When Sleuths Get Their Taxes Done ;-)

I’m not sure how annual tax filing is done in other countries; but, in the US, people are already gathering their documentation and getting ready to file. The deadline is 15 April, and plenty of people don’t want to wait that long if they’re getting a refund. So, this is a very, very busy season for accountants.

It’s all got me thinking about what it might be like for our top fictional sleuths when it’s time to file that paperwork. It can’t be easy when you’re a sleuth to explain all of the – erm – miscellaneous expenses that come up. If you’ll invite your disbelief to take some friends and go get pizza, here’s a look at what happens…

 

When Sleuths Get Their Taxes Done

 

I. Hercule Poirot (Agatha Christie)

Accountant: I must say, M. Poirot, your papers are very neatly docketed and arranged.
Poirot: Merci. Me, I know the importance of order and method. Whether it is the taxes or a case I am investigating, order and method are my watchwords.
Accountant (slowly looking through Poirot’s papers): Hmm… travel expenses, business expenses, it all seems to be here. Wait just a moment. What is this item? He points to one item on Poirot’s list.
Poirot:  Ah, that is my moustache wax and grooming tools.
Accountant: But, M. Poirot, I’m afraid you can’t deduct those expenses.
Poirot: But why not?
Accountant: Well, they aren’t necessary for the running of your business.
Poirot (Bristling with annoyance): How can I be expected to solve cases if my moustaches are not shown to perfection? It is essential!

 

II. Inspector Morse (Colin Dexter)

Accountant: Good of you to come in, Morse. I’ve just been looking through your paperwork.
Morse: All there, I hope?
Accountant: Well, I do have a few questions about your office expenses.
Morse (Somewhat irritated): All right, go on.
Accountant: You’re provided office space at the police station, isn’t that right?
Morse: Of course I am!
Accountant: Then you can’t claim your expenses at The Crown and Feather as office expenses. It’s not your office.
Morse: Well, it’s where I do most of my work.

 

III. Aimée Leduc (Cara Black)

Accountant: I’m glad to see you’ve got your forms ready early this year, Mlle. Leduc.
Aimée: Might as well get it all out of the way (Takes a seat).
Accountant: Well, then, let’s see what we have here. (A few moments of silence as the accountant looks through the paperwork). Hmm…. I’m not sure of this one.
Aimée: Which one? (Leans over to look at the papers)
Accountant: The coffee beans. You’re not a coffee supplier, café, or restaurant. You really can’t count these as a legitimate business expense.
Aimée: There is no way that I can conduct my business without good coffee! Next, you’ll be telling me I can’t claim my new Christian Louboutin boots!

 

IV. Kinsey Millhone (Sue Grafton)

Accountant:  Glad you could stop by. Let’s talk about these forms now.
Kinsey: OK. Is there a problem?
Accountant: There are a few things here that I don’t think are going to be deductible.
Kinsey:  What things?
Accountant: Well, here, for instance. You’re claiming over a thousand dollars in fast food as a business expense.
Kinsey: Hmmm… I thought it’d be more.
Accountant: That’s not the point. The point is, unless you’re taking clients to eat at McDonalds or something, you can’t claim those receipts as business expenses.
Kinsey: You haven’t tasted my cooking. Without fast food, there’d be no business.

 

V. Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin (Rex Stout)

Accountant: Your boss has some odd expenses.
Archie: Yeah, well, my boss is a little odd.
Accountant: But some of these expenses – I just don’t know.
Archie: Like which ones?
Accountant: Well, for instance, there’s this elevator repair. Don’t you and Wolfe do business in your own home?
Archie: Yeah, why?
Accountant: You have an elevator in your home?
Archie: Doesn’t everyone?
Accountant (Not amused at the joke): Well, it’s a private home.
Archie: Exactly. So, Wolfe sees clients in his downstairs office. The bedrooms and private rooms are upstairs.
Accountant: He can’t use the stairs like everyone else?
Archie: Like I said. My boss is odd…

 

VI. The Nameless Detective (Bill Pronzini)

Accountant: So, Mr. – er –
Nameless (Taking a seat): Thanks for seeing me.
Accountant: Now, let’s see what we have here (Takes a few minutes to look through the papers that Nameless has brought along). I see you’re claiming several copies of Black Mask?
Nameless: Yeah, I have a lot of them, and collect them whenever I find one I don’t have.
Accountant: I’m sorry, but I don’t think you can claim them as a deduction.
Nameless: But they’re important to my business. I’m a private investigator.
Accountant: I know that, but Black Mask isn’t necessary to run your business.
Nameless: They’re learning materials. I use them for research!

 

See what I mean? Sleuths have it hard enough, and trying to explain themselves at tax time doesn’t make anything easier. These are only a few examples. Care to add any?

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Bill Pronzini, Cara Black, Colin Dexter, Rex Stout, Sue Grafton

In The Spotlight: Alonso Cueto’s The Blue Hour

Hello, All,

Welcome to another edition of In The Spotlight. One of the tragedies of war is that it has an impact long after the guns go silent. The effects on individuals and families often hit the hardest. And stories about those individuals often have the potency that larger descriptions of, say, battles, don’t always have. Let’s take a look at that sort of story today, and turn the spotlight on Alonso Cueto’s The Blue Hour.

Adrián Ormache is a successful Lima attorney. He’s got a beautiful, intelligent wife, a loving relationship with his two daughters, and a solid career – in short, a perfect life. Then, everything changes. His mother, Beatriz, suddenly dies. That in itself is sad enough, of course, as they had a good relationship. But there’s more. He’s going through some of his mother’s letters and other personal things when he finds a letter that completely unsettles him.

The letter is from a woman named Vilma Agurto. She claims that Beatriz’ ex-husband (and Adrián’s father) was responsible for atrocities, including the rape of her niece, during the government’s late-1980s/early-1990’s war against Peru’s Shining Path/Sendero Luminoso guerillas. The letter tallies with an odd thing Adrián’s father said to him years earlier, on the day before he died. He asked his son to find a girl who lived in the Peruvian village of Huanta. Could it be the same person?

As soon as the hectic routine of planning and going through a family funeral is over, Adrián starts asking some questions. It’s not long before he tracks down two of his father’s old war comrades, who give him a little more information. It seems that Colonel Ormache and his men had kidnapped a young girl named Miriam, but that it was actually Ormache who kept Miriam safe from the other soldiers. Miriam escaped, and no-one knows what happened to her. The more Adrián hears about Miriam, the more he starts to question the view he’s always had of his father as a war hero. And he has in mind his father’s wish that he find her. So, wanting to learn more about his father, whom he never knew well, Adrián decides to look for Miriam.

That search takes Adrián back into his family history, and to things he never knew. It also forces him to confront the stark differences between Peru’s poor, and those who live the comfortable, well-to-do life Adrián has. And it shows him the ugly reality of the civil war between the government and Sendero Luminoso. In the end, we learn what happened to Miriam, and we learn the toll that the war still takes on people.

The mystery of what happened to Miriam is, of course, an important element of the novel. Adrián isn’t a member of the police force, so he doesn’t have access to a lot of information. And, in any case, he knows almost nothing about the woman he wants to find. Little by little, he uses what he learns from his father’s friends to at least narrow his search to Ayacucho and Huanta.

Even so, Adrián doesn’t get a lot of enthusiastic help. Even years after the events of the war, there are people who don’t want to say what they know about what the soldiers and the guerillas did. He manages to find a few people who knew Miriam, but they either don’t know or won’t say where she is. Although this isn’t ‘officially’ a crime novel, it does have this mystery aspect to the plot, and several crimes have been committed in  the course of the war.

Miriam came from a poor family in a poor town. So, as Adrián follows the trail, we see stark class differences. Adrián is well-off, married to a ‘blueblood’ well-off wife, and used to a comfortable living standard. But plenty of Peruvians don’t live that way. It’s worth noting here that the novel presents a clear portrait of life in Lima and Ayacucho, both for those who have and those who do not. It’s a distinctly Peruvian story. The war is a painful part of Peru’s history, and Cueto makes clear that the war had an especially horrific impact on the poor. Few could escape the fighting, and they were often treated brutally by both sides. And the war’s impact still plays a role in Peruvian life.

Cueto does not gloss over the violence and brutality of war, either. Readers who do not like books with violence in them will want to know that the stories of the war include some harrowing experiences. And the years do not make it easier for some of the characters to remember what happened.

The story is told through the eyes of Adrián (first person, mostly past tense), so we get to know him quite well. He is introspective, especially later in the novel, but not particularly sullen or unable to interact with others. He is arguably as much on a search for his own past as he is for Miriam. As he finds out more about his father, the war, and Miriam, he finds his own comfortable world less and less relevant. As you can imagine, this puts a strain on his home life and friendships. He re-thinks the person he is, and that has its own consequences. In that way, the war and its effects touch his life and family, although it’s years in the past.

The writing style is not a straightforward telling of the story. Rather, it’s more literary, with a plot that isn’t always linear, and a narrative style that evokes the atmosphere, both physical and psychological.

A word or two is also in order about the language. In my opinion (and I usually really dislike giving my opinion, but here goes…) Frank Wynne’s translation from the Spanish captures the novel’s essence successfully and conveys the subtleties. There’s no ‘woodenness’ or disconnect. That said, though, it’s always best to read a novel in the original language if you can. That includes this one.

The Blue Hour is the story of a man who has to come to terms with his family’s past, his own identity, and his country’s history, warts and all. It features a search for a woman with secrets of her own, and takes place in a distinctly Peruvian setting. But what’s your view? Have you read The Blue Hour? If you have, what elements do you see in it?

 
 
 

Coming Up On In The Spotlight
 

Monday, 25 February/Tuesday, 26 February – The Dark Lake – Sarah Bailey

Monday, 4 March/Tuesday, 5 March – Magpie Murders –  Anthony Horowitz

Monday, 11 March/Tuesday, 12 March – The Division Bell Mystery – Ellen Wilkinson

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Filed under Alonso Cueto, The Blue Hour

I Asked Him to Say What Had Happened, How it All Began*

When old cases are re-opened, there’s usually some sort of initial ‘spark.’ Police departments or attorneys might have a new witness come forward. Or, there might be new evidence that comes to light. There are even cases where witnesses change their stories for whatever reason, and that throws a whole new light on a case. There are other reasons, too, for which a case might be re-opened.

Crime writers have some latitude and flexibility when it comes to the way a case is re-opened. And it’s interesting to see how different authors bring in that plot element. When it’s done effectively, it can move a plot forward in an interesting way.

For example, in Agatha Christie’s Sparkling Cyanide, Rosemary Barton, her husband, Gerald, and a group of people are out to dinner. Suddenly, Rosemary collapses and dies of what turns out to be poison. It’s ruled a suicide, and the case is closed. Six months later, Gerald receives anonymous notes that claim Rosemary was murdered. The notes spur him to action, and he wants to see if it’s possible that accusation is true. So, the same people (minus Rosemary, of course) are invited to dinner, with the idea of forcing a confession from the murderer. Instead, Gerald is poisoned, just the way his wife was. Colonel Race (whom Christie fans will know from other stories) is a friend of Gerald’s and he works to find out who killed both of the Bartons. Christie fans will know that this novel is an expanded (and changed) version of the short story, The Yellow Iris.

Anonymous notes also play an important role in Martin Edwards’ The Cipher Garden. Ten years before the events of the novel, landscaper Warren Howe was murdered with one of his own tools. At the time, his wife, Tina, was suspected, but the police didn’t have enough evidence to prosecute the case. Now, anonymous notes suggest that Tina really was guilty. So, the Cumbria Constabulary’s Cold Case Review Team, under the supervision of Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Hannah Scarlett, re-opens the case. As they slowly look back at the evidence, they find that more than one person wanted Howe dead.

In Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, it’s a business proposition that re-opens an investigation. Journalist Mikael Blomkvist has lost a libel suit against powerful Swedish business executive Hans-Erik Wennerström. The court costs and other expenses will likely force him to close his publication, Millennium. Then, Blomkvist gets a chance to save his business. Wealthy and prominent Henrik Vanger wants Blomkvist to solve a mystery. Forty years earlier, Vanger’s grand-niece, Harriet, went missing and has never been found. But recently, Vanger’s been receiving dried flower arrangements as gifts – exactly like the ones he used to get from Harriet. He wants to know if Harriet is still alive; and, if she is, where she is. In exchange, Vanger will give Blomkvist the information he needs to bring down Wennerström, and the financial backing he needs to save Millennium. It’s an offer Blomkvist really can’t refuse; so, he and his research assistant, Lisbeth Salander, get to work on the case. In the process of solving it, they find out some very dark secrets in the Vanger past.

Sue Younger’s Days Are Like Grass introduces pediatric surgeon Claire Bowerman. She lives in London with her partner, Yossi Shalev, and her fifteen-year-old daughter, Roimata ‘Roi.’ The family’s doing well in London, but Yossi would like very much to move to New Zealand. For Claire, it would be a homecoming, as she’s from Auckland. But she has her own good reasons for not wanting to make the move. It’s very important to Yossi, though, so she finally agrees. She gets a job in an Auckland hospital, and all goes well enough. Then, she discovers a tumour on the kidney of one of her patients. She wants to remove it, but the boy’s parents refuse on religious grounds. The conflict between them and the hospital gets a lot of media coverage; and, as Claire is the face of the hospital in this instance, she gets media notice, too. And that’s just what she wanted to avoid. We soon learn that, in 1970, her father, Patrick, was arrested and charged in the disappearance and presumed murder of seventeen-year-old Kathryn Phillips. He was even jailed, but there was never enough evidence to make a conviction stick. Now, with Claire in the media spotlight, the old case is brought up again. Simon Flaxstone, who’s writing a book about the case, has concluded that Patrick Bowerman may be innocent. He wants Claire’s help to try to find out the truth. For Claire, it may be the only chance she has to end the questions.

Lynda Wilcox’s Verity Long has a very interesting reason to look up old cases. She is the assistant to well-known crime writer Kathleen ‘KD’ Davenport. Part of Verity’s job is to research old unsolved cases that her boss later uses as plot inspiration for her books.  In the course of her work, Verity finds all sorts of cases that have either been left to ‘go cold,’ or that might not have been solved satisfactorily.

There are other sorts of ‘sparks’ that can spur a fictional character to look at a case again, even one that’s been closed. And that gives an author flexibility when it comes to working an old case into a plot.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Pilate’s Dream.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Lynda Wilcox, Martin Edwards, Stieg Larsson, Sue Younger

‘Cause You’re Trying Too Hard to Get a Reaction*

There are a number of ways that an author can ‘stir the pot,’ and add tension to a story. One of them is when a character deliberately says something provocative. It might be a veiled (or not-so-veiled) insult. Or it might be an accusation. Sometimes it’s just a remark intended to get a rise out of others. Whatever the reason for it, those comments can make a fictional atmosphere all the more charged. There are plenty of examples of this sort of character and remark in the genre. Here are just a few.

In Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (AKA A Holiday For Murder and Murder For Christmas), wealthy patriarch Simeon Lee invites his relations to the family home, Gorston Hall, for Christmas. Lee holds the proverbial purse strings; so, although he’s an unpleasant person whom no-one likes, everyone accepts the invitation. When the family members gather, Lee says that he wants them all to join him in his private rooms, as he wants to talk to them. Then, he makes sure that they all hear a telephone call he makes regarding his will. As if that’s not enough, he insults all of them, and makes several remarks about cutting their allowances and shares of the family fortune. It’s a provocative series of comments designed to upset everyone, and it succeeds. Then, on Christmas Eve, Lee is murdered in his room. Hercule Poirot is staying in the area, and he works with the local police to find out who the killer is. I know, fans of After the Funeral, of Murder in Mesopotamia and of Hickory, Dickory Dock.

Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce is a pre-teenager, who lives in the English village of Bishop’s Lacey. She’s passionate about science, especially chemistry, and quite skilled at it, particularly for one as young as she is. She’s also intensely curious about nearly everything, so she’s a natural sleuth. Flavia lives in a large house, Buckshaw, with her father, Colonel de Luce, and wo sisters Ophelia ‘Feely’ and Daphne ‘Daffy.’ As you can imagine, Flavia and her sisters don’t always have what you’d call a harmonious relationship. In fact, they fight frequently. When they do, Flavia shows that she’s a match for her older sisters when it comes to making remarks and saying things that get a rise out of them. It doesn’t always make for a peaceful home, but it does add some wit and some realism to the stories.

In Shadaab Amjad Khan’s Murder in Bollywood, we are introduced to famous Bollywood director Nikhil Kapoor and his wife, famous actress Mallika Kappor. One night, they invite a few people to an ultra-exclusive party. During the party, Kapoor makes the very provocative statement that someone in the room has committed murder and will do so again. Everyone’s shocked, but Kapoor doesn’t name the person he has in mind. Not long afterwards, he is found dead in his studio, of what looks like a terrible accident. Later that night, Mallika also dies, of what looks like an accidental drug overdose. Mumbai Senior Inspector Hoshiyar Khan sees little pieces of evidence that aren’t consistent with accidents, and he gets clearance to investigate more thoroughly. When he finds out about the party and about Kapoor’s remarks, he now has a new pool of suspects, any one of whom might have wanted to commit murder.

Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood is the story of a hen weekend hosted by Florence ‘Flo’ Clay. Her friend, Clare Cavendish, is getting married, and Flo invites several people who’ve known the bride-to-be for a long time. The group of people gather at a summer home owned by Flo’s aunt, and the weekend begins. It’s not really celebratory, though. Clare hasn’t seen several of her guests for a long time, and there’s good reason for that. As the story goes on, we learn that there’s been an estrangement, and that there’s plenty of awkwardness. Then, one night, someone starts a game of ‘Never Have I Ever.’ Some of the remarks are provocative and specifically designed to get a reaction. And that adds greatly to the tension. As the weekend goes on, things get more and more tense and begin to spin out of control, and the end result is tragedy.

And then there’s Paul Levine’s Steve Solomon. He’s an attorney in the Coconut Grove area of Miami. His style, though, isn’t the staid, all-business sort of approach that some lawyers use. Instead, he’s quite comfortable using all sorts of what you might call courtroom antics to win his cases. Much to the chagrin of his more strait-laced legal (and life) partner, Victoria Lord, Solomon isn’t afraid to say very provocative things in a purposeful way. He says things to get a reaction from opposing counsel, from witnesses, and sometimes even from judges if he thinks that his comments will get him a win. For example, in Habeus Porpoise, Solomon and Lord find themselves on opposite sides of a case. Solomon’s defending an animal activist, Gerald Nash, in a case of murder; Lord is prosecuting. Here’s an exchange between them in the courtroom:
 

‘‘Your Honor, Mr. Solomon can’t be both a witness and defense counsel.’
‘Bogus argument, judge. We’ll stipulate to my client’s presence at the scene.’
‘Don’t call my arguments bogus,’ Victoria snapped.
‘Bogus, bogus. Hocus-pocus.’
 

(A bit later, when the judge discovers that Solomon and Lord are partners in life as well as in law…)
 

‘You two aren’t going to be playing footsie under the table, are you?’
‘Certainly not,’ Victoria said.
‘Not till after court,’ Steve said.’
 

Solomon’s provocative remarks sometimes get him into trouble. But they add to the tension (and sometimes, the wit), and they are surprisingly effective at times.

And that’s the thing about those sorts of remarks. They’re designed to get reactions from people, and they often do. But who knows where those reactions can lead…

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from So They Say’s A Beautiful Reaction.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Alan Bradley, Paul Levine, Ruth Ware, Shadaab Amjad Khan

We’re Different From Each Other*

If you have at least one sibling, then you know that siblings can be very, very different in temperament and personality, even if they’re the same sex and close to the same age (even twins have their differences). This is arguably even more the case as siblings get older and have different experiences. Sometimes it’s surprising how two people raised by the same parents at roughly the same time and in the same years can be so strikingly different, but it happens.

In crime fiction, those differences can add interesting layers to characters. They can also make for solid plot points. And that’s not to mention the tension that can build when two very different people interact.

In Agatha Christie’s Five Little Pigs, for instance, we are introduced to brothers Meredith and Philip Blake. Right from the beginning, they’re different in temperament, and that only increases as they become adults. Meredith, the older brother, is very interested in herbs and herbalism as well as chemistry. He’s not much interested in business or the pragmatic. So, as his brother points out, it’s just as well he’s the older brother, and inherits the family home and an allowance. Phillip, the younger of the two, is a very successful businessman. Some people might call him a philistine, but he’s done well for himself. The two get caught up in a murder when their friend, famous painter Amyas Crale, is poisoned one afternoon. Crale’s wife, Caroline, is immediately suspected, and with good reason: her husband was having a not-very-hidden affair with a young woman named Elsa Greer. There’s evidence against Caroline, too. In fact, she’s arrested, tried, and convicted. A year later, she dies in prison. Sixteen years after that, the Crales’ daughter, Carla, hires Hercule Poirot to clear her mother’s name. Carla is sure her mother was innocent and wants to prove it. Poirot interviews all five of the people who were on hand at the time of the murder, including the Blake brothers. He also gets written accounts from each person. From those, he works out who really killed Caroline Crale and why.

Martin Clark’s The Legal Limit is the story of brothers Mason and Gates Hunt. They grew up in the same home, with an abusive, alcoholic father and a mother who did the best she could under the circumstances. But they couldn’t have turned out more differently. Mason has taken advantage of every opportunity he’s had and has gotten a full scholarship to law school. His older brother, Gates, has squandered his considerable athletic talent, and is now living on his girlfriend’s Welfare payments and on money he gets from his and Mason’s mother. One afternoon, Gates has an argument with his romantic rival, Wayne Thompson. The argument tapers off, but it starts up again later that night when the Hunt brothers encounter Thompson again. Things get more and more heated, until before anyone knows what’s happening, Gates shoots Thompson. Out of a sense of filial loyalty, Mason helps his brother hide what’s happened, and life goes on for them both. Years later, Gates is arrested for cocaine trafficking, and is sentenced to a long prison term. He asks his brother to help get him out, but Mason refuses. Gates threatens that if Mason doesn’t help, he’ll implicate him in the still-unsolved Thompson murder. Mason calls his brother’s bluff and is soon indicted for a murder he didn’t commit. Now he has to clear his own name and decide what to do about his brother.

In Ian Vasquez’ Lonesome Point, we meet Belize-born brothers Patrick and Leo Varela. They’ve never been really similar, and when they become adults and move to Miami, they’re even less so. Patrick takes up a career in politics and shows real promise. He’s getting plenty of attention and is poised for national success. Leo isn’t as interested in that sort of life. He is a poet who works in a care home for those with mental illness. The brothers have little in common, and don’t see each other very often. But they are drawn together in a web of suspense when Freddy Robinson, an old friend from Belize, pays Leo a visit. Freddy wants Leo to release one of the people in his care, because the man may have information on illegal political procedures that could implicate Patrick. Freddy’s ‘business associates’ want that information. At first, Leo demurs. But then, Freddy hints that everyone has secrets, and that he’ll reveal what he knows about the Varela brothers if Leo doesn’t cooperate. And he knows plenty. It turns out that the Varelas are hiding a dark secret from their past; if it gets out, it could be disastrous. Leo tells Patrick about Freddy’s visit, and things soon spin out of control.

They do in Jock Serong’s The Rules of Backyard Cricket, too. Melbourne-area brothers Wally and Darren Keefe love cricket. They’re very good at the game, too. And, as they get older, they begin to get national and then international attention for their skill. But there the similarities between them end. Wally has strong focus and discipline. He’s intent on being the absolute best in the game. Darren has a great deal of natural talent. He’s inconsistent, though, and his personal life doesn’t have the discipline that his brother’s does. When he’s good, he shows once-in-a-generation skill, but he isn’t reliable the way his brother is. Their two different personalities mean the brothers react very differently when they become professionals and learn about the dark side of cricket. And those differences lead to real tragedy.

In Caroline Overington’s Sisters of Mercy, journalist Jack ‘Tap’ Fawcett gets interested when he learns that a visitor from England, Agnes Moore, went missing during a visit to Australia. Her daughter, Ruby, has made a public appeal for help, and Fawcett writes about it. That’s when he starts receiving letters from the missing woman’s younger sister, Sally Narelle ‘Snow’ Delaney. Through those letters, and through what he finds out through other sources, Fawcett learns that these sisters are completely different. For one thing, they’re far apart in age. But it’s more than that. It’s their temperaments and world views, too. As the story evolves, and we learn more about these women, we learn about the factors that have made them so different, and how that has contributed to some dark tragedies in the novel.

There are also two very different siblings in Dorothy Fowler’s What Remains Behind. In that novel, contract archaeologist Chloe Davis and her business partner, Bill, escort several of their students to Kaipura Harbour, on New Zealand’s North Island. They’ve gotten permission to excavate the remains of a religious community that burned down in the 1880s. For Chloe, it’s a homecoming of sorts, since shew grew up in the area. But it’s not a joyful one. One of the many complications is that a development consortium, River Haven, wants to create lifestyle blocks on the land where the dig will take place. But they can’t do that until the land is properly excavated. And Chloe’s cousin Shane is a part of that consortium. Another major challenge is Chloe’s sister, Phaedra, who owns a house in the contested area. The two sisters are very different in temperament and outlook, and they’ve estranged for some time. That relationship plays a role as readers learn more about the religious group whose building burned – and about its connection to a more modern murder, and some family-ancestry secrets.

See what I mean? I’m sure you knew it already. Even when siblings are of the same sex and grow up close in age in the same household, they can turn out to be very different people.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Liam Lynch’s Two Frogs.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Caroline Overington, Dorothy Fowler, Ian Vasquez, Jock Serong, Martin Clark