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How It Rates
When Port Ellingham librarian and amateur sleuth Elizabeth Crump discovers the fingerless body of Reginald Appleby, the local newspaper editor, washed up on the beach, she is surprised to learn that Isaac Dalrymple, a recent migrant from Eritrea, has confessed to and is arrested for the horrible crime.
Despite the circumstantial evidence against Isaac, Elizabeth is convinced he is innocent and sets out to find the real killer. Somebody in the town wanted Appleby dead, but why? When Elizabeth starts digging, she discovers a sordid town secret and a killer determined to prevent anybody finding out what it is.
Naked Villainy is a cosy mystery story with an eccentric cast of characters and a humorous twist.
You deliver exactly what your description promises: a cosy mystery story with an eccentric cast of characters and a humorous twist. I would describe it as "quaint. It reminded me of a mystery my grandmother would like, or Murder She Wrote. I can tell exactly the style of story you are going for, and you have the humorous tone down pat. The Librarian/Detective duo definitely has series potential.
My main criticism would be about action. This is a very talky piece, and you do a lot more telling than showing. All of the big moments happen off-screen, even the solving of the crime! Maybe it was due to the restriction of the short story format, but too much is presented after the fact.
Take, for instance, the interview scene. You preface it with Gummidge explaining the situation to Inspector Barr. I feel you could skip most of this exchange and get right to it, let us see what actually happened. (To be fair, the actual interrogation is where you do some of your best showing, but some of it is made redundant by the previous scene.)
And again, the ending just happens. Gummidge gets the call about the Mayor and then you jump to a scene of Elizabeth explaining how she knew the wife was the killer. Show us how she figures this out. Take us through it, from point A to point B. You're the one telling the story. Don't let your characters do all the talking.
Hopefully you find some of this helpful. Good luck with it!
Thank you so much for your helpful comments! I agree with all of them and see how much richer I could have made the story with more 'showing' of the solving of the crime. I was trying to keep the word content down but your advice has given me some great ideas to flesh it out but still keep it concise.
Again, thank you for taking the time to comment and give advice.
I enjoyed this piece. Cozy mysteries aren't really my style, but you have a good, easy and confident voice in this story that makes the read enjoyable and quick. The characters of Gummidge is fun and I can definitely see more stories revolving aroud him. Elizabeth is a little bit less developed-there's not much that makes her pop, and she kinda follows the guidelines that you expect from a cozy mystery.
Like Joshua mentioned, the main issue with the piece is that the mystery feels underdeveloped.I could never make the same logic leaps that your characters were making. Even when Gummidge is explaining how it was Myrna that was the killer, he doesn't really show any proof. It's all conjecture. The same goes when Elizabeth first says that it couldn't be Isaac that killed Reginald. I would think that there would need more proof in order to release Isaac. Perhaps even just mentioning something about how Elizabeth has been right in this sort of thing before, etc, could help.
I think you have the bones for a good mystery here, they just need to be better connected. It feels like you had the idea for a novel and tried to condence it down to a short story--if not, this could definitely be lenghten to a longer piece.
Style wise, I thought the writing was strong. I would recommend maybe either reworking or getting rid of the first paragraph. It's not really eyecatching, you throw a lot of the names at the reader, and it feels too passive.
Good stuff, thanks for sharing.
I liked your story. You've got a good command of language with some great descriptive moments and a good cast of characters. As Joshua stated above, there could be more of Gummidge's and Crumps' process shown on-screen but it looks like you've got some room to play with. I think, with you command of time, it would only take a couple hundred more words to get you there.
My one complaint is the moment where Miss Crump shares her diagnosis of Isaac's Asperger's. I just find it slightly convenient that the three of symptoms Isaac shows in the interrogation happen to be the only three symptoms Miss Crump offers as evidence - the literal interpretation of idioms, while supporting the claim, could also be put down to language barrier.
Other than that minor quibble, I think you've got a good classical mystery that has the potential to be great.
Many thanks for your comments. I really appreciate your thoughts on the Asperger's section and I hadn't even considered the language barrier being a factor so that is really helpful advice.
Again, thanks for taking the time to comment. Much appreciated!
Warm regards, Kathryn
You're a great writer and I think your style is probably marketable. This is a specific kind of genre writing and although I'm not particularly familiar with it, I suspect you're doing it well.
I love all the characters. One of my favorite bits is when Gummidge recounts the bird thieves. Even if that weren't to lead anywhere, it would have been my favorite. Such a cute and funny idea, then the recurring bit with the wombat.
I'm wondering if the bit in the beginning about their lives changing in unimaginable ways is really accurate. Due to the cosiness of it all, it seems that their lives have pretty much gone back to normal.
My favorite story on Arrest Us so far! Good luck!
Thank you so much for your lovely comments! That is very kind of you.
What you have said about the main characters' lives (not) changing in unimaginable ways is spot on . Originally I was going to write this as a short novel (I probably still will!) and I would have gone into a great deal more detail about how the lives of an Eritrean immigrant, a cantankerous librarian and a gormless small-town sergeant really did change quite radically. But you are quite right that, in this story, there wasn't a great transformation. It was case of not wanting to 'kill my darlings' ...and I should have!
Many thanks again Max. Your comments and advice are really appreciated.
Excellent - among the best I've read so far.
I do have to echo Damon's early comment about the symptoms - too neat and unlikely.
Fun, interesting characters, well-written, engaging. Congrats.
Your comments make me feel really good. Many thanks for your kind words. It gives me hope and a real desire to go on writing!
This is a nice depature from the generally dark tone of the crime stories. The humor is quirky, sometimes chidlike - I would even venture to say it is slightly British...exactly the type of humor that I like! The piece is fun, and surprisingly so (for a competition filled with dark, violent stories).
The only point of contention I have is the first paragraph. While it could do well as a parody of the mystery genre's cliche ("their lives were going to change in unexpectable ways"), it does not fit in with the overall quirky quality that I love about this piece. Consider removing it - it seems too conveniently expository. However this is only a personal preference of mine (to leave out the details and let readers deduce for themselves), so take it with a grain of salt!
Great read :)
Thanks so much for your comments! I agree about the first paragraph. I was originally going to write this as a novella and planned to show how much Elizabeth's, Isaac's and Sergeant Gummidge's life changed over the course of the story. I agree that it doesn't really fit this short story.
I really value your comment about the type of humour I employed. It is precisely the effect I wanted to produce so your validation is much appreciated.
Thank you again for taking the time to comment!
Not my usual cup of tea, but well-written and it kept my attention to the end. It was good to see the reappearance of the lyrebird (I saw that coming the second it was mentioned), but it would have been nice if the wombat cropped up again at the end. All in all a good, if rather docile piece, with good solid writing and a gentle humour to it. Nicely done.
Thanks for your comments Kent. Next time, I'll give the wombat a nefarious mission so he can pair up with Larry and perhaps even solve the next crime!
But seriously, I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. Take care.
Warm regards, Kathryn
This is a nice and gentle little crime tale you’d expect to see in something like Midsomer Murders on TV. The escaped animals is a little reminiscent of Hot Fuzz, so this does definitely have a small town crime feel about it.
I found interesting to have an Eritrean immigrant in the mix, especially as you hint towards an underlying tension. I found myself wishing you’d made more of his ethnicity, and that perhaps it was a missed opportunity to really rack up the tension levels there. I’m glad you chose an easy to read name for him though. I know a few Eritreans, and even after years of knowing them, I cannot get their names right. Or at least not to their satisfaction.
The story is a little neat and tidy. Resolutions come easily, and mostly play out off the page – you have Gummidge unsure of the confession the section before we see it. Also you state it is the strangest in his experience, but the interview is very short, and not all that strange. If you show more of the workings of the investigation on the page, I think it will strengthen the story over all.
This is clear, concise, easy to read, and has some pretty good characters in it. It gets a thumbs up from me, though I do think it could really be improved with some polishing here and there.
I really appreciate your thoughtful comments on how to make this better. I was originally limited by a word count and agree that things were rather neatly wrapped up when they could have been expanded upon and 'shown' rather than 'told'. It was originally started as a novella then pared down to a short story but your advice is making me think I should expand it again and turn it into the story it should be.
Thanks again Adam for taking the time to read my story and for making such helpful comments.
All the best and warm regards,
Personally, I strongly dislike these kinds of stories but my mom loves them so I'll try to review this based on what she'd think. Overall, it's a fun, light read with charming characters and a cute little mystery. The lyrebird was a neat touch (it reminded me of Wally the myna bird in Twin Peaks so for me that was actually pretty rad) but the way you wrapped up the story could probably be improved. It would've been more fun and involving if you'd shown us the process of solving the case instead of just summarizing it to the police chief. Clearly this would've been tricky what with the word count and all but I think by doing a little cutting and trimming here and there you could've finagled the room. I'm also on board with the symptoms thing; it seems weird. Maybe you even could've cut the interrogation scene entirely and just summed up snippets of it as it doesn't seem to add much to the story and would give you more room to flesh out the actual solving of the crime. This could also be used as a chance to give Isaac a more active role in the investigation, yeah? All in all, this is still well written and I think you nailed the style. I was forced to read a Janet Evanovich once and this reminded me of it so kudos! I just might have to send this to my mom.
Thanks for your comments Aud! I'll take your suggestions on board...and I hope your mum likes it!
I found your story to be very well written. The syntax is very tight and all of the loose ends are tied up very neatly. the ending comes a bit quickly and is the call about the suicide coming in at the exact moment that all the pieces are coming together seems a little convenient. It does wrap you story up nicely though. I'm glad that you made the animal escape relevant to the actual story; I had assumed that that bit of the story was only around to show how uneventful the usual crimes were in the town. Thanks for a fun read.
Thanks for your kind words, Cmangano! The word count did limit me a bit and I agree that elements of it might appear contrived. I plan to turn it into a novella one day so will go into more detail then and do a bit more showing than telling.
Great little story Kathryn! you are a very good storyteller and talented writer. I can't wait to read more .