Category Archives: Liza Marklund

In The Spotlight: Liza Marklund’s The Bomber

SpotlightHello, All,

Welcome to another edition of In The Spotlight. Liza Marklund has become both well-known and popular, and it’s about time this feature included one of her novels. So let’s remedy that today. Let’s turn the spotlight on The Bomber, the first of her Annika Bengtzon series to be published, but not the first chronologically.

The real action in the novel begins a week before Christmas, when a major explosion rocks Stockholm. The city was chosen as the site for the upcoming Olympics, and to many people’s shock, the explosion went off in Victoria Stadium, in the Olympic Village. Annika Bengtzon, crime editor for Kvällspressen, gets a late-night/early morning ‘phone call about the event and soon rushes to the scene. At first it’s believed that the only injuries were to a taxi driver who was in the area. But then the body of an unknown victim is discovered in the wreckage.

After a short time, the victim is identified as Christine Furhage, one of Sweden’s business and civic leaders, and head of the committee that brought the Olympic Games to Stockhom. One theory is that this is a terrorist attack by people who do not want the games to be held there. There’s even the possibility that this is the work of a man who’s actually set explosions before, and who has since disappeared. Those in power, both in the Swedish government and on the Olympics Committee, don’t want anyone to panic, so they’re not eager to have either of those theories widely discussed.

Soon enough though, another possibility arises. There is reason to believe that this might have been an ‘inside job’ – the work of someone either on the committee or closely associated with the Olympic Village. If so, this opens up a whole new avenue of exploration. As the police follow up on different leads, Annika Bengtzon and her team begin to look more closely not just at the obvious possibilities, but also at the victim’s personal life.

Then there’s another explosion. This time the victim is Stefan Bjerling, a construction worker who was employed by one of the subcontractors used to build Olympic Village. Other than the fact that he was killed in another Olympic Village building, there seems to be no immediate connection between this victim and Christine Furhage. Now Bengtzon and her team have to re-open the terrorist angle on this story as well as continue looking into each victim’s personal life.

As Bengtzon begins to get closer to the truth about these bombings, she also unwittingly gets closer to real danger for herself. In the end though, she and her team find out who is behind the bombings and what the motive is. It turns out that the motive has nothing to do with terrorists who may want to sully Sweden’s reputation.

One very important element in this novel is Bengtzon’s work life at Kvällspressen. News gathering and reporting is a very ‘high-octane,’ sometimes very stressful job. There is a great deal of pressure to get a big story first and to get as many people reading about it as possible. At the same time, there’s also pressure to be accurate. This means that when a major story breaks, there are long hours, sometimes uncomfortable working conditions and more. Everyone’s nerves get frayed, and sometimes it boils over into arguments among members of Bengtzon’s team. The atmosphere gets very tense at times, but most of the members of the team are professionals who want to do the job well.

Because the story is about a sleuth who’s a journalist, we also see how news professionals go about their jobs. They learn the truth from interviews, from looking through whatever records they can get and from sources in the police department and other places. As Bengtzon and her team work this case, we also see that journalists are often not welcome. Not at crime scenes, not at the homes of the bereaved, and not at police stations. Readers also get a chance to see the intense competition between news outlets and among journalists to be the one with the major story.

For this sort of reason, Bengtzon has to be tough. And she is. She is intelligent, outspoken and not afraid to go after the story, no matter where it leads. She’s sometimes faced with extremely difficult decisions, and she has to make and live with a lot of ‘judgement calls.’ That means that sometimes she’s not exactly popular with her team. But for her, getting the story is more important than protecting anyone’s feelings. It doesn’t make her life any easier that she’s a woman in what’s traditionally been a man’s world, and has been recently promoted (over a rival) to her present position. She faces criticism on a regular basis.

Perhaps Bengtzon’s most difficult choices have to do with balancing her work life and her home life. She loves her husband Thomas Samuelsson and their children Kalle and Ellen. But the demands of being a wife, mother and full-time crime editor take their toll. On the other hand, Bengtzon loves her profession (if not always her particular job). When a story breaks, she feels no option but to cover it. This tug-of-war causes more than a moment of conflict in the story, and Bengtzon doesn’t come out unscathed.

Another important element in this novel is its Stockholm setting. Marklund places the reader there in several ways. Certainly there’s the geographic setting. But there’s also the lifestyle and cultural context. Along with a look at the life of a busy crime reporter and a busy newspaper, readers also get a look at life in modern Stockholm.

One more interesting note is in order about the story. The Bomber was first published in Swedish in 1998. Readers will notice that some of the technology is quite different to what we’re accustomed to now. So the novel also gives readers a look at how journalists got their leads and got their stories out in the days before social networking and online news.

The Bomber is the story of a Stockholm news outlet responding to a major story that involves murder and some very highly-placed people. It features a protagonist who’s trying to balance a home life with a very demanding job, and a mystery that isn’t nearly as obvious as it may seem. But what’s your view? Have you read The Bomber? If you have, what elements do you see in it?

 
 
 

Coming Up On In The Spotlight
 

Monday 25 August/Tuesday 26 August – Gone Baby Gone – Dennis Lehane

Monday 1 September/Tuesday 2 September – A Hank of Hair – Charlotte Jay

Monday 8 September/Tuesday 9 September – Dead Simple – Peter James

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Filed under Liza Marklund

Do You Remember Your President Nixon*

NIXON RESIGNATIONAs I post this, it’s forty years today since Richard Nixon resigned as President of the United States. Whatever you think of Nixon’s presidency, his politics, or the scandal that brought down his administration, it’s hard to deny the impact of his resignation, at least in the US.

Of course, there’d been scandals before at very high levels of the US and other governments. But this was the first time for the US that a scandal led to a presidential resignation. What’s more, the investigation into Nixon’s activities and those of other members of his administration were very public – on television for the world to see. For many people who’d always trusted their government, the Nixon resignation was a rude shock and a bitter lesson that sometimes that trust is misplaced.

But if you look at crime fiction, you see that high-level government scandal has been around for a long time. There are a lot of examples of this plot point in the genre; space only permits me a few. But I’m sure that you’ll be able to think of many more than I could anyway.

A few of Agatha Christie’s stories feature government scandals. One of them is the short story The Incredible Theft. In that story, Lord Charles Mayfield hosts a house party that consists of himself, his secretary Carlisle, Retired Air Marshal Sir George Carrington and Carrington’s wife Julia and son Reggie. Also present is an enigmatic American Mrs. Vanderlyn. During the visit, Mayfield and Carrington want to consult about the plans for a new air bomber. Those plans have been kept top secret since they would be of great interest to England’s enemies. During the evening, the plans are stolen. Recovery of the plans is essential in order to protect them, and it’s got to be done quietly, too. Otherwise the scandal and the insinuation that someone powerful is aiding the enemy could bring down the government. So Sir George calls on Hercule Poirot to help find the plans.

Reginald Hill’s Recalled to Life concerns a case from 1963. Cissy Kohler was arrested and imprisoned for her involvement in the murder of her employer’s wife Pamela Westropp. At the time, Ralph Mickledore was also arrested and convicted in connection with the murder. As the novel begins, Kohler has recently been released from prison, and new hints are surfacing that suggest that she was innocent. More than that, they suggest that the investigating officer Wally Tallentire know that and hid evidence of it. When Superintendent Andy Dalziel finds this out, he’s determined to prove those allegations false. Tallentire was his mentor, and he has absolute faith in the man’s integrity. So Dalziel looks into the case again and from a different angle, so does Peter Pascoe. One interesting thing about this case is that it was tried in the same year as the famous Profumo case, in which John Profumo’s relationship with Christine Keeler was made public and eventually led to the resignation of then-Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. In fact that scandal is mentioned in the novel as a way of explaining public attitudes towards the Westropp case, and the assumption that Kohler was guilty.

In Kel Robertson’s Smoke and Mirrors, Australian Federal Police (AFP) Officer Bradman ‘Brad’ Chen is recovering physically and psychologically from his last case (detailed in Dead Set). His plans are to work on his Ph.D. thesis and have a normal life, whatever that means. But he’s drawn back to AFP work by a double murder at Uriarra, a writer’s retreat near Canberra. The victims are Alec Dennet, a member of the 1972-75 Gough Whitlam government, and Dennet’s editor Lorraine Starke. As the investigating team learns, Dennet and Starke were working on Dennet’s memoirs at the time of their deaths. Since the manuscript has disappeared, it looks as though someone committed murder to be sure it wouldn’t be published. And that suggests several possible suspects. For one thing, there are some very highly-placed people who don’t want everything about the Whitlam government’s activities to be known. For another, there are some very nasty groups from other countries too who would very much like that manuscript, not just for the information it may contain, but also for its monetary value. Among other things, this novel gives readers a look at the effects of a scandal years after it’s broken.

And then there’s Philip Margolin’s Executive Privilege. Washington-based former cop-turned-PI Dana Cutler is hired by prominent attorney Dale Perry to follow a young intern Charlotte Walsh and report on where she goes and whom she sees. Cutler doesn’t see why a ‘nobody’ intern could be of interest to anyone, but a fee is a fee. So she begins her work. Then one night, Walsh leaves her car in a mall parking lot, is picked up in another car and is taken to a secluded safe house. Cutler is shocked to find that Walsh is meeting with US President Christopher Ferrington. The next morning, Cutler learns that Walsh’s body has been found in her car, which is still in the parking lot. Now Cutler is an important witness – and a target for some very powerful people who don’t want the young woman’s death investigated. It turns out that Charlotte Walsh’s murder is connected with another murder and a common experience the two victims had.

There are also several books by Margaret Truman, including Murder at the White House, in which scandal at the very highest levels of government is explored. But Nixon’s resignation didn’t just change people’s attitudes about government and its leaders. It also made heroes out of journalists such as Robert Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who uncovered what was going on in the Nixon administration.

The perception of journalists as interfering annoyances (you see this attitude come up in some classic crime fiction) changed for a lot of people during the Watergate investigation. And we see that shift in some modern crime fiction. For instance, Liza Marklund’s Annika Bengtzon is a crime reporter who breaks several high-level scandals in the series that features her. One of the recurring characters in Peter Temple’s Jack Irish series is journalist Linda Hiller. She helps Irish bring down some very powerful people in Bad Debts, and even though she doesn’t appear in all the novels, she’s presented in a positive light, as a someone who’s working to stop corruption. And of course to get herself a major story. And Ian Rankin’s John Rebus co-operates more than once with journalist Mairie Henderson. The image of the reporter/journalist as the gutsy, heroic protagonist may not have originated with Woodward and Bernstein, but it certainly got a boost as a result of their Watergate investigation.

The Nixon resignation had powerful and lasting effects, and not just on those directly involved. It was one of the pivotal US events of the 1970s. Little wonder that scandals are still given nicknames that end in ‘-gate.’

ps. If you’re kind enough to read this blog occasionally, you know that I almost always take my own ‘photos. But this one’s far better than any I could take. Thanks, Channel One News.

 

 

 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from David Bowie’s Young Americans.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Ian Rankin, Kel Robertson, Liza Marklund, Margaret Truman, Peter Temple, Philip Margolin, Reginald Hill

Never Been to Spain*

SpainI’m very much enjoying my visit to Spain thus far. And I am happy to report that I haven’t run into any criminal situations. But not every visitor to Spain is quite so fortunate. Just look at crime fiction and you’ll see lots of examples. I’m only going to mention a few of them, but that should be enough to show you what I mean.

In Agatha Christie’s 4:50 From Paddington (AKA What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw!) we meet the Crackenthorpe family. They get involved in a murder case when the body of an unknown woman is found on the property of their family home Rutherford Hall. At first, no-one in the family even knows the body is there. But Miss Marple has deduced it based on what she’s learned from her friend Elspeth McGillicuddy. So Miss Marple gets her friend Lucy Eyelesbarrow to help her in finding out the truth about what’s really been going on at Rutherford Hall. One of the family members is Cedric Crackenthorpe, son of patriarch Luther Crackenthorpe. Cedric becomes a suspect in the murder and becomes quite interested in Lucy. And it just so happens that he lives on Ibiza.

Helen MacInnes’ Message From Málaga is the story of Ian Ferrier, who works with the US Space Agency. He’s UsedBookstaking some time to visit his friend wine exporter Jeff Reid. What Ferrier doesn’t know is that Reid is also a CIA operative. His particular charge is helping communist defectors (the book was published in 1971) who want to start a new life in the West. Instead of a relaxing holiday in Spain, Ferrier finds himself helping to cover up and assist the defection of a high-level KGB agent. Matters are made more complicated by the fact that Ferrier doesn’t know the local culture; nor does he know whom he can trust.

Both Jonathan Robb and Alan Furst have written historical novels that focus on the Spanish Civil War. In Robb’s The Second Son, which takes place in 1936, we meet Chief Inspector Nikolai Hoffner. He is a former member of the Kriminalpolizei who was forced out of his position because he is half-Jewish. Having any Jewish background is dangerous enough. But then Hoffner discovers that his son Georg is in danger; he’s gotten mixed up in the Civil War in Spain. Nikolai travels to Spain to rescue his son if he can, and finds that events there aren’t really any safer than they are in Germany.

Furst’s The Foreign Correspondent is the story of Reuter’s journalist Carlo Weisz. He’s been living in Spain, reporting on the end of the Spanish Civil War and the ultimate defeat of the Republicans. While there, Weisz learns of the links between the Nationalist forces and the Fascist regimes of Italy and Germany. That’s how he becomes involved with, and later the leader of, a group of anti-fascist Italian refugees. Among their resistance activities is the smuggling of an anti-fascist newspaper into Italy. With that background, you wouldn’t think that Weisz would risk a trip to Germany, but he does. This novel depicts the political links among the various fascist powers of the pre-World War II era.

In Anthony Bidulka’s Tapas on the Ramblas, Saskatoon PI Russell Quant gets a new client. Wealthy family business owner Charity Wiser is convinced that one of her family members is trying to kill her. She wants Quant to join a family cruise on her private boat to sleuth the various members and find out who her enemy is. Quant agrees and prepares for the trip. The boat is supposed to travel smoothly from Barcelona to Rome, but a murder attempt and, later, a murder turn the trip deadly. Among other things, this novel gives readers a look at one of Spain’s truly lovely cities.

And then there’s Liza Marklund’s The Long Shadow. Usually, journalist Annika Bengtzon lives and works in Sweden, mostly in Stockholm. But then a gang of thieves kills former sport star Sebastian Söderström and his family and because he was Swedish, the Swedish media picks the story up. Among other plot threads in this novel, Bengzton follows this story to Spain’s Costa del Sol, where the killings occurred. She has to cope with more then the murders, too; there are issues with her ex-husband and an interesting undercover detective, among other things. This novel really has two major contexts, and shows the culture of ex-pat Swedes who’ve made lives in Spain.

See what I mean? Spain is irresistible…  I’ve given a few examples. Your turn.

 

ps That sign on the second ‘photo says ‘Used Books.’ OK, don’t tell me you’re surprised… ;-)

 

 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Three Dog Night.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Alan Furst, Anthony Bidulka, Helen MacInnes, Jonathan Robb, Liza Marklund

I’m Going Back to the Start*

PrequelsSome fictional detectives become so popular that we don’t want to let them go, even when the series clearly ends. And let’s be pragmatic: if a publishing company sees financial mileage in a detective, it’s natural to want to create more stories about that sleuth. The same is true of filmmakers. Authors too are not blind to the value on many levels of continuing to write about a particular detective. So it shouldn’t be surprising that publishing companies, filmmakers and authors have turned to prequels.

It makes sense, really. Fans are interested in knowing more about their beloved sleuths. There’s definitely a market out there too. And a well-written story is a well-written story.

On other hand, to a lot of fans, the stories are the stories. Prequels, especially if the author isn’t the character’s original creator, just aren’t the same as the ‘real’ stories. And it can be annoying for readers who prefer to enjoy a series in order if a prequel pops up. This really isn’t a settled question and I suppose that’s what makes it an interesting one.

At the end of its run, H.R.F. Keating wrote a prequel to his popular Ganesh Ghote series. Inspector Ghote’s First Case takes readers back to the beginning, when Bombay Police Inspector Ghote had just been promoted to that rank. In the novel, his boss Sir Rustom Engineer asks Ghote to travel from Bombay to Mahableshwar to investigate the suicide of Iris Dawkins. Her widower Robert Dawkins wants to know what drove his wife to suicide and he’s a friend of Engineer’s. So Ghote makes the trip despite the fact that his wife Protima is about to give birth to their first child. When he gets to Mahableshwar, Ghote asks routine questions about what happened. Gradually he begins to suspect that Iris Dawkins didn’t commit suicide. If she was murdered of course, the obvious questions are why and by whom? So Ghote begins the process of looking into the victim’s background and relationships to see who would have wanted to kill her and why.

Liza Marklund wrote Studio Sex (AKA Studio 69) as a prequel to her novel The Bomber. In the prequel, Annika Bengtzon has just started her career as a crime reporter. She’s working as a summer hire for Kvellspressen. When the body of a young woman is found in Stockholm’s Kronoberg Park, Bengtzon is eager to join the media ‘feeding frenzy,’ hoping that her angle on the story will give her a good chance at a full-time job. The body is identified as that of nineteen-year-old Hanna Josefin Liljeberg and at first the case seems straightforward enough as Bengtzon slowly starts to find out bits and pieces about the victim’s life. But before long Bengtzon discovers that she’s been misled about the case and that someone is trying very hard to discredit her. In the end, the case is connected to a coverup that leads to highly-placed people in the Swedish government.

Sometimes a prequel is only a prequel for those who read translated editions of a series. That’s because some series are translated out of order, as in the case of Jo Nesbø’s very popular Harry Hole series. The Bat is the first in that series, originally published in 1997. But it wasn’t translated until 2012, so for English-speaking readers, you really could call it a prequel as we get to know the Harry that came before The Redbreast. In The Bat, Hole travels to Sydney to help investigate the murder of Inger Holter, a Norwegian woman whose body’s been found in Gap Park. It shouldn’t surprise fans of this series that Hole soon makes a connection between Inger’s death and other murders. It’s an interesting example of how some of the ‘vintage Harry Hole’ trademarks have their origins.

There’ve also been hints that Arnaldur Indriðason may write a prequel to his very popular and well-regarded Inspector Erlendur series. It’ll be very interesting to see if that actually happens.

Not all prequels are written by the characters’ original creators. For instance, there’s Spade and Archer, which chronicles the meeting of Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade and Miles Archer. In this novel, Spade hangs out his shingle in San Francsico soon begins getting all sorts of clients. He’s working on a case when he happens to run into Archer, who, we learn, moved in on Spade’s girlfriend Ivy. The two of them develop an interesting partnership that turns official as the book goes on. This novel was written by Joe Gores, with the support and consent of the Hammett estate, and lots of people think it’s an excellent story.

Television and film executives have not been blind to the possibilities of prequels. Two series that have become quite popular are Endeavor and The Young Montalbano. Endeavor tells the story of the young man who would later become Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse. With Shaun Evans in the title role, the series began with five episodes that were popular enough that a second series was commissioned.

The Young Montalbano chronicles the early career of Andrea Camilleri’s popular sleuth Salvo Montalbano. Starring Michele Riondino, we learn how Montalbano got started as a cop, and we follow his first cases. The first series of The Young Montalbano was successful enough that a second series has been planned. Both this one and Endeavor were scheduled to start filming their second series in late 2013, so it’ll be interesting to see what the new episodes are like.

Prequels can give readers a chance to really get to know their beloved sleuths better. And the potential for financial success with prequels is undeniable. Besides, they can make for interesting stories. But for lots of people, prequels just aren’t the same as the originals, and they aren’t keen on them.

What about you? Do you like prequels? If you’re a writer, would you do a prequel for your protagonist?

 

 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Coldplay’s The Scientist.

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Filed under Andrea Camilleri, Arnaldur Indriðason, Colin Dexter, Dashiell Hammett, H.R.F. Keating, Jo Nesbø, Joe Gores, Liza Marklund

It’s Just Another Ordinary Miracle Today*

PregnancyThere’s nothing quite like the announcement of a pregnancy (and no, no big family news to share – promise). For many people that news is about as joyful as it gets. Of course it gives people the jitters, too. After all, pregnancy changes everything. And sometimes it’s not easy news to give or hear. But it’s always powerful news, and there’s something about pregnancy that changes the way we feel about the expectant mother. With the strong feelings associated with pregnancy, it’s not at all surprising that we see it in crime fiction. There are many, many examples of this in the genre; I only have space here for a few. So I’ll be counting on you to fill in the gaps I leave.

Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime is a collection of short stories featuring Thomas and Prudence ‘Tuppence’ Beresford. As the collection begins, the Beresfords have taken over the International Detective Agency. As its new proprietors, they investigate several different cases, with Tuppence doing at least as much of the detective work as her husband does. Tommy isn’t always happy about the dangers for his wife, but he knows what an independent thinker she is and what’s more, how valuable she is to the agency’s work. It all changes at the end of The Man Who Was No. 16. Here’s what passes between Tommy and Tuppence:

 

‘‘I say-we’re going to give it up now, aren’t we?’ [Tommy]
‘Certainly we are.’
Tommy gave a sigh of relief.
‘I hoped you’d be sensible. After a shock like this-’
‘It’s not the shock. You know I never mind shocks.’
‘A rubber bone-indestructible,’ murmured Tommy.
‘I’ve got something better to do,’ continued Tuppence. ‘Something ever so much more exciting. Something I’ve never done before.’
Tommy looked at her with lively apprehension.
‘I forbid it, Tuppence.’
‘You can’t,’ said Tuppence. ‘It’s a law of nature.’
‘What are you talking about, Tuppence?’
‘I’m talking,’ said Tuppence, ‘of Our Baby. Wives don’t whisper nowadays. They shout. OUR BABY! Tommy, isn’t everything marvellous?’

 

Of course, as fans of the Beresfords know, becoming a mother doesn’t stop Tuppence from investigating…

Arnaldur Indriðason’s Jar City gives readers another kind of look at the changes that a pregnancy brings. In that novel, Reykjavík police inspector Erlendur and his team investigate the murder of a seemingly inoffensive old man named Holberg. At first, it seems like a robbery gone terribly wrong, but that doesn’t explain the cryptic message that the killer has left behind. So the team looks more deeply in the case. They find that Holberg had a somewhat questionable past that included several accusations of rape, although he was never brought to trial on any charges. At the same time as the team is investigating this murder, Erlendur is facing a personal issue. His daughter Eva Lind has unexpectedly come back into his life. She has a long history of drug use and other problems and this is not really a joyful reunion. She asks Erlendur for money, then breaks the news that she’s pregnant. At first, she doesn’t really intend to change her ways, but as time goes on, she decides to keep the baby. And although neither she nor Erlendur is demonstrative, the news adds to their relationship, and gives Eva Lind added motivation to try to stop using drugs and to build herself a life.

Martin Clark’s The Legal Limit tells the story of Commonwealth of Virginia prosecutor Mason Hunt. Hunt and his brother Gates have the same traumatic family background, but have dealt with it in different ways. Gates has squandered every opportunity that’s come his way and makes money by small-time drug dealing and helping to spend his girlfriend Denise’s Welfare checks. Mason on the other hand has gotten scholarships, stayed in school and become an attorney. One day, Gates is at Denise’s home when he gets into an argument with his romantic rival Wayne Thompson. Thompson leaves, but later that evening, the Hunt brothers encounter him again. The argument flares back up and before anyone knows what’s really happened, Gates has shot Thompson. Out of a sense of duty, Mason helps his brother cover up the crime. Years later, Gates is arrested for cocaine trafficking. He asks his brother, who is now a prosecutor, to help him, but Mason refuses. That’s when Gates threatens to implicate Mason in the Thompson killing if he doesn’t help. Now Mason is going to have to find a way to clear his own name. In the meantime, Mason’s fifteen-year-old daughter Grace is struggling in school and having disciplinary problems. Then she tells him that she’s pregnant and wants to keep the baby. Now she’s going to have to grow up fast, as the saying goes. Her news is shocking, but it creates a stronger bond between her and her father.

John ‘Bart’ Bartowski faces a similar challenge in Nelson Brunanski’s Crooked Lake. He and his wife Rosie own a fly fishing lodge in Northern Saskatchewan. When they’re not at the lodge, they live in the small town of Crooked Lake. He and Rosie are the loving parents of Annie, who’s at university, and Stuart, who’s twelve years old. Their more or less peaceful life changes when Bart’s friend Nick Taylor is arrested for murder. Taylor was Head Greenskeeper for the Crooked Lake Regional Park and Golf Course until he was summarily fired. He blames Board of Directors member Harvey Kristoff for ‘railroading’’ him, and when Kristoff is found murdered on the golf course, Taylor is the natural first suspect. He claims he’s innocent though, and asks Bart to help clear his name. Bart agrees and starts to ask questions. In the meantime, Annie has come home from university for a visit. But it turns out that this isn’t just a social call. She’s brought the news that she’s pregnant. At first, both Bart and Rosie are shocked, but gradually, they get used to the idea of Annie and her boyfriend Randall becoming parents. And it’s interesting to see how knowing his daughter is expecting gives Bart an extra surge of protectiveness about her.

It’s not so easy for nineteen-year-old Maggie Heffernan to share the news of her pregnancy, as we learn in Wendy James’ Out of the Silence. In this fictionalised retelling of true events, Maggie grows up in rural Victoria. There, she meets and falls in love with Jack Hardy, who seems to reciprocate her feelings. The two become secretely engaged, and Hardy leaves for New South Wales to find work. The plan is for him to get settled and then publicly announce their engagement. When Maggie realises she’s pregnant, she writes to Hardy to tell him the news, but gets no response. Knowing her own parents will not take her in, she goes to Melbourne where she finds work. She continues to hope for news of Hardy and after the baby is born, she finally tracks him down. When she finds him, Hardy’s rejection of her touches off tragic consequences. The events told in this story took place in 1899 and 1900, and it’s interesting to see how our views of announcing a pregnancy have changed. For Maggie, it was more or less a shameful thing to be pregnant without a husband.

In Liza Marklund’s Prime Time, crime reporter Annika Bengtzon investigates the shooting murder of TV reporter Michelle Carlsson, star of Summer Frolic at the Castle. The only suspects are the twelve members of the cast and crew of the show, so it’s a matter of finding out which one had the most to gain by killing her. In that novel and in Vanished, we learn about Annika’s unusually challenging experience of breaking the news when she learned she was pregnant for the first time. At the time, she was having an affair with Thomas Samuelsson, who was married to someone else. When Annika discovered she was gong to have his baby, she ended up telling Thomas – in his wife’s presence. It’s interesting that Thomas immediately felt differently about Annika after learning he was going to be a father. He left his comfortable home and his wife to be with Annika – not something that always happens in that circumstance. Of course, fans of this series know that Annika and Thomas have their ups and downs. And ups. And downs…

Frédérique Molay’s The 7th Woman is the story of the investigation into several murders in Paris. Nico Sirsky, who heads Paris’ CID La Crim’, works with his team to find out who the killer is. The team tries to find the common link among the victims but it’s not easy at first. Then, they discover that the victims were all in the early stages of pregnancy and seemed very much looking forward to being mothers. No, pregnancy isn’t the reason these women were murdered. But it adds a special poignancy to their deaths.

The news of a pregnancy is an extremely emotional time. Very often it’s also a time of joy, but even when it’s not, there’s no denying its humanness or power. I’ve only mentioned a few examples of how this plays out in crime fiction.  Your turn.

 

 

 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Sarah McLachlan’s Ordinary Miracle.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Arnaldur Indriðason, Frédérique Molay, Liza Marklund, Martin Clark, Nelson Brunanski, Wendy James