Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Eighth Deadly Sin by Charles Schaeffer

“The Eighth Deadly Sin” by Charles Schaeffer, Crimson Dagger, February 2005

This is a classic detective story in the vein of Ellery Queen featuring Lieutenant Plato Carros. Carros is getting ready to leave on a vacation to Greece when the Director of the local Natural History Museum is killed.

The Director was found dead in his office chair. Blood indicated that he had been stabbed in front of the desk then made his way back to his chair. There was also blood found behind his chair.

The story proceeds in classic fashion with Carros questioning all the suspects and finding out that all of the suspects had stepped in the blood, that there were two different types of blood on the floor, and that one of the suspects had a strong motive of professional jealousy. He also discovers that the stab wound wasn’t fatal. The Director was asphyxiated. Once Carros discovers that, he finds a sofa cushion that has been turned over. The cushion has a small bloodstain on what used to be the upper side.

In typical Ellery Queen style, Carros assembles all of the suspects, seven of them, at the scene of the crime, as he “proves” who did the deed. The fact that the evidence is no more than circumstantial has no bearing as it’s exposure brings the murderer to confess in front of everyone. Whatever happened to “Keep quiet until your lawyer shows up”?

I’m not a fan of this type of story, but Mr. Schaeffer seemed to handle it well. The investigation progressed logically with various clues and red herrings being exposed gradually along the way. One clue establishing the murderer’s presence in the murder room was left fairly, but the clue that clenched the murderer’s identity was not revealed until the final scene. There was no way the reader could have determined the identity of the murderer.

The next to last paragraph of the story should have been left out. It is the one discordant note in an otherwise skillfully written story. It was as if Mr. Schaeffer had gotten to the end of the story and thought “Oh, damn! I forgot about the sofa cushion.” Then he threw in this paragraph with a glaring logical inconsistency. The clue had been explained sufficiently before and didn’t need explaining again.

In short, not bad if you like this sort of thing.