Saturday, January 12, 2008

Guess the Plot, Mystery Edition

The titles below were nominated in various categories for the 2007 Edgar Award, named for Edgar Allen Poe and given to the best mysteries of the year. Can you tell which are the actual plots of the books and which were conceived by your fellow minions?

1. The Pale Blue Eye

a. Confronted by a month of mysterious phone calls, unexplained power outages and strangers watching her house, Penelope Tweeters hears a knock on the door one night and spies a Pale Blue Eye in the peephole. What happens next will determine the course of her life . . . and that of detective Roger Masterson.

b. Ruthie goes to Church for her yearly confession, but once inside the booth she is startled to see the priest's pale blue eye pressed up against the grating, staring at her unblinkingly as she speaks, and by the time she's done Ruthie is thoroughly shaken. The next day she learns that Father Melius is dead. Now she's wondering whether that was him during confession. Thankfully the new priest, incorruptible Father Andrew, has an inquisitive streak himself and doesn't mind comparing notes with Ruthie.

c. Carla Giovanni, star of Sotheby’s surprise ratings monster “Auction House”, thought she was in the Magyar border town of Sopron for one night, a quick stop on her lecture tour of Europe--until the Hungarian Secret Police showed up with a warrant for her arrest. When Carla learns she’s accused of stealing the world’s most unusual gemstone, she must evade the authorities long enough to track down the real thief of . . . "The Pale Blue Eye."

d. Retired New York City detective Gus Landor is summoned to West Point to investigate the hanging and subsequent mutilation of a cadet. Further outrages occur; the removal of the victims' hearts suggests that a satanic cult might be at work. Can Landor solve the crimes aided by none other than Edgar Allen Poe?

2. The Dead Hour

a. After terrorists crack the moon into three pieces, civilization lies in ruins and plagues ravage the survivors. Small-time stand up man, Wesley Watterington of Walla Walla wages a war on despair against Wanda the Wicked of Washington to prevent despair from taking over the Earth.

b. When 21-year-old crime reporter Paddy Meehan follows up a late-night disturbance complaint, the attractive man at the door assures her, as he had the police, that the incident won't happen again. Behind him is Vhari Burnett, a blond woman with a bloody face. The man bribes Paddy, as he had the police, to keep quiet. The next day brings the news of Vhari's death. Paddy suspects foul play.

c. After a day and two nights lost on the desert, Markus makes it into an oasis town called Harness. Not trusting his recovering wits, he refrains at first from complaining about the town's odd customs, like the fact that every male wears a long nail behind his ear. But when he finds out that everyone is expected to spend every noon hour in the town's huge underground bomb shelter, wordlessly working on a monument to the Matriarch Lilly (who may or may not be still alive in the biggest house in town) Markus feels the urge to investigate.

d. Someone is killing the residents of Little Pine. Six murders in six days, and every one of them committed at the same hour. Detecive Pete Scarborough must nab the "Midnight Murderer" before the clock strikes twelve again, but so far the only clues are the stopped watches found in each of the victims' mouths.

3. The Virgin of Small Plains

a. Tiffany Spring Padovani opens a chicken ranch in the East Texas wilderness. After battling cattle barons and a disastrous winter Tiffany invites her girlfriends Amber and Celeste to create "The Virgin of the Plains" whorehouse, eatery and part-time livery service. But when Celeste is found murdered in a locked room of the bordello, Tiff and Amber must solve the crime while dealing with an incompetent--or corrupt--sheriff.

b. Nathan Shellenberger, sheriff of Small Plains, and his teenage sons, Rex and Patrick, discover the naked frozen body of a beautiful teenage girl. Later, Nathan and "Doc" Reynolds bash the girl's face to an unrecognizable pulp, since they know who she is and fear that either Patrick or Rex's best friend, 17-year-old Mitch Newquist, is her killer. Witnessing this terrible scene is Mitch, hidden in Doc's home office supply closet where he's gone for a condom to use with Abby, Doc's 16-year-old daughter. 17 years later, Abby and Rex—now the sheriff—find another blizzard victim, Mitch's mother, dead near the marker commemorating the still-unidentified "virgin."

c. The funny thing was, there weren't any virgins in Small Plains. The mystery was, who was responsible? The chief suspects were playboy Lance "Love Machine" Parker, model Troy "Pretty Boy" Martin, and gas station attendant Freddie "Foot-long" Wells.

d. Amber is known throughout the Small Plains region as the most unattainable damsel around. Three brothers compete to win her hand...or anything else they can get. Matt's in love; Jon is moved by lust; and Horace is a domineering first-born who simply has to win every game. A few days after a tornado, Amber walks in to town from the empty West, exhausted and covered only in a blanket and lots of hay. She's not talking but a few months later it becomes apparent she's pregnant. Now Horace, who begins to repent his egoism, feels that he must discreetly find out whether his family is responsible for Amber's condition or whether her silence signals a situation better left alone.

4. Liberation Movements

a. While researching deaths on a Pacific island, Proctologist Walter Mathews discovers a sinister plot to take over the world using genetically modified breadfruit plant products. Will millions die of constipation or will Walter unleash the worlds largest liberation movement. Plus a cow.

b. When a boatload of Cuban refugees reaches Miami, the passengers are put in holding cells. Next morning one of them is found murdered. Does INS agent Alberto Raina have the cojones to take on a murder investigation before the cops take things into their own hands?

c. Veggie Libbers were killing vegetable gardeners all over Pretty Oaks and had to be stopped. Omnivore Ben O'Brady vowed to eat nothing but beans until the Veggie Libbers were stopped. Would he find the murderers before having a liberation movement?

d. Intelligence officer Brano Sev supervises the investigation of a murder in Russian-occupied Prague in 1968 that's later tied to a plane hijacked by Armenian terrorists on its way to Istanbul in 1975. If anyone can solve the mystery, it's an intelligence officer named Brano.

5. The Faithful Spy

a. John Wells, an American CIA agent, has spent the last decade successfully infiltrating the inner sanctums of al-Qaeda. Now he's been recruited as one of the primary participants for an act of terrorism designed to bring the U.S. to its knees. After being taken into custody by a suspicious CIA, Wells escapes and goes undercover on his own. Can he prevent whatever terrorism al-Qaeda is looking to unleash?

b. At the end of WW2, six young women formed the Society of Violette to maintain the secret of the Ultraviolet weapon and the Infra-pink interrogation technique. Over the course of six decades, they create a cadre of ultimate spies. Only the return of Communism can justify their continued existence.

c. Marta Marlin was a faithful wife, mother, and friend. But when she saw her husband, daughter and best friend in a pawn shop together buying a gun, she had to know why. She had to become . . . The Faithful Spy.

d. When the CIA tries to kill Wes Miller, one of their agents, he's forced into hiding. The Chinese unsuccessfully attempt to recruit him, but when his family are kidnapped he must decide who's responsible and which side he's really on.

6. Sharp Objects

a. Pansy Poppinchalk collects sharp objects at estate auctions. She has Nelly Bly's hatchet, Jack the Ripper's scalpels, Sweeny Todd's razors and Charles Manson's toenail clippers. When dead and dismembered bodies start turning up killed by Jeffrey Dahmer's jackknife, the police suspect Pansy and her eclectic collection. Can she convince the police of her innocence and find the killer in time?

b. When a young girl is murdered and mutilated and another disappears in reporter Camille Preaker's hometown, her editor sends her there for a human-interest story. As Camille works to uncover the killer's identity, she also uncovers family secrets as gruesome as the scars beneath her clothing.

c. Sally Sterling received a letter in the mail each day with just one word. Knife, sword, ice pick, awl . . . The police didn't take it seriously, but Sally wanted to know why someone was threatening her with . . . Sharp Objects.

d. Composer Neil Jensen is found dead in his seat after the first performance of his latest symphony. The suspects include the conductor, Jensen's wife, his mistress . . . actually, pretty much everybody had a motive. But who, in the middle of a concert hall, had the opportunity?

7. The King of Lies

a. Successful author, 25 y/o, fit and just out of the Navy, wishes to tutor cute, young, aspiring female writer. Object: marriage. I have three best sellers, a Hugo Award and an Edgar. Millions see my screenplays and my three dead wives are happily ensconced in a mausoleum.

b. Used car salesman Bob Carter will lie about anything to make a sale. Unfortunately, when Carter's wife turns up dead, no one believes his alibi; the cops don't even look for another suspect. Enter private detective Lou Robespierre, who digs up a motive and three suspects. But can Robespierre pin the murder on one of them?

c. Trapped in a loveless marriage and haunted by poor emotional choices and his sister's psychological trauma, Jackson Pickens finds himself under suspicion when his father's corpse surfaces more than a year after he was last seen alive.

d. Pathological liar Tom Stafford couldn't tell the truth if his life depended on it. He even framed himself for murder to avoid telling the truth. When his lawyer quit in disgust, would Tom be the King of Lies or the Queen of Cell Block C?

8. Holmes on the Range

a. On a dude ranch in Texas, Sherlock Holmes is drawn into one of the most baffling cases of his career. Three horses have disappeared from a corral, yet the muddy ground surrounding the corral shows no hoof prints or wagon marks. Also, the owner of the ranch has been murdered, but that part's not nearly as intriguing.

b. One night in 1892, Old Red becomes smitten with Sherlock Holmes on hearing his brother read "The Red-Headed League" around the campfire during a cattle drive. Determined to follow in his hero's footsteps, Old Red gets the chance to apply the master's methods at a ranch, whose general manager is found dead after a stampede.

c. They called him Sheriff Sherlock to annoy him because Bart Holmes was the worst sheriff in Texas But when someone tunnels into the bank overnight and makes off with fifty thousand dollars, it's up to Bart to solve the crime. Will he find his courage . . . and his bullets?

d. In a true kitchen nightmare, culinary crusader Gordon Ramsey meets Sherlock Holmes in this time-traveling mystery, wherein the great detective comes to modern London to uncover the truth behind a range of butchered cooks.

9. A Field of Darkness

a. Native American Sheriff Buck Inghorse has his hands full with a triple homicide during the Fifth International Convention of Weredingos in the Field of Darkness Convention Center. Can Buck find the killer before he, she . . . or it strikes again?

b. Some thought Indians were buried in Dark Field. Others thought space aliens were entombed there. Only Mark Martin knew the truth: every one who had ever been cross with him was "reforming" there.

c. When Madeline went into the newspaper field, it was to write fluff pieces. Nothing in her background prepared her for trying to solve the bizarre 20-year-old murder of two young women, a crime that her cousin, Lapthorne Townsend, might have been involved in.

d. A power outage in East Shreveport leaves the minor league team's baseball stadium in darkness for six minutes. When the lights come back on, shortstop Phil Hargroves is lying dead on second base. Luckily off-duty detective Jack Lawrence was attending the game, but there are no eyewitnesses on . . . A Field of Darkness.

10. The Open Curtain

a. A student is found at the scene of a multiple murder at a remote campsite. He has minor injuries and few memories. Lyndi helps him "open the curtain" blocking his memory and they set a wedding date. But trouble comes when they try to trick the priests by giving themselves new names that match the killer and the victim in a murder committed by Brigham Young's grandson.

b. When the plush velvet curtains of the Pantages part to reveal the corpse of actress Dame Catherine Holt lying in a gory heap, LA homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: he's going to be pulling serious overtime, and he'd better get his new wife orchestra seating to "Wicked" to make up for this fiasco.

c. Chakira left the curtain open in the department store dressing room giving detective Pooky Rottellini full view of the map tattooed on her left cheek. Can Pooky romance Chakira into revealing the rest of the map without telling her the secret of the lost treasure? Or will Pooky spill the beans while exploring Chakira's secret valley?

d. Everyone in Great Falls is dying to star in the Falls Community Theater's newest production, MYSTERY. When a prop gun gets replaced with a live one on opening night, with tragic consequences, the small, close-knit town collapses in on itself. Can Sheriff Amy Long open the now locked doors and silent voices to to uncover the murderer?

Answers below.

Fake plots provided by Dave F., Pumkin828, Khazar-khum, Precie, Bill H., AR, and EE.

Actual plots:

1. d; 2. b; 3. b; 4. d; 5. a; 6. b; 7. c; 8. b; 9. c; 10. a


talpianna said...

I did pretty well, considering I'd only read two of them. You got the plot of Virgin of Small Plains slightly wrong; BTW, it's a really good atmospheric book.

And it was Lizzie Borden, not Nellie Bly, who had an axe. Nellie was the first female investigative reporter.

Evil Editor said...

My plots were taken from Amazon and Barnes and Noble's descriptions.

talpianna said...

Oh. 'Nuff said.

Robin S. said...

Good Lord. That's all I'm gonna say. Anybody who knows me at all, knows what I'm thinking.

Moses Gunner said...

Berenson is a great Author. Check out The Ghost War by Alex Berenson