Mar 22, 2013

Choosing Your Detective

Romantic Friday Writers provide an interesting writing prompt every month. I try to join in when I can because it's fantastic practice and allows you to get feedback on your stories. This month I was extra-excited because the prompt is:
I love crime novels, especially mysteries. On the Romantic Friday Writers' site, I posted an article about the need for a strong motive in mystery stories. Another essential element is a great detective. Who will solve your crime? Will it be the:
  • world-weary detective who's seen it all before;
  • young enthusiastic copper, who makes too many mistakes;
  • suspended police officer working outside the law;
  • criminal only slightly more moral than the perpetrator;
  • old lady playing amateur detective; or
  • a child or other innocent, now exposed to the harsh truth of life and death?
I've been consuming a lot of kids' mysteries lately and here are some of my favourite child detectives:

The Masked Avenger in The Amber Amulet by Craig Silvey.

Here is my flash fiction for the prompt Driven to Murder (if you're motivated, feel free to critique for improvement):

Grisly Business
'Think it’s too late Sergeant?' Officer Sarah Camden hurried to catch up as Sergeant John Hart trudged across the gravel parking lot.
He looked up from his extended sigh. 'Too late for what?'
'For the woman sir. I mean, if someone grabbed her between here and the tavern then it was an opportunity attack—not likely they’re keeping her somewhere.'
'Yes, I’d say it’s too late for Donna Locke.'
'Think we’ll turn up something on the CTV cameras?'
'Nah.' John clicked the button on his keyring and the Commodore’s lights flashed once. With his hand on the door he added, 'What we’ll find Camden is that Donna Locke did indeed walk home alone at 2:15am this morning after her friend’s hen’s night and that her walk was relatively uneventful.' He got into the car and shut the door.
Sarah rushed around to her door and scrambled in.
'You don’t think she’s really missing?'
'Oh she’s missing to some, her friends, colleagues, and her children. She’s missing to them.'
'Think she’s pulling a Fairly Arrow Sir?' Referring to the hack pop singer who’d faked her own abduction in the nineties, hoping to gain celebrity status on her 'miraculous' return.
John grunted as he fastened his seatbelt and adjusted the rear-vision mirror. 'That’d be the best outcome. But no, she didn’t strike me as the type.'
Sarah pondered this for a few moments and slapped her knee. 'A lover! Donna Locke met up with a lover and chances are she doesn’t know there’s a search on for her.'
'Hmm, maybe.' John checked over his shoulder and the car rolled out of the lot.
'What? That’s logical.'
'Yeah, except she made no calls. How would this fellow know where to meet her?'
'She jumped in a cab?'
'I’ve got Johnson on that now, don’t reckon it’ll turn anything up. Hope I’m wrong.'
'So if she didn’t get grabbed or take off, why didn’t she make it home?'
John indicated and merged into the traffic. 'That’s just it Camden, experience has developed my gut feeling, and my highly-trained intestines are telling me she did make it home.'
'Then why… the husband?'
'Usually is.'
'You think he killed his wife, dumped the body, then reported her missing?'
John sighed again. Thirty years with Robyn, they’d had a lot of rough ones. Even now there was no knowing if things could be repaired. Still, the act of murdering your spouse? It was just so… final.
'But Sergeant, why’re we putting out a media release to find Donna Locke?'
'Two reasons, I’m hoping to pick up an eye-witness who places Donna entering her apartment around 2:30am, and, because I don’t want Damien Locke to suspect we’re onto him. There’s evidence in that apartment and as long as Locke thinks he’s in the clear, the better the chance he’ll slip up.'
A horn blasted, and a silver Audi zipped around them. Sarah glanced at the speedometer, as usual the Sergeant was driving ten kilometres under the speed limit.
'You think he did it because of the affair?'
John raised an eyebrow at the girl.
'I mean… if there was an affair.'
He shrugged. 'Jealousy or money are the most common motives, although money usually wins out.'
Sarah opened her mouth to speak again a few times, but the deep furrows across his forehead and the weariness in his eyes stopped her. 
They pulled into the station car park.
'Grisly business Sir.'
'It always is.'


  1. This certainly grabbed my attention and had me wanting to read more.

    1. Very cool stuff, Charmaine. Tweeted and shared.

      Hugs and chocolate,

  2. I love When You Reach me. Thanks so much for sharing your fiction with us.

  3. a) I like the idea of a slightly more moral criminal as detective, b) Cheers for sharing for story, c) Thanks for the link. I'll check it out (since it's Friday where I am, too), and d) Congratulations on the AWC nomination.

  4. I enjoyed the cop dialogue in this. I'd love to find out more about what happened.

  5. Hi Charmaine

    Now when I saw the play on the word 'grizzly' I thought there might be a grizzly bear involved, lol.
    This story was great, shades of the Baden Powell murder under trial at the moment. My story reflects the - 'it's usually the husband' theme. Well done you and thanks again for posting about motive. I used that in my story too. Hopefully we'll get lots of great flash fiction on the theme.


    1. Thanks Denise, not a play, I used the wrong spelling - fixed now to grisly :)

  6. I loved the way the conversation plays out between the two police officers, one more experienced than the other with his 'highly-trained intestines' which made me smile.

  7. Interesting approach. Looks like the husband guilty party is a popular choice. As for detectives when younger, Nancy Drew was the one I read. :-)

  8. Enjoy his thoughts of his wife, Robyn, and the hint that murder, while final, may still be an option!

    Great flash fiction!

  9. Charmaine; if this was a prize challenge you would win hands down in my book! This had all the elements of speculation, motive, plot and tension. Loved it.

    Thanks for participating with RFW this month :)


    1. Donna that's very sweet, but your piece was all sorts of awesome!

  10. Dear Charmaine,

    Thanks for reading my text!

    Wow! This is such a great story played out in the dialogue between these two cops! I can see that you have made a studie of this genre; you've read a lot and you are good at writing detective stories that really grab the reader. I agree with Donna. This short piece is a winner!

    I am not experienced at all in writing mysteries, although I have read some and enjoy them. Thanks once again for posting about the importance of motive. I almost did not participate this time, but thanks to your post I reconsidered and decided to post the simplest story I could muster.

    Let us know if you write more to this story. I'm surely not the only one who would love to read more and find out what happened!

    Best wishes,

  11. Sure packed a punch at your bay, damn should enter it somewhere, sure could win easily at your bin.

  12. Enjoyed the way the flash moved forward through dialogue. Want to know the end of it now, what really happened to the missing lady and how? Thanks much for your comment on my post.