Title: Photo finish
By Author: Wendy Hobday Haugh
Tag line: As the sheriff examined the scene of the crime, she realized the break-in was a pretty bungled affair!
Police characters: This story never reveals the names of the cops. Is that a bad thing? I don’t know. It didn’t seem to hurt the story. But on the other hand the reader has no one to fall in love with and want to see again.
The gist: The victim was a 70-year-old woman who lived in a tidy cottage. When she returned from grocery shopping she discovered her back door wide open and several items missing; TV, digital camera, CD player, and an heirloom silver teapot. The teapot had sat atop of a chest full of antique sterling silver, yet only the pot was taken.
The sheriff noticed the jimmied back door and stoop littered with splinters. She thought to herself that breaking a window would have been quicker.
The victim told the sheriff that she had a habit of going shopping Wednesday mornings by 10:30 the latest and she usually took about 90 minutes, being home by noon. She said her friends, neighbors, cashiers, and relatives would know her routine. The sheriff had her deputy call to see if any grocery store employee was out that morning. Then she followed the victim around to see where items had been stolen from. Everything was on the first floor. The jewelry on the second floor was untouched.
The sheriff became suspicious by the clumsy yet perfectly timed break-in, the fact that the robber didn’t go upstairs, and the odd choice of loot (low tech stuff) yet the computer and jewelry and silver weren’t touched. Anyone who knew the victim knew she lived modestly and there wasn’t much there to steal. The sheriff also wondered if the odd assortment of loot was designed to hide one particular stolen item.
The victim had recently been to a family reunion. She said she was glad she had downloaded all the photos from her new camera onto her computer. The sheriff asked to have a look. When they looked through the photos they found a shot of the victim’s nephew in the arms of another woman… his brother’s wife.
Crime scene: The victim’s cottage.
Clues: There were none. This was all spelled out for you.
Suspects: The cheating guy.
Red herrings: Gawd, I wish there were a few.
Solution: The solution was a column long and went on and on about how the cheating guy was going to just take the memory card but he didn’t want the theft to be pointed at the family in the reunion, and yada-yada-yada. He broke in and took a couple of things to hide the fact that he really wanted the camera. He didn’t know she had downloaded it already.
My two cents: So where’s the mystery? This was a good story, but it was also an odd little ditty. There’s nothing to solve in this solve-it-yourself mystery. This is more of a piece you’d find in an Alfred Hitchcock or an Ellery Queen magazine.
We never heard back from the deputy if there were any missing employees in the grocery store that morning. Might as well just throw away the words used for that part. They were useless.
“Anyone who knew the victim knew she lived modestly and there wasn’t much there to steal.” I’m going to disagree with that thought process. A bag of crack is only $10. A crackhead only wants to smash and grab and get his fix. Doesn’t matter how modest someone lives… she had a TV and a camera for him to pawn or sell fast.
The title and the tag line fit well and didn’t give anything away. WW seems to LOVE silver teapots. Anyone else notice that?
Clue: There was none. Can’t give a star for ‘clue’ when there is none.
Motive: A cheating husband.
Police Work: No problems or errors in the police work.
Writing: The author had the sheriff thinking to herself. That’s not something we see too often. I kind of liked it. And the author didn’t make the police out to be bumbling idiots. They came in, looked around, and asked the right questions. Although I do differ on the definition of ‘jimmied’. This guy forced the lock by prying it open and splintering the door frame. When you jimmy a lock you stick something into the tumblers, like a pick, and try to manipulate it and you don’t damage the wood. But … whatever. The term is used loosely. Potato/potahto.
Characters: They seemed genuine.
I’m going to go with 3 stars but this submission doesn’t fit the mold. I wonder if WW is breaking new ground here with this story. I’ve never heard of WW accepting a story what had no clue; that just flat-out told you who did it before the solution. I’m scratching my head this week.