Monday, June 24, 2019

Can You Solve this Real Life Mystery?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: What a mystery! Have you all been riveted and horrified by what’s going on in the Dominican Republic? 

I will admit, many many years ago, I did a story pitch for a Charlotte McNally book where the murders were caused by poisoned food from hotel mini bars. It was such a dumb idea, I finally decided, so far-fetched  and outrageous, that I discarded it.

And now they’re wondering if that’s what happened! It's so terrifying, and so incredibly sad.


So what do you think happened? Any ideas? 

(From Wikipedia, I learned: Christopher Columbus landed on the island on December 5, 1492, which the native Taíno people had inhabited since the 7th century. The colony of Santo Domingo became the site of the first permanent European settlement in the Americas, the oldest continuously inhabited city, and the first seat of the Spanish colonial rule in the New World.) 


And  equally terrifying, who would want to kill Big Papi ?  And now there is a groundswell of disbelief in the reports that it was not David Ortiz that was targeted to be shot in the bar. I mean, first of all, who would want to kill him? He's an internationally beloved hero.  And though the authorities there are  now saying it was a mistaken identity, there’s a lot of cynicism about that here in Boston.

So what are your theories, reds? 

HALLIE EPHRON: All the DR tourist deaths — 11 in the past year — certainly sound suspicious. I wonder what an actuary would say the odds are. Is this a spike, or just something that we usually don’t bother to count?

And the David Ortiz shooting... If I were writing a book about a beloved and super-wealthy baseball icon being targeted in a Caribbean nation, I know I’d give him a secret. Something that he’s covering up. But in the real world that sounds like ‘blame the victim.’ Still, I have trouble imagining that it was a case of mistaken identity.  Everyone knows Big Papi.

RHYS BOWEN: I know one thing; I wouldn’t be planning a trip to the DR right now. Eleven in one year does seem a lot, but without knowing whether they were all the same kind of people I couldn’t come up with a theory. If they were tainted drugs or alcohol then that might be a good explanation. But someone with a grudge against tourists—spiking drinks? Surely pathology would reveal that. And didn’t they say that Big Papi was a case of mistaken identity? I doubt we’ll ever know. The authorities there will keep things hushed up

JENN McKINLAY: Ah, Big Papi! We took that pretty hard in this house. I'm glad he's going to be okay, although his recovery looks to be a long one. Yes, 11 mysterious deaths in an exotic location is definitely a plot in the making. I'll just speculate from my armchair in the desert, thanks.


JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: David Ortiz - i got nothin'. I can't imagine anyone who would want him dead, although it looks now like it was a (botched) paid hit, so who knows - maybe someone stands to benefit financially if he dies.

As for the tourist deaths, I did a little sleuthing, checking out the ages and pictures of the decedents. The majority of them were in their fifties and sixties, and had the typical American build. (Not shaming - I'm a good thirty pounds over where my doctor wants me to be.) But I can easily imagine a number of tourists, overweight and perhaps usually sedentary, going on vacation where they're eating more than they're used to, drinking more than they're used to, exerting themselves more than they're used to, in an environment where the average June temperature is 87 degrees and it's "oppressively muggy" almost every day, according to Weather Spark.

It's certainly thrilling in that can't look-away-from-an-accident way to speculate there might be infectious diseases or poisoners, but my bet is on a lot of undiagnosed cardiac disease and hypertension.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Maybe because I've been reading a lot about infectious disease lately, I'm wondering if the deaths in the DR could be caused by something viral or bacterial, or maybe something as yet unidentified--remember Legionnaire's Disease? 11 deaths out of the 2.7 million tourists who visit every year is probably not statistically significant, but I would be uneasy just the same.

And David Ortiz--that is certainly a plot for a mystery. I'm just glad he will recover.

HANK: Yeah, I keep wondering if it's statistically significant, but SOMETHING is going on--are there deaths at other resorts that we don't hear about?   But these are people who were seemingly otherwise healthy--and of all ages. 

What are you thinking about this, Reds and readers? (Or is it even in the news where you live?) Have you ever heard of such a thing? What crossed your mind when you heard about it?


Thanks to Toasterb at the English language Wikipedia project, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2264058 . for the David Ortiz photo.

60 comments:

  1. My first thought about the mysterious Dominican Republic deaths? I’m not at all interested in visiting there any time soon. It’s downright scary to hear about so many people vacationing there and suddenly dying. How awful for the families because I heard on the news tonight that some were having problems getting their loved one’s body released and brought home. [Another thing that seems a bit strange to me.]
    The tainted liquor [which was barely mentioned here] seemed reasonable until you realize just how many resorts would have had to have gotten their liquor from the same tainted source . . . .

    My first thought for the baseball player shooting? Oh, no, not another shooting and, at the same time, hoping David Ortiz would be okay. And then worrying because they were bringing him to the United States for treatment . . . just how badly was he hurt? Although it seems his recovery will take some time, I’m glad to know he’s going to be okay.

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    1. True! The stories are just not similar, are they? Except that they all took place at the same hotel, or at least, many of them did. It is just so devastating how vacations turned into tragedy…

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  2. Naturally, being mystery readers and writers, we KNOW there is something sinister going on, right? But this is real life, so could it be natural causes, like Julia suggested? (And does that make me the disbelieving cop who is going to be proved to be a fool by the time the book is over?)

    (Obviously, David Ortiz is something completely different. How horrible. Glad he will recover.)

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    1. Exactly, Mark! It is right out of a novel, but so upsetting because it is real. It is hard for me to believe though, I agree, that they are not connected somehow.

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    2. Yes, I much prefer my mysterious deaths in books or on a screen than in real life.

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  3. Of course the shooting wasn't accidental. Big Papi? Hogwash. And of course he has a secret - who doesn't? Kudos to the Sox for medivac-ing im to Boston.

    As for the tourists? Yikes. I haven't been following the story closely, but yeah, it doesn't make me want to buy a plane ticket to there.

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    1. Yeah — there was a chilling quote in the paper about how much is at stake here. And what could happen if secrets were revealed.

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  4. The deaths of the tourists is very suspicious. It may just be my cynical mind but I don't buy that this is some random thing. I don't know how it is happening but I do know that it sure means I won't be taking a trip to the DR any time soon.

    As for David Ortiz, well I'm calling BS on the story now being peddled by the police and media that he was the victim of mistaken identity. He's one of the most recognizable people in the DR, a national hero/celebrity. Don't pee on my leg and tell me it is raining.

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    1. I agree! Someone was saying it’s like saying they didn’t recognize Elvis, But in the video, it does look like the shooter came up behind him, so maybe.

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    2. Except apparently the so-called intended victim is quite thin, or lean. Yah, I don't think so.

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  5. One theory I heard on the David Ortiz story was that the guy he was with was the real target, and some kind of drug dealer. But then why was Ortiz hanging out with a drug dealer?

    As for the tourists, I'd want to compare the number of tourist deaths per thousand on other island resorts before I got too worried. I'd also want to check out the reporter who broke the story. Did he/she just happen to be vacationing there when the "first" death happened? A park ranger once told me that somewhere around 50 tourists die at the Grand Canyon every year, but nobody is talking about the canyon mysteriously sucking them off the side of the rocks. It's natural causes (or natural stupidity) there all the way. I'm betting it will be the same in the DR.

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    1. 50 a year at Grand Canyon? Can that be true? That would be like one every week. Hmmm.

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    2. So I couldn’t resist looking that up. Everything I found said 12 a year. Three from falling over an edge, and nine-ish from other causes like dehydration and son stroke and heart attack. 12 seems reasonable. Now I will look up cruise ships.

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    3. Perhaps that park ranger just didn't want me to get any closer to the edge. He did mention that some people thought the Grand Canyon was an appropriate place to self-terminate, so maybe that number isn't counted in with the accidental deaths?

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  6. What I find interesting about the deaths in the Dominican Republic is the apparent quick succession of deaths--maybe 11 isn't statistically significant a number--but they sure seem to be happening in a tight span of time.

    As for Big Papi--no matter his potential secret(s), I am glad he is going to recover. And I think the hitmen must have been poorly chosen if they shot him instead of someone else--I mean, really? Big Papi??

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    1. Agreed! It feels like it happened very quickly… Let me look and make sure that’s true.

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  7. The DR is more dangerous than Cabot Cove or St Mary Mead or Midsomer.

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    1. Oh dear… It certainly seems like that.

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    3. Or even worse....Three Pines!

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  8. I'm going with natural causes enhanced by a virus or some horrible mold in the a/c systems. Big Papi is a tragedy. I just read a Washington Post story about a woman bitten by a feral dog in India who spent the rest of her vacation hunting down anti-rabies vaccine.

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    1. Oh no... how completely terrifying.

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    2. To have a medical emergency out of the country is so complicated and scary.

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  9. A friend left for the DR with her family yesterday. We teased her about not using the mini-bar, but secretly, I am a little worried about them. Are the deaths related, either accidentally or deliberately? Do I read too many mysteries? (JRW authors and fans are probably saying no to that last question:-) I wonder if visitors from other countries are also getting sick and dying there,

    I was pretty scared for David Ortiz when I heard he was being flown to the US. Would he survive the flight? I have no explanation for why he was attacked, and I pray for his recovery.

    DebRo

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    1. Oh, I am eager to hear what she thinks… I’m not sure I would go, you know? Very tough call. And good question about the tourist from other countries, don’t you think they would mention them? But now I am wondering about that..

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  10. I am surely not the only person who would not recognize David Ortiz, nor the only one who didn't know he was Big Papi. I'd heard both names, but had no idea they were the same person, and I could not tell you, other than that he is a baseball player, which team he is on. Sports nimnil here.

    The deaths in the DR do seem targeted; it defies credibility to believe they are all because of lack of fitness for the destination. After all, look how many hundreds of thousands of tourists go to hotter and more endurance-challenging places like Machu Picchu without dying.

    A friend spent a year there in the Peace Corps. I'll ask her if she has a theory when I see her at book club Thursday night. Personally, I'd say it is more significant that the Dominican Republic, which has managed its water and other resources well, shares an island with war-torn and stripped Haiti, on the other side of the straddle mountains.

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    1. I’d love to hear what she thinks! I suppose a random coincidence is the easiest answer, but it still pushes credulity.
      And come to Boston for one day, and I promise you would recognize David Ortiz. Xxx

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  11. From the very beginning I thought these things were too coincidental to be true. But sometimes there are coincidences in real life. There are deaths all the time in resort and touristy places but we don't hear about them probably because those in charge go out of their way to keep things quiet. But I definitely would not be planning to go there on my next vacation.

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    1. Do you think so? When more than one person dies, I think that becomes public… Or am I naïve?

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    2. And exactly, there are coincidences in real life! The Kinds of things that often happen, when we say oh my goodness, no one would believe this in a book.

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    3. Potential story line:Armed with a degree in public relations, conferred upon her by a mid tier college, despite her being in the lower third of her class, our young heroine "Ellie" finally lands a job at a resort in the DR only to have the guest start dying in droves. What will "Ellie" do? She wants to rise to the occasion, prove her family wrong, but there's a bottle of whisky in the bottom drawer of her desk that calls her name.

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    4. Love it, Lyda. And bizarrely--another coincidence!-one of the main characters in my new book (that I should be writing this very minute) is named Ellie! Hmmmm

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  12. I'd hate to see tourism suffer at the Dominican Republic - their economy relies on it. Anyone know why it takes so long to do the autopsy/analysis that should hold answers?

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    1. I think some of the families are asking exactly the same question!

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    2. Hallie, I read a NY Times article yesterday that said 5 deaths had been confirmed as cardio-vascular disease (and the CDC chimed in that half of all US tourist deaths around the world are caused by that.) The paper reports one guy died after getting drunk and falling, and three died of "respiratory issues." That last is the interesting one - think of how many odd causes there might be to respiratory issues.

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    3. It's still weird. Yeah, "respiratory issues" is a pret-ty wide category.

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  13. Julie's brother and his family had a great vacation in the DR a few years ago. But I doubt I'd go now, not until all this is resolved. One of my favorite writers is Junot Diaz. His take on his country is very interesting, might be time to read him again.

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    1. Yes, it would be interesting to hear what he thinks!

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  14. I got nothing on David Ortiz. I mean, I'm not a Red Sox fan, but really, Big Papi? Sheesh.

    I did hear about the DR deaths and my first reaction was to tell my brother, who goes there regularly, that he might want to find another vacation spot for the time being.

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    1. That they'd probably look for a new destination - at least for this year (they usually go around Christmas).

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  15. This situation in the Dominican is a bit scary. My thought was possibly tainted alcohol as something similar happened in Mexico. Then I thought maybe someone was introducing something in bottled water, like anti-freeze or some other poison. As for Ortiz? Poor guy. Mistaken identity is pretty lame, but better that than being shot on purpose.

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    1. David Ortiz has a secret? I'm on the road, on vacation, so I'm missing most of the news.

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    2. No no ,it's just writer-speculation!

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  16. I remember the Legionnaire’s convention in the 70s. I remember the Tylenol tampering. I remember the Anthrax postal killings. I remember the “father and son” random DC shootings. I get the New York Times online but often I don’t get a chance to read it except as a link from other news sites. So I had a vague idea that something might be happening in the Dominican Republic and that a baseball player had been medivac’d back the United States. So except that you guys are talking about it, I probably would have remained blissfully unaware that anything was happening.

    I am too young to remember the Mad Bomber but people talked about him into the 1960s. The only time that I remember changing my plans to go anywhere was when I spent about 6 months in Israel. I had hoped to travel to Bethlehem which was over the green line. When she heard that, the “menahelet” (boss) who was chaperoning our group, advised against it. I didn’t go.

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    1. I agree about the real life scary stuff often being political violence, David. I don't recall ever having to change my daily routine, but the IRA Hyde Park bombings took place in London less than a month before I arrived there for the start of school, and I vividly recall everyone being very alert to packages, etc. The director of the college suggested we always scope out an exit course as we entered any potentially crowded place like a theater, store, etc.

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    2. Yes, at the tv station during anthrax, we were not allowed to open any mail if we did not know the sender.

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  17. What about pesticides that are used to control the bugs in tropical places. Maybe a new kind of pesticide is being used indoors...and shouldn't be . Or a new product being tested.

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    1. Oh, very interesting! Hmmmm...and some people are allergic? That's kinda brilliant...

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  18. They still screen snail mail that goes to the US Capitol. These "scares" cause changes in the way that things are done. Who remembers flying before 9/11?

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  19. I've been wanting to visit the DR since a friend of mine served in the Peace Corp there. Maybe, I'll wait a bit.

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  20. All I know is that I won't be visiting the Dominican Republic. With the bad news year I've been having, I'd be sure to end up as one of the casualties. Someone above mentioned pesticides, and one of the couples who got sick, but survived, said that the hotel had been spraying under one of their windows. What was being sprayed is banned in the United States. This couple was younger, maybe late 30s or 40s, so it could be that they survived because they were younger and didn't have any mitigating factors, such as heart disease or other undiagnosed aging problems.

    With Big Papi, I find it hard to believe that someone mistook him for someone else. I think he was the intended target, but we may never know why or who was really behind it all.

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    1. Yes, you have definitely been having a tough time..and we are all thinking of you! And yes, maybe someday we'll know what happened.... xoxoo take care, dear pal.

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