finding his sister (Jennifer) dead on the living room floor, the apparent victim of a gunshot. There were no signs of forced entry. The front door was thick oak, fitted with a sturdy lock and inner dead bolt. It also had a peephole. David told police that his sister was security conscious and always kept the doors locked. He told the police he had brought over a window AC unit earlier that morning. He had planned to install it the next day when he had more time. According to him he left the mansion at that point. When he got to work his appointment had cancelled so he decided to install the air conditioner today and came back. When Jennifer didn’t answer, but he heard the television blaring, he used his key to enter. At that point he found the body and called police.
He said that both he and his other sister, Karen, had keys. He said that Jennifer was frugal and wouldn’t spend the money to fix the place up. He also said Karen was supposed to be coming over that morning and that Jennifer and Karen don’t get along. When asked who inherited the old mansion, he said that Karen and he would inherit equally. Had Jennifer sold the place, something she was unlikely to do yet she wouldn’t spend any money on repairs and upkeep, they would have all split the profits. When asked where Karen was, David said she was in Jennifer’s room double checking that no jewelry had been stolen. Karen appeared unruffled that her sister lay dead in the living room. The police questioned Karen out of earshot of her brother. Karen told them that she never did come for the visit to her spoiled brat sister’s. She said she went to the mall instead. She said mall employees could verify that she had been there.
Detective Marsh knew who the killer was.
Crime scene: Jennifer’s old mansion.
Clues: The sturdy door. Jennifer was security conscious. Nothing appeared to be missing.
Suspects: Karen, David, or some unknown party that Jennifer let in.
Red herrings: Karen didn’t like Jennifer. Called her names. Appeared unruffled that she was dead.
Solution: David was angry that Jennifer wouldn’t sell the old house. He shot her on his first visit. He figured that Karen would be the prime suspect but her mall alibi checked out. Det. Marsh knew that security conscious Jennifer would have thrown the dead bolt after David left that morning if she had still been alive. David wouldn’t have been able to enter using his key.
My two cents: Wait, Karen said she didn’t go to her sister’s house, but went to the mall. Now she’s in the woman’s jewelry box? I guess David must have called her when he “found” the body. Perhaps that part got left on the cutting room floor when Johnene took her blade to this story. Not a major problem for the story line though.
The tag line worked, although I know that’s not within the author’s control. At least it didn’t give the story away. I just hate that.
Clue: Good clue. I missed it. And you know I was looking.
Motive: Sound motive. Jennifer wouldn’t spend money to keep the old house up, and she wouldn’t sell it either. David must have been frustrated to see his inheritance rotting away.
Police Work: No problems with the police work. In real life they would have done gunshot residue tests on everyone, but that would have come later anyway.
Writing : The story flowed well enough, but I did think the solution was a bit long -- almost one column – and it didn’t need to be. This is just a pet peeve of mine, and a personal choice. I can't withhold a star for it. IMO that space could have been spent creating deeper POV on the cops. See below.
Characters: My only criticism is that the two cops are mostly forgettable. If Joan wants to continue using them for her stories, she has to make us love them, or at least find them fun or interesting, and want to read their cases. We should be saying, oooh boy, it’s Det. Marsh and Officer Toomey … this will be good. This can be done very easily and with a few choice words thrown in here and there.
The other characters were good. There was no love lost between any of them.