Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Murder Run by Shelly Frome - Can You Ever Stop Running? A Mystery You'll Never Solve...

They had just been talking, planning for a full field of wildflowers like they'd seen one day on the way back from town with supplies...All they had to do was pick out the particular flowers or just get a variety and enjoy whatever came up.

But even as they had stopped along that road, admiring the flowers, she had been on edge, looking around to see if anybody else was there--often glancing back to the road to see if there were any vehicles coming toward them...

Now he knew he'd failed...it was too late for him to protect her from harm... But he couldn't stop thinking of the subtle hints she'd thrown his way...

That time he'd finished setting up the tree he'd cut for her. And he'd stoked the fire he'd made of apple wood from the old orchard. She wanted him to listen closely to the ballet music from Appalachian Spring playing on her CD player. She'd said that her all-time favorite, Martha Graham, had danced the lead. She'd also said the story--which she thought Jed could relate to--had to do with pioneers who'd built a new farmhouse. This particular passage had to do with a young bride and her intended which was "very sweet."
But it wasn't only that which was getting to Jed. It was the memory of that same Christmas box. She'd been riffling through it holding up some ornaments for his approval when she said. At times like this, how can you help feeling safe and snug? What do you think Jed? Tell me things are going to be okay, even if you don't mean it.

"Wake up, Pal, we got a situation. . . . Hey, I'm talkin' here. Maybe she makes it, maybe she don't I'm sayin' you better move it?"
The voice came out of the past. The words cut into the here and now of the Connecticut night. Left with just the dial tone, Jed Cooper hung up, got off the cot, and tried to get his bearings. Though he'd been house sitting this junk trailer for a while, he still had to grope around to find the pull cord for the lights. He waited a few seconds more and punched in the unlisted number of the she the guy must've been talking about. It was busy...
Jed straggled out into the March dampness, skirted around the rusty snow plow blade, and hurried up the path. He slid behind the wheel of the Chevy pickup, cranked the old motor, gave it hardly any time to idle, and took off onto Green Hill Road.
Off the beaten path in the Litchfield Hills, there were no street lights. Under the misty cloud cover, his brights only made matters worse. And way out here his cell phone was useless...
Taking the dips and rises as best he could, he began to have second thoughts. Granted, the guy had to be talking about Miss Julie. Putting aside what in God's name he was doing at her place, what if he was lying in wait? And even if he'd split, what were the repercussions? Could Jed just tear into a single woman's hidden drive this late at night? And then what? Check things out, or call up to her window to see if she was okay? Or, hoping no one had spotted him, ring her bell? Suppose he got no answer?
Besides, there were too many incidents already on his record. One more, and he'd had it.
But then again, she'd gotten so skittish today, she didn't even let him finish his chores. Told him to put down the chainsaw and completely changed her mind about clearing the drive. "If I can see the road, someone can see me," she said. "I want you to go up to the attic and put a latch on the crawl space."
But why? What was that all about? She didn't say; wouldn't tell him...

Murder Run

By Shelly Frome

I have been very fortunate in finding a "handyman," Steve, who had just started mowing for me this summer, but stayed on to accomplish some really amazing things that had needed to be done on the Cabin. I never knew how handy it was to have a man around the house until I met Steve... So when I read the blurb of this book and realized that a handyman was the main character, I immediately decided I'd want to read it... I didn't know at that time that the single woman for whom the handyman was working would be murdered! LOL

Because, of course, everybody in town assume that Jed, the outsider, the vagabond, who had worked for many other older women, had to be the killer! Who else?!

He didn't have to wait to find out what was
next. First the crackle of the police radio
and, in practically no time, Road Trooper
Charlie Take was up the stairs and upon him.
Tate glanced at the lifeless form on the bed,
glanced back, and uttered the inevitable
"Right. Jed Cooper. Now how in hell did I
know it would be you?
One thing to be noted immediately, this writer will give you no "clues" about whodunit--that is unless you read very carefully!

For instance, if you didn't catch that Jed had recognized the voice that had called him about heading to his employer's house, you might have missed that Jed was not just an unlucky vagabond who had never been able to hold on to a job, drifted around the country to pick up jobs where he could and, perhaps now, was being framed...

Certainly the local police or local road trooper were not even willing to listen to what Jed had to say. All they were waiting for was a confession, or they would keep hunting until they found evidence regarding the murder. Which they didn't work hard to do.

But one thing soon caught Jed's attention, Trooper Charlie Tate was at the "right place at the right time" too often to be coincidental...

Jed had gathered a few clues as he'd made his way to her house. He'd seen a white very distinctive car hidden away from the road and had gotten there early enough that he'd seen the man run from the house, knew he had a limp, and had tracked him into the woods... While the information was turned over to the assigned investigators, neither paid much attention nor tried to follow up to find the car or man... Jed was on his own if he was to escape being charged for murder...

Small town America was in full play as most considered him guilty, while a few independents chose to give him a chance. It was the women who were willing to help him get out of town--Jed knew who owned that car!

He was headed home--to the place where his mother still lived but had allowed him to be taken from... Only one good thing happened on that trip, he met his boss' niece who had inherited her home and began to get to know each other.

Think of Jed as a whistle-blower, if you will. An individual who knew a lot about people and what had been happening during his earlier years... Then consider that when going back in time, he finds that much has changed about the "business" that had been carried out in those years. In fact, new management had taken over that business...

And many stumbling blocks were thrown out to Jed to keep him from trying to find out more...Take for instance, the two "sweet things" that came into a bar where he was drinking...
Ginger and Dee didn't at all like the way things were going and switched gears. First by ordering another round for themselves, which Butch complied with as offhand as possible. And then by going into a biker song routine.
"Hey," Ginger piped up, "how about 'Motorcycle Mama'?" Getting more and more sloshed by the minute, she got to her feet, began wiggling around, and tried to drown out the speakers.
"Motorcycle Mama, won't you lay your big . . .down? What is it--ass, feet, butt? Help me out here."
Another dirty look from the bank girls, another finger from Ginger.
"Never mind. The next lyric's for you, Jed." Shaking it a little more, still hollering over the speakers, Ginger sang, "I always get in trouble when you bring it around. Ring any bells, hotshot? Huh? Huh?"
When this got her nowhere, she tried to shop Dee. Claiming that Dee was a combo of "Motorcycle Mama" plus the gal in the Neil Young song. While insisting on a large 7-up chaser to make sure she stayed on top of her game...And then it happened all at once. Without really looking, Ginger reached for the tumbler of 7-Up and knocked both it and her cocktail onto Jed's lap. Before he knew what was happening. Ginger leaned over the bar giggling and shoved a towel onto his lap yelling, "No, no, my bad, my pleasure, sir..."
Jed help up his hands in mock surrender. He told the guys who were crowding him out the door he was just leaving anyway...

What you'll find is one hell of a mess...a dangerous mess, where problems are handled by getting rid of the people causing those problems...

One reason it all seems a mess is that the author had not identified the business early enough so that readers must play close attention to the characters, their names, and their demeanor to know who are the old players and the new. Others don't even identify themselves when they confront people like Jed and some of the other characters from the old hood... I can give you only one hint. The book is a crime novel--don't expert too many people beyond Jed who you would consider to be the good guys...

And the amazing thing is that it ends that way...some things get so complicated that it is better to make the best of a mess and move on... And somehow that makes a certain kind of sense out of an extremely complicated mystery... Dare you try to solve it? I certainly didn't, but managed to put most of my unanswered questions to rest and confirm that the ending was the best it could be for me to be satisfied... Yet, the details linger in my head, puzzling, provoking attention to what would have or should have come next... 

My only lovely gift from the author? Jed was a strangely intriguing character...and he had met someone and they seemed to be happy in their new relationship. And he was hard at work creating that field of wildflowers that he'd once promised to a memorable woman... An honorable handyman indeed!


Shelly Frome is a member of Mystery Writers of America, a professor of dramatic arts emeritus at the University of Connecticut, a former professional actor and, all told, has written over twenty-five plays in addition to his articles and novels. 
A frequent contributor of articles on all facets of creative writing and acting, Shelly appears in numerous periodicals including Southern Writers Magazine where he is the film columnist. He is also a contributor to writers' blogs and websites in the U.S. and the U.K.
His fiction includes Twilight of the DrifterThe Twinning Murders,and Lilac Moon. His Hollywood crime caper Tinseltown Riff was released in March 2013. His latest crime novel Murder Run was just released in August.
Among his works of non-fiction are the acclaimed The Actors Studio and texts on The Art and Craft of Screenwriting and writing for the stage. Shelly lives in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

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