Open and Shut by J. R. Lindermuth

SHUT
Open and Shut by J. R. Lindermuth
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (19 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Domestic disturbance calls to the residence of Booth and Stacey Keiser aren’t uncommon. Keiser, a State Police trooper, is known for his volatile temper, and his wife has often been the target for his rage. So officers of the Swatara Creek Police Department aren’t surprised when the couple are found dead on the lawn of their home.

Officer Fred Drumheiser is ready to write it off as a tragic murder-suicide. But Corporal Harry Minnich isn’t prone to snap judgments. Something about the situation rubs Harry wrong, and his suspicions lead to a forensics test with a surprising conclusion.

Sometimes the only clue about what really happened to two people who died violently comes from the investigating officer’s intuition. Is it better to listen to this still, small voice and risk being wrong or ignore it and risk being right?

Officer Fred Drumheiser and Clp. Harry Minnich have just been called to the scene of a grisly murder-suicide. To make matters worse one of the victims is a fellow law enforcement officer. Fred and Harry are consummate professionals during the course of their investigation, but the tension of solving the mystery behind the death of one of their own hovers behind every move these men make. As much as they enjoy their work it was easy to see how much this case unnerved them.

While reading this short story I wondered why Harry and Fred’s professional obligation as mandated reporters wasn’t taken more seriously. If Booth Keiser was known to be an abusive spouse why hadn’t more of an effort been made to help his wife get out of such a dangerous situation? Many states require police officers to arrest the abuser and file reports about what is happening so that the victim will have a trail of evidence when he or she decides to leave. I wasn’t sure why the main characters never mentioned this over the course of their investigation. It was a little difficult to tell when this story took place. Perhaps it was set in a time in which there weren’t laws governing this sort of thing? The rest of the tale gave no indication of in which decade it was set, although I didn’t get the feeling it was intended to be a historical piece. The dialogue seemed to be fairly modern, and the setting was in a quiet, suburban neighborhood that provided few clues about when the Keisers died.

The quickly deepening mystery lured me back into the plot. My second reading of Open and Shut was in many ways better than my first. In retrospect I missed a few hints early on that should have helped me figure out what was really happening, and it was satisfying to piece everything together before the officers did so.

Open and Shut is meant to be reread. This is a must-read for anyone who loves subtle mysteries and has a good eye for detail.

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