The Crime Fiction Alphabet meme continues on our treacherous journey through the alphabet. I’m pleased to say that thus far, we’ve had no casualties – yet. That’s thanks to our tour leader Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise, who’s seen to all the arrangements.
Today we’ve arrived at the Hotel D. It’s quite a hotel, with its own fitness center, steam room and pool. That last is actually maybe not such a good thing, as my contribution for today’s stop is drowning.
The thing about drowning is that it can look deceptively like an accident. And it doesn’t really require a lot of specialised knowledge or weaponry. So it’s not surprising that there are a lot of cases of drowning in crime fiction.
Several of Agatha Christie’s works involve drowning. That’s what happens in for instance Hallowe’en Party. Thirteen-year-old Joyce Reynolds is with a group of young people who are helping to prepare for a Hallowe’en party. She boasts that she’s seen a murder and although just about everyone hushes her up she insists that it’s true. That evening Joyce is drowned in a bucket of water used for a bobbing-for-apples game. Christie’s fictional detective story author Ariadne Oliver was at both the preparations for the party and the party itself, and she is convinced that Joyce was killed because she really did witness a murder and the murderer wanted to keep her quiet. Mrs. Oliver asks Hercule Poirot to visit the village of Woodleigh Common and investigate. He agrees and starts to ask questions. Then there’s another murder. Poirot discovers that both murders are related to some events in the town’s past and a murder that occurred a few years earlier.
Minette Walters’ The Breaker tells the story of the murder of Kate Sumner, whose body is discovered on a beach near Chapman’s Pool in Dorsetshire. Forensics reports show that she was choked, drugged and then drowned. Shortly after her body is discovered, her toddler daughter Hannah is discovered wandering around a nearby town. PC Nick Ingram works with WPC Sandra Griffiths, DI John Galbraith and Superintendent Carpenter to find out who killed Kate Sumner and how Hannah got to the village. Their search for answers leads them to three main suspects: Kate’s husband William; Stephen Harding, an actor with whom Kate had flirted several times; and Harding’s roommate Tony Bridges. This murder turns out to be related to be much more psychological in nature than anything else.
DCI Hannah Scarlett and her Cold Case Review team investigate a case of drowning in Martin Edwards’ The Serpent Pool. Six years earlier Bethany Friend was drowned in the Lake District’s Serpent Pool. At the time, the case was put down as a suicide. But Scarlett has never quite believed that explanation. So she and her team re-open the case. At the same time, Scarlett’s friend and co-worker Fern Larter and her team are investigating two more recent murders. The two compare notes and it’s not long before they determine that the three murderers are related. And so they turn out to be. With help from Oxford historian Daniel Kind, Scarlett and Larter find out who killed all three victims and what the motive was.
Gail Bowen’s The Wandering Souls Murders also includes a drowning. Political scientist and academician Joanne Kilbourn gets involved in a case of multiple murders when her daughter Mieka discovers the body of a young girl in a trash bin. The police are just beginning to look into that case when there’s another death. Christy Sinclair is the former girlfriend of Kilbourn’s son Peter. When the two broke up, Kilbourn was only too happy to see Christy go. Then, she suddenly comes back into Peter’s life, going so far as to say they’re back together. One night she drowns in what looks like a tragic boating accident. But her death was quite deliberate. Kilbourn discovers that both deaths are related to a secret from Christy’s past and to some dark truths about some of the characters.
There’s a tragic case of drowning in Wendy James’ Out of the Silence, which is based on true incidents. Born and raised in Victoria, nineteen-year-old Maggie Heffernan was imprisoned in 1900 for the drowning death of her baby son Jacky. The novel is a fictional portrayal of Maggie’s life, her meeting with Jack Hardy, their brief affair and the resulting pregnancy. By the time Maggie realises that she’s pregnant, Jack has left for New South Wales to find work. Jack doesn’t respond when Maggie writes to tell him about her pregnancy, and she knows that her family won’t accept her. So she moves to Melbourne to find work and hopefully trace Jack. She gives birth and after a time, she finally traces Jack. When she does, he claims that she’s crazy and won’t have anything to do with her. With nowhere to go, Maggie searches through Melbourne for a place to stay and is turned away from six different lodging houses. That’s when Jacky’s death occurs. Through diaries, letters and news items, we read of Maggie’s experiences, the trial, and the efforts to free her once she is imprisoned.
And then there’s Domingo Villar’s Death on a Galician Shore. In that novel Vigo police detective Leo Caldas and his team investigate the mysterious drowning death of a local fisherman Justo Castelo. The evidence suggests that he committed suicide but there are just a few hints that suggest otherwise. So Caldas and his assistant Rafael Estevez dig deeper into the case. As they do so, they get to know about Castelo’s background they learn that his death could very well have to do with a 1996 tragedy in which he and two fellow fishermen were the only survivors of a boat tragedy that claimed the life of their captain Antonio Sousa. Bit by bit, Caldas and Estevez find out how Castelo’s drowning is related to the 1996 Sousa drowning.
See what I mean? Drowning happens a lot in crime fiction. Well, now; I’ve finished unpacking. What about a swim? ;-)