I’ve been talking a lot about Hy Conrad lately on my blog, on Facebook, to people on the streets, to the television, to the poor cashier who just wants to check my groceries and move on to the next customer. Pretty much anyone and anything who happens to be there, I’ll talk about him really. So now it’s time to explain why. Now it’s time to reveal just who Hy Conrad is and why I’ve thought he was just completely awesome since my old college days back in the early 90s (yeah, kids…I’m THAT old!). But here’s the really really cool part about this four part series on Hy. After this particular post, I’m not going to be doing much talking at all in this four part series/contest. And really, we won’t be doing the typical interview situation with Hy either. Nope. I plan on letting Hy’s brilliant criminal mind do all the work. I’m about to introduce you to the man who would have been a criminal mastermind that would have given Lex Luthor and James Moriarty a run for their money…if he hadn’t decided to use his evil genius for good by entertaining the masses.
But before we get to the nitty gritty, a word about how I first became familiar with Hy Conrad. As I’ve already mentioned, back in the old college days, my best friend and I had a horrible bout of addiction. It was not something pretty to behold, I can tell you that. But unlike most college students, my addiction wasn’t booze or drugs or anything so mundane, but rather I just couldn’t get enough of complex logic puzzles. Yes, here’s the part where you scream, “NERD!” and I merely bow in acceptance of this. But it’s true and I’m not ashamed to admit it. My friend and I would spend tons of time scouring the Internet (which was then only in its infancy and didn’t really have as many options as we have today…or graphics for that matter (yes, it was mostly text based back then)) searching for any logics games we could find (William Soleau was a computer puzzle game god back in those days) or buying any logics puzzle book we can find at our local bookstore. That’s when we picked up a very short book of puzzles called ALMOST PERFECT CRIMES by Hy Conrad. And we were hooked from that point on.
ALMOST PERFECT CRIMES and a slew of other similar books by Hy were basically very short, one or two page mysteries that could be solved by careful observation of the stories and by asking the right questions. These mysteries were so much fun! And so diabolical. And I’ll tell you a little secret that not many people know: I often tell people that it was Sherlock Holmes who inspired me to become a forensic death investigator. That’s only partially true. Hy’s mini-mysteries were also part of that inspiration. I loved solving murders because of them and so, it guided my area of study while in college and led to my current occupation. But shhhhhhhhh! Don’t tell anyone. They’d think I’m crazy if they heard that.
But unfortunately, after all while, Hy stopped writing his mini-mystery books and sort of dropped off the radar…or rather, MY radar. Because, unknown to me, he was busy with other things I was totally unaware of. He was the writer of the awesome Parker Bros game CRACK THE CASE for instance. I’d played the game and LOVED it, but I had no idea he was the writer of it until he told me years later. He was also consulting for various Hollywood mysteries including CLUE the video mystery game (and I believe, even the actual Clue movie).
But it wasn’t until about 2002 or 2003 that my radar picked up again on what Hy was doing…and boy was it HUGE! You see, I was a huge fan of USA Network’s hit series MONK. I couldn’t get enough of it. The mysteries were so devious. The humor was just the way I liked it. It was the perfect murder mystery series in my opinion. I can’t tell you how excited I got the night I was watch the credits and saw that one of the writers was none other than my old mystery writing hero Hy Conrad. And I watched the series faithfully for all eight seasons, watching Hy’s position on the show move from writer to consulting producer to producer. In my opinion, the creators of the show could not have chosen a better person to plot the horrendously heinous crimes that Adrian Monk had to solve.
Since then, he’s done a number of other things too. He was consulting producer of USA Network’s hit series White Collar. He also wrote a mystery play that debuted recently in Key West called Home Exchange. And even co-wrote a humor book about dogs (no mystery involved. lol) called THINGS YOUR DOG DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW.
But the one thing he’s done recently that I’m MOST excited about is when he agreed to write his very first full length mystery novel and let Seven Realms publish it! It was a dream come true. I’d been bugging him for a while about it and when he eventually agreed, I just couldn’t believe it. And let me tell you, RALLY ‘ROUND THE CORPSE was every bit as good as I’d hoped. Every bit as diabolical. Every bit as mind-bending and fun and humorous as I’d dreamed.
And THAT’S why I’ve been pushing him so much lately. Why I’ve been pushing the book so much. If you have the world’s most awesome piece of apple pie, don’t you want all your friends to know about it? Well, that’s what I’ve been doing all this time by talking about Hy and his latest novel. I really want you guys to know about it. So when it came time to think up a way to introduce you to this proverbial master of mystery, I realized there was only one real way to do it. I’d have a contest and we’d introduce him to you the same way he was introduced to me…by a series of incredibly fun short mysteries for you to solve!
So here’s the way we’re going to do it. READ CAREFULLY to know how the contest works. For the next four blog posts, Hy has written a short mystery featuring characters from RALLY ‘ROUND THE CORPSE. I will post the mystery and then, provide the solution five days later. During that five day period, if you think you know the answer, email me at email@example.com with the subject heading: MYSTERY CONTEST. Then, in the body of the email, give me your solution. Everyone who gets the correct answer will be placed in a pool. With four mysteries, you have four chances for your name to get placed in this pool, by the way. After the final mystery solution is provided, I will randomly select one winner from the pool to win a brand new KINDLE FIRE!!! Runner up will receive a print edition of Rally ‘Round the Corpse and another 7R book of their choice. Second runner up will receive a print edition of Rally ‘Round the Corpse.
[NOTE: One way to get your name placed in the pool an extra time (for a possible total of five entries) is to email me and tell me how you have shared these blogs with your friends (via Facebook, Twitter, etc.).]
Anyway, without further ado, here is the first mystery. Read carefully. Read multiple times. The answer is in there. You just have to know what to look for. Good luck!
THE CALL NOT TAKEN
Amy didn’t have a lot of girlfriends, and the few she had… Well, they all had a talent for drama. Amy didn’t like drama. That’s why, after a hard day at the travel agency, when she saw that Marta was calling again, yet again, she let it go into voicemail.
Marta Brown had a talent both for drama and bad boyfriends. Her latest, Chas, was the worst. Possessive and mean and probably psychotic. Amy forbade Marta from ever seeing him again, as much as you could forbid a friend from anything. Marta obeyed this good common sense, but she still called several times a day to whine. And this time, regrettably, Amy didn’t answer.
An hour later, when she checked her messages, there was Marta. “Before you jump to any conclusions,” she began, “I’m not with Chas. You’re right. He’s a psychotic loser. I’m at my thinking spot now. Remember? The little park under the George Washington Bridge?” The line went silent. For a few seconds Amy thought she’d hung up. “Amy,” the voice continued, “Don’t be mad. But I think maybe I should give Chas another chance. Even a psychotic loser needs… Amy, hold on. Something…”
The next ten seconds were confusing and the ten after that, horrifying. Amy could hear noises and footsteps and finally Marta’s voice. It was a little distant from the phone, but Amy could clearly make out her friend’s last words, begging for her life. “No! No!”
When Amy got to Fort Washington Park, Sergeant Rawlings and his team were already there. So was Marta Brown’s body, almost directly under the huge span, illuminated by the lights of two police cars and a van. On the grass nearby lay a bloody baseball bat, ready to be bagged.
Rawlings made an effort to be comforting. “Even if you’d picked up when she called, there’s nothing you could have done. Her purse is empty. Her jewelry gone. It was a mugging gone bad.”
“No,” Amy blurted back. “Chas did this.” She had told Rawlings about Marta and Chas when she’d called in the emergency, so the sergeant was up to speed. “He must have been following her. He heard her on the phone, calling him a psychotic loser. He lost it and attacked her. Simple as that.”
“It’s not,” Rawlings said, still making an effort. “Chas has an alibi.”
Amy paused, confused, allowing the constant, thunderous hum of bridge traffic to wash over her head. “What’s his alibi?”
“He was home.” The sergeant pointed toward the far side of the Hudson. “Fort Lee. Chas was at a grocery store, buying cigarettes and beer five minutes before the attack. Twenty minutes later he drove across the bridge into Manhattan. My men found him in a bar on the Upper West Side.”
“Why would he buy beer then run off to a bar in Manhattan?”
“I don’t know,” said Rawlings. “All I know is the grocery clerk I.D.ed him in New Jersey, his receipt set the time, and his EZ-Pass tells us when he crossed the bridge. Numbers don’t lie. He wasn’t here when your friend was killed.”
Amy thought it over, recalling so vividly the desperation in Marta’s last, distant cry for help, preserved forever on her voice mail.
“He did it,” Amy said, shaking her head. “And I know how.”
HOW DID CHAS COMMIT THE MURDER DESPITE HIS ALIBI?
WHAT CLUE TIPPED AMY OFF?
Think you know the answer? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you get it right, your name will be added to the pool for a chance to win a Kindle Fire! Be sure to check back this coming Saturday (06/09/2012) for the solution to this mystery, as well as the revealing of the second mystery!
And feel free to email me with any questions you have about the contest. Oh, and please share with your friends! Thanks!