The Time Capsule Murders: A Cambridge Mystery

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Stotely
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The Time Capsule Murders: A Cambridge Mystery

Post by Stotely » December 24th, 2020, 6:46 am

Intro to the first of what will hopefully be a series of light hearted Cambridge based murder mysteries below. Grateful for any feedback and in particularly any bad writing habits I may have got into that you find deeply irritating!

Introduction - in which, perhaps unsurprisingly, I introduce myself and have a stab (pardon the pun) at whetting the audience’s collective appetite for the excitement to come.

My name is Roger Whiteley and I’m going to tell you about a couple of murders I got embroiled in recently.

Perhaps I ought to clarify that. When I say “embroiled”, I was not what you might call a principal participant, in that I wasn’t actually involved in committing any of the dastardly deeds myself. I know that the “narrator as murderer” wheeze has been tried in the past by a very illustrious crime novelist, who shall remain nameless in case you’re one of the few who hasn’t had the pleasure of reading that absolute corker of a book yet. But whilst I may be what those literary folks refer to as an unreliable narrator, I can assure you that there’s absolutely nothing calculated about my fatuous meanderings. You can rule me out of contention. Not me, guv. I’ll let you have that one for free, although please don’t be lulled into thinking that I’m some soft touch incorrigible hint dropper who is going to sound a clue klaxon every time something plot critical crops up! No no, dear reader, from here on in, you will need to engage your brain.

A quick google search reveals that the “victim as narrator” idea has already been done as well, several times. Done to death, in fact, if you’ll pardon another pun (and you may as well get used to them, as I am sorry to have to inform you that they are very much my modus operandi! Shakespeare had his knob gags, I have my puns). But this isn’t one of those stories either. I’m afraid that Roger Whiteley will be lively and thrusting (at times insufferably so) for the duration of the narrative, despite the best efforts of certain parties at times.

By now you have doubtless already come to the conclusion that I am probably not the fellow who solved the murder either. And you would be quite correct in making that deductive leap. I did, however, have the singular displeasure of being the one to find the body. After that, my role essentially involved hanging around the vicinity like an unpleasant pong, making the odd inane comment in a vague effort to be helpful until some other bloke turned up and did all the legwork.

The bloke in question was none other than that celebrated Cambridge criminologist, Gerald Sinclair, a man it is now my honour to call a personal friend. He may be a deeply peculiar individual even by Cambridge’s rarefied standards. He may look eerily like a bleached mole. He may have the pained facial expressions and vocal intonations of Miss Jean Brodie with a mouthful of cotton wool doused in sheep dip (an upbringing in Morningside and a pair of oddly ill-fitting dentures will do that to you). But by thunder, if you’ve got a knotty little problem to solve, no matter how contorted the situation might be, he’ll winkle out the answer before most of us have even worked out what the question is! He particularly enjoys murders, su dokus and obscure vexillology, but he’ll turn his hands to all sorts.

But more of him shortly; let’s get back to me! Little credit though I can take for the resolution of what has now become known in the more salacious tabloids as The Time Capsule Murders, I do feel I ought at least to take a few moments to introduce myself before we get stuck into the narrative and find ourselves getting too distracted by chaps getting themselves stabbed. You are stuck with me for the next few hundred pages, so it’s high time we got a little more intimate, methinks.

I am 37 years of age at the time of writing. My comparative youth may come as something of a surprise to you, given that my given name is Roger and I’m prone to using words like methinks and embroiled. Well, if that’s what you’re thinking let me reassure you - it gets worse. My older brothers were named Sean and George. Notice a pattern yet?

If so, pat yourself on the back and give yourself a biscuit, as the brain teasers get trickier from here. The answer of course is 7, or 007 to be precise! I am sure plenty of you have parents who are James Bond fans, but I am rather hoping that they didn’t go to the lengths that mine did to infiltrate elements of the Bondverse into every aspect of our daily lives in my formative years. To give you just one example, when I was a nipper the family terrier was called Desmond Llewelyn, although sadly he didn’t last quite as long as his namesake, and he was duly replaced when I was four or five by a female of the species who went by the name of Reilly Ace of Spays (my folks had moved onto other secret agents by then!)

I was the youngest in the family (it would seem that the emergence of Timothy Dalton in 1987 was not enough of an incentive for my parents to indulge in any further procreation) and, mild eccentricities aside, I had a pretty benign upbringing, followed by a public school education that we will brush over with the single, all concealing term “character-building”.

After that, Cambridge beckoned. I’m still not quite sure how I made the cut, if I’m entirely honest, albeit one benefit of my school was that you got sufficient coaching for the big interview that even a bumbling oaf like me somehow managed to get through it without eating my shoes. But deserving or not, made it I did, and they were the best 3 years of my life. I would normally add the words “so far” to the end of that statement, but I would like to put a bit more distance between me and those murders I mentioned before daring to venture such a ludicrously optimistic caveat!

Then, an undistinguished career as a solicitor down in London beckoned. My banned word is real estate, a practice area that the more unsympathetic corporate partners in my US dominated firm rather contemptuously refer to as “dirt law”. On the one occasion I managed to get my name into the Legal 500 I was praised by an anonymous client for my “prompt” service (a backhanded compliment if ever I saw one).

Don’t worry, we will steer blissfully free of that aspect of my existence for the remainder of this narrative. If you want to find out my views on the importance of reserved rights of entry in leasehold property I would invite you to check out my five inches in Estates Gazette a year or so back (it would have been six inches but they cut all the innuendos I had tried to surreptitiously slip in). I am not proposing to trouble you with such trifles here, given that I was in the middle of a conveniently timed sabbatical when the events of this tale occurred.

For once, the timing was impeccable, for the very first week of my little break coincided rather delightfully with a long expected appointment at my alma mater, one that had been fifteen years in the planning, but which I had, naturally, completely forgotten about until a couple of weeks earlier, when Ed Dickinson (an old friend of mine with a very amiable manner but one you might not want to get too attached to!) texted me out of the blue to check I was still on board.

The rationale behind our proposed reunion will reveal itself, seamlessly and organically, during the course of my narrative, so without further ado let us head over to Kings Cross station, early one Friday afternoon, Good Friday in fact, where, had you been there at the time, you would have found your humble narrator with a large, misshapen travel bag, intent on taking full advantage of his temporary status as a gentleman of leisure by getting back up to his old stomping ground early and fitting a couple of cheeky pints in before the festivities and fun really got started.

I was a South London man at the time, with a small flat in Herne Hill, and my visits back to Cambridge since graduating had been disappointingly infrequent. As a result I had very rarely had occasion to go to Kings Cross for well over a decade, meaning that the new(ish) layout of the station was taking a bit of getting used to, in particular the existence of a Platform 0. I can only assume that when they put this one in they couldn’t simply rechristen it Platform 1 and bump all the other platforms up one, on the basis that it would have resulted in all the Hogwarts students getting confused and ramming their trollies into an extremely solid, non-magical brick wall, thereby causing unspeakable damage to their poor unfortunate owls.

I am also getting increasingly short sighted in my middle age. I do wear contact lenses but at that point I was stubbornly refusing to accept the fact that I needed to change my prescription. I was in no hurry for another encounter with my optician after the extraordinarily patronising ticking off he had given me last time about the fact that I wasn’t giving my eyes time off to “rest” and “breathe”. The rest of me had hardly had a chance to do a great deal of that over the last decade or so, so why he thought those particular organs merited special treatment I have no idea. And yes, I am perfectly aware that other opticians are available but I am ultimately a creature of habit.

As such, I was having to squint up at the departure boards to work out which platform I needed to be headed for. There seemed to be a lot of trains to Cambridge but it was a fast one I was after; I was finally allowing my excitement about the prospect of revisiting my old stomping ground to build up and I had no desire to prolong said build up unnecessarily. I found myself wandering backwards in an effort to perfect my squint, and that was when I found myself colliding with a stray tuba - and my destiny!

belaal008
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Re: The Time Capsule Murders: A Cambridge Mystery

Post by belaal008 » January 1st, 2021, 1:22 pm

Simplify. Your paragraphs are long and your sentence structure tends to be elaborate and convoluted.

You wrote:
But more of him shortly; let’s get back to me! Little credit though I can take for the resolution of what has now become known in the more salacious tabloids as The Time Capsule Murders, I do feel I ought at least to take a few moments to introduce myself before we get stuck into the narrative and find ourselves getting too distracted by chaps getting themselves stabbed. You are stuck with me for the next few hundred pages, so it’s high time we got a little more intimate, methinks.

You might try something like:
But more of him shortly. Let’s get back to me! Little credit though I can take for the resolution of what has now become known in the more salacious tabloids as The Time Capsule Murders, I do feel I ought at least to take a few moments to introduce myself before we get stuck into the narrative and find ourselves getting too distracted by chaps getting themselves stabbed. You are stuck with me for the next few hundred pages. So it’s high time we got a little more intimate, methinks.

It's good to mix long elaborate sentence structure with shorter sentences. It makes it easier to read and provides contrast.

My second comment would be that your entire post is pretty much inner dialogue. Inner dialogue is good, but consider breaking it up here and there with physical action of some sort. Again, this provides contrast and keeps the reader interested.

wind123
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Re: The Time Capsule Murders: A Cambridge Mystery

Post by wind123 » May 29th, 2021, 10:37 am

What a fun extract! Here are my views:

Pros:

- Good concept (light-hearted Cambridge-based murder mysteries)
- I like the writing overall. The humor shines through.
- The paragraphs towards the end of the extract build intrigue and interest in what is to come.
- Good first line (My name is Roger Whiteley and I’m going to tell you about a couple of murders I got embroiled in recently.)

Cons:

- The first few paragraphs drag. Too much information about the narrator is presented in the beginning. I suggest distributing the information over the course of the chapter. Begin with action, then slowly introduce aspects of the character's life. The writing would flow better if the description of the narrator's childhood/parents was spread out (e.g. the narrator could muse about his childhood during the train ride) rather than frontloaded.
- This is a personal opinion, but the writing, though brilliant, feels dated (despite mentions of google search). It was like I was reading an older novel by Agatha Christie rather than something written in the 21st century. This might work if the novel is set in a historical time period, though. More dialogue and action would help create a sense of momentum.

That's all. I liked the concept and writing overall and if the first few paragraphs are simplified, it would really shine.

DrifterNZ
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Re: The Time Capsule Murders: A Cambridge Mystery

Post by DrifterNZ » June 2nd, 2021, 5:20 am

This was off to a flying start. Witty and intersting.

However by the time I got to the paragraph,
"I was the youngest in the family (it would seem that the emergence of Timothy Dalton in 1987 was not enough of an incentive for my parents to indulge in any further procreation) and, mild eccentricities aside, I had a pretty benign upbringing, followed by a public school education that we will brush over with the single, all concealing term “character-building”.
, my eyes were begining to glaze over and I found myself skimming over the rest looking for the start of the story.

I agree with the others that have posted coments here that you should try and break things up with some action, or see if you can work some of your personal history further along in the story to mix things up a bit.

Love your writing style. Keep it up.

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