Category Archives: Arthur Conan Doyle

Lazy Day*

Lazy SleuthsThere is a stereotype in crime fiction of the relentless sleuth who perseveres, works all hours and so on to solve cases. And of course I’m sure you could name dozens of fictional detectives who fit that description. But there are also sleuths who are, to put it plainly, lazy. They don’t exert themselves unless they have to, and even then it can take some effort to get them going. They’re no less brilliant for that, but they certainly don’t go running after cases to solve.

This sort of detective is arguably a little tricky to write. One has to create a lazy character who is also brilliant enough to solve a complex mystery – and is still credible. That’s not as easy as it seems, but there are examples out there.

One of them is Arthur Conan Doyle’s Mycroft Holmes. He is Sherlock Holmes’ older brother and actually even more brilliant than his brother at deduction. But he rarely bestirs himself to look into cases. He spends most of his time at the Diogenes Club, which he co-founded, and certainly doesn’t go chasing after clues and shadowing suspects. Here is what Sherlock Holmes says of his brother in The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter:

 

‘He will not even go out of his way to verify his own solutions, and would rather be considered wrong than take the trouble to prove himself right.’

 

Interestingly enough, Mycroft Holmes actually does take some action in this story. A young man named Melas has been more or less kidnapped in order to serve as an interpreter for another man who speaks only Greek. This gets Melas into life-threatening danger and the Holmes brothers and Dr. Watson end up rushing to the remote location where he’s been taken in order to try to prevent tragedy.

I don’t think it’d be possible to do a post about lazy sleuths without mentioning Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe. He is much more interested in his orchids, fine food and good wine than he is in solving mysteries. And as Wolfe fans will know, he almost never leaves the New York City brownstone home where he lives. Wolfe is lazy, but he is brilliant. And he’s self-aware enough to know that he is fond of good living and fine things – and that all of that costs a lot. So he’s usually willing (if reluctant) to take a case when Archie Goodwin points out the pragmatic benefits of doing so. And even when Wolfe is on a case, he doesn’t physically exert himself; he has Goodwin, Saul Panzer, Fred Durkin and Orrie Cather to do that. And he doesn’t see clients outside of very specified hours. Wolfe is definitely not one to let work get in the way of his life if I may put it like that.

Neither is Roderic Jeffries’ Inspector Enrique Alvarez, who lives and works in Mallorca. He prefers good food, a drink and his regular siesta to running himself ragged in an investigation.  In fact, that’s how his cousin Delores persuades him to take an interest in a case in Definitely Deceased. At that point in the series, Delores is keeping house for Alvarez and he has become quite fond of her cooking. Delores asks Alvarez to look into the arrest of a cousin-by-marriage Miguel Munar, who is accused of smuggling. Not only does Alvarez not want the extra work, but he has no desire to be on the wrong side of his bad-tempered boss Superintendent Salas. But Delores has a secret weapon – her cooking. When Alvarez refuses to investigate the Munar case, she punishes him with terrible food. It’s not long before he decides it’s in his interest to try to clear Munar’s name. When he does though, he finds that the one person who is in a position to corroborate Munar’s innocence has been killed. Alvarez may be innately lazy, but he is also dogged in his way and in the end, he gets to the truth about the smuggling and the murder.

There’s also Joyce Porter’s DCI Wilfred Dover of Scotland Yard. In Dover One, the first of this series, Dover and his assistant Charles MacGregor are sent to Creedshire to look into the disappearance of a housemaid Juliet Rugg. The local police haven’t found a body or evidence of murder, but if I may put it this way, if she is alive, she would be not be misidentified easily. So Creedshire’s Chief Constable Bartlett suspects foul play. Here’s what DCI Dover has to say about the assignment:

 

‘I don’t know why it is…it always seems to be me that gets landed with these jobs. You’ll see, we’ll hang around there for a couple of days and she’ll turn up again, older and wiser if you know what I mean. Holed up in Brighton, that’s where she is! And when her money runs out, the boy-friend’ll hop it and she’ll come back home.’

 

Dover is bad-tempered to begin with, and especially when he is expected to exert himself. So he doesn’t start this case in the best frame of mind. But he and MacGregor (who unlike his boss, is quite ambitious) head to Creedshire, where it turns out that there’s much more to this case than a woman running off with a boyfriend.

M.C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth is also lazy when it comes to his career. He is perfectly content to be the village bobby in the Highlands town of Lochdubh. In fact, he’d far rather be fishing, spending time with his dog or just relaxing than investigating crime. And in novels such as Death of a Bore, we can see that he’d rather resolve a conflict than make an arrest. In that novel, writer John Heppel has settled in Lochdubh and decided to offer a writing class. Several of the locals sign up, hoping they’ll become well-known authors. At the first class Heppel insults his students and their work. Macbeth hears about this (Lochdubh is a small village) and pays Heppel a visit with the goal of smoothing over the situation. Not only does he care about the people of Lochdubh, but also, it’s less work to offer a friendly word than to make an arrest. Heppel’s unwilling to listen to Macbeth though, and the second class is, if possible, worse than the first. When Heppel  is found dead not long after that session, Macbeth finds that more than one person had a good motive for murder.

There are of course other lazy fictional sleuths but honestly, I can’t be bothered to mention any more. Your turn.

 

 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a Moody Blues song.

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Filed under Arthur Conan Doyle, Joyce Porter, M.C. Beaton, Rex Stout, Roderic Jeffries

While the Roadies Rig the Video Surveillance Van*

SurveillanceDetectives know that it’s not enough to just ask questions of witnesses and suspects. After all, people lie, or they don’t remember things accurately, or they find it convenient not to mention certain things. So detectives sometimes engage in surveillance. That might involve watching a certain place to see who comes and goes. Or it might involve following a certain person or people. Surveillance is time-consuming and it can be tedious, especially if there are a long periods of inactivity. But it’s a part of many real-life investigations. And it’s a part of crime fiction too. Here are just a few examples to show you what I mean.

Fans of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes will know that he frequently does surveillance. That’s part of the reason for which he keeps somewhat odd hours. Dr. Watson does his share of surveillance too. In one instance, The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist, Violet Smith hires Holmes to help her solve an odd mystery. She is employed as a piano teacher at Chiltern Grange and lives there during the week. On Fridays she goes to London to visit her mother and on Monday mornings she returns to Chiltern Grange. All goes well enough until one Friday when Violet notices that a man is following her as she rides her bicycle to the train station. On Monday when she returns, the same man follows her from the station towards Chiltern Grange. The man doesn’t get close enough to be physically threatening but Violet is understandably worried. Watson travels to the Chiltern Grange area and takes up a stakeout near the part of the road where Violet has reported seeing this strange man. Sure enough, she is telling the truth. He and Holmes look more closely into the matter and find out that Violet is in a great deal more danger than she might have thought. Surveillance plays a key role in this story.

Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot generally eschews surveillance, preferring to use his ‘little grey cells’ to solve cases. Besides, as he will admit, he doesn’t have the resources to be everywhere at once. So as a rule, he leaves surveillance to others. Yet it still crops up in Christie’s work. For instance in Death in the Clouds (AKA Death in the Air), Marie Morisot, who does business as Madame Giselle, is on a flight from Paris to London. During the flight she suddenly dies of what turns out to be poison. The only possible suspects are the other passengers on the flight, one of whom is Hercule Poirot. He works with Chief Inspector Japp to find out who killed Madame Giselle and why. One of the other passengers is London hair stylist’s assistant Jane Grey. She’s not a very likely suspect but of course, being mixed up in a murder case does impact her. One evening she and another passenger Norman Gale are having dinner when they notice that yet another passenger is at the same restaurant. He is detective novelist Mr. Clancy, whom the police already suspect (after all, we know that mystery novelists are quite suspicious ;-) ). On impulse Grey and Gale decide to follow Mr. Clancy and see where he goes after he finishes his meal. It’s a funny set of scenes as they practice the art of discreetly following someone. And Mr. Clancy certainly acts suspiciously…

Sue Grafton’s PI Kinsey Millhone occasionally does investigative work for California Fidelity Insurance Company, in exchange for which she has the use of office space in their suite. One of the sub-plots of A is for Alibi concerns a California Fidelity case that Millhone takes on. Marcia Threadgill is claiming disability related to a fall, and the insurance company wants Millhone to follow up on that claim. The idea is that Millhone will ‘rubber stamp’ the insurance company’s approval of the payout. So Millhone follows Threadgill, takes ‘photos and observes her carefully. What she finds is that Threadgill is committing insurance fraud. The original claim was credible enough for the company to be prepared to pay; it takes surveillance to prove that it was fraudulent.

Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series features Mma. Precious Ramotswe, a private detective who does her share of surveillance in her way. But in The Good Husband of Zebra Drive it’s her husband Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni who does the surveillance. Much as he loves his work as the owner of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, he’s been looking for something a little different to do from time to time. He gets his chance when a new client Faith Botumile wants to hire Mma. Ramotswe’s agency. She believes that her husband has been unfaithful and wants to know who the other woman is. Mma. Ramotswe happens to be out when Mma. Botumile arrives, and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni takes down the information. Since he is the one who had the first contact with the client, Mma. Ramotswe thinks it makes sense for him to follow up on the case. Mma. Botumile is rude, harshly critical and unpleasant, and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni can well understand how the husband of a woman like her might stray. But she is a client so he takes up working on the case. Part of his task is following Mr. Botumile to find out what he does after work. So Mr. J.L.B. Matakoni does that, and turns up some surprising results.

It isn’t just private investigators who conduct surveillance. The police do their share of it too. Let me just give two examples. In one plot thread of Jane Casey’s The Burning, DC Maeve Kerrigan and her colleagues at the Met are on the trail of a killer whom the press has dubbed the Burning Man because he tries to destroy his victims’ bodies with fire. At one point the police catch a man they think is the murderer, but then another body is discovered. So they have to start over again. After more time goes by with no real leads, it’s decided to set up a surveillance operation in a local park – the sort of place that has so far appealed to the killer. Kerrigan joins one of the surveillance teams and everyone settles in for a long night. With one of the cops serving as ‘bait,’ everyone watches and waits. It’s a really interesting depiction of how cold, uncomfortable and frustrating surveillance can be. And how dangerous it can be. It’s little wonder that the cops don’t generally set up large-scale surveillance operations on a whim.

In Katherine Howell’s Silent Fear, New South Wales Police Detective Ella Marconi and her team investigate the murder of Paul Fowler. He’s tossing a football around with a few friends one afternoon when he’s shot. Part of the process of finding out who killed Fowler is talking to everyone in his life, including his ex-wife Trina. The police duly interview her, but although she talks to them, it’s soon clear that she’s hiding something. It could be something relatively innocent, but the police can’t risk the chance. And Trina is good at keeping her own counsel. So it’s decided to follow her, to find out where she goes and whom she sees, and to follow up on any of her ‘phone calls. That surveillance proves to be very useful in solving the Fowler case.

And that’s the thing about surveillance. It can be frustrating and time-consuming, even with modern CCTV cameras. But it can also yield important information. These are only a few examples (I know, I know, fans of Rex Stout’s Archie Goodwin, Saul Panzer, Fred Durkin and Orrie Cather). Your turn.

 

 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from They Might Be Giants’ Working Undercover For the Man.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Alexander McCall Smith, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jane Casey, Katherine Howell, Rex Stout, Sue Grafton

Today I Do What Must be Done*

DisciplineIf you think about the qualities that detectives need to have, you might not list ‘self-discipline’ as one of them. And yet it’s an awfully important quality. Even the most brilliant detective isn’t going to have a lot of success without a certain amount of self-discipline. For instance, a police detective may know exactly who committed a crime, but that doesn’t guarantee a conviction. The detective needs to ‘go by the book’ and interview people appropriately, handle the evidence carefully and so on. Otherwise there is no case. There are all kinds of examples of the way fictional detectives have to exercise self-discipline. Here are just a few.

In one sense, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes doesn’t appear to be what you’d call self-disciplined. After all, he’s a drug user, he doesn’t keep regular habits, and so on. But when it comes to solving his cases, he is quite self-disciplined. His focus is entirely on the case, and he starts early and works late if I may put it that way. More than that, he has a real intellectual self-discipline. He reads and writes extensively on topics that help him do a better job of detection, and continuously adds to his store of knowledge anything that he thinks he’ll find useful. He isn’t the type either to take a holiday and just relax.

Another kind of self-discipline that sleuths need has to do with the way they work with witnesses and suspects. It can be overwhelmingly tempting to lash out at a suspect or threaten a witness. But it’s often not successful. Instead, it takes patience (sometimes a lot of that) and self-restraint to get people to open up. We see a bit of that in Karin Fossum’s When the Devil Holds the Candle. Inspector Konrad Sejer of the Oslo police is working on a missing person’s case. Andreas Winther hasn’t been seen for several days, and his mother Runi is worried about him. At first Sejer isn’t overly concerned, but as more time goes by, he begins to pursue the case more actively. The one person who may be able to help him most is Andreas’ best friend Sivert ‘Zipp’ Skorpe, so Sejer works hard to try to establish a relationship with the young man. But Zipp’s not willing to talk. It’s soon clear that Zipp knows more than he’s saying, and it takes all of Sejer’s patience and self-discipline to find out the truth.

Shamini Flint’s Inspector Singh is not a particularly patient person. He’s not what you’d call reckless, but he likes his cases to move along in a certain way. That’s not what happens in A Calamitous Chinese Killing though. In that novel, he’s seconded to Beijing to help find out the truth about the killing of Justin Tan. Justin was the son of Susan Tan, First Secretary at the Singapore Embassy in Beijing, so his murder is not going to be investigated in the usual way. The police are inclined to think that he was killed in a mugging gone wrong, but Susan Tan doesn’t think so. And as Singh begins to talk with some people and get a feel for the case, he starts to think she’s right. Singh works with former police detective Li Jun to find out what really happened and that process takes self-discipline. Li Jun is not difficult to work with, but Singh is unaccustomed to the Chinese way of doing things. So it requires a great deal of self-discipline on his part to work with witnesses, to let his counterpart take the lead in certain interviews, and to have a sense of the politics involved in what he’s doing.

It’s not just witnesses and suspects either. It takes a lot of self-discipline to work with certain colleagues, too. For instance, Catherine Aird’s Inspector Sloan is a smart, intuitive detective. However, those skills don’t seem to rub off too easily on his assistant Constable William Crosby. Constable Crosby isn’t a bad person, and he does try. But he doesn’t seem to learn very quickly and he isn’t exactly the brightest bulb in the chandelier as the saying goes. It takes every bit of Sloan’s patience and self-discipline to work with Crosby and that dynamic plays an interesting role in the series.

Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus finds out how important that kind of self-discipline is in Resurrection Men. He and his team are all frustrated by the lack of progress in the murder of Edinburgh art dealer Edward Marber. During one particularly tense team meeting, Rebus lets go of his self-discipline and throws a mug of cold tea towards his supervisor Gill Templar. Needless to say, the incident isn’t let go. Rebus is remanded to Tulliallan Police College for an opportunity to learn to work better with a team of people. He and other police detectives who have difficulty working in groups are assigned to investigate the ‘cold case’ murder of gangster Rico Lomax. As it turns out, that murder is tied in with Marber’s murder, so in the end, Rebus finds out the truth about both cases.

We can all think of examples (Roderic Jeffries’ Inspector Alvarez comes to my mind) of fictional detectives who don’t seem particularly disciplined. But the reality is that it takes a lot of self-control and discipline to be a good sleuth. And characters who can do that (or who learn to do it) are more believable because of that. These are only a few examples. Your turn.

 

 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Billy Joel’s Until the Night.

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Filed under Arthur Conan Doyle, Catherine Aird, Ian Rankin, Karin Fossum, Roderic Jeffries, Shamini Flint

I Am a Child*

Child WitnessesAn interesting comment exchange has got me thinking about the way children observe and learn all sorts of things, even when they’re not deliberately trying to find something out.  Children are naturally curious and observant for the most part, and they make their own sense of what they see and experience. On the one hand, their immaturity and lack of experience can make them unreliable as witnesses. On the other hand though, they can be very keen observers and they can often ‘fade into the background’ so people aren’t always aware they’re there. So it makes sense for fictional (and real) sleuths to be open to listening to what children have to say.

You’ll notice as you read this post that I won’t be mentioning novels or series (e.g. Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series, or Fireside Publications’ Leaders & Legacies series) in which a child is the sleuth. To me that’s a different sort of role for a child. It’s probably post-worthy in and of itself. Instead I’ll be looking at stories where what children observe is very helpful to the sleuth.

Fans of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes will know that Holmes often makes use of the services of a group of boys called the Baker Street Irregulars. Led by Wiggins, this group of ‘street boys’ regularly prowls London’s streets and docks to find out information Holmes wants. They’re in a good position to observe, because no-one pays much attention to them. And what’s interesting is that Holmes doesn’t ask them to do much analysis of what they observe. Rather, he asks them for factual information (e.g. whether a certain ship is docked, or what time a shop actually opened as opposed to when it was supposed to open). Holmes does the deduction himself. Of course that’s characteristic of him even when working with adults. But it also happens to address the issue of children’s immaturity.

Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot gets information from children in more than one story. For instance, in Dead Man’s Folly, detective story novelist Ariadne Oliver asks Poirot to visit Nasse House, where she’s staying. Oliver has been commissioned to create a Murder Hunt for an upcoming fête, but she suspects that something more sinister is going on at the house. Poirot respects Mrs. Oliver’s judgement, so he agrees to look into things and travels to Nasse House. Sure enough, on the day of the big event, fourteen-year-old Marlene Tucker is found strangled. Poirot and Inspector Bland investigate, and of course, one of the important avenues to explore is Marlene’s background. So at one point Poirot pays a visit to her family’s home. That’s where he meets Marlene’s younger sister Marilyn. After speaking to the girls’ parents, Poirot’s getting ready to leave the house when Marilyn gets his attention:

 

‘‘Mum don’t know everything,’ she whispered.’

 

Marilyn then gives Poirot some important information about her older sister. It doesn’t solve the case, but it does help Poirot make sense of what happened.

In M.C. Beaton’s Death of a Gossip, John and Heather Cartwright have opened the Lochdubh School of Casting: Salmon and Trout Fishing. They depend on summer visitors who want to learn angling, so when their new class assembles, they’re hoping that everything will turn out well. It doesn’t though. One of the participants is Jane Maxwell, gossip columnist for the London Evening Star, who’s masquerading as a society widow. Her plan is to get new fodder for her column by uncovering nasty secrets since, as she claims, everybody has a proverbial skeleton in the closet.  When she is found strangled with a fishing line, Constable Hamish Macbeth investigates. One of the other members of the class is twelve-year-old Charlie Baxter, who lives in the village. He’s had a difficult time of it in his life, and is a little hard around the edges as the saying goes. What’s more, he had more than one run-in with the victim. So besides being a witness, he’s a possible suspect. But Macbeth also learns that Charlie is observant and bright. He’s able to get some useful help from the boy, and it’s interesting to see how Charlie fits in with the rest of the group.

Minette Walters’ The Breaker begins when two boys Paul and Daniel Spender are exploring near Chapman’s Pool in Dorsetshire. They’ve ‘borrowed’ their father’s expensive binoculars and are enjoying their adventure when they see the body of a dead woman on the beach. They’re so shocked that they drop and break the binoculars, so on the one hand, they don’t want to tell anyone what they saw, because they’d have to explain themselves. On the other, they know that a dead body needs to be reported. Besides, they’re scared. They tell Stephen Harding, an actor who’s also out that morning, and he alerts the police. P.C. Nick Ingram is soon on the scene. He knows that what the boys say may be very important, but at the same time, they may not know exactly what they saw if I can put it that way. So Ingram works carefully to get as much information as he can from them. They can’t of course name the murderer, but some of the things they say turn out to be very useful.

In Gail Bowen’s Murder at the Mendel, we meet gifted artist Sally Love, her husband Stuart Lachlan and her four-year-old daughter Taylor. Years ago, Sally was a friend of academic and political scientist Joanne Kilbourn, so when the Mendel Gallery plans an exhibition of her art, Kilbourn decides to attend and perhaps renew their friendship. Instead Kilbourn gets caught up in a case of multiple murders that relates to her own past. And one of the other people caught up in that case is Taylor. She’s bright, observant, and has a good memory, but she’s only four years old. So it’s not easy to get information from her without making matters worse. Her perspective is helpful though, and as the series goes on, she becomes a permanent part of Kilbourn’s life. In more than one of the novels too, she witnesses something or is a part of something and Kilbourn has to rely on what Taylor says. Like other children, Taylor doesn’t have a mature perspective; she’s a child. But she notices everything.

And that’s the thing about children as witnesses. In some ways, they aren’t reliable. But they are often observant and bright. And they have a way of going places and learning things that would be very difficult for adults to do. Little wonder they appear so often in crime fiction. What do you think?

 

 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a Neil Young song.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Alan Bradley, Arthur Conan Doyle, Gail Bowen, M.C. Beaton, Minette Walters

When the Sun Burst Through the Sky*

SunriseIt may be because of human biorhythms, the benefits of sleep, or our instinctive feeling of greater safety during daylight, but very often, things just seem better when the morning comes. I’ll bet you’ve thought or been told that ‘It’ll all look different in the morning.’ And quite often it does. Now admittedly, not everyone is a ‘morning person.’ Still, there is often greater optimism in the morning whether you’re a ‘morning person’ or a ‘night owl.’ That sense that things will be better in the morning has seeped into crime fiction too.

For example, in Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Red-Headed League, pawnbroker Jabez Wilson has brought a very odd mystery to Sherlock Holmes. He was offered an easy but unusual job by a group calling itself the Red-Headed League. All Wilson had to do was copy the Encyclopaedia Britannica. So long as he didn’t leave the office during his work hours he was promised decent pay for what seemed like little effort. At first all went well. Wilson was able to leave his pawn business to his assistant for a few hours each day and earn extra income. What puzzles and worries him though is that The Red Headed-League suddenly disbanded, leaving no-one in its offices. Holmes and Dr. Watson investigate, and Holmes discovers that the whole thing was a plot to get Wilson out of his pawn shop so that it could be used to tunnel into a nearby bank. Once that discovery is made, Holmes, Watson and the bank manager spend a long and uncomfortable night waiting for the bank robbers to make their move. They do, and the ringleader is duly caught. It all looks better though as the morning comes and Holmes explains to Watson what his thinking was.

It all looks better in the morning in Agatha Christie’s The Murder on the Links, too. In that novel, Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings travel to Merlinville-sur-Mer at the request of Paul Renauld. Renauld has claimed that his life is in danger because of a secret he possesses, and he wants Poirot to come to his assistance. By the time that happens though, it’s too late: Renauld has been stabbed on the grounds of his own property. Bit by bit, Poirot uncovers Renauld’s past history as well as several possible motives for his murder. Eventually Poirot finds out who the killer is, and he and Hastings set up an all-night vigil at the Renauld home to catch that person. With important help from a rather enigmatic young acrobat who calls herself Cinderella, the killer is stopped. It’s all quite traumatic and exhausting though, and no-one is willing to answer Hastings’ questions about what really happened. But it all looks better in the morning when Hastings wakes up.

 

‘I awoke to find the sun pouring in through the open windows and Poirot, neat and smiling, sitting beside the bed.’

 

Among other good things, Hastings gets an explanation for everything that went on the night before.

Scott Young’s Murder in a Cold Climate introduces readers to Matthew ‘Matteesie’ Kitologitak of the RCMP. He’s planning to travel from Inuvik back to Ottawa where he lives when he gets a call that drastically changes his plans. Three men believed to be involved in drugs trafficking have disappeared along with the Cessna they had chartered. Matteesie’s boss thinks that it’s possible the men have deliberately lost themselves. It’s also of course possible that their Cessna went down and they’ve been injured or killed. Either way, the Cessna’s owner wants to know what happened to his plane, and of course, the RCMP wants to know about any drugs trafficking in the Northwest Territories. Matteesie agrees to see what he can find out. He’s soon caught up in a murder investigation though, when he takes the same flight from Inuvik as Native activist Morton Cavendish, who’s on his way to Edmonton for emergency medical care. When the plane makes a stop at Norman Wells, a gunman forces his way onto the plane and shoots Cavendish. Matteesie begins to investigate the murder while he’s still trying to look into the downed Cessna. It turns out that the two cases are related and it all comes together during an overnight snowmobile trip that Matteesie takes into the Arctic bush. He gets his answers, but the night is long, dangerous and cold and even though Matteesie is experienced, he’s still at risk. It all looks better when daylight comes the next day though. Some friends he’s made along the way come looking for him and in the end, he returns safely to Fort Norman.

Lilian Jackson Braun’s journalist sleuth James ‘Qwill’ Qwilleran travels to Breakfast Island (AKA Providence Island, Grand Island and Pear Island) in The Cat Who Came to Breakfast. A friend who owns a B & B on the island has asked Qwill to look into some odd incidents of what look like sabotage. Qwill is persuaded to go and soon takes up residence at the Domino Inn. He discovers that there’s a long-standing feud between the island’s natives and developers who are building upmarket hotels and shops. There’s also a group of wealthy summer visitors who have their own island culture. In the midst of this tension, some upsetting things begin to happen. There’s a food poisoning, a drowning, a boat explosion, and a shooting. Qwill puts the pieces of the puzzle together, but in the meantime, new trouble comes in the form of a terrible storm that strikes the island. It’s an awful night when the storm hits, and everyone is badly shaken. They are especially glad when morning finally comes and the sun shines.

In Anthony Bidulka’s Flight of Aquavit, Daniel Guest hires Saskatoon PI Russell Quant to find out who’s been blackmailing him. Guest is a successful business executive who’s been married for several years. But he’s also had some trysts with other men, and someone’s found out about his secret life. Quant would rather see Guest come out as gay, but Guest isn’t willing to do that. So Quant looks into the matter. Someone doesn’t want any interference though. Soon enough, there’s a murder. Quant’s investigating that when he and his friend Jared Lowe are ambushed and abandoned in the middle of nowhere, as the saying goes. This is Saskatchewan just before Christmas, so the danger of death by exposure is immediate and real. Still, the two men manage to find some shelter and get through the night alive. Everything starts to look better the next morning though. The two men even find a shack where they can keep warm. Still, Lowe’s been wounded and Quant’s not in exactly perfect shape himself. So both men are glad when Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) Officer Darren Kirsch arrives:

 

‘Despite our history of congenial dislike, I was never so glad to see someone as I was that Christmas Eve morning to see Darren Kirsch, coming through the door of that shack with two RCMP officers at his heels.’

 

There are still one or two ‘loose ends’ in the case, but the coming of that particular morning makes it all seem better.

Some dangerous, scary things happen during the night in crime novels. Little wonder that even those who aren’t ‘morning people’ can be very happy to see the sun come up.

 

 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Anthony Bidulka, Arthur Conan Doyle, Lilian Jackson Braun, Scott Young