The Iceman Checks Out: Linda Morrison Spear
Robert Bryce Swaine, vice president of Clearview Chemicals corporate departments is dead. So what! Good riddance as those that were stuck working for him felt the moment they heard the news that he was murdered in his office. While supposedly busy in his office working on how to downsize the company, belittle more department managers and heads and insult as many people by degrading them whenever possible, someone entered his office and ended his life. But, no one working on the floor or near his office, seeing that the door was closed would approach him thinking he was hard at work. His wife called several times and was waylaid by his assistant. But, when he did not answer his phone or respond to her voice when opening his door a crack, little did Miriam know that her boss of just a few short weeks was dead. The sight frightened her, sent her into cardiac arrest and the entire company into frenzy.
Swaine had just been hired to head the corporate departments as the Vice President of Administration and making his presence known was his first order of business. Lydia Barrett, the Manager of External Communications at the chemical company met him in the most unusual way as he bellowed outside of her office about a light switch and then proceeded to insult her assistant Angela. Swaine made enemies just walking through the building and cutting corners and jobs would give him pleasure. But, first he would rake each person over the hot coals, make them feel incompetent and resort to any threat or method he could to let them know that working their might be a think of the past if he could replace you or anyone with those more qualified. A company where everyone worked hard and there were no slackers, this man saw fit to destroy self worth and self esteem of anyone that crossed his path. Seems like he was the one with the esteem and worth issues, as his personal appearance would not only repulsive but his personality made him look even worse. So, who cares that someone got rid of him and whacked him on the head! Most would say good riddance but of course the police were right on it, questioning everyone and what happens is most enlightening as author Linda Morrison Spear takes readers inside the investigation, the minds of those being questioned and the tension created as those with this company were attending a Communicator’s Conference that Swaine stated he would have liked to have cancelled and have the employees earn their day’s pay.
Cal Ferguson has always been considered as Director of Health Safety and Environmental Compliance very careful. But, something would change as the health of over 2100 employees has been affected by a noxious odor permeating in the air and no one knows the cause. Tough and hardnosed he manages to do his job as he placed a condemned sign on an executive’s door that ran to the CEO of the company to complain but to deaf ears. Lydia Barret and Ferguson were friends and she supplied the Krimpets to soothe the savage sweet tooth and ease your nerves. Reports were filed that many doctors were concerned about this small and the symptoms and an investigation is warranted.
Dan Macomber is the newly appointed vice president, Issues Management Chief Randall Goddard, Internal Communications Manager Karen Paulson, Corporate Lobbyist Dean Handlesman and Art Director Gunnar Willamsen present a somber picture as the enter a spacious office. CEO Charles B. Wainwright would all be treated as suspects when R. B. Swaine takes center stage but not in the way you think.
The author relates the events that led to the death of Swaine by flashing back to his meeting with Wainwright, hearing his bravado and his thoughts as he states his intentions and is given you might say carte blanche. Miriam Ainsworth a trusted employee volunteered to be his assistant, which might have been a great gesture to start, but the events that follow would certainly cause her to have rethought her decision. Robert Swaine faced the audience and proceeded to degrade, berate and give a speech that would cause many to have heart palpitations, anxiety attacks and much more. As you hear his thoughts related in Chapter 7 you too will be glad that you are not someone in his presence. No one would stand up to him and no one would come up against him but one person would make sure that he was silenced.
Swaine’s comments about the Conference set Karen Paulson in motion to knock on Dan’s door with her complaints and request to find out what he was going to do about stating the need for the conference, which is her domain. Tirades, temper tantrums and more mark her personality and Karen would not take a back stage until Dan agreed to try to convince Swaine to understand the importance of the conference. The author then flashes back to each of the members of the company as they relate their inner most thoughts about the meeting, back for the conference and find their way to what would be an event at the East Forge Conference Center that they would never forget. Christina Benderhoff was the first person Swaine destroyed in more ways than one. Telling her she might be fired, he could find people that could do her job for less money and better qualified took away the little self-esteem she had and ignited her anxiety and depression while shattering her already fragile being. Christina could not handle the pressure and her answer was to get completely skunked at the dinner causing Lydia and Dean to help her to her room and put her to bed before they decided to start a romantic affair. Swaine intended to create a bloodbath throughout the corporation and Christina was his first victim. Gunnar Willamsen, smug and thinking he’s immune because he’s married to the CEO’s daughter. While comments flew and the conference began Paul Frenkle and Fergusen investigated the smell but one small error might cause more than just finding out what was making so many sick. Betrayals, blackmail, hate, murder, fear, pasts that would come to the present, lies, deceits and much more would be revealed before a murderer is revealed.
Sergeant Peter Guinness was the first one on the scene from the Addison Police force followed by Detective Joseph Ruschak who would play a major role in the investigation. Making sure that everyone was questioned, not allowed to leave the conference area and waiting for the CSI team and Forensic team to take control plus the ME’s team things would begin to take shape and hopefully a killer would be caught. But, first to be questioned was Christina whose demeanor and deportment allowed the police and readers to know that she was unstable. Her recounting of the events would alert someone that she might have seen or witnessed something she should not have even though she was not sure what she remembered was real or just a nightmare. The conference room was filled and the questioning began first as a group and then individually. The interrogations were run by the Detective in a systematic and respectful manner but this man was not to be trifled with and answers better be the truth. Lydia seemed to be the catalyst in that she is responsible for media and press conferences. Relying on her expertise the Detective made sure that limited information was given to the press and only that which was cleared by him. Trying to rethink what others said Lydia wanted to try and figure out who was behind the murder but then another one takes place. Christina Benderhoff was killed and Lydia found her in her room as she never made it to breakfast and she was concerned. Covered with blood when the made came to the room, Lydia might now be the prime suspect in her murder. Dean and Lydia seemed to want to hide their relationship but someone knows more and just might spill it all. As the conference continues while some proceeded to complete their presentations while others were sequestered by the police to be questioned, Lydia’s assistant hands her some documents that would change it all, endanger her life and uncover a killer.
Disloyalties, murder, distrust, dishonesty, theft, blackmail and sexual harassment are just some of the issues brought to light in this novel. But, something would change the relationship between Dean and Lydia and perhaps she might kindle one with someone else.
A meeting and confrontation that put Lydia in the hospital and fighting for her life. A killer who felt justified and an ending you won’t expect. A final scene at the company’s the annual Clearview Chemicals Fourth of July would uncover something you won’t expect. Just who helped the Iceman to Check Out! Who was behind Christina’s murder? Characters each having their own distinct personalities, reasons that they wanted Swaine dead and someone who carried it out but how and why? Author Linda Morrison Spear has definitely hit a high note and has done really well her first time out writing a crime filled novel. Just think Lydia Barrett might be our next Jessica Fletcher, Hetty Winthrop or even better give Monk some real competition.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews