Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Theft of the Bingo Card - Edward D. Hoch

Theme for the Week: Murder on The Seas

Story: The Theft of the Bingo Card
Author: Edward D. Hoch
Source: Murder on Deck - Shipboard & Shoreline Mystery Stories: This collection is a mixed bag - it has more stories on the shore rather than the sea. And for those set in seaside resorts or hotels, any number of stories could replace the ones that are available in the book. And for those stories set on ships or ocean liners, I would expect some relationship or motive for setting the story in such a locale but I was a bit disappointed on that front as well.
Story Number: 54
It seems that the author got his idea for this story when he was on a mystery cruise on the Holland America Line where he learned that the lifeboats were provided with bingo cards - to distract the people who are on a lifeboat while the ship they were in is sinking or when they are waiting to be rescued! Only, he uses it for more nefarious purposes!
Nick Velvet and his wife are holidaying on the cruise ship Antilles - header for a weeklong tour of the Caribbean. A corporate group is being entertained with a murder mystery game but the man who plays the corpse in the game is found dead sometime later due to an overdose of cocaine. The dead man's wife Dolores hires Nick to steal a bingo card - a bingo card which can be identified by its number 253 and which is present on one of the 12 lifeboats. The reason to obtain the card - the man was killed because he was looking for this particular card! Nick's first job is to figure out which of the lifeboats has the card he wants, then he needs to find a way to get on them as they are hung high above the deck and any attempt at bringing them down on to the deck would set off an alarm.
When he does manages to steal the card before the prescribed deadline, Nick Velvet realizes  that he has a lot more work to do as he finds out that Dolores also has been killed in the same fashion as her husband. The only clue is the odd arrangement of the numbers on the card, he goes about the detection by interviewing the various bingo players. The significance of the card and the message which those numbers depict, points to him the murderer who has killed twice to lay his hands on the card! A bingo player should have no problem in spotting the killer as there are two very glaring clues dangled right in front of the reader's eyes which one could miss in the blink of an eye.

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