Category Archives: Karin Fossum

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.


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

Dressing Up in Costumes, Playing Silly Games*

Childhood GamesDid you play games when you were a child? Perhaps you rode your bicycle, or played card games or board games, or perhaps Hide-and-Seek or Treasure Hunt. Children’s games are a big part of young people’s learning. They inspire creativity and they can be good exercise. They can be a lot of fun, too. They can also play important roles in crime fiction novels. Let me just give you a few examples to show you what I mean.

Several of Agatha Christie’s stories make use of children’s games. One of them is Three Act Tragedy (AKA Murder in Three Acts). Hercule Poirot has been invited to a cocktail party at the home of famous actor Sir Charles Cartwright. Not long after the party gets underway, one of the guests Reverend Stephen Babbington suddenly dies of what turns out to be poison. There doesn’t seem to be any motive for the murder but at the same time, there seems no reason Babbington should have taken his own life. The investigation into that death is ongoing when there’s another death. This time, medical specialist Sir Bartholomew Strange is killed, again by poison, at his Yorkshire home. Then there’s another death. Poirot gets an important clue about this case from a child’s card game Happy Families and a comment made about it by one of the witnesses to both Babbington’s and Strange’s deaths. I know, I know, fans of Christie’s Hallowe’en Party

D.H. Lawrence’s short story The Rocking-Horse Winner is admittedly more psychological suspense than crime fiction. In that story, we are introduced to a family that manages to keep up decent social appearances. Yet,


‘There was never enough money. The mother had a small income, and the father had a small income, but not nearly enough for the social position which they had to keep up.’


The children are aware of the situation and one of them, Paul, decides to find a clue to what the family can do about getting more money. He finds the answer by riding his rocking-horse. He tells his family that he’s ridden his rocking-horse to the place he wanted to go, where he’d find the secret to money. Everyone thinks that’s a little strange. There are also a few raised eyebrows about Paul’s interest in riding a rocking-horse when he’s a little too old for that. Paul persists though, and he begins to come up with names of winning horses in real-life races. In fact, his rocking-horse rides start to produce an unexpected amount of money for the family. But they lead to tragedy, too…

In Arthur Upfield’s Death of a Swagman, Queensland Police Inspector Napoleon ‘Bony’ Bonaparte goes undercover as a stockman in the town of Merino, in rural New South Wales. He’s in the area to investigate the murder of another stockman George Kendall. In order not to alert the murderer, Bony arranges to have himself arrested for vagrancy. He’s given ten days’ jail time and the job of painting the police station. In that guise, he starts to ask questions and look around. Then there’s another death that at first looks like a suicide. Bony, though, is sure that it’s murder. As he investigates, Bony finds that the two deaths are, as you might suspect, related. One of the clues that lead him to the killer is a set of innocent-looking games of Noughts and Crosses (Tic-Tac-Toe), just like the games you might have played as a child.

Or perhaps you preferred to ride your bicycle instead of playing at cards or games. A yellow bicycle proves to be an important clue in Karin Fossum’s Black Seconds. In that novel, nine-year-old Ida Joner decides to ride her brand-new yellow bicycle to Laila’s Kiosk for a magazine and some sweets. The trip is only expected to take a short while, so when Ida doesn’t come back, her mother Helga starts to be anxious. She becomes frightened when she calls the shop a few hours later only to find that Ida never made it there. Now faced with every parent’s worst nightmare, Helga begins a more thorough search for her daughter. She calls everyone, including her sister Ruth, to find out if anyone’s seen Ida. No-one has. Finally, the police are called and Inspector Konrad Sejer and his assistant Jacob Skarre begin a professional search. If Ida was abducted, one possible suspect is Emil Johannes, an odd sort of man who never speaks to anyone. He won’t say whether he’s seen the girl or not, but he’s the classic ‘weird guy’ everyone suspects when this sort of thing happens. Sejer is interested in anything Johannes can tell him, but it turns out that this case isn’t nearly as simple as it seems on the surface. One interesting clue turns out to be Ida’s bicycle.

Gail Bowen’s The Nesting Dolls sees political scientist and academic Joanne Kilbourn Shreve and her family involved in a very difficult custody case. Shortly before Christmas, Kilbourn and her husband Zack are attending a holiday concert performance at their daughter Taylor’s high school. They’re leaving the event when an unknown young woman approaches Taylor’s friend Isobel and gives her a baby. Not many hours later, the woman is found raped and murdered, her body left in her car. The question of the baby’s identity becomes very important, since someone will need to take custody of him. So one plot thread concerns identifying the dead woman and the baby. Another of course is the question of who killed the victim and why. An important clue to both mysteries is found in a set of Russian nesting dolls that take on a particular meaning for one character in the story.

And then there’s Andrea Camilleri’s Treasure Hunt. Vigàta Police Inspector Salvo Montalbano makes the news during a very strange case that involves him climbing up a building. The case is bizarre enough, but what is even stranger is what follows it. Soon afterwards, Montalbano receives a cryptic note that contains a very bad poem and an invitation to take part in a game of Treasure Hunt. It’s an odd note but seems harmless enough. It doesn’t turn out to be that way though. Instead of a childish game of Treasure Hunt, this is a dangerous battle of wits between Montalbano and a very unusual killer.

Childhood games can be a lot of fun, and can teach children all sorts of thinking and strategy skills. They can be good exercise too, and most people would say they’re better than being addicted to television or video games. But as crime fiction shows us, they can take on a whole new meaning…



*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Peter Gabriel’s Games Without Frontiers.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Andrea Camilleri, Arthur Upfield, D.H. Lawrence, Gail Bowen, Karin Fossum

Won’t You Listen to Me Now*

Police CarNot long ago, I was on a bus where I saw a sign encouraging riders to report suspicious activity. ‘If You See Something, Say Something’ was the tag. And most police do want to know about suspicious activity; they want citizens to feel comfortable reporting crime.

But the police have limited resources and finite amounts of time to investigate. This means they have to establish priorities. So, for instance, more resources would be devoted to a report of a murder than to a report of a purse-snatching. The police want both crimes solved, but they can’t do it all at once. Besides, there are people who report suspicious activity or even crimes when there isn’t really a crime involved, and the police don’t want to waste time and resources on so-called wild goose chases. What’s more, if the police really are satisfied that everything possible is being or has been done, they’re not likely to keep going over a case.

That’s part of the reason for which the police sometimes don’t follow up carefully, at least at first, on everything that gets reported to them. That happens in real life, and it also happens in crime fiction.

For instance, in Agatha Christie’s 4:50 From Paddingtion (AKA What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw!), Elspeth McGillicuddy takes a train to visit her friend Jane Marple. At one point, another train going in the same direction passes by and Mrs. McGillicuddy happens to look in the window of the other train. To her shock, she sees a woman being strangled. Of course she summons the conductor and the railway authorities, but there is no sign of a murder. There’s no body, and no-one has reported a missing person who fits the victim’s description. When Mrs. McGillicuddy arrives at Miss Marple’s home, she tells her friend what happened and Miss Marple insists on going to the police. They duly take down the information, but they don’t do much about it since there is no evidence that anything happened. In fact, the suggestion is made that perhaps Mrs. McGillicuddy imagined or dreamt something. Neither woman is happy at all about this dismissal, so Miss Marple takes matters into her own hands. She takes a ride on the same train and deduces where the body would be if it was thrown from the train. And that’s how she settles on Rutherford Hall as the likely place. With help from professional housekeeper Lucy Eyelesbarrow, Miss Marple shows that there was indeed a body and therefore, a murder. She also finds out who the murderer is.

In Carolyn Graham’s A Ghost in the Machine, the body of financial advisor Dennis Brinkley is discovered in his home. The police respond quickly and an investigation is made. The evidence suggests that Brinkley was killed accidentally by one of the antique war machines he collected. Nothing suggests anything else. But Brinkley’s friend Benny Frayle doesn’t believe Brinkley’s death was an accident. So she goes to the Causton police station to ask for a further investigation. DCI Tom Barnaby agrees to at least look into the matter, mostly because Benny seems so distraught. And he does re-read the original reports. But nothing seems out of order and it’s clear that investigating officer DS Gresham was scrupulous. Besides, Benny is eccentric and was a good friend of the deceased: her views are not likely to be objective. There seems to be nothing further to investigate and Barnaby sends Benny Frayle a note to that effect. Then there’s another murder that could be connected to the first death. Now Barnaby and DS Gavin Troy re-open the Brinkley case, and in the end, they find that Benny was right: Dennis Brinkley was murdered.

In Karin Fossum’s When The Devil Holds the Candle, Runi Winther pays a visit to the police. She’s concerned because her son Andreas hasn’t been home for the last few days. It’s not that Oslo Inspector Konrad Sejer is unfeeling or not willing to listen to citizens. Neither of those things is true. But as he tells Runi, there are many reasons that a young man might take off for a few days without telling anyone where he’s going – especially not his mother. Sejer encourages his visitor to patient for a bit, and he reassures her that her son will most likely be in touch very soon. More time goes by though, and Andreas Winther is still missing. Now Sejer too begins to wonder what’s happened, so he and his assistant Jacob Skarre start to ask questions. One person who is of immediate interest is Andreas’ best friend Sivert ‘Zipp’ Skorpe. So Sejer has several conversations with Zipp. As it turns out, Zipp knows more than he says at first. No, he didn’t kill his friend. But he does have some important information about the mystery.

In Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza’s Alone in the Crowd, Dona Laureta Sales Ribeiro goes to the local police station one afternoon and asks to see the chief. As it happens, Inspector Espinosa is in a long meeting, so the receptionist invites her to either wait or speak to Espinosa’s assistant Detective Welber. Dona Laureta doesn’t stress that the matter is urgent, and she won’t speak to anyone else but Espinosa. So the receptionist doesn’t interrupt the chief. On the one hand, nobody pays an awful lot of attention to Dona Laureta or to the matter that brought her to the station. On the other, it isn’t a case of laziness or refusal to listen to a citizen. Dona Laureta herself even says that she’ll come back later and leaves. Before she can return though, she falls, or is pushed, under a bus. The death is put down to a tragic accident at first. But when Espinosa finds out that this victim actually came to see him, he takes an interest in the case. Then there’s another death. This time the victim is Dona Adélia Marques, a friend of Dona Laureta’s. Now Espinosa and his team take an urgent interest in both cases and as it turns out, the deaths are related.

And then there’s Tarquin Hall’s The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing, the second of his Delhi-based Vish Puri series. In one plot thread of that novel, Puri’s wife Rumpi and his mother Mummy-ji attend a kitty party. Each guest adds money to the kitty at the beginning of the party. Later, one guest’s name is drawn and that person wins the money in the kitty. On this day though, robbers break in and steal the money. Mummy-ji is not one to ‘go quietly,’ and she finds a creative way to get hard evidence against the thief. When she tries to tell the police about it, though, they are dismissive and even joke to each other about her:


‘Seems Miss Mar-pel is here.’


Mummy-ji doesn’t give up though, and in the end, she and Rumpi find out who the thief is.

In most cases, it’s not that the police don’t want to solve crimes or hear what citizens have to say. But they are often overworked and understaffed. And sometimes, people who come to the police station aren’t (or at least don’t seem) credible. But as crime fiction shows, sometimes it pays to pay attention.



*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Alan Tarney’s Hold On, recorded by Barbara Dickson.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Caroline Graham, Karin Fossum, Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza, Tarquin Hall

Around the Corner the Skies Are Blue*

Rays of HopeWhether it’s fictional or real, murder is of course a horrible crime, and well-written crime novels don’t make light of that. But on the other hand, a novel in which there is no ray of hope or reason to be positive can be awfully depressing. That’s why it can add much to a novel if there is a character with a positive outlook on life: one who can make us see that everything will work out somehow or other. I’m not talking here about comic relief; that’s another topic entirely. Rather, I mean characters whose overall positive outlook on life can lighten an otherwise dark story.

One such character is Robert Crais’ L.A.-based PI Elvis Cole. Part of Cole’s appeal is that he has a sometimes wisecracking sense of humour and he isn’t overly pessimistic. He knows how horrible murder is and he doesn’t look at investigating as a fun, happy pastime. But at the same time, overall, he has the sense about life that it will be all right. For example, in The Monkey’s Raincoat, Ellen Lang hires Cole to find her husband Mort, who’s disappeared and taken their son Perry with him. Cole knows that plenty of people disappear because they want to disappear. Still, he is concerned about the boy’s safety, so he agrees to look into the matter. The situation becomes urgent when Mort is found dead, with no sign of Perry anywhere. Now Cole has to find out who killed the victim if he has any hope of finding his son. Throughout the novel, Cole does his best to support Ellen Lang and give her as much hope as he can while still being truthful. He doesn’t make light of the situation but he does take a positive attitude.

So does Alexander McCall Smith’s Mma. Precious Ramotswe. She is no stranger to life’s sadness. The former wife of an abusive husband, Mma. Ramotswe has lost a child and her father, so she knows that life often brings sorrow. But she has an overall optimistic and positive attitude that provides a great deal of comfort and solace for her clients. For instance, in Morality For Beautiful Girls, Mma. Ramotswe is hired by an important Government Man to find out whether his sister-in-law is, as he believes, trying to poison his brother. Mma. Ramotswe travels to the Government Man’s home village, where she begins to get to know the people in his family. One afternoon, everyone, including Mma. Ramotswe, is sickened by what turns out to be poisoned food. As soon as she is able, Mma. Ramotswe has conversations with everyone, and uses her own recall to piece together what happened. She learns how and by whom everyone was poisoned, and she uses her positive outlook on life to help resolve some issues within the family.

Teresa Solana’s Barcelona PI Josep ‘Borja’ Martínez also has an overall positive attitude about life. When he and his brother Eduard take on their first murder investigation in A Not So Perfect Crime, Eduard isn’t sure they’re prepared to look into a crime like that. He tends to be cautious and would rather focus the brothers’ efforts on cases that are more similar to what they’ve done before. But Borja has an upbeat, ‘It’ll all work out’ view of life. Besides, the client Lluís Font is powerful and wealthy. When he is accused of murdering his wife Lídia, it’s in the Martínez brothers’ interest to clear his name and build their reputation. And they do discover who the murderer is, despite some (sometimes very funny) setbacks. Throughout the novel, Borja’s positive outlook on life may be a bit on the ‘happy-go-lucky’ side, but it does serve to keep the investigation going and to complement his brother’s occasional pessimism.

It’s not always the sleuth whose positive attitude can really serve a crime novel. Sometimes other characters do that too. For instance, Kerry Greenwood’s Corinna Chapman series features a group of people who live in a large Melbourne building called Insula. Chapman herself owns a bakery in that building and through her eyes we get to meet the other residents. One of them is (retired) Professor Dionysus ‘Dion’ Monk. He’s getting on in years and at times he’s hurt or laid-up with illness. But even then, he has a more or less optimistic attitude about life. He’s an expert in the classics and often uses references from those writings to make sense of life. He’s had his own sorrows, but he proves a solid source of overall optimism and steadiness that proves a real comfort. And he has old-fashioned manners and courtesy that remind the other residents of the way it is possible to treat others.

Karin Fossum’s Inspector Konrad Sejer sometimes has very difficult and ugly cases to solve. And although he has a close relationship with his daughter Ingrid and his grand-son Matteus, he has his own share of life’s sorrows. He’s a widower who still misses his wife Elise, and he has seen some terrible things in the course of his work. But there is also optimism and hope if you will in his life. Beginning with He Who Fears the Wolf, Sejer develops a relationship with psychiatrist Sara Struel. She helps him to understand some of the people who figure in that novel. That understanding helps Sejer as he investigates the murder of Halldis Horn, whose body is found in her front yard. Since she lived alone in a remote place, there aren’t many witnesses. But one likely suspect is a troubled young man named Errki Johrma who was seen in the area. The case isn’t that simple though, and Sara provides helpful insights. She is realistic and doesn’t shy away from life’s sadness. But she is also a generally optimistic, sometimes-spontaneous person who adds a bright note to Sejer’s life.

And then there’s Bridget ‘Bridie’ Sullivan, whom we meet in Wendy James’ The Mistake. That story features Jodie Evans Garrow, who meets Bridie during their childhoods. Jodie hasn’t had a lot of happiness in her life, but Bridie is positive and optimistic, with big dreams. She brings a proverbial ray of sunshine to Jodie and the girls become inseparable. Then Bridie moves away and life goes on for both of them. Later, Jodie marries Angus Garrow and settles down to what seems like an enviable life. Angus is a successful attorney, Jodie has a comfortable home and upper-middle-class lifestyle, and they have two healthy children. One day their daughter Hannah is involved in a car accident and is rushed to a Sydney hospital – the same hospital where years earlier, Jodie gave birth to another baby girl whom she’s never discussed with anyone. A nurse at the hospital remembers Jodie and asks about the child. Jodie claims she gave the baby up for adoption, but the over-curious nurse can’t find any formal records. Now the whispers start and soon the media gets hold of the story. If the child is alive, where is she? If not, what happened to her? Did Jodie kill her? Before long the accusations become very public and Jodie is made a social pariah. Then by chance, she meets Bridie again at a book club meeting. Bridie proves the same source of support she was during the girls’ childhood and her basically positive outlook on life provides real solace for Jodie.

And that’s the thing about people and fictional characters who offer hope and have positive outlooks on life. They don’t deny that life can be hard, but they firmly believe that things will get better. Which ones do you like best?


In Memoriam…


ShirleyTemple and SidCaesar


This post is dedicated to the memories of two people who gave much hope and ‘sunshine’ when people needed it. This past week we lost both Shirley Temple Black and Sid Caesar. They both had private troubles, but kept on going and offered the world a hopeful look at life. For that, I am grateful. They will be much missed.




*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Roger Edens’ and Earl Brent’s Around the Corner.


Filed under Alexander McCall Smith, Karin Fossum, Kerry Greenwood, Robert Crais, Teresa Solana, Wendy James

As the Torch is Passed From Hand to Hand*

PassingtheTorchRight now my third Joel Williams novel is in the hands of a publisher, and I’m waiting to hear whether it’ll be a go. In the meantime, I’m thinking about the direction that the series might eventually take. At some point (and I don’t yet know when that point will be), Williams will realistically retire, both from his professional position and from the series. Or at the very least, his role in the series will change if he’s to age in something like real time. And that’s fine; to me that’s realistic. The question is: how would that process affect the series? 

One possibility (and it’s got real appeal for me actually) is to ‘bring up’ another character who will eventually take the lead. I already actually have one in mind. That, to me, is realistic too. Younger detectives learn their job, become good at it and then lead investigations in real life. Why shouldn’t they in crime fiction too? And there’s no reason that can’t happen with amateur sleuths as well. 

But what does that do to a series? Obviously the series has to change as the characters evolve and develop. That’s all to the good. And there are some series where this kind of change has been successful. For instance, as Håkan Nesser’s Maardam series begins, Inspector Van Veeteren leads the investigation team. The other characters certainly play important roles, but he’s the one in charge. As the series has gone on though, Van Veeteren has left the police force and now has a different life of his own. In the most recent novels, he’s hasn’t supervised the investigation. Instead, other police detectives have started to take the lead. Both Intendant Münster and DI Ewa Moreno have had the opportunity to take charge of investigations and the results have been successful. Of course, Van Veeteren is still a part of the series, but it’s clear that the torch is being passed if I can put it that way. 

We see a similar transition in Arnaldur Indriðason’s series. Many of the novels feature Inspector Erlendur in the lead, and those stories have been both highly regarded and successful. But recent books have featured other team-mates more or less heading up investigations. Both Detective Elinborg and Detective Sigurdur Óli have taken ‘starring roles,’ and that’s been very successful too. It will be very interesting to see whether there will be any new novels featuring those detectives again, even if Erlendur doesn’t appear in them. 

Colin Dexter’s series featuring Inspector Morse ended with The Remorseful Day. As of that novel, Morse’s second-in-command Sergeant Lewis was still that: second in command. But Dexter fans will know that on television anyway, Lewis became the lead character in his own series. He was promoted, he got his own team and they pursued new investigations. That’s realistic. Lewis is smart and skilled and it makes sense that he’d move along in the ranks so to speak. I wonder what it would be like if Dexter wrote some Lewis novels… 

Fans of Louise Penny’s Three Pines novels have become accustomed to Chief Inspector Armand Gamache as the leader of the investigations in that series. I don’t want to give away spoilers for those who haven’t read these novels, but I can say that Penny has laid the groundwork for a new direction in the series It will be very interesting to see what happens as some of the other team members who’ve figured in the series continue to develop and as Gamache makes some choices too. 

Henning Mankell’s The Troubled Man is, so far as I know (so correct me if I’m wrong please), the last of his Kurt Wallander series. But what if that torch were passed to Wallander’s daughter Linda? What sort of series might that make? What about a series featuring Ian Rankin’s Siobhan Clarke, whom fans will know as Inspector John Rebus’ second-in-command. What if she featured in her own series? What about Karin Fossum’s Jacob Skarre?  In one way, it would be very realistic to have those characters assume leadership roles. They’ve evolved and developed and matured over time so it’s only natural that they’d feature in their own series. 

On the other hand, part of all of this is the author’s vision. That’s the ‘spark’ behind many series and without it characters can become flat and dull. If the author’s vision of a series doesn’t include passing the proverbial torch, then the series may not have its original appeal.  It’s also a matter of the characters themselves. They may be excellent characters in certain roles, but not as effective if they’re protagonists. So building a new series around one of them is a risk. 

What do you think? Does it make sense for a second-in-command or other character to take the lead in a new series? Or should a series end when the original protagonist stops investigating? If you’re a writer, what’s your vision for your work? Have you thought about where you’ll take your series when your protagonist no longer investigates? 

As for me, I’m thinking about it, but it’s not something I have to decide today. Joel Williams still has some good years ahead of him. ;-)



*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Dan Fogelberg’s Forefathers.


Filed under Arnaldur Indriðason, Colin Dexter, Håkan Nesser, Henning Mankell, Ian Rankin, Karin Fossum, Louise Penny