We are thrilled to welcome Amy Drayer, author of novels and short stories today! REVELATION, the first book in her Makah Island Mystery series, debuted in March. Today, Amy offers some re-imagining of classic mysteries, updated for our current situation.
The World’s Greatest Covid Mysteries
The Murders at the Rue Roi Tigre
Paris! It is Paris, the year 2020. We find our narrator co-housed for three months in a mansion with a friend of a friend, eccentric heiress Ashley Dupin. Initially happy in the shared solitude, Ashley soon becomes obsessed with a strange and violent crime than has occurred in an apartment building on the nearby Rue Roi Tigre: two men with very bad haircuts and patchy goatees were brutally murdered on the very night they performed a medley from their balcony of the Javert and Jean Val Jean duets from the musical Les Miserables. Found at the scene were strange, long hairs; orange, white, and black, none of which matched the color of either victim –both had bleached mullets. Also found were twenty cases of toilet paper.
Ashley Dupin immediately rules out robbery as a motive for the horrific crimes. She then navigates an extraordinary maze of deductive logic and eventually concludes that the only possible solution to the crime is that a tiger murdered the two men. She posts her theory on Facebook and asks if any locals have any information about people keeping exotic animals in the arrondissement. As it turns out, a man who lives nearby, Josée Exotique, keeps tigers in his walled garden. Under questioning he admits being in a thrupple with the two men and murdering them after finding out they had finished the most recent season of Ozark without him, even though they’d committed to watching it together. Enraged, Josée loosed his pet tiger in the apartment after feeding it only canned black beans for the last two weeks.
The local police force arrests Josée; while investigating the crime they uncover a ridiculous series of unfortunate people and events connected to Exotique. What they discover is so mindboggling it can’t possibly be anything but true, ultimately underscoring Dupin’s passionate use of logic to explain the seemingly impossible.
In April of 2020, a handful of unconnected strangers receive an anonymous invite to a Zoom call. Each is promised one case of toilet paper for participating and accepts; Gwyneth Paltrow’s former nanny; an Instagram influencer known only as Becky; a man who goes by “General Chad” and runs a popular YouTube channel for doomsday preppers; a renowned plastic surgeon; the CEO of Grub Hub; a wealthy mega-church pastor; and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
When they join the call, they spend five-minutes talking over each other and noticing that the video feed for the host, “W.H. Organz,” is simply a prepopulated background image of a small, foreboding island. Suddenly, the other participants notice that Betsy DeVos has disappeared. Did her WiFi go down? Did her computer run out of battery life? Or was it something more sinister? During the very boring confusion that follows, one by one each participant’s feed goes black, until only the host’s background picture remains.
Police investigate but are unable to solve the mystery until months later when a letter arrives via fax. In it, the plastic surgeon takes credit for the murder spree. The Zoom call had been an elaborate trap. The murderer, a veteran participant of Doctors Without Borders, uncovered and then avenged the stranger’s crimes; each violated Covid social distancing best practices or grossly profiteered from the pandemic.
The Grub Hub Driver Always Rings Twice
Florida man and laid-off snake milker Frank Chambers takes a temporary job as a Grub Hub driver. After a month of making deliveries in the Tampa suburbs, he falls in love with Cora, the woman who co-owns the local Chili’s–which during the time of Covid is moving an extraordinary number of boneless buffalo wings. The two begin an affair and soon hatch a plan to murder Cora’s husband by trapping him in the restaurant’s walk-in freezer and declaring the Chili’s closed–even for takeout–until social distancing restrictions are lifted.
The murder plot is a success. Frank continues to make Grub Hub deliveries–but soon realizes he has fallen in love with one of his regulars, a woman named Carole who runs a nearby tiger sanctuary. They have a short, passionate affair–but within a week Frank goes missing.
Meanwhile, the state’s governor arbitrarily declares Florida completely open for business. Hundreds of hungry patrons show at the Chili’s demanding ribs and wings. Cora panics: she assumes Frank has abandoned her and decides to make a run for it with their government stimulus checks. She heads for Mexico in her convertible Chrysler LeBaron and is never heard from again.
The Talented Mr. Covid
Donald Covid is a shifty con artist praying on the rich and famous in New York City. He’s busy getting wealthy on paper and exaggerating his accomplishments and influence when he is approached by a hedge-fund billionaire to bring home the man’s wayward son, Barack, who is sheltering on a remote island in Italy.
Donald arrives in Italy to find Barack very happily married to a wonderful woman, Michelle, who’s immediately suspicious of Donald. As they all spend time together in quarantine, Donald becomes inexplicably obsessed with and jealous of Barack. He covets the man’s life and achievements so viciously that he finally decides to murder him; he lures him to an isolated golf course and kills him with a Simon Cossar Fruitwood Metal Headed Putter. Donald then hacks into Barack’s Twitter account and begins tweeting strange, hateful messages to Michelle to convince her that Barack has decided to end their marriage and run off.
Michelle is far too clever to fall for such a ridiculously transparent attempt to imitate her husband. She goes to the police and turns Donald in. A quick investigation dismantles Donald’s house of cards built on poorly constructed lives. He is tried and convicted and spends the rest of life paranoid and alone in an Italian jail.
The Girl in the Rear Window
Socially isolated Rachel spends endless days in quarantine in New York City obsessing about her ex-boyfriend Tom, who has, in an excruciatingly painful coincidence, moved into an apartment in a high-rise across the alley from her.
Rachel has tried several coping mechanisms during the shelter-in-place order. She’s taken up baking, painting still-lifes, and has started hosting her own scavenger hunts; while drunk late at night she hides minis all over the apartment to find the next day. She’s also taken an unhealthy interest in spying on her across-the-alley neighbors; Tom and his new family, as well as a woman one floor up who produces volumes of gorgeous golden-crusted loaves of sourdough bread.
Soon enough Rachel has developed an obsession with the woman and her sourdough starter. Rachel becomes alarmed after a week passes and the woman has not fed her starter. Surely foul play has entered the picture. She remembers once seeing her abusive ex-boyfriend Tom in the other woman’s living room. Had they been having an affair? Did Tom murder her and steal some of the woman’s starter?
Determined to get justice, and more importantly get her hands on the starter, Rachel breaks quarantine and breaks into the woman’s apartment. She’s been murdered; Rachel is convinced Tom did in fact make a play for the woman’s coveted mother microbiome–but there’s no way to prove it. She vows to get justice–someday. Maybe in the summer when it’s a little safer to be in larger groups confronting people. Meanwhile, Rachel sobers up and commits to becoming a woman worthy of the starter she’s inherited. She’s able to perfect her loaves and eventually becomes the owner of a thriving one-woman bakery.
Amy is the author of REVELATION, a murder mystery set in the Pacific Northwest that debuted this March. You can learn more about her and her work at www.MakahIslandMysteries.com.