Another week-end has arrived! A lot of people look forward to the week-end as it offers them a chance to relax, get domestic things done, go out and catch up on things they can’t do during the week. The expression TGIF (Thank God it’s Friday!) captures the way a lot of folks think about the week-end. But before you get all excited you may want to take a look at how much crime fiction actually takes place during that time. Trust, me fictional sleuths do not get a break just because it happens to be sometime between Friday afternoon and Monday morning.
For instance, in Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis’ The Boy in the Suitcase, Nina Borg gets an odd request from her friend Karin. Karin wants her to pick up a suitcase from a locker at Copenhagen’s Central Station. What Karin hasn’t told Nina is that the suitcase contains a three-year-old boy. He’s in a drugged and dazed state but he’s alive. When Nina tries to find Karin to get some answers, she discovers that her friend has been murdered. She also learns soon enough that the person who murdered Karin is now after her. In the meantime Sigita Ramoskiene, a young Lithuanian mother, is looking for answers of her own. Her three-year-old son Mikas was abducted from a playground near Vilnius and she is desperate to get him back. Both she and Nina continue to search for answers and it’s soon clear that the little boy Nina found is in fact Sigita’s son Mikas. Each in a different way, and for most of the novel separately, the two women try to solve the mystery of who took Mikas and why. So, when is Mikas abducted? Saturday afternoon.
In Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of the Red-Headed League, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson get a visit from Mr. Jabez Wilson, a pawnbroker with a very strange story to tell. Wilson responded to a job offering that specifically targeted men with red hair. Despite competition from many other men who’d applied as well, Wilson got the job. All he had to do to earn extra money was to copy the Encyclopaedia Britannica. One day he arrived at his place of employment only to find that it was closed and the Red-Headed League he thought he’d joined was disbanded. Wilson wants Holmes to find out what happened to the Red-Headed League and solve the mystery of his odd employment. It turns out that this job was simply a ruse to get Wilson out of his pawn shop so that a gang of thieves could use it to dig a tunnel into a nearby bank. Holmes enlists local police officer Peter Jones and bank director Mr. Merryweather to go along as he and Watson prepare to trap the thieves. And when does all of this action take place? Saturday night. In fact, Merryweather gives up his Saturday evening rubber of bridge to go along on the chase. See what I’m getting at here?
And then there’s Håkan Nesser’s The Unlucky Lottery (AKA Münster’s Case). Waldemar Leverkuhn and a few of his friends went in together on a lottery ticket. To their surprise and delight the ticket came up a winner. The four men agree to meet to celebrate their win and they go out together. Very late that night, Leverkuhn’s wife Marie-Louise comes home to find that her husband has been stabbed. Intendant Münster and his team investigate the case beginning with Leverkuhn’s family and neighbours. When they find out about the winning lottery ticket they also investigate Leverkuhn’s friends. What the team finds is that this is not a simple case. There are few leads and despite the fact that Leverkuhn seemed to be an inoffensive elderly man, there was more to his life than it seemed on the surface. In case you hadn’t guessed already, Leverkuhn is murdered on a Saturday night.
And just so you know, Sundays are not any safer than Saturdays when it comes to crime fiction. In Agatha Christie’s The Hollow, Sir Henry and Lady Lucy Angkatell invite a group of friends and relations to spend the week-end with them at their country home. Among the guests are Harley Street specialist Dr. John Christow and his wife Gerda. Hercule Poirot has taken a nearby cottage and has been invited for lunch on the Sunday. When he arrives at the Angkatell home though, he’s dismayed to see what looks like a tableau arranged for his “amusement.” The body of John Christow is lying by the pool and the killer is standing over the body holding the murder weapon. At first Poirot is far from amused. But when he realises that this is no act he begins to ask questions. It’s soon clear that there’s more to this murder than the scene would suggest. He and Inspector Grange work together to find out who would have wanted to kill John Christow and what the motive is. Did you notice? That murder takes place on Sunday.
So does the murder of beloved former schoolteacher Jane Neal, whom we meet in Louise Penny’s Still Life. Neal is a resident of Three Pines, a small town in rural Québec. On the Sunday morning of Thanksgiving weekend, Neal takes an early walk with her dog. During her walk she’s killed by an arrow in what looks like a tragic hunting accident. Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté is assigned the case. Something about it just doesn’t fit with the theory of accident so Gamache and his team investigate more thoroughly. They find that several people in Three Pines are not telling everything they know about their own lives or their relationships with Jane Neal. It turns out that despite the fact that Three Pines is a close-knit community more than one person in the area had a reason to want Neal out of the way.
Sunday is also not a safe day for powerful politician Silvio Luparello, as we discover in Andrea Camilleri’s The Shape of Water. Early one Monday morning, two workers are assigned the task of cleaning The Pasture, a notorious area of the Sicilian town of Vigatà. In the process of cleaning everything up they discover Luparello’s mostly-unclothed body in a car. Inspector Salvo Montalbano is assigned the case and it’s not going to be an easy one. Neither Luparello’s political allies nor his family members want the circumstances of his death to be made public. He was found after all in very embarrassing circumstances in a place usually frequented by prostitutes and their clients. So the Powers That Be put a lot of pressure on Montalbano to “rubber stamp” the official verdict of death by heart attack. Montalbano doesn’t believe the case is that simple and he asks for two extra days to ask questions. He’s reluctantly granted the time and gets to work. He finds that Luparello had plenty of political enemies, political “allies” and even family members who are only too happy he’s gone. And when did Luparello die? That’s right, folks: Sunday evening.
You see? Week-ends are just not safe! So if you do make plans, please be careful. I’m just saying…
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Loverboy’s Working for the Weekend.