Monday, January 30, 2012
Future Imperfect - Stuart Palmer
Name of the story: Future Imperfect
Author: Stuart Palmer
Source: Choice of Murders – 12th MWA anthology edited by Dorothy Salisbury Davis
Story Number: 30
Stuart Palmer wrote close to 20 detective novels usually featuring the spinster sleuth Hildegarde Withers, who made her debut with the ‘The Penguin Pool Murder’. His other creation was the hardboiled private eye Howie Rook. Though he has written a number of short stories featuring Miss. Withers, this story doesn’t feature any detective.
Jerry Waite is a novelist who has been asked to take a vacation and come back only after he has some new and fresh ideas to offer the script writers. He is approached by an old man named Baxter in a bar in Mazatlan (on the upper west coast of Mexico) and after confirming that Jerry is indeed a novelist, tells him that he has got a story that Jerry can write and that it involves a perfect murder. The old man goes on to tell a tale about his friend Sam, who planned and murdered his wife after coming across in an old newspaper a new and original method of committing a murder, which required no complicated preparation or equipment, involved no brutality nor spilled any blood, and left absolutely no traces. The doctor does bring in a verdict of natural death due to a heart attack. Baxter says that the story should end with the explanation of the murder method, which he explains and highlights the fact that it has been used only twice: once by its inventor and the second time by Sam with each one successfully getting away with it.
The actual story continues to end in a surprising twist, which could be easily anticipated but the highlight of the story remains the unique method of murder; the author does mention in the afterword that the press clipping of a murder by this gimmick was genuine!