TILL THE END OF TOM: JUDGING A BOOK BY ITS COVER:
I hope you enjoy reading these wild and wonderfully imaginative interpretations of the cover of Till the End of Tom as much as I did! Your collective imaginations and wry senses of humor are awe-inspiring. You’ll see that Tom is the villain, the victim, male, female, an acronym for a tea-of-the-month club, quite often a bigamist (or whatever the word might be for a not married but multiply-engaged man) and plot elements include: identity theft, mobsters, the Pentagon, caterers, meow mix, wedding planners, a singing, dancing shot putter, a Diamond Ring toss, a waitress, internet dating and reading groups, a Japanese book of strategy, the Twelve Days of Christmas, a taro reader, a book tour, a coffee grower, a jewel-thief seamstress, a barista, a classical pianist and of course, twins!
Excellent ideas, all of them—but none (happily for me) is the actual plot of the book.
It was next to impossible to pick the winners because as you’ll see—this was a group of winning entries. But the six people who received ARCs of Till the End of Tom and their entries are, in alphabetical order:
(Note: For reasons of space, all entries have been edited down. A pity—but then, that’s what happens to all writers, right?)
—and the other wonderful entries, too, in alphabetical order, starting with that prolific writer, “Anon”:
“Meet Tom Harper: tall, handsome, well groomed and very dead…It appears Tom simply keeled over after reading the morning paper and sipping his usual morning cup of tea. As investigators move forward it’s discovered that…Tom is married to three different women, has been engaged to a fourth for about two months and has recently proposed to a fifth. Has one of the women in Tom’s life slipped a little poison into his tea? Or is there someone we don’t know about?” Anon.
“A waitress who works in a Greek diner in NYC serves poisoned tea to pregnant women in order to steal their diamond engagement rings.” Anon.
“Tom seems…in over his head. He’s proposed to five women across the country hoping to land a big inheritance. As luck will have it, they are all in the same internet reading group and have found his secret. They have vowed revenge, and each is feeding him a portion of poison each time he visits. Cumulative effects have caught up with him and he dies at the local coffee house…Everyone knows the likely suspect is the spouse, but Tom’s got five fiancées, and none of them have bought enough of the poison to have killed him. The only clues are the e-mails which contain the plot to kill him. The ladies have all deleted the evidence, but not cleared their hard drives.
"This is a case for the computer investigators, and it would help if they’ve read Agatha Christie.” Anon.
“Tom is murdered by one of five women he got himself engaged to at the same time. All five find out what he has done and one (which one?) has taken it into her own hands to free them all.” Anon.
“The five rings…are a metaphor for Amanda Pepper [who is] getting closer to fulfilling her dream (let alone her Mom’s dream) of joining the world of married people… 'The Five Rings' is also the famous Japanese book describing strategy and tactics [to]…win battles and challenges. It reflects Amanda’s capabilities to apply intelligence to solving mysteries…” Anon.
“Amanda’s long lost friend Sadie Glotsnick, a comely 62 year old, who had recently lost her husband, a diamond salesman who left his fortune to the woman, incurring the terrible anger of her extremely devoted children, and who now was permanently lost when she was found poisoned; the odd thing being that, under the third fold, near the tiny liposuction scar, there was embedded in the slightly brownish flesh, a diamond engagement ring!...” Martin Bagish
“…Tom had five fiancées and one of them poisoned his cup of coffee...” B. A. Bolton
“…the story is about a ‘black widow”…who kills the women engaged to men she ends up marrying and then knocking off…in a setting that isn’t intimate…The spotlight suggests… a Séance…Tom…asks Amanda for help, thereby breaking the chain of murdered fiancés…” Peggy Burdick
“Somehow, Tom has become engaged to five different women at the same time. He doesn’t know how to get himself out of this pickle. Of course, none of them (supposedly) know about the other four. When one does, she flips and poisons Tom.” Gail Egbers
“…Tom is a new teacher at Philly Prep…[who] begins receiving gifts from a “secret admirer”, the first of which was a plastic partridge in a pear tree. After the second and third day you could tell that the gifts were following the Twelve Days of Christmas carol. However…on the fifth day Amanda finds Tom dead from a…reaction to the coconut extract found laced in his usual morning coffee and surrounded by his latest gift: five golden rings…Tom was leading a secret life. Five marriage licenses were issued for Tom, but no divorces were found. Seems like one of Tom’s wives found out about the others.” Marsha Ellis
“…[at] a surprise bachelorette party for Amanda…the host has invited various types of entertainers: psychics, massage therapists and a lingerie supplier. While Amanda is receiving a reading from guest psychic, Tom the Tarot card interpreter, he collapses onto the table before her, spilling his Mochaccino all over. As Amanda rushes to aid Tom…she notices that her engagement ring has been stolen…” Amie E. Feliccitti
“…Sara and Tom [were] married for many years. Tom traveled on a fixed schedule. Sara came to Amanda one day to say that Tom was missing and no-one would listen to her because he was always away…there was more than one wife. Five diamond rings were left on a table in the home of the most recent wife, where Tom’s body was found…[and] a cup of special health food tea…called Dead in the Water was in the center of the dusty table…and there is, behind the cup, a definitely undusty outline of a sixth diamond ring…was he murdered because he had too many wives or are the rings a diamond herring?” Gail
“Tom is a serial husband. Each of the wedding rings represents a wife that Tom abandoned but never bothered to divorce…Amanda Pepper meets him when he comes to Philadelphia on a book tour… He’s written a murder mystery based on his experiences being a coffee grower in Jamaica…Also, the word in the title is 'till' as in tilling the soil on the coffee farm…Unbeknownst to Tom, two of his ex-wives live in Philadelphia and…recognize his picture on the book jacket…” Maryse de la Giroday
“…the newest teacher [at Philly Prep] is named Tom. Amanda is assigned mentor duties to help Tom settle in. Tom informs Amanda that he is newly engaged to a woman he recently met…Tom invites Amanda and C.K. to dinner at his house. Upon meeting Tom’s fiancée, C.K. gets a…feeling that something is not kosher about this woman…” Franklin Gold
“…Amanda’s mother hires…a wedding planner by the name of Jade Heartly…[meanwhile] Mackenzie…has been hired to investigate the disappearance of an heirloom wedding ring. The item is soon located at a local jewelry store and the case seems closed until the future groom is found presently dead. Amanda…discovers that her own wedding planner, Jade, was working for the deceased groom. She soon learns of Jade’s other unfortunate clients…” Kim Gray
“Tom was cute and a flirt with a ready supply of diamond rings. If you really knew Tom, you never took his promises too seriously. Five girls didn’t know Tom as well as they thought. Five engagements was one too many. A relaxing cup of tea put an end to Tom for one unhappy little maiden.” Ann Greer
“…[Amanda] notices a couple…arguing, scowling at each other as they don their coats and depart…Amanda…sees a small box on the floor, and picks it up…it contains five gold rings. An upscale jeweler’s Christmas promotion? What else could it be?...As the novel unfolds, however, Amanda is drawn into the circumstances surrounding the death of Tom Gold…and the rings become significant…” Ruth Greiner
“…Tom Harbinger, the handsome jeweler who has just hired Mac and Amanda to find out if mommy really has been kissing Santa Claus, slips out of his chair…Tom’s mocha latte contains something even more sinful than whole fat milk…The voluptuous seamstress helping Mandy with her matrimonial armor is actually a jewel thief in cahoots, not in flagrante, with Tom in the heist of a lifetime…” Jennifer Hudak
“...we’re dealing with a serial poisoner who has done away with five husbands so far with Tom…a candidate for #6. As it’s a take-out cup, the murderer may work as a barista, or just hang out at Starbucks a lot.” Dave Kearns
“…Tom, an instructor in classical piano, seduces young, naive students by playing Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto and singing the words written to this music, 'Till the End of Time.' The romantic music and a few glasses of wine usually are sufficient for Tom to achieve his seductions…the five rings…represent five young women Tom seduced over a period of several years. If a girl became uncomfortable with the affair, Tom would propose marriage and give the girl an inexpensive engagement ring, telling her to wear it under her clothes so it wouldn’t be seen, and promising to divorce his wife 'when the time is right.'…Tom’s victims learn about each other at an alumni party when the newest girl spills her drink. In the ladies room, mopping up the spill, the ring is spotted by several of Tom’s victims. They compare notes and vow revenge…While [Tom] is dying, [the latest girl] sits at the piano and plays the Tchaikovsky concerto…” Joyce Masessa
“One of [Amanda’s] closest friends has just found out that the man of her dreams is a two-timing nightmare! As Amanda tries to find out why her friend was left crying at the altar, she uncovers things about Tom that are far more dangerous than mere tomcatting around…Before she knows it, the hem of Amanda’s taffeta bridesmaid’s dress is sinking deep into the quicksand of her friend’s romantic fiasco…Amanda doesn’t think her friend would be capable of committing murder, but how well do we ever know anyone?” Margaret Mason
“…two sisters…own an Internet Coffee House. One twin met a dashing and exciting older man on a singles cruise. They had a whirlwind romance and married. As soon as they returned home, the twin began to feel ill. After a short and painful illness, she died. The remaining twin falls for her sister’s husband after a short romance consoling one another. The sister begins to feel ill. Amanda Pepper, a childhood friend, enters the picture…and finds a trail of whirlwind romances and dead wives from our you-know-who.” Vicki McCarroll
“Amanda is at a coffee social as the dean of her school invites Philly’s finest to a fundraiser…[that includes] social graces, casual begging for money and one dead man—Tom—after someone spikes his coffee…Amanda…and C. K…discover a string of jilted fiancés in his past, all of whom would have motive one to exact revenge on the lothario. While some men collect stamps, coins, or even sports cars, Tom collects women…” Denise McDonald
“Tom’s a commitment-shy rogue of a man who woos women…and goes along with the preparations for the wedding—right up to the last minute. Then he calls the whole thing off, giving some lame 'it’s-not-you-it’s-me' excuse (true, in this case) and leaves the humiliated woman to face her friends and family…He’s run up his count to five when his most recent ex-fiancee encounters an earlier victim in the coffee shop where one of them works…the women realize they’ve both been had by the same cad. Backtracking wedding announcements in newspapers, they…track down the other exes…What starts as a support group turns into a quest for revenge. They’ll hire someone to entice Tom and become his next target…Tom is found dead. Who killed him? Was it the fake fiancée—who, despite the warnings, may have actually fallen for Tom? Was it one of the exes or someone else entirely…” Shelley McKibbon
“During a fancy wedding, the bouquet falls apart and each of the six bridesmaids gets a part of it…they all become engaged shortly after the wedding, but now, each bridesmaid’s life and/or lifestyle seems threatened. Job loss, unexplained accidents, blackmail, even death affect this cozy group…Why is everybody’s life suddenly on the skids? Are these happenings coincidences?...And by the way, why hasn’t anybody met anybody else’s fiancé?...” Marie Nagy
“…a reality TV show about getting married. Is Amanda going on TV?...Tom’s the producer of the show and dies from drinking poisoned tea.” Suzanne Pontius
“…Tom…has been playing games with five different women all over the country and somehow, sloppily, he has got himself engaged to each woman, so he decides to poison one of them…at the first tea party, he will kill one old bag with a teabag made out of his favorite poison: ricin. Little does he realize that when this tea party is over, two people will be missing and only one of them dead! And the ricin teabag was not even in the cup. And of course, Tom still has two women to be rid of…” Val Reed
“Tom is short for Thomasina…a somewhat famous stage actress…[and] a notorious caffeine addict…one of those teabag type instant coffees..is an easy way to kill someone because the taste is so unpalatable it’s only drunk for the caffeine…poison…wouldn’t be detected…Her current beau is the producer of the play she’s starring in, 'Tommy,' the rock opera by The Who. Till the End of Tom is also about the number of remaining performances for 'Tommy'…” M. Rychert
“…Tom is the owner of a chain of tea shops. Tom…admits to C.K. that he is engaged to five women and doesn’t know what to do. He loves all the women, but knows he has to choose one to marry…As C.K. tries to find a way to help, Tom dies…C.K. finds out that Tom wasn’t selling just tea in his shop…” and—
“…Alex…believes her husband is trying to kill her…just as [Amanda and C.K.] begin their investigation, the woman’s husband, Tom, dies on the fifth day of Christmas. The tea he drinks during his company’s Christmas party poisons him…Alex is arrested, but Amanda and C.K. believe she is innocent…[until] they find out that Alex had taken out a large death policy for Tom in which she was the only heir. Alex’s alibi does not pan out…Amanda and C.K. have their work cut out for them…” Sandy T.
“Sally…has always been unlucky with men. She’s intelligent, pleasant, but not especially beautiful and past the first flush of youth. She…falls in love with Tom, a handsome, charming man…He gives her a diamond ring. She’s so besotted with him that she changes her will, leaving him all her possessions (nothing elaborate, but she does have a vintage sports car.)…They never make it to the altar, as she’s poisoned by an exotic cup of tea. It’s thought she had an allergy to something in the…fruits and spices in the tea, but Amanda…has known this woman a long time and she always could eat anything…So Amanda looks into this man’s past and finds that her friend is the fifth fiancée he’s lost between the engagement and the wedding…” Lorraine Talbot
“Young upcoming, slightly smarmy Tom is the picture of a successful middle management player. He’s just gotten a promotion, the quality of his suits has improved and one can see his perfect blonde hair in the mirror shine of his Italian leather shoes. So why is he dead in the breakroom? A cup of nasty vending machine coffee is spilled on the floor…As inquiries are made, it looks like this Lothario had more than one fiancée. Not one, not two, but five!...Tom’s seamy private life comes to light as our heroine digs deep, uncovering a complex tangle of women, political corruption and diamond smuggling.” Karen Tannert
“…Like a skillful juggler who can keep five bowling pins in perpetual motion in midair, Tom was the ringmaster of five identities with five women in five households in five different cities! He performed these amazing feats for about fifteen years until one of his 'Frauen' finally found out. Outraged, she served up a lethal brew which permanently put an end to his five-ring circus…Amanda Pepper…enters…when Tom’s fourteen year old son is enrolled at Philly Prep in…Philadelphia, one of Tom’s five abodes…” Jolyn Wayne
“…Tom is a womanizer and has gotten himself engaged to five or possibly six women at the same time…through internet dating. During a mid-morning coffee break, these women share a table and discover their men all share the same strange ability to be unavailable most of the time. They…decide to bump him off by doctoring his afternoon latte. They do this by melting down their engagement ring settings and metal-poisoning him to death. They’d save the diamonds!” Linda Widau
Thanks be to all of you! I hope you enjoy the actual story of Till the End of Tom as much as I’ve enjoyed your theories as to what that might be….
All content © 2004-07 by Gillian Roberts/Judith Greber.