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Unlike the typical PI tale, the protagonist, Henrietta Derringer — Etta — is a 93 year old woman confined to a wheelchair who does not want her true identity discovered. To the outside world Etta is not a she, but a he, known by the cover name of Henri Derringer. Her office is in her home, a village retirement apartment shared with her rather spry, grumbling, 96 year old husband, Randy.
Despite her age, Etta is a sly old woman, her mind sharp and smart. She doesn’t accept clients, but pursues only unsolved police murder cases of interest to her, cases which have gone cold that she is confident of solving with her computer by using a pattern analysis discovered for computers, plus helpful insights from Randy reviewing her analysis data.
Etta’s current chosen case is the Underwood murder, a baffling two year old case gone cold, with plenty of suspects, two of the troubling questions, in addition to who shot Chester Underwood, being: how and why did the gun that shot him get in the locked drawer in his office? Not only was the case to prove complicated but, as Etta was to discover, dangerous as well, involving drugs and money laundering.
Among other fascinating characters in this amazing suspense mystery are Mary Anne Greene — Etta’s granddaughter, and Daniel Thomas, Mary Anne’s wealthy, egnimatic love interest, both of whom will be vital to Etta in her consuming quest of solving the Underwood murder.
To aid Etta in solving the case, Daniel, a powerful man with connections to the U.S. government, and whom owes Etta a great favor, installs in Etta’s office a highly sophisticated, state of the art computer system which will save her precious time. Among the system’s wonders is a soft male’s computer voice, “Mephistopheles”, which talks back, takes voice instructions, gives accurate answers to questions, can make and take phone calls, and can produce needed print out data on any subject in super miraculous time, providing Etta with the most fantastic technological tool on earth.
This help notwithstanding, Etta is continually distracted from solving the Underwood murder, the worst distraction the sudden mortal threat to herself, Randy and Mary Anne from a savage killer, “Skeets” — a feared and mysterious assassin who can’t be traced and identified, not even by Mephistopheles, the culprit responsible for the murder of Mary Anne’s parents twenty-five years previously.
Daniel immediately brings tight security into play to protect the three from this mortal threat. But after awhile, Etta and Randy, tiring of being “fenced in” by the trapped confinement of this protection, outsmart the protection and, to Daniel and Mary Anne’s horror, escape it, scurrying off by circuitous routes towards the site where the Underwood murder took place. On their way, while disguised on a bus, Etta hears a single word of profanity, a startling, awakening clue which suddenly blows the Underwood murder wide open, leading her to solving the case.
But Etta has little time to celebrate. Unprotected, “Skeet” catches her alone, and while Etta is haplessly trapped in her wheelchair, he pushes her toward her drowning death, not exactly the most gracious way to treat the disabled elderly. An on-the-edge-of-your-seat ending!
In The Case of the Locked Drawer, Etta would revisit the shut case of Chester Underwood’s murder with the murder weapon gun found in the desk drawer. Though protected by undercover agents, she manages to slip away with her husband in a clever attempt to go to the scene of the murder in Georgia, dodging identity along the way. This is a story of two dramas that unfold as the murderer would resurface at Epworth that killed her daughter and son-in-law 25 years ago. It is double suspense with a double climatic feel to it.
As Henri Derringer completes the Underwood case over the motive, death, and guilty parties, the discovery at home will be all but welcoming. The murderer’s knowledge of Etta and her granddaughter will find this villain reappearing. Take in the full effect of a cleverly written novel that will immerse your curiosity and emotions.
Author Larry Winebrenner brings with this novel an array of professional endeavors, honors, and vastly different residencies that helped shape the creativity composed in this work. The Case of the Locked Apartment is another book well worth exploring in this Henri Derringer series.