And It’s Sweet After All These Years*

One of the many ways in which we seem to mark the passage of time is birthdays. Some people celebrate birthdays – especially significant ones – with quite a lot of fanfare. Others do so quietly. And I’ve noticed that the older I get, the less fuss I like about birthdays (never mind how many I’ve had!!! 😉 ). Whether one makes a big fuss on a birthday or not, they can be a lot of fun. And like any other occasion where people gather, they can bring out all of the human interaction, backstory and so on that can make for a very effective crime fiction context.

For instance in Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone, Rachel Verinder has reached her eighteenth birthday. This year she’s to receive a very special gift for the occasion: an extremely valuable diamond. Her uncle Colonel John Herncastle has bequeathed it to her with the proviso that she is to receive it on her eighteenth birthday. The diamond has a murky history though. Herncastle removed it from Palace of Seringaptam in India years earlier during a raid and the diamond is said to curse anyone who takes it away. The curse certainly seems plausible because trouble begins to befall the Verinder family after Rachel receives the diamond. First, a group of shadowy strangers has been hanging round the house. Then, on the night of Rachel’s birthday, the diamond is stolen. As if that’s not enough second housemaid Roseanna Spearmann, who has her own secrets, disappears and is later found to have committed suicide. Investigating all of these frightening events is Sergeant Richard Cuff. Bit by bit he traces the diamond from Rachel’s room to its final destination in London, finding out along the way who stole it and why and how it all relates to Roseanna Spearman’s death.

In Gail Bowen’s The Endless Knot, Saskatchewan political science professor Joanne Kilbourn is preparing to celebrate her adopted daughter Taylor’s eleventh birthday. There’s much discussion about the kind of birthday celebration Taylor wants and everyone’s looking forward to it. But then a case of murder changes everything. Journalist Kathryn Morrissey has written a controversial tell-all book about wealthy and successful Canadian parents and their treatment of their children. One of these parents Sam Parker is so furious about the book that he takes a shot at Morrissey and wounds her. He’s arrested and tried and Kilbourn’s lover Zach Shreve defends Parker. Meanwhile, Kilbourn covers the trial for Nation TV and gets involved in the investigation when Morrissey is murdered. This plot thread is effectively woven together with the plot thread that deals with Taylor’s upcoming birthday. I don’t think it’s spoiling the novel to say that Taylor doesn’t have the birthday she’d planned, but it’s appealing to see how much it means to her that her birthday matters to her family as much as it does.

There’s also Helene Tursten’s The Glass Devil. In that novel, Göteborg Violent Crimes Unit leader Sven Andersson and his team investigate three murders. First schoolteacher Jacob Schyttelius is shot in the entry of his parents’ winterised cottage. A few hours later they themselves are shot. At first the killings look like the work of a Satanist cult. But it’s not long before that theory is proven wrong. So Andersson and his team have to find another explanation for the murders. The only surviving member of the Schyttelius family is Jacob’s sister Rebecka, who now lives in London. So Andersson’s colleague Irene Huss travels to London to track down Rebecka Schyttelius and see if she can help in the investigation. And in the end Rebecka does provide key evidence in the murders. In the meantime Andersson is preparing for his 60th birthday, about which he wants no fuss. But his team is cohesive and they don’t want their boss’ birthday to go un-noticed. So they give him a birthday party and an unexpected present. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that Tursten does a very neat job of linking that with Huss’ part of the murder investigation.

There are lots of other crime fiction novels that focus on birthdays, include birthday celebrations or are otherwise connected with birthdays. I’ll bet you can list lots more than I can.

So why am I going on about birthdays? No, it is not my birthday – promise. But it is my blog’s third birthday. See? Three candles in the ‘photo. Thanks to all of you who have been kind enough to read and comment on my blog these past three years. You keep me going in ways you cannot imagine. Because of you I’ve gotten and read some wonderful books and I am a better thinker, reader, writer and blogger. Mostly I’m a better person. I am indebted to each of you in ways to which words do not do justice.


Cheers, All!

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Billy Joel’s Famous Last Words.


Filed under Gail Bowen, Helene Tursten, Wilkie Collins

44 responses to “And It’s Sweet After All These Years*

  1. Margot, wishing you a joyous and happy 3rd birthday anniversary for your blog. I have learned so much from reading your posts and found so many interesting new authors and books. I look forward to finding a new one each day in my inbox even if I don’t get a chance to stop by and comment. Here’s wishing you many, many more wonderful years of posting (and writing). Enjoyed the examples you gave relating to celebrations.

    Thoughts in Progress

    • Mason – Thank you 🙂 – That’s really very kind of you. I’m glad you enjoy what you read here. I know I’ve learned from your own great blog. I’m hounoured that you stop by here and comment. And don’t worry; there will be more posts. You won’t be rid of me that easily. 😉

  2. Happy bloganniversary Margot.

  3. Happy Bloggy Birthday, Margot.

  4. Happy blogiversary, Margot – and I’m looking forward to many more years of enjoying the blog!

  5. kathy d.

    Dear Margo, Happy Blog-o-versary! Congratulations on three years of fascinating, thought-provoking posts. They — and the commenters’ additions — have so enriched my days, and also greatly expanded my book budget!
    It’s great every day to come here and read it all. What a treat!
    Wishing you many more years of posts — and those quizzes, too!

    • Kathy – That’s very kind of you – thank you :-). Your comments on my blog are always helpful, thoughtful and thought-provoking and they improve this blog immensely. I appreciate that more than you know. Oh, and the quizzes? Fear ye not. I will strike again…

  6. kathy d.

    I’m quivering in my shoes contemplating those quizzes! And thank you for your comment.

  7. Happy blog birthday, Margot, …And many more!

  8. Margot: Congratulations on your 3rd anniversary / birthday / blogversary / blog birthday. What is the right description? Maybe 3rd blog year? Anyway, it is a significant date for a wonderful blogger.

    Since you were careful not to reveal your actual age it is hard to know whether to ask if you and Mr. COAMN will follow the lead of Anthony Bidulka and his partner, Herb McFaul, who, for their 50th birthdays this year, each went for a separate week at a personal fantasy vacation destination and then met in Nice.

    Somehow blog celebrations are much more muted.

    • Bill – Thank you very much for the good wishes and the kind words 🙂 – Both mean a lot to me. I’ve heard the terms blog birthday and blogoversary/blogiversary most frequently. Both flow more easily than “anniversary of the date on which I started my blog.”
      I remember that you mentioned on your own terrific blog that Anthony Bidulka and Herb McFaul were taking that very special way to celebrate their birthdays. I hope they had a wonderful trip. And yes, blog celebrations don’t generally have the fanfare that birthdays do. I’m not going to be taking an exotic trip to celebrate my blogiversary, anyway.

  9. Congratulations! I’m so glad I’ve discovered your blog and FriendFeed, really expanded my horizons and I always enjoy reading your splendid entries. And… you’ve reminded me of Agatha Christie’s Sparkling Cyanide, which features a death at a birthday party in a nightclub – and also, as I recall, a very fancy dressing-gown which I think would make a great blog entry for me! So Happy Birthday AND Thank you….

    • Moira – Why, thank you 🙂 – That’s very, very kind of you. And thank you for reminding me of Sparkling Cyanide. I forgot to include that in this entry, so I appreciate your filling in the gap that I left. And if you’re thinking of Rosemary Barton’s dressing gown, I think it’d be wonderful if you did a post on that! You do such a great job on your excellent blog at giving readers visual context for novels. I’d love to see what you’d do with that one.

  10. Happy blogiversary, Margot. You have no idea how many hours of reading pleasure you have gifted me. If I am tardy with leaving comments, it is because you have got me re-addicted to mysteries, and any spare moment I have goes to feeding that addiction.
    Thank you. And again!

    • Nuts246 – How very kind of you 🙂 – thank you! I’m so glad you’ve re-discovered crime fiction. It is such an interesting and varied genre. Of course, I’m biased.. 😉

  11. Three years and you have not run out of themes to pursue here. Amazing.

  12. Happy Blog O’Birthday! Three years and you never ever let us down! Always exciting new authors and wonderful insights on the old classic mysteries – peppered with just enough silliness from time to time. I so appreciate you, Margot!

    • Jan – Why, thank you 🙂 – I really am glad you like what you get here. That means an awful lot to me *blush.* And hey, what’s life without just a peppering of silliness now and again…

  13. Happy Blogiversary, Margot and I wish you many more. Yours is one of the blogs I look out for every day.

  14. Wow, three years blogging. Congrats! I do enjoy reading your blogs.

  15. Very happy birthday Margot and you are such a demon blogger. Keep up the good work!

  16. Personal birthdays are something I’d prefer not to celebrate these days. I won’t even put month and day on Facebook, no matter how many times I get asked. 😀

    A blog birthday party, however, sounds like fun. Happy third birthday to you. Are you serving cake and ice cream?

  17. Happy birthday, Margot, and I add my thanks for the steady stream of interesting posts and quizzes. I have been trying to think of books with birthdays in them, but I can’t remember any, apart from one of the Len Deighton books (A billion dollar brain?) which begins on Harry’s 100th birthday and confused me a lot when I read it as I was a literal-minded child!

    • Maxine – Why, thank you 🙂 – I’m very glad you like what you read here. And good memory, too; Billion Dollar Brain is indeed the one where Deighton’s protagonist has what he calls his hundredth birthday. I’m glad you mentioned it. I should re-read some of Deighton’s work…

  18. Happy three years to you, Margot! I’m not a big fan of celebrating birthdays. To me it’s just another day. In blogging these days, most folks give up after so many months but you’ve made three years! Big congratulations to you in that achievement. Here’s for 3 more? 5 more?

    • Keishon – Thanks very much 🙂 – I really appreciate the kind words. I know what you mean about not making a big fuss about birthdays, too. The older I get (not that I am getting older…) the less appeal the big birthday blowout has for me.

  19. Congratulations! I’m trying to think how long I’ve been blogging! Though, like you, the older I become, the less fanfare I want with my birthday! lol

  20. Many congratulations, Ms. Kinberg! I have learnt much about crime-fiction through my frequent visits to your terrific blog. Three years and the themes keep rolling in, as Patti says — though, seriously, how do you do it? This is as good as any a time to ask you whether you make notes or keep a literary diary while reading a book. Personally, I can’t imagine myself remembering the little details in each and every book I read the way you do, and then write about them one fine day as if you had read them all this morning!

    And a Happy Birthday to Billy Joel too! His HONESTY is my favourite song, though I’d love to hear a 21st century version of WE DIDN’T START THE FIRE by him. Imagine the possibilities!

    • Prashant – Thank you so much for the kind words 🙂 – I truly appreciate it and I’m glad that you enjoy what you read here. And thanks too for the comment about Billy Joel. I like Honesty very much indeed; I can see why it’s your favourite. And it’s funny you would mention an updated version of We Didn’t Start the Fire. A few years ago when my daughter was in high school, she got an assignment in history class to use her text and other class materials to write a few more verses to that song to update it. It was a fun way to review actually.

  21. PeterReynard

    Congratulations on surviving the terrible twos! 🙂

  22. sue rosly

    Congratulations. You have given us a lot of pleasure. Many thanks.

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