Shades of Murder
By Charlie Hudson
Pour a cup or glass of your favorite beverage, curl up or settle in and come meet the characters of Shades of Murder.
The setting is a fictional town of Verde Key, in the Florida Keys. Beverly, "Bev", Henderson is a twenty-seven year old, Type-A, overachieving police detective. She's a second generation cop and the older members of the force, to include the police chief and the senior detective, have known her since the time she was born. They consider her performance to be excellent, although it is sometimes difficult for them to think of her as an adult. She is not only the first female detective in the history of the department, but is also the youngest on record. As such, she routinely deals with the dynamics of gender and age issues at work. Bev's concerns with perfecting her role in her chosen profession are intertwined with her efforts to deflect her mother's concerns that she has yet to find a suitable husband. There are moments when living in a small town among well-meaning family and friends seems stifling.
The novel opens with the drowning death of Greg Wiley. Bev and the senior detective, Jim Osborn, are called to the scene. The victim was the part owner of a dive shop with Tom Farmer who was functioning as the safety diver when Wiley drowned as the result of problems encountered during a free dive. According to Tom Farmer and two witnesses on the scene, Farmer performed rescue procedures although he was unsuccessful. While preliminary indications are accidental death, Bev quickly discovers that Farmer had strong motive for wanting Wiley dead. Not only is there a business advantage for Farmer, but there is also the matter of Farmer's feelings for the voluptuous Karen Silsby, a former exotic dancer and Wiley's live-in girlfriend. Additionally, Ms. Silsby is the beneficiary of a sizeable insurance policy on Wiley.
Did Farmer, or Farmer at Silsby's bidding, murder Wiley? The problem is that if it was murder, how could Farmer have accomplished it with two credible witnesses present? Interviews around town support that Tom Farmer is a good, decent man and not the sort who would be suspected of murder. Bev's gut instinct tells her that Farmer is responsible, even though the investigation seems at a standstill when the medical examiner rules accidental death. As a lack of physical evidence frustrates Bev, Jim questions whether she cares as much for justice for Wiley as for maintaining her own flawless performance record.
Kyle Stewart, the new assistant DA, indicates he's willing to prosecute if Bev can bring him something other than circumstantial evidence, but his interest may have more to do with his attraction to Bev than with the merits of the case. Bev has uncharacteristically become quickly involved with him and she struggles with what she feels is a loss of control of her emotions.
These events are interspersed throughout the novel with the secondary story line of two men, Hal Grayson and Willie Denton, who have launched a robbery/killing spree beginning in Mississippi. The authorities initially have no clues to work from and even once they are identified as possible suspects, their zigzag pattern of movement is elusive. The reader learns their story from discussions among the police and from Willie Denton, a loser who has gotten himself into a situation he never anticipated. Hal Grayson, an ex-convict and the one with the plan, has a connection with Tom Farmer from Grayson's brief stint in the U.S. Navy. Grayson envisions stealing a boat from the marina where Farmer has his dive shop in order to make his way out of the country. The reader becomes aware that the killers, dubbed the "Devil's Duo", are on a course that will intersect with Bev.
How will it end? And can murder not be murder? Take the plunge and see what conclusions you draw.
Copyright © 2001-2020, Charlie Hudson. All rights reserved.