Score charts were a feature used during Independence Day's webseries era. One was completed for each book, then called each arc, and contained information on the book's victim and every other character's reason for wanting them dead. This was a very popular feature, one that I have unfortunately been unable to incorporate into the series' current ebook format.
Carol Mathison was certainly no stranger at pissing people off. Her relationship with her live-in fiance Jeff had grown worse and worse in the months leading up to her death -- and on the night she died, Carol also made the first move to leave him. On the girlfriend end of things, Carol only had one to speak of: Terri, whom she'd known since childhood. However, their relationship was also not without its ups and downs. It was said that in the months leading up to her death, Carol grew more and more vocal about her disapproval for Terri's newfound lifestyle...something that pissed not only Terri off, but also her mysterious lover Lucas.
On the day she died, Carol had a confrontation with town sweetheart Marnie over Jeff and his affair with Julia. This conversation could have created a chain reaction, especially if Marnie made good on her promise to tell Jeff about it. Marnie, Jeff, Julia, even Julia's husband Brett -- they all would have been negatively affected by the ramifications of Carol's dropping the bombshell.
Also of note is Carol's still somewhat shadowy past with Evan's beloved first wife Francine. Given Evan's obsession with all things Francine lately, it would not be entirely out of the question if he snapped when confronted with an unpleasant memory.
Carol's relationship with Shane could also have led to her death -- especially considering Shane's penchant for drinking too much and his unrequited love for Carol, something that lasted for years, even after her engagement to Jeff.
The only person that did not have a clear motive for wanting Carol dead was Lance, but even he has been known for his anger management issues...could he have somehow blamed Carol for Terri's downfall and taken revenge in the worst possible way?
Jeff Howard: To many in Haven Park (most notably, Shane) Jeff seemed the prime suspect in his fiancee’s murder. It was no secret that the two weren’t getting along very well. It seemed that Jeff only stayed with Carol out of obligation to her two children, little boys he came to regard as his own. Jeff was known to complain that Carol “drove him crazy” and was cheating on her with prim and proper Julia – an affair Carol not only knew about, but confronted him on the night that she died. There is also the theory that perhaps Jeff believed Carol’s demise would bring him quite a substantial financial windfall, though that possibility is remote.
Throughout the first ten chapters, Jeff has vehemently proclaimed his innocence…though his alibi remains impossible to validate.
Shane Marcette: Shane seems quite the long shot, until you examine the facts a little closer. Shane was desperately in love with Carol, a fact he chose to keep hidden for years. However, in chapter eight of book one, it was revealed that he told Carol about it at least one time. He did not approve of her romance with Jeff, and even proposed marriage at one point in time – after her engagement was made public.
There is also the pesky little detail of Shane’s drinking problem. He’s been known to drink himself into a stupor, a habit that’s only worsened since Carol’s death. It’s easy to speculate that the murder of his true love has driven him to this point, but it is also possible there’s something going on below the surface.
Also, Shane seemed awfully quick to start pointing the finger at Jeff, something that got him in a whole world of trouble. He still doesn’t seem to recognize any suspects other than Jeff, which leads some to wonder just why he’s lobbying so hard for his romantic rival to take the fall.
Lance Englund: Lance seems to be the one person that did not have any clear motives for wanting Carol dead, but one must also take into consideration the fact he’s got issues controlling his anger. He was not overjoyed with his wife Terri’s lifestyle choices, something he might have turned on Carol. After all, Carol did have a problem minding her own business at times. One possible theory is Carol could have gone to Lance to voice her concerns and something could have escalated from there, but truly, Lance remains one hell of a long shot for Carol’s murder.
Terri Englund: Carol’s best friend since childhood, Terri has been there through it all. By all accounts, she was one of Carol’s only close friends, though their relationship had noticeably shifted in the months leading up to Carol’s death. After Terri took up with mysterious Lucas and began to abuse drugs, Carol was appalled, and never let an opportunity to say so pass her by. It’s been said she was on a quest to get Terri to leave Lucas and return to Lance, and she even paid Lucas a visit on the day she died…the purpose of which remains unknown at the end of book one.
On the day she died, Carol and Terri had yet another conversation about Lucas, during which Carol begged Terri to reconsider her association with him and return to her husband. Once more, Terri shrugged off Carol’s words, saying that she just didn’t understand. It’s been well stated that Terri is rather accustomed to being catered to and getting her own way. Could she have finally grown tired of Carol’s disapproval and permanently put a stop to it?
The nature of Carol’s crime implies a force that might not have been possible for a woman – especially a woman in Terri’s emaciated state. Also compelling was Terri’s profound reaction to her best friend’s murder. This should not immediately count her out, however, as the events of the evening are still very much unclear.
Lucas Brady: Very little is known about Lucas and his life before he came to Haven Park. However, the details of his life in Haven Park have been well documented by all of the conservative residents. The fact he took up with the very married Terri and sold drugs out of his apartment was more than enough to raise eyebrows, but his penchant for violence and his flippant reaction to Carol’s death have been more than a little suspicious.
Carol always had something to say about Terri’s involvement with Lucas, something that Lucas knew far too much about. Carol was also brazen enough to pay a visit to Lucas on the day she died, offering him money for an as-yet-unknown purpose. It is possible that she wished to make a drug deal with him, and somehow it went south. It’s also possible she intended to blackmail him into leaving town, something Lucas likely would not have taken very kindly to.
Carol’s death was caused by strangulation, which seems slightly out of character given the fact Lucas almost always carries a knife with him. However, it remains possible that he knew the knife connection would immediately be made and chose to dispose of Carol in some other way.
The man is ruthless enough to do something like this…but is he really capable of cold blooded murder?
Evan Blake: Evan’s mental stability (or lack thereof) has been a major theme in the first ten chapters, which is more than enough reason to finger him for the crime. Evan’s fixation is his late wife Francine – a woman many are convinced he killed ten years ago, and it would at first appear that he’d have no reason to go after Carol, but one must also remember the dream he had in chapter six of book one, tying both Francine and Carol together. Furthermore, it was revealed in the next chapter that Carol looked upon Francine as an older sister and was a frequent guest in the Blake home.
Evan has also been known to ramble on about the “terrible” things he’s done, and even told Marnie that he feared he was losing his mind. It’s unclear at this point just what he means by these things – if he could have killed Carol or if something else entirely is going on – but his ramblings have certainly raised eyebrows.
It seems a bit too obvious that the crazy man would be the killer, but he certainly had the reasoning with all of the Francine connections…and he’s certainly suffered from the remorse.
Marnie Blake: On the surface, sweet little Marnie would not hurt a fly, much less murder someone in cold blood. However, if you look a little deeper you might find a much darker person. Marnie dated Jeff many years ago, a romance that is over by all accounts…but her feelings for him have only grown stronger in the years that have passed. She views him as a very good friend, perhaps as even a potential mate, and did not approve of his tumultuous relationship with hard-drinking Carol.
On the day that Carol died, she and Marnie argued at the diner over this very thing. Carol accused Marnie of having designs on Jeff (an allegation she vehemently denied) and later dropped the bombshell that Jeff was sleeping with Marnie’s good friend Julia. Marnie didn’t believe that for a second and called Carol on her nonsense, making a vow to tell Jeff about this.
Whether or not she did is unclear, but Marnie has proven to be fiercely protective of those she cares for. If Carol had gone public with these allegations (which, sadly, were true), the lives of several of Marnie’s inner circle would have been impacted. This fact definitely would not have escaped Marnie…but would she have been desperate enough to keep Carol quiet that killing her became an option?
Julia Woodward: Julia rather enjoys her position about town as the virtuous, upstanding pastor’s wife. She’s regarded as a pillar of the community, and overall, a really classy broad. However, her secrets are beginning to crack her pristine façade…something that might have motivated her to kill.
Julia’s affair with Jeff was meant to be a dirty little secret, but soon, Carol found out about it. On the day she died, she told Marnie as much – and if she could have told Marnie about it that freely, the odds were she’d have no trouble spilling the beans to anyone else. Could Marnie have told Julia of this conversation? Could Julia have taken it upon herself to shut Carol’s mouth once and for all?
Another theory to consider is the possibility that none of this factored in, and Julia merely wanted Jeff for herself. Given that it was highly unlikely he’d ever leave Carol, due to his attachment to her children, Julia might have seen killing her as the only way to ensure she could have what she wanted.
Brett Woodward: The good reverend also appears to be a long shot, until you take into consideration how deeply his ministry would have been affected if Carol had gone public with Jeff and Julia’s affair. She obviously had no bones about sharing this information – it would not be out of the realm of possibility that she could have shared this with Brett, prompting a violent reaction.
Another theory to consider is that Brett remains rather clueless and in the dark about his sister Terri’s downward spiral. It’s possible that Carol could have taken her concern for her friend to Brett, and a confrontation ensued. Brett is incredibly overprotective of his sister, and there is no way he would have allowed Carol to say such things…especially not in public.
By Brett’s own estimation, he’s “not your typical preacher,” but does that mean this flawed man of faith is really capable of murder?
Lance Englund: Despite the affable, comical image he portrayed in The Chair Emporium’s well-known commercials, Lance Englund wasn’t exactly the most likable guy who ever lived. At the time of his death, he was in the midst of an unraveling marriage to the former Terri Woodward, a situation that had gone from bad to worse in just a few days time.
At Carol Mathison’s wake, Terri made quite the scene when she angrily stormed out of the church reception hall after Lance made the effort to bring her out of her shell. In the parking lot, things only got more heated when Terri’s lover, mysterious Lucas Brady, showed up with a knife. Words were exchanged and at one point, the knife ended up against Lance's throat. Lance made sure to tell Detective Shane Marcette about this, but no charges were filed.
On the day of his death, Lance also had a few choice words for his brother-in-law, Reverend Brett Woodward. Their relationship had been rocky for some time now, and it all seemed to come to a head during a counseling meeting in Brett’s office. Lance angrily fired off that Brett was a “crackpot” and other colorful insults, before stomping out in a huff. Unfortunately, this wasn’t his last confrontation for the day. Later that afternoon, Jeff Howard paid him a visit, though instead of begging for money, he asked for a job this time. Lance laughed right in Jeff’s face and ridiculed his past, before Jeff stormed out.
Many who knew Lance personally had a relatively low opinion of him, including his sister-in-law Julia Woodward and even Shane, who admitted in the first Fireworks interlude that he tried to have as little to do with him as possible. To be on the bad side of that many people is no small feat – and only creates new depths of the mystery unraveling in Haven Park.
Jeff Howard: For years, Jeff counted Lance as one of his only friends...though, unfortunately, the word “friend” also meant “mark” in Jeff’s mind. By the end of Lance’s life, Jeff owed him an estimated eight hundred dollars, and Lance was quick to remind him of this when Jeff showed up at his office. An angry Jeff fired back at Lance that he was a smug son of a bitch, then turned to go. Before he could get very far, though, Jeff made sure to fire one last shot: “And you can quit worrying about the damn money that I owe you. You’ll get it…and you'll get a whole lot more too.”
Shortly after this confrontation, Jeff told Julia he was leaving town. It is unclear if this conversation took place before or after Lance’s murder...but if it was after, it could prove Jeff was desperate to get away from what he’d done. Then, Jeff hardly seemed like a man who’d just brutally stabbed someone – and the talk he had with Stanley the next morning changed his mind far too quickly if he were in fact running from his crime.
The focus of the investigation (and the speculation about town) has been centered around Lucas and Terri from the get-go, and surely this fact has not escaped Jeff. Though the likelihood of him being the murderer is remote, it’s still entirely possible that he could view his remaining in town for the children as hiding in plain sight.
Shane Marcette: While it’s no secret that Shane was not one of Lance’s biggest fans, one would be hard pressed to find any real reasons he’d want him dead. Shane regarded Lance as somewhat of a pompous ass, but that’s hardly a reason to kill him...but something to consider is, again, Shane’s propensity for alcohol. On the day before Lance’s murder, Shane was dismissed from the Mathison case – the biggest blow of his professional career. It was hinted that he went on a drinking binge after that, as he was sleeping it off when the call came alerting him of Lance’s demise.
It’s a long shot, but still slightly possible that in some way or another, Shane could have taken his alcohol-fueled aggression out on Lance. Maybe there was more to the complaint about Lucas than was clearly stated. Maybe Lance did want charges filed and for some reason or another, Shane dropped the ball. Lance would never be one to let something like that go, and he very well could have confronted Shane about it. However, given that Lance was murdered in his office – an office Shane couldn’t locate very easily – that scenario seems very improbable.
Terri Englund: Toward the end of their marriage, and Lance’s life, relations between the Englunds had turned nasty. Terri made no bones about the fact she did not love her husband anymore, and days before his death, she even left him, taking up with Lucas. On the day Lance was killed, however, it appeared that Terri had come to the conclusion that despite everything, he still loved her very much. At first glance, this would mean that she’d have no reason to kill him, but let’s probe a little deeper.
On the night that Lance died, Lucas left Terri (and a switchblade) alone, where she shot herself into a drug-induced stupor. When Lucas returned, he found her very high, but it still could be possible that Terri found her way to Lance’s office, where a confrontation ensued.
Also to note, the murder took place in Lance’s office – a remote location that many may not have known how to find. Terri, being Lance’s wife, would know right where it was, especially given her gripe that he spent far too much time there anyway.
So she had the opportunity and she had the means...but did she have the motive? Quite possibly. Terri might not have considered Lance holding a torch for her a good thing at all. It could have hindered her future with Lucas, and she could have viewed killing him as the only way to wrangle out of the situation. The manner in which Lance died was particularly brutal, denoting that someone very angry must have pulled it off. It goes without saying that Terri was incredibly angry with her husband...but when push came to shove, could she really have murdered him?
Lucas Brady: Right away, Lucas reeked with guilt. He threatened Lance with a knife just days before his death, he took off on the night of the murder, armed with a switchblade and returned home a battered, frenzied mess. He has so far refused to tell Terri where he was going that night, or what went down that has him on the run now. All he’s willing to disclose is that something did not go the way he planned.
Could it have been in “the plan” to pay a visit to Lance’s office that evening? Lucas knew about the counseling session earlier, and he could have shown up to tell Lance to back off once and for all. Given the volatile history between them (and the pesky little fact that Lucas had pulled a knife on the guy once, and probably wouldn’t be afraid to do it again), a battle could have erupted.
Then again, whether or not Lucas had ever been to Lance’s office remains in question. We were told his office was out of the way and hard to locate, given that the main entrance was the store’s showroom, so it’s not entirely clear if Lucas could have found it, even if he’d tried looking.
The bottom line is this: Lucas (or whatever the hell his name is) seems to be the most obvious suspect in this heinous crime...but you can’t always trust your first impressions.
Evan Blake: It’s been implied that Lance and Evan did know each other (in a town such as Haven Park, it’s hard to imagine anyone not knowing each other), but any history or relationship between them has been unclear at this point. On the surface, it would seem that Evan would hardly have the motive to kill Lance, but his strange behavior on the night in question does lend itself to some possibilities.
Evan was freaking out when Marnie came home that evening, having another alcohol-fueled trip down memory lane. He appeared to calm down when Marnie got through to him...for a minute or two. Then, he got worked up again and made a dramatic exit, saying that he had to “take care of something for the both of them.” The next morning, Marnie found him badly bruised and hungover like mad – and much like Lucas, he refused to tell her his whereabouts the night before.
Evan is clearly not the most stable man in town, and given his condition the next morning, it’s possible that for some reason or another, he felt it necessary to “take care of Lance” – but unless there’s way more to this story than meets the eye, it seems improbable that Lance would pose such a huge problem that killing him would be considered the only viable option.
Marnie Blake: Ah, sweet, gentle Marnie. Haven Park’s shining star appears to have no clear motives to murder Lance, a man she didn’t interact with. However, they say that you must always watch the quiet types, so let’s examine her whereabouts on the night of Lance’s murder.
After Evan left, Marnie stayed home, crying and worrying over his safety. It’s not clear if she left the house at any point in time that evening, only that she was there in the morning and claimed she’d been up half the night worrying about her husband. The hours-wide gap in the story provides an opportunity for Marnie to have done the deed, but again, the question would be why.
It’s possible that she knew about the confrontation Jeff and Lance had earlier in the day – she could have been told by either Jeff or Julia, both of whom knew about it. But if she’d known that, it would appear she would have known about Jeff’s plans to leave town too, and given that it’s never come up, that does not seem likely.
While it remains possible that Marnie’s innocence is little more than a clever ploy, the idea of her brutally murdering a man she barely knew is more than a little far-fetched.
Julia Woodward: Though she did her best to hide it, Julia did not have the best opinion of her brother-in-law. She found him misogynistic and childish, for the most part. Julia’s main quibble with Lance was the bad blood between him and her husband Brett. She’d been privy to this war of words for some time, including the smear campaign that Lance launched in protest of Brett’s appointment as pastor of First Baptist.
Still, there is a major difference between disliking a person and wanting them dead and on the surface, Julia wouldn’t appear to cross that line...until you involve Jeff in the situation, that is. That evening in the park, he told her of his failed attempt to get a job out of Lance, and it’s possible that Julia could have somehow blamed Lance for Jeff’s abrupt decision to leave town and she could have gone to his office to plead Jeff’s case. It’s unclear if Lance held the same amount of contempt for Julia that he did for Brett, but it’s safe to say that in that situation, Lance would have been none-too-kind.
It’s also noteworthy that Julia was gone for two and a half hours that evening, and it’s highly doubtful that she spent that entire time with Jeff. Their conversation only appeared to last a few minutes, which still left a rather wide window of time before Julia came home. What she did with that time is still up in the air.
It’s easy to suggest that Julia was far too self-absorbed on the night of Lance’s murder to even consider killing him, but she was a rather desperate woman that night...there’s truly no telling what she could have done, given half a chance.
Brett Woodward: If there was any person that Lance hated even more than Lucas, it was his brother-in-law Brett. He made no bones about the fact he thought Brett was crazy and a liar (though it’s still unclear why he’d think such things), and he even went as far as to boycott the church when Brett became pastor. It is notable, though, that Brett never appeared to sink down to Lance’s level. He largely wrote Lance’s contempt for him off with a shrug and went on about his business, but that doesn’t mean the anger couldn’t have finally reached a boiling point.
On the day that Lance was killed, he and Terri suffered through an ill-fated and conceived counseling session in Brett’s office. The meeting was short, but long enough for Lance to fire off several insults in the pastor’s direction, and allude that his “precious little Peaches” was far from the angel she made herself out to be. Brett later told Julia about this encounter, but from the looks of it, he was willing to shrug it off good-naturedly, as he often did.
It always appeared that the issues Lance had with Brett were his and his alone – Brett did not seem to harbor any ill will for him, and even confessed in the first Fireworks interlude that he never had figured out what Lance’s beef with him was, exactly. It would seem a bit out of character for him to suddenly take such offense, but maybe the magnitude of what Lance said finally hit him. Maybe he showed up, intent on pleading Terri’s case and was met with more contempt and insults from Lance. It’s even possible that Terri had little to do with it and that Brett finally snapped from years of verbal abuse and slander. The opportunity was clearly there, as Brett was home alone for much of the night while Julia cavorted around with Jeff. However, given that he knew precisely how long she'd been gone, it would appear that he'd been waiting for her to return.
Brett remains, by far, one of the most even-tempered and well-mannered individuals in Haven Park...but that still doesn’t count him out as a killer.
Brett Woodward, unlike previous victims, didn't seem to have that many enemies. In fact, Haven Park as a whole seems to adore the unconventional pastor, and even Michael had to note that no one he spoke to had anything negative to say about him. Still, somebody disliked him enough to want him dead, and the answer might not be as obvious as it seems at first.
In the days leading up to his stabbing, Brett was faced with a substantial crisis when he discovered his wife Julia's infidelity. He confronted her on this, and she tearfully admitted her affair with Jeff. From there, he debated what to do and where to go, before becoming suitably distracted (once again) with the troubles of his younger sister.
Terri escaped from Casper convinced that the man we now know as Caleb Hennessy was the culprit behind both her husband's death and Carol's...and the first person she shared this with was her brother. In true Brett fashion, he immediately ushered her to the police station to tell what she knew, and leapt right into action when Caleb placed a threatening phone call to the church. He spent much of the day with his sister, reliving painful memories and confiding in her what Julia had done, before coming home much later than usual, stabbed twice in his left side.
Immediately, everyone assumed that knife-wielding Caleb was the man to do the deed, but other suspects are afoot in Haven Park, and if there's anything you can count on, it's that nothing is as it seems in this town.
Jeff Howard: On the surface, it's quick to point out that Jeff could not be capable of such a horrible thing -- after all, he'd only just been cleared of his fiancee's murder earlier in the day. However, given that Jeff was in the midst of a steamy affair with Brett's wife Julia, there is always the possibility that he could have viewed stabbing the good reverend as the only way to ensure that his Aphrodite remained firmly in his arms.
On the night in question, Jeff placed a phone call to Julia, to tell her about the visit that he got from Michael earlier in the day. The two were on the phone when Brett came home, which would immediately rule both of them out if Brett was in fact stabbed as he came home. Given that the events are still somewhat unclear, and Brett cannot even recall them, though, there is always the possibility that perhaps something far more sinister is afoot.
Jeff emotionally told Julia that he loved her enough to let her go -- and this was the very thing that gave her the courage to finally admit that she loved him too. Around town, Jeff is known as quite the opportunist, and it's been well established that he knows precisely how to manipulate situations to get his own way. Could he have possibly said these things to Julia, knowing that if her husband were to die, she would find herself right back in his arms? It's a long shot, but we all know how desperate Jeff truly is to have Julia back -- could that desperation have driven him to (attempted) murder?
Shane Marcette: Upstanding and dutiful, Shane describes Brett as "the closest thing he will ever have to a brother", so it's highly doubtful that he would decide to stab him, isn't it? Still, let's examine things just a little bit closer.
As has been extensively documented, Shane has something of a drinking problem. It's not uncommon for him to drink himself into a stupor, and the problem has only grown worse since murder made its way to Haven Park. More often than not, Shane drinks himself to sleep at night, and that sort of lifestyle can lend itself to risky behavior.
Also interesting is the fact that Shane arrived within minutes of Brett being stabbed. He was, in fact, the first officer on the scene. Of course, that could be explained away by the fact that he likely would have been in the neighborhood anyway, looking for Caleb, but the timing is still quite interesting.
Terri Englund: Another long shot, but she is noted as having (presumably) been the last person to see her brother before he was stabbed. It is heavily implied that he spent the day with her, and that they talked about a lot of things they'd never discussed so openly before -- such as his failing marriage and allusions to abuse in their childhoods. It doesn't seem likely that she would turn on the brother she seems to adore so, but Michael (at the very least) seems convinced that she's not nearly as innocent as she seems.
Caleb Hennessy: Right away, everyone was quick to presume that Caleb was guilty, especially given that he'd called the church and threatened to kill Brett, mere hours before he got stabbed. It would not at all be out of the realm of possibility for Caleb to have been waiting when Brett got home, ready to make good on this threat, especially since Brett would never likely give up his sister's whereabouts.
Perhaps he was attempting to make a point to Terri, in the hopes she'd keep silent about what she knew. Or maybe he just snapped, because, as Terri surmised, he felt threatened by everyone that loved her and Brett was the last person that he'd yet to dispose of.
Caleb has insisted that the only person he killed was the weaker version of himself, but the man's penchant for violence is practically legendary...as is his paranoia and jealousy over the woman he loved.
Evan Blake: The revelation that Evan and Harold had been carrying on a top-secret decade-long affair seemed to overshadow any potential involvement he might have in these crimes, but this disturbed postman is still a very viable suspect.
On the night in question, Evan didn't sleep at all. The next morning, he silently lamented the decision he made to "find that man at his door", and what he'd done afterward, musing that he'd lost all control of himself. It's quite interesting that Brett was presumably stabbed outside of his home, which would put Evan's words more into context. Also interesting is the fact that Evan didn't seem to have much of a reaction at all when he heard the news of Brett's stabbing.
Of course, you could take this another way, and interpret that he actually found Harold at his door, but it still wouldn't explain his very bizarre behavior over the course of these books...and the fact that most of the community believes he already murdered his wife Francine.
Marnie Blake: Probably the longest shot of them all. Marnie considers Brett a good friend, and seemed utterly devastated to hear what had happened to him. It's almost unfathomable that she would consider doing something like this, but let's dig a little deeper.
On the night in question, Evan clearly left the house to "find that man at his door." Let's just say that he really was referencing Harold. This would have left Marnie alone, again, and it could have given her the opportunity to do the deed. Still, one would have to question if she could really bring herself to do it -- she couldn't even find the courage to tell Brett that she knew about Jeff's affair with Julia.
Julia Woodward: Like Jeff, Julia had something pretty substantial to gain with her husband out of the way, but it's quite doubtful that she would ever try to murder him. She was on the phone with Jeff at the time her husband arrived home, and it is quite clearly established that she'd been waiting on him for hours, because she was eager to attempt to heal the rift in her marriage. Also compelling is the fact that Brett held a totally normal conversation with her until he lost consciousness, showing no fear in the least -- if Julia had actually been the one to stab him, one would think his reaction would be much different.
All in all, we can safely rule out Julia for this one...but everyone else is still something of a question mark. Can you figure it out...and better question, can Brett?
In keeping with the tradition of the first two books, Michael Goldman didn't seem to have too many fans in Haven Park. The cocky, out of town detective on loan from Laramie had done little more than piss off the community since his arrival in book two. Brash and sarcastic, with seemingly no regard for boundaries, he was relentless in his pursuit for the truth behind what was happening in town...and that might've cost him his life.
Throughout book four, Michael seemed to be weighing his options. He wasn't happy with the recent turn of events, and was especially disillusioned with Haven Park's finest, after their disrespectful display following the suicide of Caleb Hennessy. Unlike many others, Michael wasn't certain of Caleb's guilt. He was far more interested in the writings he left behind -- writings that pointed a rather pointed finger back at his one-time love, Terri.
Michael also found himself rather unexpectedly thrown into the middle of Evan's, shall we say, dirty little secrets, when he got a visit from Harold. Harold related that he believed Evan to be responsible for the vandalism of his vehicle, and also dropped the bombshell that he didn't believe Francine's 1955 suicide was really a suicide at all. Armed with this information, Michael paid Evan a visit, though he was quick to point out that he didn't really share Harold's sense of urgency. He seemed more amused and bewildered by the whole thing, which earned Evan's ire almost immediately, especially when Michael wrote off the stern warning Evan issued about how Harold would one day destroy his life too.
As if that weren't enough, on the last day of his life, Michael also managed to spar with Marnie not once, but twice, both times in the presence of witnesses. At the church, he attempted to coerce her into talking with him (presumably about the things Harold had told him), and when that didn't work, began to antagonize her instead. At the diner, he met up with her again, only this time, she was accompanied by Jeff. Michael was not about to let an opportunity to point out how chummy they seemed pass him by, and again, Marnie refused to speak with him. Jeff also seemed rather hostile toward the detective, confronting him on how Stan got his hands on the report Michael swore would be just between them. Later that day, Michael even found himself on Val the waitress' bad side, before leaving the diner and meeting his fate.
All in all, there were a number of people who would have loved nothing more than to see Michael take a fall, but only one of them could have pulled the trigger. The window of suspects is narrowing by the minute. Can you figure it out?
Jeff Howard: Aside from suspicion early in book one, Jeff has consistently flown under the radar. On the surface, he doesn't seem to be the type of person who would resort to murder to get his way, but there are still some important factors to consider.
As has been mentioned, Jeff did not hold the best opinion of "Crazy Laramie Guy." He held him responsible for Stan catching wind of his whereabouts the night of Carol's murder, and told Michael as much on the day that he died. Had Michael truly committed such a breech of ethics, it would have made him indirectly responsible for Jeff losing the children, which as had been established, was one of few things he seemed to genuinely care about. It would not be out of the question to presume that sort of desperation could drive Jeff to murder, but you also have to consider that when the possibility that Shane could have told Stan was brought up, Jeff's tune changed dramatically. It was Shane he railed to Marnie about, not Michael.
One should also take into account the manner in which Michael was killed. He was accosted from behind, in broad daylight and in full view of the diner and its patrons. Jeff had much the same experience mere days before, albeit with a much happier ending. This could be interpreted one of two ways. One, having been on the receiving end of such a spectacle, Jeff would have no reason to do anything similar; two, he would jump at the chance to show Michael just how it felt, especially if he still deemed him responsible. I will be the first to admit, it's quite the long shot, but anything is possible in Haven Park, as the first four books have proven.
Odds if you're a betting man: Tough to say. There are a ton of factors to consider, not just in regards to this murder, but the others as well. I'd call this one 30-1.
Shane Marcette: It's no secret that Shane didn't care for Michael either. He regarded him as his replacement, and resented the way he took over the investigation. He's also noted as one of the last people to see Michael, having arrived at the diner mere minutes before Michael left and met up with his killer. This is not the first time that Shane's timing has been suspect, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything.
When he is sober (as he was, on the afternoon Michael was killed), Shane is a methodical, rational person. To think that he would orchestrate something so savage, and carry it out in broad daylight, seems a bit far fetched, no matter how much Michael's presence continued to irk him. Besides that, Shane had other things on his mind at the time -- such as the state of his friend Brett's personal life, and his burgeoning relationship with Marnie. It is notable that at the diner, Shane barely acknowledged Michael, casually conversing with the waitress as though he wasn't even there. One would think that if he were truly planning to ambush him outside, his mood would've been much different.
Odds if you're a betting man: Don't waste your money. 100-1.
Terri Englund: Terri was one of many people who'd found herself on the wrong end of Michael's cocky questioning, and she was never entirely subtle about her disdain for him. It should also be noted that Caleb left behind many references to what he perceived to be her guilt -- passages that Michael had not only read, but shared with others as well. On the day that Michael died, she was already an emotional wreck, having confronted Julia mere hours before and struggling to come to terms with Caleb's suicide. On top of that, she also had to contend with Caleb's long absent mother, Dana, calling out of the blue to express her support for Terri and Terri's unborn child.
After Terri confessed her conflicted feelings to her brother, Brett settled into bed to sleep off another heavy dose of painkillers. This would've given her more than enough opportunity to slip away and kill Michael, had she been so compelled. It is also worth considering that though her small stature might've posed a problem with pinning prior murders on her, it doesn't take a whole lot of strength and force to fire a gun, especially with adrenalin pumping, as it would've been for Terri that day. It's all purely conjecture at this point, but if she was truly as guilty as Caleb seemed to think she was, the last thing she would want would be Michael getting too involved.
Still, one would have to question if she would have even known about this, as her last documented interaction with him came near the end of book three.
Odds if you're a betting man: This could be your dark horse. I'm calling 25-1.
Evan Blake: Over the course of the series thus far, it is safe to say that Evan has been unraveling, but as book four progressed, his grip on reality seemed to sever entirely. Losing Marnie, and knowing that it was all his own fault due to his hidden dalliance with Harold, was too much for Evan to take and he once more retreated into his familiar fortress of scotch and photos of Francine. He freely admitted that he'd been the one to vandalize Harold's car, and vowed that was just the beginning, as he held Harold responsible not only for the breakup of this marriage, but seemingly for Francine's death as well. On the day that Michael died, Evan tried to warn him about Harold -- a warning that Michael did not take very seriously.
All of that alone, however bizarre it is, would not amount to much if Michael and Evan hadn't met again a few hours later at the church. This time, Evan was drunk and ready to fight. He walked in to find Michael leaning over Marnie and immediately accused the detective of following him, before demanding to speak with Marnie inside the office. Then, he begged her to forgive him and declared he had already forgiven her. When a shocked Marnie asked for what, Evan informed, "for sleeping with that cop." Marnie presumed this meant that Evan knew about her liaison with Shane, but when Shane came out of the office to confront Evan, the subject did not come up. Given how angry Evan was to think that Marnie had replaced him (to the point of promising to "find the motherfucker and put a bullet between his eyes"), the fact he barely said two words to Shane and left without incident could only mean two things -- either Evan was all talk when it came to that sort of thing, or he did not believe that Shane was the one Marnie was sleeping with. Perhaps he misinterpreted the scene he'd interrupted. Perhaps he took Michael's means of introduction ("Hi, you don't know me, but I know your wife.") far too literally. With Evan, there is truly no telling at this point.
One could point to the fact Evan is so notoriously private as a reason why it couldn't be him, but you must also remember that by the end of book four, even Marnie had expressed concern, because he wasn't acting like himself at all. It's safe to say that whatever remained of Evan's sanity is now gone...and with nothing left to lose, suddenly murder doesn't seem so out of the question.
Odds if you're a betting man: The guy's crazy, and his behavior after every previous murder is also quite suspect. Seems like a pretty solid bet to me. 10-1.
Marnie Blake: You would be hard pressed to find anyone who hated Michael more than Marnie did. She regarded him as "weasel", and recoiled at every attempt he made to engage her in conversation. She'd even gone as far as to complain to Mayor Pierce about his lecherous behavior, and threatened to do it again on the day that he died. It would not appear that Marnie would go much further than that, given how quick she was to call Jeff down for threatening to kill Shane. However, in a story like this one, you always have to probe a little deeper.
From day one, Marnie has been regarded as a sweet, ethical heroine, who cares deeply for those she deems her closest. Still, there are a few in town who don't quite see her as such. Carol, for instance, seemed to take great pleasure in telling Evan that she was no Francine. Even Mayor Pierce, who admitted to leering at her himself, likened her to a car that's great to look at, but far more trouble than its worth under the hood. This doesn't necessarily mean that Marnie would be capable of murder, but it does paint a slightly darker picture than the one she usually portrays.
Odds if you're a betting man: It truly would be "the big surprise" if Marnie pulled that trigger. 100-1.
Julia Woodward: Interestingly, of all the remaining residents, Julia seems to be the one person who didn't seem to regard Michael in any way, positive or negative. She's had but one interaction with him that we know about, where he coerced her affair out of her in book three. By the end of book four, he seemed to be a distant memory to her, as she'd moved on with her life and made the decision to forge a future with Jeff rather than attempt to save what remained of her marriage.
It's worth mentioning that her whereabouts at the time of Michael's murder are still very much unclear, but at this point, it wouldn't really matter because you would be hard pressed to find a single compelling motive. Yes, Jeff seemed initially convinced that Michael sold him out and gave his damning statement to Stan, but there is no indication that he shared this suspicion with Julia. At least, it has never come up if he did. All in all, Julia seemed far too self absorbed by the end of book four to even think about killing Michael.
Odds if you're a betting man: Not the strongest. It would be far easier to tie her to earlier murders than this one. I'm going to have to say 30-1.
Brett Woodward: Though it has been far more subtle than, say, Evan's meltdown, Brett has been unraveling over the course of these books as well. He started out as an idealistic pastor, who felt a genuine burden to help those around him. Over time, however, a more jaded, angry side began to emerge -- though it's safe to say that Brett has, so far, projected the majority of his anger towards himself.
After being stabbed in book three, Brett came to a reckoning. Faced with the reality that his wife had chosen another man over him, as well as trauma from his past and the aftermath of almost losing his life, he sought to dull the ache in a bottle of pills. On the day that Michael died, Brett announced to his congregation that he was resigning as pastor of First Baptist, then went home to lick his wounds. There, he had a conversation with Terri about her conflicted feelings as the pills began to take hold. It's heavily implied that he passed out from their effects, which would immediately count him out as Michael's killer if that were the case.
While it is true that Brett has been dealing with a lot of issues lately, it doesn't seem very likely that they could've manifested themselves in the murder of a man he barely knew...unless there is far more to this flawed man of faith than meets the eye.
Odds if you're a betting man: Something of a long shot, but still worth considering. 30-1.