Exposing Every Weakness*

In Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Hercule Poirot solves the stabbing murder of a retired business tycoon. At one point, he has this to say:

‘‘Let us take a man – a very ordinary man. A man with no idea of murder in his heart. There is in him somewhere a strain of weakness – deep down.’’

We all have flaws, of course, and in some cases, those flaws – those strains of weakness – can be used to manipulate us. For instance, someone who’s secretly a little greedy can be tempted quite a lot by money.

In crime fiction, this can make for an interesting layer of psychological tension, as well as a character motivation. There are lots of examples in the genre; here are just a few.

In Agatha Christie’s Dead Man’s Folly, detective novelist Ariadne Oliver is hired by Sir George and Lady Hattie Stubbs to create a Murder Hunt event for an upcoming fête. On the surface, it seems quite innocent – all in fun. But Mrs. Oliver suspects that more is going on, and she asks Hercule Poirot to investigate. On the day of the fête, fourteen-year-old Marlene Tucker, who’s playing the part of the victim in the Murder Hunt, is actually killed. Poirot works with Inspector Bland to find out who the killer is. One of the ‘people of interest’ in the story is a scientist, Alec Legge, who’s rented a nearby cottage. As Poirot finds out more about the case, he discovers that Legge was drawn in, if you will, by some dangerous people. He had, as Poirot puts it, sympathy for a certain political party, and the more powerful members of that party wanted to exploit both that sympathy and Legge’s science skills. When Legge tried to extricate himself, he found it much harder and more dangerous than he imagined. It’s an interesting look at the way people’s biases and weaknesses can be used against them.

William Hjortsberg’s Falling Angel introduces readers to low-rent New York PI Harry Angel. The novel takes place in the 1950’s, not very long after the end of World War II. One day, Angel gets a call from the prestigious and upmarket law firm of McIntosh, Winesap and Spy. Ordinarily, such a firm wouldn’t hire a PI like Angel. But one of their clients, a man named Louis Cyphre, wants to find a man, Jonathan Liebling, who’s gone missing. According to Cyphre, Liebling, who went by the name of Johnny Favorite, was a talented jazz musician whom Cyphre helped at the start of his career. In exchange, Favorite promised Cyphre ‘a certain collateral.’ Then, Liebling was drafted into service in World War II. He came back from the war suffering from physical wounds as well as what we now call PTSD. Eventually, he was placed in a special hospital. Now, he’s disappeared from the hospital, and Cyphre wants to find him. The fee is tempting, and Angel takes the case. He soon finds that this is no ordinary missing person case. Instead, Angel’s been drawn into a web of horror, and his weaknesses are being exploited.

We also see that in John Grisham’s The Firm. In that novel, Harvard Law School graduate Mitchell ‘Mitch’ McDeere gets an offer from the Memphis law firm of Brendini, Lambert, & Locke. It’s by no means the only offer he’s gotten. McDeere is smart, has a good background, and is hungry for success, as many young lawyers are. And that’s exactly the sort of lawyer Brendini, Lambert, & Locke want. They make McDeere an irresistible offer, and he signs on. At first, all seems to be going well. McDeere’s new colleagues help him pass the Tennessee Bar Exam, and he’s welcomed in other ways, too. But it’s not long before he begins to have some questions. Several attorneys connected with the firm have died, and McDeere wonders about the circumstances. By the time he starts to get some answers, though, he’s in deep, as the saying goes. His own ambition has drawn him in and been exploited. If he’s going to stay alive, he’s going to have to find a way to extricate himself.

In Malcolm Mackay’s The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter, we meet Winter, a small-time Glasgow drug dealer who wants to make a name for himself in the criminal underworld. He’s caught the attention of Peter Jamieson and his right-hand man, John Young. Jamieson is a ‘rising star’ in the underworld himself, and he has no interest in sharing the spotlight with an upstart who’s not nearly as clever as he thinks he is. So, he and Young hire Callum MacLean to ‘take care of’ Winter. MacLean has a good reputation and knows how to do the job. He soon sets his plan in motion. And, even though things don’t go exactly the way he intended, we see how weaknesses such as greed and desire can make a person very vulnerable.

Edney Silvestre’s Happiness is Easy is in part the story of Olavo Bettencourt. He’s a wealthy and successful São Paolo advertising executive who has a life that most people would envy. He has a beautiful home in a closely-guarded part of the city. He has a gorgeous ‘trophy wife,’ and a healthy son, Olavinho. As Brazil’s political system gets a bit more open, several political candidates are advertising more, and they’re depending on people like Bettencourt. And that’s to say nothing of the large companies with which Bettencourt does business. He very much enjoys the money, perks, and power of his situation, but he’s really not as much in control as he thinks. In fact, some even more powerful and dangerous people have used Bettencourt’s weaknesses against him, and he’s now caught in a web. Then, a group of gangsters decides to abduct Olavinho – not an outrageous idea, considering the family’s wealth. They put together their plan and set it in motion. But they kidnap the wrong boy. Instead of Olavinho, the gangsters find that they have taken the mute son of the Bettencourts’ housekeeper. Now, the gang has to decide what to do about the boy they’ve abducted, and what to do about Olavinho. For his part, Bettencourt has to decide just what to tell the media and police. After all, too many questions about him could land him in jail…

We all have our weaknesses. They’re part of what makes us human. And it can make for an interesting layer of character development and suspense when those weaknesses are exploited.


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Pink Floyd’s The Happiest Days of Our Lives.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Edney Silvestre, John Grisham, Malcolm Mackay, William Hjortsberg

Double Helix DNA*

As this is posted, it’s 65 years since James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the structure of the DNA molecule. In the intervening years, DNA and DNA testing have become important parts of criminal investigation. Of course, DNA analysis is more complicated and takes longer than what you might see on TV shows and film. It can take weeks or even months to get results, depending on the situation. And DNA analysis can be costly. So, many smaller police departments don’t have access to convenient laboratory testing.

All that said, though, DNA testing and analysis are woven into a lot of modern crime fiction. Sometimes it’s used to look into ‘cold cases.’ Other times, it’s used to exonerate or implicate someone. There are other uses, too. And it’s interesting to see how different authors integrate this technology.

In Lynda La Plante’s Above Suspicion, we are introduced to Detective Sergeant (DS) Anna Travis, who’s just joined the Murder Squad at Queen’s Park, London. As it happens, it’s a critical time for the team. The body of seventeen-year-old Melissa Stephens has been discovered, and it looks on the surface as though this murder fits the profile of six other murders of women, all killed in exactly the same way. But there are differences. For example, the other victims were all older prostitutes. Melissa was young and not a prostitute. Still, the Murder Squad’s leader, Detective Chief Inspector James Langton, suspects that the same person killed all seven victims. This case isn’t going to be easy. The killer’s been careful and hasn’t left obvious evidence. And some of the murders took place before the use of contemporary DNA testing. Still, the squad persists, and, in the end, it turns out to be DNA that links Melissa and her killer – and connects the other murders, too.

Kazuhiro Kiuchi’s Shield of Straw has an interesting use of DNA evidence. Wealthy Japanese magnate Takaoki Ninagawa is devastated when his granddaughter, Chika, goes missing. Her body is later discovered, and it’s established that she was raped before being murdered. Now, Ninagawa is determined to do something about it. DNA evidence has identified the killer as thirty-four-year-old Kunihide Kiyomaru. So, Ninagawa offers a one-billion yet reward to anyone who kills Kiyomaru and can prove it. He then arranges for a very public announcement and website that explain the matter and outline how a person can claim the reward. When Kiyomaru hears of the reward, he comes out of hiding and turns himself in to the police at Fukuoka. His thinking is that he’ll be safer in prison than he would be with hundreds of thousands of potential assassins after him. In order for him to face trial, he’ll have to be returned to Tokyo, a matter of some 1100 km/685 mi. Special Police(SP) officer Kazuki Mekari of the Tokyo Municipal Police Department (MPD) is tapped to escort Kiyomaru, and he’s given a team of people with whom to do the job. But, with so many people interested in the bounty, it’s going to be difficult to keep their prisoner alive. Even the police aren’t immune to the temptation of so much money. The question becomes: will Kiyumaru be brought back alive to Tokyo? And at what cost?

As useful as DNA evidence is, it can sometimes confuse cases, too. For instance, in one plot thread of Michael Connelly’s The Drop, L.A.P.D. detective Harry Bosch is investigating a decades-old case: the rape and murder of nineteen-year-old Lily Price. The DNA evidence linked Clayton Pell, now twenty-nine and in prison for other sexual crimes, to this crime. The strange thing is, he was eight years old at the time of the murder. So, at least on the surface, either Pell was an unusual child, or something went very wrong at the Regional Crime Lab that processed the DNA evidence. Among other things, the novel shows how DNA evidence can complicate an investigation.

Now that DNA analysis is more common than it was, most people know at least a little about it. Even people with no background at all in medicine or other science are aware of it. We see that, for instance, in Tarquin Hall’s The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing, the second of his novels to feature Delhi-based PI Vishwas ‘Vish’ Puri. In one plot thread of the story, Puri’s mother, Mummy-ji, attends a kitty party with Puri’s wife, Rumpi. Everyone at a kitty party contributes a certain amount of money to the kitty. Then, one person’s name is drawn, and that person wins all the money. This particular party, though, is interrupted when someone breaks in and steals the money. Mummy-ji scratches the thief, and later goes with Rumpi to the local forensics laboratory, demanding that her nails be tested to get the thief’s DNA. Here’s what the lab attendant (the son of one of her oldest friends) says:

‘‘Auntie-ji, I think you’ve been watching too much of CSI on Star TV, isn’t it?”

But Mummy-ji isn’t dismissed so easily as that…

DNA testing is also, of course, used to determine biological relationships. And that, too, can play a role in crime novels. For example, in Peter May’s The Blackhouse, Edinburgh police detective Fionnlagh ‘Fin’ Macleod returns to his home on the Isle of Lewis to help in a murder investigation. Angel Macritchie has been killed, and his murder looks very similar to an Edinburgh case that Macleod is investigating. The hope is that, if it’s the same killer, pooling resources will help catch that person more quickly. This isn’t a happy homecoming for Macleod, though, as he had his own good reasons for leaving in the first place. But, he does his job the best he can, and in the end, finds out the truth about Macritchie’s death. The Isle of Lewis is a small community, the kind where everyone knows everyone. And everyone knows (or knows of) Fin Macleod. So, as the searches for answers, he also has to face his own past, which is connected with those of several other people on the island. And I can say without spoiling the story that sorting out some of those connections involves a DNA test.

People speak almost casually now of DNA testing and analysis. But it’s really only been a straightforward part of criminal investigation for a few decades. And it’s had some profound effects on evidence gathering, criminal procedures, court cases, and a lot more.


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Prism’s Just Like Me.


Filed under Kazuhiro Kiuchi, Lynda La Plante, Michael Connelly, Peter May, Tarquin Hall

Brotherly Love

Matt saw Amanda the minute he walked into the café. She looked excited, so whatever she had to tell him, it was probably good news. He smiled a little as he approached the table.
‘Hi, there,’ he said.
‘Matt! You made it!’ She got up and hugged him, and then they both sat down.
‘So what’s this big news you have to share?’
‘Let’s order first, and then I’ll tell you, OK? I don’t want to be interrupted.’
‘All right.’
They picked up the menus lying next to their place settings and soon made their choices.

Amanda made Matt wait until their sandwiches and coffee arrived. Then, she held up her left hand and showed him the small, but elegant, diamond ring on it.
‘Seth proposed last night!’ she sang out. Her hand shook just a bit as Matt took it to look more closely at the ring. He smiled as he let go.
‘This is great. Did you tell Mom and Dad yet?’
‘No, I’m going over there tonight, and I’ll tell them then.’ She looked at Matt’s face a little more closely.
‘You don’t look happy for me, Matt. Am I being paranoid, or is something wrong?’
‘No, no, it’s fantastic. It’s just…Seth better be good to you, that’s all.’
‘He is! He treats me like a princess. You know he’s a good guy. You work with him.’
‘Working with him isn’t the same as having him for a brother-in-law. Besides, you two haven’t known each other very long. Isn’t it a little soon?’
‘It’s fine, Matt. Stop worrying. I’m all grown up now and everything.’ Amanda shook her head, half amused and half annoyed.

Matt decided it was best to drop the subject, and instead, asked how Amanda’s job was going. The mood lightened, and the two enjoyed their conversation. Just as they were getting ready to leave, though, Matt made one more reference to Seth. ‘If he does anything to hurt you, lays a finger on you, anything, you tell me, OK? I’m always here for you.’
Amanda smiled. ‘All right, Matt.’ She sometimes got tired of feeling overprotected, but it was nice to know that Matt cared about her.

It was a small wedding, held at a rustic inn that Amanda had always admired. The day was bright and sunny, the catering was perfect, and everyone seemed to have a fabulous time. She couldn’t have asked for anything more.

A month later, everything started to fall apart. At first, it was little, petty arguments that Seth couldn’t stand losing. Then it was yelling at Amanda for staying late at work to finish a project. Every time they fought and made up, Seth promised it would never happen again. But it did. Then came the night he slapped her. Hard. That was enough for Amanda. She hastily packed a suitcase and left.

Amanda hadn’t told Matt about any of this. She felt stupid enough for having made such a bad choice. But this time, she really needed to talk to someone she could trust. And she’d always been able to trust Matt. They met at a wine bar, and, as soon as he saw her, Matt knew something was very, very wrong.
‘What the hell happened?’ he demanded.
‘Don’t, Matt, please. It’s hard enough without you losing it.’
‘I’m sorry,’ he said, more quietly. ‘I promise I’ll be good. Now, what happened?’
And she told him.
‘That bastard!  I’m gonna –’
‘Stop it! I don’t want you to do anything, OK? Just…can I stay with you for a couple of days until I figure out what to do?’
‘Of course. Terri’ll be happy to see you.’ Amanda nodded, wiped her nose and eyes on a cocktail napkin, and hugged him, flooded with relief.

Seth had done his best to avoid Matt ever since Amanda left. For the most part, he’d succeeded, but this morning was different. The roofing company he and Matt worked for had just gotten a contract to put up new shingles and underlayment on a building that was being remodeled to house a bank. Today, they were scheduled to inspect the roof for integrity, and make a final list of materials and procedures for the job. He and Matt would have to work together on the project, and he wasn’t looking forward to it.

Still, Seth always loved that first look at a roof. He liked the sense of freedom he got from being up at the top of a building. And once he got busy with his part of the inspection, and Matt with his own, maybe the two could even co-exist. Now, each one put a ladder against the side of the building and slowly climbed up. With them were Charlie and Tomás, the other two men on the project. When they got to the top, Seth surveyed the expanse of roof.

‘How about I take this side?’ he called out, pointing to the east side of the building.
‘You sure?’ Tomás asked. ‘Those shingles look pretty bad. I can go, if you want.’
‘I got this,’ Seth snapped. He was not about to let anyone make him look chicken.
‘Whatever,’ Tomás shrugged. ‘I’ll take north then.’
‘West,’ Charlie called. That left the south side for Matt.
With the work parceled out, Seth slowly made his way towards the east side of the building.

Matt let his breath out slowly. He’d been afraid for a moment that Seth might take Tomás up on his offer, and he didn’t want anything to happen to Tomás. He should have known he could count on Seth’s bravado and ego. Two minutes later, Seth’s scream startled everyone as a rotten section of shingles gave way and he fell through that part of the roof. The ambulance got there fast, but there was nothing anyone could do.

When Matt got the word about Seth’s death, he couldn’t help smiling to himself. He’d been to the building the day before, and he’d seen the state of the roof. Anyone walking on that part of it would fall through. He hadn’t said anything, least of all to Seth. But anyone with half a brain should have seen it wasn’t safe. It wasn’t his fault if Seth was too stupid to see that for himself, was it? It wasn’t like he’d committed murder. Oh, well, there was more than one way to protect your little sister.


Filed under Uncategorized

In The Spotlight: Ethel Lina White’s The Wheel Spins

Hello, All,

Welcome to another edition of In The Spotlight. The questions, ‘What if it’s me? What if I’m crazy?’ can be very scary. And that feeling of dread – that one’s losing one’s sanity – can lead to a truly suspenseful mystery plot. As one example of how this can work, let’s turn today’s spotlight on Ethel Lina White’s The Wheel Spins.

As the story begins, socialite Iris Carr is at the end of a Continental holiday that she’s spent with some friends and planning her trip back to England. Her friends leave two days before she does, so Iris will be making the journey alone. She’s just as well pleased, since she wants some time to herself.

On the day of departure, Iris is waiting for the train when she has a blackout, quite possibly from heat stroke. She recovers just in time to catch the train, but she still feels a little woozy. Nevertheless, she makes her way into a compartment and takes a seat. Within moments it’s obvious that the other people in the compartment do not welcome her presence. She settles in, though, and tries to rest.

As the journey gets underway, she makes the acquaintance of Miss Winifred Froy, an English governess who’s on her way to a visit home for a holiday. Iris finds Miss Froy a little tiresome, but she helps make the time pass. Later that day, after tea, Iris drops off for a long nap. When she wakes, Miss Froy isn’t there. At first Iris doesn’t think much about it. In fact, she’s somewhat relieved. But as time goes by, and Miss Froy doesn’t return, Iris begins to wonder where she is. As more time goes by, she begins to get concerned. And that’s when the trouble starts.

Iris asks around among the other people in the car, none of whom seems to speak English as a first language. From what she can gather, no-one has seen Miss Froy. In fact, everyone else says there is no such person. Iris decides to do her own search of the train and begins to go from car to car. But there’s no sign of Miss Froy. By this time, Iris is both worried for Miss Froy’s safety, and determined to prove that she was right about the woman’s existence. But, even with the help of a few people who are native speakers of English, she can’t find anyone who’s seen Miss Froy.

Now, even the people who were helping Iris are beginning to think she’s having some sort of delusion. She begins to wonder herself whether something might be seriously wrong with her. But why would she invent a woman who doesn’t exist? Very little makes sense, and Iris almost gives up on her quest to find out the truth.

But, all along, there are little pieces of stray evidence that suggest that there is a Winifred Froy who was making a journey to England. And if that’s the case, then she may be in grave danger, if she’s still alive. With that in mind, and still wanting to prove that she’s not crazy, an exhausted Iris persists with her questions. And, in the end, we learn the truth about Miss Froy.

This is a novel of psychological suspense more than anything else. Many parts of the story are told from Iris’ perspective (third person, past tense), and readers follow along as she slowly begins to doubt her own sanity, while at the same time, is determined to prove she’s right. Through her eyes, the other passengers and the crew, who start as ‘normal’ ‘regular’ people turn into threats as she starts to feel that she can’t trust anyone. Matters worsen as Iris steadily grows more tired and feels the effects of not eating. Is Iris paranoid? Is there a conspiracy against her? Is there really a Miss Froy who is somehow in danger? Those questions add to the tension and suspense as the story goes on.

Iris’ character is also an important element in the story, as it impacts some of what happens. She’s a rather spoiled, wealthy young woman who’s never really needed anything. So, as the novel starts, she’s not particularly kind or pleasant to the other people at the hotel. That plays a role later in the novel, when it turns out that some of the very people she snubbed are on the train and could have been helpful to her. But she is intelligent and resourceful, and as she starts to really worry about Miss Froy, she shows a more compassionate side.

The train is the setting for most of the novel, and that setting adds a sense of claustrophobia to the atmosphere. The group of people on the train are more or less trapped together until the next station. And Iris feels that sense of imprisonment, especially as she starts to suspect a conspiracy (or is it a conspiracy? Is it all, as the saying goes, in her head?).

This isn’t the sort of mystery where there’s a murder, an investigation, and solution. The suspense and tension come from the questions raised about what’s really happening on the train. How much of the fright is in Iris’ own mind, and how much, if any, has any basis in fact? So, there’s no violence to speak of, as we normally think of it. And readers who dislike a lot of profanity in their crime fiction will be pleased that there isn’t any in this story.

The story was published in 1936. In some ways, it reflects the prejudices of the day. There’s a strong pro-English ethnocentrism in Iris’ viewpoint, as well as that of some other characters. There’s also a hint of sexism as Iris’ fears are sometimes put down to a young lady’s being overly emotional. In that sense, you could argue it’s a book of its time.

The Wheel Spins was later adapted as Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes, and it’s not surprising he chose to do so, as it’s very psychological in nature. It’s the story of a young woman who slowly begins to wonder whether she’s gone insane, and, if she hasn’t, what the real truth is about a woman who seems to have disappeared. It takes place in an eerie, atmospheric train setting, and features a mystery that may or may not be just the product of an imagination. But what’s your view? Have you read The Wheel Spins? If you have, what elements do you see in it?


Coming Up On In The Spotlight

Monday, 26 February/Tuesday, 27 February – Deal Breaker – Harlan Coben

Monday, 5 March/Tuesday, 6 March – Innocence; or, Murder on Steep Street – Heda Margolius Kovály

Monday, 12 March/Tuesday, 13 March – Solomon vs. Lord – Paul Levine


Filed under Ethel Lina White, The Wheel Spins

Interruptions Are Always on My Mind*

Most readers want a smooth narration in their stories. They’d rather not have the story broken up, because it can be distracting. But sometimes, when it’s done well, a narrative can be broken up successfully, and still be a coherent story. It’s not easy to pull off well, but when it works, it can be an interesting innovation.

Some authors break up the narrative with asides to the reader. The ‘Queen team’ behind the Ellery Queen novels and stories did this more than once (I’m thinking, especially, of The Roman Hat Mystery). At some point in the story, the authors turn to the reader, as it were, and announce that all the clues are there. Then, the reader is invited to work out the solution. After that brief interlude, the story returns to a chronological retelling of the events, and then the solution.

We see just a hint of this in Dorothy L. Sayers’ The Five Red Herrings, too. In that novel, painter Sandy Campbell is found dead in a stream in Galloway, Scotland. Lord Peter Wimsey is in the area on a fishing holiday, so he gets involved in the investigation of Campbell’s death. There are six suspects, all of them artists. One of them is the real killer; the other are red herrings (hence, the title). At one point, Wimsey notices that something is not right about the scene of the crime. Here is how Sayers expresses it:

‘Here Lord Peter Wimsey told the Sergeant what he was looking for and why, but as the intelligent reader will readily supply these details for himself, they are omitted from this page.’

It’s an interesting way to tell that part of the story, and to invite the reader to engage in it.

Sometimes, the author chooses to use devices such as letters, transcripts and the like. This, too, breaks up the narrative, and can convey quite a lot of meaning. We see this in Minette Walters’ The Breaker. When the body of Kate Sumner is discovered near Chapman’s Pool in Dorset, PC Nick Ingram is the first police officer on the scene. He works with DI John Galbraith, WPC Sandra Griffiths, and Superintendent Carpenter to find out who killed the victim and why. The list of possible suspects is soon narrowed to three: the victim’s husband, William Sumner; an actor named Stephen Harding; and his roommate, schoolteacher Tony Bridges. Now, the team has to work through each suspect’s alibi and background to find out which one is guilty. Part of the information in the story is given in the form of transcripts, police files, hospital records, and so on. These pieces of information break up the narrative and provide detail in a different way.

You might argue that Lawrence Sanders’ The Anderson Tapes doesn’t really have a narrative – not in the conventional sense. It’s the story of John ‘Duke’ Anderson and his plot to rob all of the apartments in a wealthy Manhattan building. As he gets the idea, enlists confederates, gets materials, and so on, readers follow along through a series of transcripts, notes, records, and other documentation. Each bit of information tells a part of the story, and it’s interesting to see how plot coheres, even though there isn’t one particular narrative voice that does that.

In one plot thread of Paddy Richardson’s Cross Fingers, Wellington journalist Rebecca Thorne is asked to come up with a new angle for a story to commemorate the (South Africa) Springbok’s 1981 tour of New Zealand. Often called ‘the Tour,’ the event was marked by a lot of controversy. At the time of the tour, South Africa was still under apartheid, and many New Zealanders didn’t want the Springboks to tour on that score. Others simply wanted to watch the rugby matches. And the police were supposed to keep order. There were protests, some of which turned very ugly, and everyone had to deal with that reality. Thorne doesn’t think there is a new angle for this story, as it’s been covered quite often. But then, she notices something. During some of the matches, two dancers dressed as lambs entertained the audience. Then, the lambs stopped attending. Thorne later finds out that one of them was killed. Now, she’s got an angle: what happened to the lambs? As the story of that day unfolds, Richardson uses interviews with some of the people there to help tell the story. Those interviews are woven into the rest of the narrative, and add to it, although they’re not, strictly speaking, part of it.

There are other ways, too, in which authors can break up, or interrupt, the narrative of the story. Sometimes, it’s a distraction, and can pull the reader out of the story. But, when it’s done well, it can actually have the opposite effect. Such breaks can actually invite the reader to process more and engage more. What do you think? Do you get distracted by breaks in the story? If you’re a writer, do you put them into your story?


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Rogue Wave’s Interruptions.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ellery Queen, Lawrence Sanders, Paddy Richardson