You will not believe what happened last Tuesday on “Rizzoli & Isles.” Boston Homicide found the body of a drug addict crumpled on the floor of her apartment, with an envelope full of cash in the dresser. An autopsy by Chief Medical Examiner Maura Isles revealed something bizarre: the woman’s stomach contained four balloons filled with cocaine, each with a tiny slit near the neck. It turns out the woman had ingested these balloons — as drug traffickers sometimes do — not knowing they were rigged to leak all the drugs into her system at once, causing a massive overdose.
On top of that, a fifth balloon in her tummy contained a watch belonging to Detective Jane Rizzoli and set to 5:26. As it turns out, the victim’s anonymous killer had hired this woman to torch Rizzoli’s apartment. And then he murdered the hired arsonist to send a taunting message from Matthew 5:26 to his nemesis — “You will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” Connecting the dots, our heroes uncover a plot against Rizzoli’s life that ends in a shocking Season six finale. I, for one, was so shocked I had to lie down.
Fictional murders are awfully complicated these days, and it’s easy to understand why. After almost 200 years of detective stories, and 60 years of TV police dramas, murderers are running out of new ways to bump off their victims. It must be tough to be a crime writing team trying to brainstorm a new MO in 2015.
“I got one. Let’s have the killer drug a victim and seal him up behind a brick wall while he’s still alive.” Nope, Edgar Allan Poe already used that. “OK, why not stab someone in the shower while wearing an old lady’s wig?” Rats, Hitchcock got there first. “Well, what if the killer is a judge who frames another person and then presides over the murder trial?” Sorry — that was the pilot episode of “Matlock.” “Yeah, yeah, but how about this? Let’s have a guy witness a murder on a quiet street. But when he comes back with police the next day, not only has the body disappeared, but the whole street is gone.” No can do. That happened on “Blacke’s Magic.”
“Blacke’s what?” you say. Oh, how soon we forget. My favorite crime drama of all time aired on network TV in 1986, featuring Hal Linden as Alexander Blacke, a magician with a knack for solving murders. Harry Morgan played his father, a carnival con-artist and master of disguise. Together this crime-solving team was unstoppable. That is, until NBC pulled the plug after only 13 episodes. I was crushed. At age 14, I was far too young to have this sort of thing happen to me. Older readers will of course remember Hal Linden as “Barney Miller” and Harry Morgan as Colonel Sherman Potter on “M*A*S*H.” Younger readers probably stopped reading this paragraph at “network TV.”
One thing is for sure: murder used to be a whole lot easier. Without the need to one-up the latest police drama, primitive dealers in death could afford to keep things simple. Exhibit A: Just a few months ago, paleontologists poking around in Northern Spain found what they believe to be the earliest-known evidence of a murder. A 400,000-year-old skeleton turned up with a crack in his skull that is consistent with being struck by a blunt weapon. A British researcher helpfully deduced from this crime scene that “murder is a very ancient human behavior.” Granted, he could have also deduced this from Genesis 4, but with so many current studies coming out in “Paleontology Today,” it’s hard to find time to read the classics.
Unfortunately for detectives, this prehistoric murder case has gone very cold. A trace of bank records on a nearby cave wall found no large deposits or withdrawals by anyone matching the description of the deceased. As far as the time of death, the best the coroner could estimate is “Sometime B.C.” Blood samples near the body have revealed a tantalizing DNA match to one “Grog the Skull Crusher,” but his status as a Neanderthal gives him an unshakable alibi. An autopsy was even conducted to examine the contents of the victim’s last meal, but residue from an Egg McMuffin suggests that someone may have tampered with the crime scene. Sadly, the last known witness died in the Paleolithic era, having gone to her grave insisting, “I ain’t seen nuthin.”
It may be a long winter in the Homicide lab. Where’s Ben Matlock when you need him?