Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Snowy mystery

I'm a bit under the weather today--the creeping crud is making its rounds and my family is being felled one after another. But I just read a "whodunnit" short story that might interest some of you, particularly as we were discussing whodunnits just last week.

Read the short story at Guardian Unlimited and see if you can solve the mystery. Then click on the link to see the author's explanation of what happened. And then come back here and read the first comment on this post. It will include several reasons why this little mental exercize failed to impress me.

Technorati Tags:


Brenda Coulter said...

Possibly because I'm sick and cranky, I didn't even try to guess the solution to this mystery, but clicked right over to the author's explanation to see how clever it was.

I didn't think it was at all clever, for myriad reasons. Here are some of them:

1. The woman couldn't have covered her entire body with a ski jacket. Her head or a foot--something--would have stuck out, and would have been covered by the fresh snowfall. But why wasn't she wearing the jacket to begin with? Okay, she was blind and terrified when she ran out into the snow. But if she thought to pick up her jacket and take it with her, why didn't she put it on? And if she did put it on, but while dying of hypothermia went a little crazy and felt too warm and removed the jacket, why would she then have carefully covered herself with it?

2. It's ludicrous to assume that the dog--I don't care how big he was--could have carried the jacket in his mouth without ever allowing any part of the garment to touch the ground and make a trail in the snow.

3. People who live in snowy climates know that you would be able to tell the difference between a body that had been dropped onto a heavy blanket of snow and a body that had been "snowed around." The snow would be more shallow not just under the body, but close beside it--unless the snow had drifted, meaning it would be deeper right next to the body. Also, when the ski jacket was pulled off the body, what happened to the snow that had accumulated on it? Was the dog careful to pick up the jacket in such a way that no snow was dumped next to the body? And if not, why was it not remarked upon that there was a strange little hill of snow next to the body?

4. I think there were some other details that didn't add up, but I was disappointed in the story and didn't want to read it a second time. Maybe some of you would like to chime in.

Kristin said...

I really don't like reading mysteries, myself. But I took the time to look this one over.

Here are my problems with this story:

1) At the very beginning, the speaker is delivering the photos to Hildie. Why would she take a picture of the body in the snow unless she knew it would disappear? Plus, what was the point of taking any picture at all? Why would she want anyone to find the body? It was HER relative. They eventually would figure out that this woman was not an eco-warrior, and then suspicion would fall on Hildie right away.

2) The whole thing about protestors scaling trees made no sense to me. Maybe they would scale trees to protest deforestation or lumber companies...but oil companies? Why would they be up in the trees? What exactly would that accomplish?

3) The body was BEHIND the chain-link fence. It says that Hildie didn't want to 'scrape through a gap in the chain-link fence to get to the body.' So how did a woman blind on methanol manage to stumble through a hole in a chain-link fence? I would think the minute she ran into any kind of fencing, she wouldn't go any further.

I was not very impressed either.

jel said...

sorry ya'll are sick, hoep you get to feeling better soon!

Brenda Coulter said...

Yeah, that hole-in-the-fence thing bothered me, too. And maybe Hildy took the photos because she feared wolves would tear up the body before the authorities recovered it, but still.

Maybe the fun of this story is not solving the mystery, but picking apart the story's inconsistencies. I suppose we writers just can't help ourselves.

Brenda Coulter said...

Thanks, jel. I feel icky, but it seems to be a short-lived bug. I expect to be fine tomorrow.

Carolanne said...

I didn't bother to solve it either but mostly because I knew there was a solution at the end. LOL I usually like mysteries but that one didn't grab my attention at all. I guess it just didn't sound credible. As I tell my students, you have to make the incredible sound credible... or something. I agree with Kristin - esp the one about the mother having taken the photo - why would she???

Douglas Cootey said...

I'm new to mystery fiction. I've dabbled a bit but haven't read much that interested me. I like watching mysteries, but reading them has not proved to be as rewarding. I assume I just haven't found the right author. Care to make any recommendations? (Oh, and thanks for tracking down that RC quote for me.)

Julana said...

I enjoy a good mystery, but that one got a little boring for me.
I didn't finish it; it came across as contrived, forced.
I don't like reading about death and cold weather right now.
The situation out in Oregon in the past two weeks is too fresh in my mind.

Hope you're better soon!

Vicki said...

Hope you're feeling better soon!

Brenda Coulter said...

Thanks, Vicki and Julana. I'm better today.

Douglas, I'm not a big fan of mysteries. Maybe somebody else will give you some recommendations.