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Can You Solve This Two-Minute Mini Mystery? ‘One For The Books’

Grab your magnifying glass and channel your inner Sherlock Holmes to crack the case!

Woman’s World readers are entertained each week with a two-minute mystery story in every issue (and have special Mini Mysteries magazines devoted to cracking even more cases!) — from whodunits to who-stole-its to who’s up to no good — and we’re sharing those stories here each week to bring more laugh-out-loud fun to our readers.

Read on for the newest installment!

One For The Books by Joan Dayton

Librarian Kerry Ellison looked up in surprise to see a bleary-eyed Fire Chief Ted Griffin plodding up to the front desk. With a nod acknowledging her co-worker Brenda, he dumped an armload of mystery novels on the front desk. A voracious reader, he was a regular patron.

“Afraid I won’t have time for reading, Kerry,” he sighed.

“Oh my gosh, Chief, you look as if you haven’t slept for days.”

His shoulders slumped. “I haven’t slept since the Woodall Department Store fire Wednesday night. Fortunately, just before midnight an Uber driver driving by spotted the flames and called it in; otherwise, the whole building would’ve completely burned down.”

Firefighters team working to put out fire
Two-Minute Mini MysteriesGetty/rachasuk

He rested his hands on the desk. “The mayor is pressuring the department to do a thorough investigation. We know this much. The evidence points to arson. We’re calling in any known arsonists in the area including those with a minor record. Funny thing, though, the same method was used in one of the mysteries I read. It’s all very suspicious…”

“The morning paper said three people, all local, were being questioned,” said a solemn-faced Brenda. “I heard Mr. Woodall and his nephews, Bart and Luke, are the suspects.”

The chief hesitated, but after seeing an otherwise empty room, he continued. “That’s because Fred Woodall recently increased the insurance policy on the building. He’s been talking about adding more space and making some improvements.

As for his nephews, Luke and Bart, they were cut out of his will. That raised the suspicion that one or both set the fire out of spite, but there’s no proof. All three claimed to have spent the evening at home alone.”

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“How did they spend the evening? Did any of them account for time?” asked Kerry.

“They all claimed to have spent the evening reading. That’d be fairly hard for anyone to prove or disprove. No evidence of the truth.”

“I went to high school with Luke and Bart,” said Brenda with a sneer. “Luke was a real weirdo…ate lunch by himself and wouldn’t talk to anybody. He was super-smart in math and science, I’ll give him that.”

Book with bookmark Two-Minute Mini Mysteries
Two-Minute Mini MysteriesGetty/Devonyu

“And Bart?” asked Kerry, raising her eyebrows.

“His best subjects were staring out the window, lunch and reading mystery stories. He flunked our creative writing class because he was caught copying other students’ work.”

“Well, he hasn’t changed much. Judging from what he checks out, he still reads only mysteries. I can’t say I found him to be pleasant. He always seemed a bit surly. Luke comes in to read magazine articles on repairing furniture, building bookshelves and other how-to-do-it projects. He seems to prefer books on self-help. I kind of get why you think he’s weird, but I think it’s just that he’s a bit shy.”

“Getting back to Mr. Woodall—”

“He was my best friend in high school, Brenda, and the Fred Woodall I knew was a straight arrow,” said the chief. “His family had a hard time financially and Fred always found ways to make money to help out. I don’t think he’s changed. I think he’s still the same honest Fred.”
Kerry, a voracious reader herself, took in the comments.

Mulling over the conversation, she recalled that during the previous week both Luke and Bart had checked out books, but hadn’t returned them. Curious about their choices, Kerry scrolled through her screen. She made a startling discovery.

What did Kerry find?

Fred made a wise decision. The insurance paid for rebuilding and updating the store. Luke read how-to books but only to build and repair, not destroy. Recalling the chief’s comment about an arsonist in a novel, Kerry reviewed the book selections and discovered Bart’s choice was a novel about an arsonist. The Woodall fire matched the details given in the book. A credit card check proved he bought the same materials from a local store. He was found guilty.

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