I Had No Choice But to Lie to You, You See*

As this is posted, it’s 384 years since Galileo was forced to recant his assertion that the Earth orbits the Sun. It’s said that he never actually changed his beliefs; and, of course, time has proven him and Copernicus right about the way our solar system works. And yet, Galileo said the exact opposite when he recanted.

Galileo, of course, had good reason to recant; he was in fear for his life. But he’s by no means the only one who’s lied, even under oath, to avoid terrible consequence, or to gain something important. We see it all the time in crime fiction. Whether it’s on the witness stand, in an interview with the police, or something else, fictional characters will, at times, swear to thing they know aren’t true. Or, they’ll deny things that they know are true.

For instance, in Agatha Christie’s Taken at the Flood (AKA There is a Tide…), the Cloade family of the village of Warmsley Vale is faced with a crisis. Wealthy patriarch Gordon Cloade had always promised his siblings and their families that he’d see to their needs, so that they wouldn’t have to worry about money. Then, he unexpectedly married, and died in a wartime bomb blast before he could change his will. Now, his widow, Rosaleen, is set to inherit everything, leaving his family with nothing. Then, a stranger calling himself Enoch Arden comes to town. He hints strongly that Rosaleen’s first husband, Robert Underhay, is still alive. If so, then Rosaleen can’t inherit. When Arden is killed, the possibility arises that he may, in fact, be Underhay. So, Major George Porter, who knew Underhay, is asked to state in court whether the body is Underhay’s. Rosaleen Cloade is also asked the same question. Each swears to tell the truth, but their answers directly contradict each other. And both of them had important reasons to swear to something that wasn’t true.

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird introduces readers to Atticus Finch. He’s a highly-regarded attorney who lives and works in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama. He gets a wrenching case when Mayella Ewell accuses Tom Robinson of raping her. The rape charge is serious enough, but Robinson is black, and Ewell is white. In small-town Alabama, that makes everything all the more highly-charged. Robinson claims that he’s innocent, but no-one believes him. In fact, he very nearly becomes the victim of a lynch mob. Finch takes the case and begins looking into the matter. And, part of the suspense in the novel comes from the discovery of who’s been swearing to something that wasn’t true, and why.

During the McCarthy Era of the early 1950s, many people were pressured to denounce colleagues, friends, and even loved ones as communists. Sometimes so much pressure was brought to bear that people would give names even if they knew the people they accused weren’t communists at all. Walter Mosley’s A Red Death is set against that backdrop. In it, Ezekiel ‘Easy’ Rawlins receives a letter from IRS agent Reginald Lawrence. According to the letter, Rawlins owes thousands of dollars of back taxes, which he’ll have to pay immediately or be imprisoned. Rawlins is preparing himself for a prison term when he gets help in the form of FBI Agent Daryll Craxton, who offers Rawlins a deal. If Rawlins helps bring down suspected communist Chaim Wenzler, then Craxton will make Rawlins’ tax problems go away. Rawlins has no desire to denounce anyone, but he feels he has no choice. So, he agrees to Craxton’s plan, and starts to get to know Wenzler. And that’s when the trouble begins. First, Rawlins comes to like Wenzler, which makes denouncing him all the more difficult. Then, he is framed for two murders that occur at the church where both he and Wenzler volunteer. Now, he’ll have to clear his name, as well as find a way to deal with Craxton without denouncing Wenzler, if he can.

Sometimes, people aren’t forced to swear to something that isn’t true, but they do so for reasons of their own. For instance, in Martin Clark’s The Legal Limit, we are introduced to brothers Mason and Gates Hunt. They’ve been raised in an abusive home, but they’ve responded in very different ways. Mason takes advantage of every opportunity that comes his way, and ends up going to law school. Gates, on the other hand, squanders his natural athletic ability, and ends up living on his girlfriend’s Welfare benefits, and on money he gets from his and Mason’s mother. One day, Gates has a quarrel with his romantic rival, Wayne Thompson. Thompson eventually leaves, but the Hunt brothers encounter him later that night. The quarrel starts up again, and before anyone really knows what’s happened, Gates has shot Thompson. Mason helps his brother cover up the crime, and life goes on for both. Years later, Mason is the commonwealth prosecutor for Patrick County, Virginia. Gates, meanwhile, has been arrested for cocaine trafficking. He’s given a long sentence, and begs his brother to get him out of prison. This time, Mason refuses. Gates says that if Mason won’t help him, he’ll implicate his brother in the still-unsolved Thompson murder. Mason still refuses, and Gates makes good on his threat. He tells police that his brother committed the Thompson murder, and Mason soon finds himself the subject of a criminal investigation. In this case, Gates swears to what’s not true so that he can get out of prison.

And then there’s Daniel Pembrey’s The Harbour Master. In that novella, Amsterdam police detective Henrik van der Pol is present at Amsterdam Harbour one morning when the body of a young woman is found floating on the surface of the water. Van der Pol and his police partner, Liesbeth, investigate, and follow the trail to Little Hungary in the Red Light District (RLD). A sex worker who lives there, a woman named Irena, is one of van der Pol’s contacts, and he’s hoping she’ll be able to give him some information. What he finds, though, at least at first, is that she doesn’t want to say anything. She claims not to know anything about anything. Then, she lets van der Pol and Liesbeth know that she’s afraid of being seen with them, let alone saying anything. Eventually, she tells them the truth, but it’s at a very high price.

People have all sorts of reasons for recanting, or for otherwise denying what they know is true. It may be coercion, fear, or something else. But it’s always interesting to see how characters react under those circumstances.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Ray LaMontagne’s Please.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Daniel Pembrey, Harper Lee, Martin Clark, Walter Mosley

The Crash

Nick could hear the invective coming from the next room. He went to the door of the home office, where Darcy was steadily swearing at her laptop.

‘What’s wrong?’ he asked.
‘It crashed. Completely. All I’m getting is the blue screen of death. And I have that presentation at the end of the week. My whole thing is on there.’ She pointed at the computer.
‘We could take it to a PC repair place if you want.’
Darcy thought for a moment, and then sighed. ‘Yeah, I guess you’re right,’ she said. ‘At this point, it’s just an expensive paperweight.’

After using Nick’s laptop to do a little research, Darcy found a nearby computer repair shop. They were still open, so she gathered up her laptop and its power cord, and headed over.

When she got there, she was glad to see that it wasn’t crowded. In just a few minutes, she was able to speak to the technician, who introduced himself as Frank. She turned the computer on, and within seconds, was able to show him the problem. When she’d finished, she asked, ‘Do you think you can fix this?’
‘I can’t guarantee it, but I know I’ve seen this sort of thing before. It should be straightforward.’
‘Oh, I hope you’re right.’
Darcy completed the paperwork and left her computer at the shop.

Sure enough, the next day, they called Darcy from the shop. They’d needed to do some work on the laptop, but they were able to repair it. ‘Thank God,’ she said when they told her. She went to the shop as soon as she could and picked the laptop up.

Frank smiled to himself as Darcy left the shop. That had been an easier job than he’d thought it would be. It hadn’t taken him long at all to get her banking and credit card passwords. And he knew how to be careful enough with them so that she probably wouldn’t notice. A little bit here, a little bit there, that was the best way. You couldn’t get too greedy.

Three days later, Darcy was scrolling through her online checking account when she noticed something.
‘Hey, Nick, did you get something from Amazon?’
‘I don’t think so. Why?’
‘I just saw this charge – $20.00. And I’m pretty sure I didn’t buy anything.’
‘Huh. Maybe we should try to find out from Amazon?’
‘Yeah, maybe.’

Then, a week after that, Darcy’s credit card statement came. She looked carefully through everything. Then she spotted it: a $15.00 charge at an online shop she’d never heard of. That was when she went to the bank. Their fraud prevention manager assured her that they’d look into it; in the meantime, they gave her a new credit card.

Transaction Declined
Frank tried again. Damn, he thought. She must have noticed that charge on the credit card. This was the second time her card number had been declined when he tried to use it. Well, that was no big problem. He had her social security number, so it’d be easy to get another card in her name.

‘But I don’t understand,’ Darcy said. ‘You told me with my credit rating, I’d have no problem getting an auto loan.’
‘I know,’ said the Honda dealer. ‘But since you were in over a month ago, we had to do a new credit check today. And this one – well – it’s not good. See for yourself.’ He swung his computer screen around so Darcy could see it. Her face paled as she looked at the information.
‘But I haven’t taken out any of these loans! None of this is accurate!’ Then she saw the look on the dealer’s face. ‘You don’t believe me, do you?’
‘It’s not a matter of what I believe,’ the dealer said carefully. ‘It’s our policy. I can’t give you financing with this credit rating. And, frankly, I doubt you’d get it elsewhere, either. Maybe you could try a credit repair place?’
‘There’s nothing to repair!’ Darcy said firmly. It didn’t make a difference, though.

As soon as she got home, Darcy told Nick what had happened. Then they sat down together and looked at all of their accounts. There was no doubt about it: Darcy’s identity had been stolen. Darcy spent the next hour, half in tears, making telephone calls to her bank, her credit card company, the credit reporting agencies, and the police. There’d be other calls, but at least she wouldn’t be liable for any more money. When she’d finished reporting everything, she sagged back against the sofa cushions.
‘What I want to know,’ she thought aloud, ‘is how this happened.’
‘Do you mean who did it?’ Nick asked.
‘Exactly. The police will investigate, but they’ve got murders and rapes and things to deal with. It’ll take them a while.’
‘You’re not going to do the Miss Marple thing, are you?’
Darcy threw a sofa cushion at him for that. ‘No, of course not! I’m just trying to think how it started.’ She was quiet for a few minutes. Then, she sat up straight and looked over at Nick. ‘You know what? It started right after I got my computer fixed!’
‘Maybe they’ll know what happened, then.’
‘Exactly! I’m going over there now.’

When she got to the computer repair shop, Darcy asked to see the manager.
‘I’m Luke Preston, the manager here. How can I help you?’
‘My identity’s been stolen, and it started right after I had my computer fixed.’ And Darcy told him the whole story.
‘Frank’s not in today,’ Luke said. ‘But he’ll be in first thing tomorrow, and I’ll ask him if he noticed anything. We’ll do whatever we can to help you out.’
‘Thank you,’ Darcy said.

The next morning, Darcy got into her Honda Civic and started her twenty-minute commute to work. It was a good thing the car was still serviceable even though she was ready for a new one. About halfway through the trip, she noticed a pickup truck behind her. It started following her too closely, so she speeded up a bit. So did the truck. It was still following her when she came to the bridge that crossed a small local lake. The truck behind her started going faster, to get around her. She gripped the steering wheel, hoping that the maniac driving the truck would pass her. The last thing she heard was the metal guardrail smashing as the truck pushed her car off the road and over the bridge.

When Luke got to the computer repair shop, he got out of his truck and checked for damage. There were a few scratches and dents, but his truck was a lot sturdier than the Honda had been. And he knew someone who would fix it for cash, without asking a lot of questions. That woman hadn’t even noticed that he’d seen her car and license tag when she left the shop. Goddamned Frank must have gotten sloppy this time. He didn’t like cleaning up messes this way, but who knew what that woman might have spread around? He’d have to think about how to handle Frank. In the meantime, he needed to open his shop.

Ten minutes later, the door opened. A young man came in holding a laptop.
‘May I help you?’ Luke asked.
‘Yeah, I hope so. My computer won’t boot up properly.’
‘Let’s take a look at it and see what we can do.’

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We Could Ride the Surf Together*

Today is the 75th birthday of Brian Wilson, who’s perhaps best known for being a co-founder of the Beach Boys. So, it seems like a good time to take a look at crime fiction that takes place on the beach. And if you think about it, the beach can be an effective context for a crime story. There are plenty of disparate people, and they tend to be there for only short periods of time. That makes it harder to link a particular person to a particular crime. And that’s not to mention the water, which provides all sorts of opportunities for murder methods.

In Agatha Christie’s Evil Under the Sun, Hercule Poirot makes an interesting comment about the beach as a setting for a murder:
 

‘‘…here at the seaside it is necessary for no one to account for himself. You are at Leathercombe Bay, why? Parbleu! it is August – one goes to the seaside in August – one is on one’s holiday. It is quite natural, you see, for you to be here…’’
 

He’s got a well-taken point. There really isn’t much need to explain your presence at the beach. And that gives a fictional murderer all sorts of flexibility. And in this novel, the beach setting provides an effective ‘cover’ for the killer of famous actress Arlena Stuart Marshall. At first, her husband, Captain Kenneth Marshall, is the prime suspect. But when it’s proven that he is innocent, Hercule Poirot and the local police have to look elsewhere for the murderer.

In Phoebe Atwood Taylor’s The Cape Cod Mystery, we are introduced to Prudence Whitsby. She and her niece, Betsey, have decided to escape the heat of the city and go to their summer cottage at Cape Cod. The cabin next to theirs has been rented for the summer by famous writer Dale Sanborn. One night, Sanborn is murdered. When Prudence discovers the body, Sheriff Slough Sullivan begins to investigate. Soon enough, Sullivan settles on Whitsby family friend Bill Porter as the most likely suspect. There’s evidence against him, too. But Porter’s cook and ‘man of all work,’ Asey Mayo, doesn’t think his boss is guilty. Neither, for the matter of that, does Prudence. So, the two of them look into the matter more closely. And it’s not long before they find that more than one person wanted Sanborn dead. Among other things, this novel shows the way people tended to head to New England seaside towns in the days before there was air conditioning.

Even today, plenty of seaside towns make a living on the fact that the beach is a popular destination. Just ask Chris Grabenstein’s Danny Boyle. He’s a police officer in the fictional New Jersey beachside town of Sea Haven. It’s got a relatively small year-round population; during the summer months, though, the population swells considerably. Many people come in for just a week or two:
 

‘Saturday is changeover day. People who rented last week are leaving; people renting this week will show up later, after the maid brigades have vacuumed the sandy floors and tossed out the abandoned seashell collections.’
 

Others rent a place for the whole summer. Either way, Boyle and his boss, John Ceepak, have a lot to contend with during the ‘crunch months.’ And that makes for plenty of opportunity for a murderer to strike.

Minette Walters’ The Breaker takes place in the Chapman’s Pool area of Dorset. The Spender family is taking their holiday there when, one morning, brothers Daniel and Paul decide to go exploring. They ‘borrow’ their father’s expensive binoculars and set out. They’re shocked and frightened when they discover the body of a young woman on the beach, and give the alarm. PC Nick Ingram begins the investigation. It turns out that the victim is Kate Sumner, whose toddler daughter, Hannah, has just been discovered wandering along in the nearby town of Poole. Ingram works with WPC Sandra Griffiths, DI John Galbraith, and Superintendent Carpenter to find out who killed Kate Sumner, and to find out how Hannah ended up in town. The solution lies in Kate’s complicated personal life and history.

Angela Savage’s The Dying Beach takes place mostly at Krabi, on the Thai coast. Bangkok-based PI Jayne Keeney and her partner, Rajiv Patel, have decided to take a short holiday break there, and have been enjoying themselves. Then, they discover that their tour guide, Chanida Manakit ‘Miss Pla’ has been found dead. They’d grown to like her very much, so this is personally distressing to both of them. Miss Pla’s body washed up in a cave, and the official police account is that this was a tragic accident. But Keeney doesn’t think that’s true. After all, Miss Pla was an expert swimmer. Keeney and Patel decide to take a few extra days and look into the matter. And they soon find that this death was no accident. The more they look into the case, the clearer it is that several people benefited from Miss Pla’s death.

There’s also Don Winslow’s Boone Daniels, whom we meet in The Dawn Patrol. Daniels and his friends are dedicated San Diego surfers, who’d rather be on their surfboards than at their ‘day jobs.’ Then, Daniels get drawn into the case of Tamera Roddick, a local stripper who’s disappeared. Not long afterwards, her best friend, who goes by the name of Angela Hart, is killed. This case ends up being connected to a tragedy from years earlier: the heartbreaking disappearance of a young girl from her own yard. Among other things, this novel gives readers a look at the Southern California surfing culture.

Surfing, sand, and sun are extremely appealing when you want a winter getaway or a summer holiday. But the beach isn’t nearly as peaceful as it seems. Which surfside mysteries have stayed with you? I hear you, fans of Agatha Christie’s A Caribbean Mystery.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from the Beach Boys’ Surfer Girl. Happy Birthday, Mr. Wilson!

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Angela Savage, Chris Grabenstein, Don Winslow, Minette Walters, Phoebe Atwood Taylor

In The Spotlight: William Hjortsberg’s Falling Angel

Hello, All,

Welcome to another edition of In The Spotlight. Many crime novels can’t be easily classified into one or another category. On the one hand, that makes them a bit more difficult to discuss. But on the other hand, a novel that combines elements of more than one sub-genre can make for a different sort of reading experience. And that can draw the reader in. Certainly, this sort of blend can make for an unusual story. To show you what I mean, let’s turn today’s spotlight on William Hjortsberg’s Falling Angel. The inspiration for Alan Parker’s film Angel Heart, this novel is arguably a blend of crime fiction (specifically, the PI novel) and horror.

The novel takes place in 1959 New York City, where Harry Angel is a low-rent private investigator. One day, he gets a call from the upmarket law offices of McIntosh, Winesap and Spy. It seems that one of the firm’s clients, Louis Cyphre, wants Angel to find a man named Jonathan Liebling. Better known as Johnny Favorite, he was a talented jazz musician. Cyphre claims that he helped Liebling/Favorite at the start of his career, in return for which Favorite promised ‘certain collateral,’ about which Cyphre isn’t specific. Then, Favorite was drafted into service in World War II. When he returned, he was badly physically and emotionally damaged, and ended up having to be placed in a special hospital. Then, he disappeared from the hospital.

Now, Cyphre wants Angel to find Johnny Favorite. Angel agrees, and begins to look into the matter. But he soon finds that this is no normal missing person case. First, he tries to speak to the doctor at the hospital where Favorite was a patient. On the night of that conversation, the doctor commits suicide (or does he?). Angel contacts other witnesses, too, who die soon afterwards.

It’s now clear that Angel is involved in much more than a simple case of a missing patient who perhaps wandered off. At every turn, it seems, there are black masses, dangerous magic, voodoo/Obeah, and other supernatural elements. And, as Angel pursues the case, he feels the influence of these forces. He has bizarre nightmares, and he sees that he’s in increasing danger, and is caught in a web he may not be able to escape.

As I mentioned, this novel is really a blend of more than one sub-genre. On one level, it’s a noir PI novel. Angel is a two-bit detective who doesn’t count the wealthy and well-placed among his usual clients. The novel takes place in 1959, so there’s some use of the sort of ‘American PI novel’ language you might expect (e.g. shamus, jake, and so on). Like other noir PI novels, this one is violent, at times, brutal. Readers who prefer low levels of violence and gore will notice this. And Angel is no less guilty of some of that violence than any of the other characters. I don’t usually like to draw comparisons among novels, as each one is so different. But in this case, you might draw a sort of parallel between this novel’s PI style, and the PI style of, perhaps, Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer.

Because it’s a PI novel, Angel has no official authority. He gets his information from talking to people, looking things up, calling in favours, and so on. And, since the novel takes place before the age of the Internet, there’s quite a bit of following people, asking around, eavesdropping on conversations, and the like.

On another level, this is a horror novel, and that element plays an important role, too. Several of the characters are not what they seem to be, and the supernatural is woven in several ways into the story. I can’t give a lot of detail without spoiling the story. Suffice it to say that, in this novel, the sense of evil is quite real, and there are several sequences that focus on that. Readers who dislike horror films will notice this.

As you can imagine, part of the novel’s suspense comes from its pace, and from the ‘jolts’ in the plot. And that’s consistent with the horror element (e.g. ‘Don’t answer the telephone!’ ‘Don’t go down that alley!’). There are several ‘action sequences,’ and readers who enjoy a fast-paced novel will appreciate this.

The mystery itself – what happened to Johnny Favorite – is solved, and Hjortsberg gives several clues to the solution throughout the novel. They’re subtle hints, so readers who enjoy matching wits with the author will want to pay close attention. It’s not really a whodunit sort of novel, but there is an element of looking for clues and getting information, as there is in most PI novels.

The story takes place in New York City, and Hjortsberg depicts that setting in detail. As Angel tracks down leads, looks for people, and so on, readers get a sense of what the city is like. Along the way, Hjortsberg provides a few pieces of information about the history of the city. It’s not a major component of the novel, but it’s woven into it.

Falling Angel is a dark, bleak PI novel that takes place in the unique world of New York. It’s also a horror story that builds and plays out through the PI format. The novel features a low-rent detective who knows the city as well as anyone does, and an eerie set of mysteries. But what’s your view? Have you read Falling Angel? If you have, what elements do you see in it?

 
 
 

Coming Up On In The Spotlight

 

Monday, 26 June/Tuesday, 27 June – Not a Creature Was Stirring – Jane Haddam

Monday, 3 July/Tuesday, 4 July – Inspector Imanishi Investigates –  Seichō Matsumoto

Monday 10 July/Tuesday, 11 July – A Morbid Taste For Bones – Ellis Peters

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You Dropped a Bomb on Me*

You know the sort of moment. You’re reading a novel, perhaps even drawn into it, when all of a sudden, the author, or a character, drops a proverbial bombshell. It’s usually (but certainly not always) a piece of information. And although such bombshells don’t always result in major plot twists, they certainly add to the suspense of a story.

Bombshells are, perhaps, easier to do in film than in books. Filmmakers can use tools such as facial expressions, atmospheric lighting and music, and so on, to add to the suspense of a bombshell. But even then, they’re a bit tricky. Too much of a bombshell, and you stretch credibility and risk melodrama. Not enough, and you could lose the reader’s interest. But when they’re done carefully, a bombshell can add to a story.

Sometimes, in crime fiction, the bombshell is the identity of the murderer. Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is like that. When retired business magnate Roger Ackroyd is stabbed one night in his study, the most likely suspect seems to be his stepson, Captain Ralph Paton. For one thing, Paton had motive. For another, he went missing on the night of the murder, and hasn’t been seen since. So, the police assume he’s on the run from them. Paton’s fiancée, Flora Ackroyd, doesn’t think he’s guilty, though, and asks Hercule Poirot to clear his name. Poirot agrees, and looks into the matter. Fans of this story know that the dénouement contains a major bombshell having to do with the killer’s identity, and that bombshell brought Christie a lot of criticism at the time. It certainly changes the way one sees the book.

In one plot thread of Len Deighton’s Berlin Game, MI6 has discovered that there’s a KGB agent in a very high position at the agency’s London Central offices. Whoever the mole is, that person has access to highly classified information, to say nothing of private information about MI6 members. So, finding out that person’s identity is an urgent matter. Bernie Sansom is a middle-aged former field agent, who now has a desk job at the London Central offices, so he’s in a good position to try to catch the mole. This leads to an important bombshell piece of information that has a profound impact on the agency, on Sansom, and on the other two books in this trilogy.

In Karin Alvtegen’s Betrayal, we are introduced to Eva Wirenström-Berg, her husband, Henrik, and their six-year-old son, Axel. Eva has what she thinks is the perfect ‘white picket fence’ life – the one she’s always dreamed of having. Then a bombshell drops. She discovers that Henrik has been unfaithful. Devastated by the news, Eva is determined to find out who the other woman is. When she does, she makes her own plans, and things soon begin to spin tragically out of control. In this case, the bombshell isn’t a murderer’s or other criminal’s identity. But it has a powerful impact on what happens in the novel.

Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch has certainly had his ups and downs when it comes to romance. But, in The Black Echo, he meets FBI agent Eleanor Wish; and, over the course of time, they fall in love. In fact, it’s not spoiling the series to say that they marry at the end of Trunk Music. The magic doesn’t last, though, for several reasons. So, by the time of Angels Flight, the two split up. But there’s more to come. In Lost Light, Bosch has officially retired from the police force. But he’s still haunted by the four-year-old murder of production assistant Angella Benton, who was murdered in the vestibule of her apartment building. So, he starts to ask questions unofficially. The case turns out to have an FBI connection, which leads Bosch to his ex-wife. And that’s when he learns that he has a daughter, Maddie, whom he’s never met. It’s a real shock to Bosch, and certainly changes the course of the novels that follow Lost Light.

Larry Watson’s Montana 1948 is the story of the coming of age of twelve-year-old Daniel Hayden. As the title suggests, the real action in the story takes place a few years after World War II, in Bentrock, the county seat of Mercer County, Montana. David lives a more or less settled life with his parents, Gail and Wayne (Mercer County’s sheriff). Everything changes when the family’s housekeeper, Marie Little Soldier, falls ill with pneumonia. To everyone’s shock, she refuses to let Wayne’s brother, Frank, treat her. Frank Hayden is a well-known and well-respected doctor, and no-one really understands why she wouldn’t want his help. Then, she drops a bombshell. It seems that Frank has been raping some of his patients who come from the Fort Warren (Sioux) Indian Reservation. Nobody’s come forward before this because the Hayden name is too powerful. But Marie swears that it’s all true, and admits that she’s been one of the doctor’s victims, herself. This bombshell is devastating to the Hayden family, and has a tragic outcome.

Those explosive pieces of information have to be handled carefully, as all explosives do. They have to fall out naturally from the plot, and they’re often more powerful if they’re not presented in an overly dramatic way. That said, though, they can add a great deal to a story, and show some different sides of characters, too. Which fictional bombshell revelations have stayed with you?

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by The Gap Band.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Karin Alvtegen, Larry Watson, Len Deighton, Michael Connelly