On The Bench

Merry Christmas – no red herrings at dinner, please

Every amateur sleuth occasionally falls victim to red herrings and unexpected turns while searching for the guilty party. Can you share an instance where you were led down the wrong path during an investigation?
  • Terry Ambrose:

    This question is super hard to answer, says Alexandra Atwood of the Seaside Cove Bed & Breakfast Mystery series. If one person’s not lying, then it’s someone else. I’ve totally learned that everybody’s got an alibi, and they all stink just like a dead fish. My dad always says, “Alex, the cops need facts to solve a murder.” But I’ve like figured out that if you push enough buttons, somebody’s gonna react!

  • Nancy J. Cohen:

    In our latest case, Dalton and I (Marla) investigated a murder at a living history village over the Fourth of July weekend. One of the actors playing a villager went off script and axed the town marshal. We narrowed down the suspects until only a few were left. [spoiler alert] We were convinced the guilty party was a brother and sister team who might be growing illicit crops on an adjacent property. All the arrows pointed in their direction, but we were wrong

  • Debra H. Goldstein:

    Not to give anything away, I (Sarah Blair) occasionally find that because I’m nice and always tell the truth, I think other people are doing the same when they talk to me.  Consequently, I sometimes miss the parts they failed to tell me and come to erroneous conclusions that I have to correct before the end of the book.

  • Cheryl Hollon:

    The most common way to distract Miranda Trent in my Paint & Shine mysteries is to provide her with a false alibi. Then, she wastes time with this red herring and is frustrated when she later learns that the alibi was fabricated or cannot be validated.

  • Diane A.S. Stuckart:

    Following her split from her charming but cheating golf pro husband, Nina Fleet by default became a pretty good judge of character. In her most recent story, Peaches and Schemes, it seemed that everyone had a motive to murder her new friend. But because of her previous experience, Nina found herself focusing on the more obvious suspects…men who’d had a past personal relationship with the dead woman…instead of those who had more sinister motives. And that blind spot almost got her murdered, too!

  • Maggie Toussaint:

    Tabby Winslow here, the amateur sleuth from the A Magic Candle Shop series. I’d never heard of a red herring before I became a sleuth, but I’ve sure gone down some rabbit holes in my investigations. A suspect will say or do something that makes them look guilty, and then it’s hard to evaluate further actions once you have that bias. During IN THE WICK OF TIME, I thought I had a good idea of who killed Loren Lee Suffield, but it wasn’t until someone drugged my cat that I realized that person was evil, while previously I’d been focusing on everyone else. Don’t let anyone tell you different because actions always speak louder than words.

  • Lois Winston

    Anastasia Pollack (from the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries) says, well, I don’t want to give away anything by mentioning a specific character in a specific book, but I will say I sometimes suspect a killer based on his or her arrogance and how irritating I find the person. That character, no matter how obnoxious, is often not the killer.


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