It’s hard to believe it, but the Crime Fiction Alphabet meme has finally reached the end of our journey. Thanks to our tour guide Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise, we’ve all had a fantastic time experiencing the thrills and chills of crime fiction. I’m not going to mention what’s happened to my TBR as a result of this trip; that’s another matter altogether… ;-) Before I go any further, let me take a moment to encourage you to pay a visit to Paradise and check out Kerrie’s terrific blog. It’s a great source of news and reviews of all kinds of crime fiction, with a distinctly Australian flavour. Now then, this week we make our final stop at Zeb and Zeke’s, a very famous guest house where the story is that you get a wonderful night’s sleep. I think we could all use it too after such a dangerous journey. While the others are unpacking and fluffing up pillows, let me share my last contribution for this year’s meme: Zzzzzs.
That’s right. Doctors tell us how important the right amount of sleep is for our health and I couldn’t agree more. But it doesn’t always work out that way. Just have a quick look at these crime-fictional examples and you’ll see what I mean.
In Agatha Christie’s Lord Edgware Dies, Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings get an unusual request from famous actress Jane Wilkinson. She wants to be rid of her husband the 4th Baron Edgware so she can remarry. But Lord Edgware won’t grant his wife the divorce. So she asks Poirot to try to persuade her husband to change his mind. Poirot reluctantly agrees and he and Hastings visit the baron. To their surprise, Lord Edgware says he’s withdrawn his objection to the divorce. Later that night, Edgware is stabbed, and his wife becomes the chief suspect. But twelve other people are willing to swear that Jane Wilkinson was at a party in another part of London on the night of the murder, so Poirot, Hastings and Chief Inspector Japp have to look elsewhere for the killer. Then there’s another death. American actress Carlotta Adams dies in her sleep of what looks like an overdose of sleeping medicine. Poirot is convinced that this death is related to Edgware’s though, and investigates it as a murder. After another death, he makes the connections and finds out who’s behind all of the events.
Colin Dexter’s The Secret of Annexe 3 tells the story of a New Year’s Eve murder. The Haworth Hotel has on offer a New Year’s package, which turns out to be so popular that additional rooms in an annexe are made up for guests. Everything’s in order and the guests arrive for what promises to be a fun celebration. On New Year’s Eve itself, there’s a fancy dress dance and competition, and the party ends late. The next morning, one of the guests – a man who was dressed in a Rastafarian costume – is found murdered. Where’s the body found? That’s right – in his bed. Inspector Morse, who’d been planning some time off, is asked to take the case since he lives not far from the Haworth, and he and Sergeant Lewis investigate. One of the first things they find is that none of the guests in the annexe are really who they same to be. They’ve all used false names and have nonexistent addresses. So Morse and Lewis will have to start by discovering who the dead man really was, and who the other guests in the annexe – the most likely suspects – were. Oh, and best wishes to Colin Dexter, whose birthday it is today.
Sarah Caudwell’s Thus Was Adonis Murdered introduces us to Julia Larwood, a young London attorney who is brilliant at finance law, but in other areas of her life, not so orderly. And that’s being diplomatic. She decides to join an Art Lovers tour of Venice for two reasons. One is to take a break from the stress of being pushed to pay back taxes she owes. The other is to find an attractive and willing man to complete her ‘rest cure.’ When she gets to Venice, she meets Ned Watson, with whom she is very quickly enamoured. Watson works for Inland Revenue but she even forgives him that and plots her seduction. One afternoon, she and Watson finally get the opportunity to be together and they take advantage of it. Afterwards, both fall asleep. Julia wakes up first and, finding that her partner has been murdered, panics and leaves the room, forgetting to take her copy of the Finance Act with her. That’s just the evidence the police need to arrest her for Watson’s murder. Julia claims that she is innocent and her attorney friends in London believe her. One of them Timothy Shepherd has business in Venice anyway, so he agrees to see what he can do to help his friend. With help from Shepherd’s former mentor Professor Hilary Tamar, Shepherd and the other attorneys find out who really killed Ned Watson and why.
Scott Turow’s Innocent tells the story of the death of Barbara Sabich. She is the wife of Rožat ‘Rusty’ Sabich, Kindle County’s chief appellate judge. She has died during the night in her sleep, and the first guess is that she’s dead from natural causes. There’s reason to believe that too as her heart was not in good condition. But several things about the case raise questions. For one thing, Sabich stayed in the room with his wife’s body for 24 hours before informing anyone. For another, he had been having an affair with his senior law clerk Anna Vostic. And then there’s the fact that prosecutor Tommy Molto still thinks that Sabich killed a former lover in another case from years earlier (Presumed Innocent tells that story). Then comes the toxicology report which shows very high levels of an anti-depressant. When Sabich is arrested for his wife’s murder, he asks Alejandro ‘Sandy’ Stern (also introduced in Presumed Innocent) to take his case. As much as a legal mystery, this is also a fascinating psychological story.
There’s also Barry Maitland The Raven’s Eye. In that novel, DI Kathy Kolla and DS Mickey Schaeffer are called to the scene when Vicky Hawke is found dead in her bed on her houseboat. It looks as though she’s died in her sleep of an accidental overdose of carbon monoxide. The stove on the boat wasn’t properly ventilated and the weather was very cold, so the first explanation is that the victim was careless and didn’t leave the ventilators open to let the gas fumes out. But Kolla isn’t sure this was accidental and has trouble getting it out of her mind. Then, she discovers that Vicky Hawke was an assumed name. The victim has both another name and a sad family history that may have played an important role in her death. So even though Kolla is supposed to be on another case, she continues to investigate.
See what I mean? Something as innocent and safe as sleeping isn’t always, at least not in crime fiction. But it’s quite different in real life isn’t it? Now, I think it’s time to turn in. All tucked up? Sweet dreams…