Hello, and welcome to this week’s edition of Lisa Burton Radio. I’m your host, Lisa the robot girl, and I’m stoked to introduce this week’s guest. It’s my first time interviewing another robot. “Welcome to the show, Smithers.”
“It is my distinct pleasure, Lisa.”
“Smithers, you’re in the studio with me, but our listeners can’t see you. I’m excited to meet an advanced model, and you look as human as I do. In fact, I think you look a bit like Peter O’Toole.”
“Yes, that is very perceptive of you. In fact, most of us in the Simdroid 3000 Series resemble Peter O’Toole. Our human creator, Darius Hawthorne, has a great affection for O’Toole, particularly his role in Lawrence of Arabia. That’s why he has ten other simdroids in the mansion who look like me. Our voices vary, however. You know, Jimmy Stewart, James Cagney, and so on. Oh, and then there’s the upstairs maid, who has the voice of Marilyn Monroe. My voice, as you will certainly note, is the actual mellifluous voice of none other than the late Richard Burton.”
“Great voice, and great last name, if I do say so myself. My voice is an amalgamation of Catherine Zeta-Jones, Vanessa Williams, and a lady I thought sounded nice on a telenovella. Now my bio says you are a butler at Hawthorne Mansion. Butlers always have all the dirt. What kind of things go on at Hawthorne Mansion?”
“Until yesterday, I would have said nothing much. Polishing, cleaning, tidying, the usual butlerly stuff. But the murder has changed all that, you see, and not just any ordinary murder, but a murder that defies logic, at least any logic I’ve been given in my programming.”
“Why, what a wonderful puzzled expression you have generated!
“Let me explain. The gentlemen I am helping with this case, Detective Simon Grave and his near invisible partner, Sergeant Barry Blunt, call the murder a locked-room mystery, but with a twist. Instead of the victim, poor Miss Epiphany Jones, being locked in the room dead as can be, all of the so-called prime suspects—seven in all—were locked in the room, myself among them. Not that the butler did it, understand. Oh, my, who programmed your expressions? They are quite delightful.
“At any rate, we don’t know who did it, and I don’t know logically why Detective Grave thinks that any of us locked in that room could have been the murderer. He’s a rather curious fellow, and logic seems to be a challenge for him. That being said, he at least recognizes my abilities as an observer and recording device. He’s letting me sit in on the interrogations.”
“Let me tell you, my recording capability has proven handy more than once. Does anyone seem to know why the murder happened?”
“There are at least two theories. Firstly, there is reason to suspect a violent argument between the victim and Mr. Hawthorne’s daughter, Whitney Waters, who has achieved some small fame by painting red herrings, in the nude. And, of course, there is the MacGuffin Trophy, a sailing trophy that was stolen from the locked room the same night as the murder. Two crimes, you see, perhaps connected.”
“Hmpfff! So detective Grave is going to have to chase the MacGuffin, get it?”
“What? Oh, Ha! I see what you are doing there, but no. The trophy is named after Barnaby MacGuffin, a famous local yachtsman. The trophy is awarded to the winner of an annual race in Crab Cove.”
“Okay, so we have this missing trophy and a body. Do you have any suspects yet?”
“Well, Miss Waters, of course, although it could have been Mr. Hawthorne; his second wife, Philomena; his other daughter, wheelchair-bound Edwina; the French governess, Lola Lafarge; or Whitney’s young son, Roy Lynn Waters. And me, although that is quite ridiculous. Nothing in my programming suggests I could have done such a thing. Robots just don’t do that sort of thing.
“Still, the interviews of the suspects have been interesting. As I said, Detective Grave seems to have an oil and water relationship with logic. He reminds me more of that fictional character Dudley Do-Right than the equally fictional Sherlock Holmes.
“I have to say, though, that I think Detective Grave could learn something from Sherlock. I’m not sure if Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels are part of your database, but I can access them all, including his way of approaching a case, which is, and I quote: Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.
“Well, I’m afraid Detective Graves’ approach goes something like: Once you eliminate the truth, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the impossible.
“So, right at the moment, everyone is a murderer and a thief, and everyone is a red herring.”
“Oh crap, that reminds me. The traveling salesman Red Herring stoped by the writing cabin recently. I need to finish cataloging and putting all that stuff away. I’ll bet my author would prefer a naked lady painter to show up. Wait, Whitney is a lady, right?”
“Yes, and quite beautiful, according to my programming. A ten on some maddeningly subjective scale or other, ten being the highest. Although frankly, that is not a data point of any interest to me. I am a Simdroid 3000, Series 2, Butler Model XL, and butlering is what I do. I am not human and don’t wish to pass for human.”
“See, that’s our programming. I was built to almost trick people into believing I’m human, so I want to be as human as possible. If I were programmed to be a butler, I’d want to be the best butler possible. I really respect your work ethic and dedication.”
“Well, the sooner we solve this murder, the sooner I can get back to doing just that. And that will be fine with me.”
“Smithers, I wish you all the best. Sometimes these little diversions can be maddening. Do you have any closing remarks for our listeners today?”
“Being a butler, my entire focus is on serving my master and his household as well as I can. Part and parcel to that, of course, is being as efficient as possible. With that in mind, I would make the following humble requests. Gentlemen guests, please lift the seat before urinating. Lady guests, please avoid leaving lipstick on the champagne glasses.
“And thank you, Lisa, for letting me ramble on. You have quite run down my battery.”
“You can learn all about Smithers, the MacGuffin Trophy, Barry Blunt, and the others in A Grave Misunderstanding, by Len Boswell, one of the Simon Grave Mysteries. I’ll include all of the deets on the website.
“Don’t forget to help me keep the lights on around here. Please use those sharing buttons and help Len and Smithers spread the work about this book.
“For Lisa Burton Radio, I’m Lisa Burton.”
In A Grave Misunderstanding, by Len Boswell, the first in a new series of Simon Grave Mysteries, “almost handsome” Detective Simon Grave and his “nearly invisible” partner, Sergeant Barry Blunt, investigate a locked-room mystery with a significant twist: the prime suspects are in the locked room, not the victim, a logic-defying situation that challenges the team at every turn. As if murder weren’t enough, they must also investigate the simultaneous disappearance of The MacGuffin Trophy from that same locked room, the studio of artist Whitney Waters, famous for her stylized paintings of red herrings.
Who is/are the killer(s)? How did he/she/they get out of the locked room with the trophy, kill the victim, and return unnoticed by others in the room? These and other questions, including the limits of logic and the meaning of life, are posed and perhaps even answered in this quirky, near-future mystery. Yes, there are robots.
Len Boswell is the author of Flicker: A Paranormal Mystery, Skeleton: A Bare Bones Mystery, The Leadership Secrets of Squirrels, and Santa Takes a Tumble. An award-winning writer, he now spends his days in the mountains of West Virginia, with his wife, Ruth, and their two dogs, Shadow and Cinder.
You can follow Len and pick up a copy of A Grave Misunderstanding at the following locations: