The Crime Fiction Alphabet meme is now one fifth of the way through our worrisome wanderings through the letters of the alphabet. I am, as always, grateful to Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise for the exciting journey thus far. Today’s stop is the E Resort and Spa and quite frankly, I’m ready for a nice rest. While everyone else is checking email and ‘phoning home, I’ll share my contribution for this stop: execution-style murders. Crime fiction is full of examples of what happens when one falls afoul of the wrong people. Actually it’s probably better to stay away from certain kinds of people to begin with but it’s even better to avoid getting them angry enough to kill. Because they do.
Just ask Tony Aliso, a mediocre filmmaker of mediocre movies whose death is the subject of Michael Connelly’s Trunk Music. When Aliso’s body is discovered in the trunk of his Rolls Royce, it’s assumed that this was a Mafia ‘hit.’ The murder has all the hallmarks of a Mob kill and Aliso was living far beyond his legal means. But somehow, the LAPD doesn’t seem to be too eager to find out who the killer is even though it could mean bringing down a criminal organisation. The police department’s reluctance doesn’t stop Harry Bosch though. Bosch investigates Aliso’s personal and professional lives and soon finds a ‘money trail’ that leads to a shady Las Vegas casino – and to a reunion with his old flame Eleanor Wish, who is now a professional gambler. In the end, Bosch finds out who killed Aliso and why, and how the criminal organisation he’s after fits in with the rest of the case.
In Henry Chang’s Year of the Dog, NYPD detective Jack Yu is temporarily assigned to Manhattan’s Ninth Precinct to fill in for some colleagues who are taking time off at the end of the year. He returns to his usual Fifth Precinct though, when a gang war threatens to erupt. Yu’s old friend Tat ‘Lucky’ Louie has become a local Mob leader; his gang is called Ghost Legion. Tat and his gang are upset because lately, there’ve been several surprise raids on the local gangs. Tat suspects that incoming gangs from Hong Kong are tipping off police so that they can take over the local gangs’ territories. Tat wants Yu’s help to find out whether the Hong Kong gangs are behind the raids. Yu refuses and the conflict between the local mobs and the Hong Kong incomers forms an important element in this novel.
Tonino Benacquista’s Badfellas takes another kind of look at ‘execution-style’ murders. The Blake family, a supposedly normal American family, moves into a home in Cholong-sur-Avre, Normandy. They’ve moved to Normandy so that Frederick Blake can write a history of the Normandy invastion and it seems that the family soon settles in. Frederick’s wife Maggie devotes herself to charity work and their children devote themselves to television, the Internet, new friends and other adolescent obsessions. But the Blake family is not a normal family. They are really the Manzoni family and the father, Giovanni Manzoni, was a member of the New Jersey Mafia. He testified against the rest of the Mob so he and his family were placed in the US Federal Witness Protection Program. They’ve been relocated to Normandy and given new identities. The only problem is that before long, word gets back to the head of the New Jersey Mob that Giovanni Manzoni is alive and well. Now the ‘Blakes’ have to deal with the very real possibility that the Mob will find them, and will not exactly greet them kindly.
Of course, execution-style killings aren’t just Mob-related. For instance, Donna Leon’s Blood From a Stone begins with the execution-style shooting of an unknown Senegalese immigrant. He’s laying out his wares at an open-air market one morning when he is murdered. Commissario Guido Brunetti and Ispettore Lorenzo Villanello lead the investigation into the murder. Because the man was killed by professionals, no-one has seen anything really significant, so at first, there’s not much evidence. What’s more, the man wasn’t anyone of importance – just another illegal immigrant. So there’s not much public interest. But eventually Brunetti and Vianello trace the man to the room he rented, where they find a cache of diamonds. It turns out that this man’s execution had to do with ‘conflict diamonds’ and illegal arms trafficking.
Gene Kerrigan’s The Rage features several cases that Dublin DS Bob Tidey and Detective Garda Rose Cheney investigate. One of them is the execution-style murder of banker Emmet Sweetman, who’s been shot in the entryway of his own home. As the detectives examine the victim’s life, they discover that he had been caught up in the ‘Celtic Tiger’ boom and had taken advantage of the sudden wealth that was available during those years. The seemingly inexhaustible supply of money fed Sweetman’s greed and his confidence so that he took increasingly risky decisions. When the financial situation in Ireland began to fall apart, so did many of the shady deals Sweetman had made. When he didn’t pay the money he owed, Sweetman made some very dangerous people very angry, and they sought their own sort of justice. It turns out that this case has a link to another case that Tidey and Cheney work on, a heist that goes terribly, tragically wrong.
And then there’s Andrew Nette’s Ghost Money. In that novel, Australian ex-cop Max Quinlan is hired by Madeleine Avery to find her brother Charles. His last-known whereabouts was Bangkok, so Quinlan travels there. When he gets to Avery’s apartment though, he discovers the body of Avery’s business partner Robert Lee. He also finds clues that suggest that Avery has gone to Cambodia. Quinlan continues his search in Phnom Penh, where he meets journalist’s assistant Heng Sarin. With Sarin’s help, Quinlan starts asking questions about Avery. Although most people aren’t willing to talk, the two sleuths do learn a few things. One is that Avery had been involved in some shady deals with the wrong people. That in itself put him in danger. What’s more, he claimed to know where there was a hidden cache of gold. That too made him the target of some people who are not afraid to kill for that much wealth. Quinlan and Sarin trace Avery to northern Cambodia, where the gold is supposedly hidden, if it even exists. The closer they get to the truth of that rumour, as well as the truth about Avery, the more in danger Quinlan and Sarin are. There are some very powerful people who are not at all concerned about having these two killed to keep the truth about the gold and about Avery secret. This novel also weaves in another ‘execution’ theme – the execution-style murders of millions of people that the Khmer Rouge saw as ‘enemies’ or ‘threats.’
So, you see? It’s important to be careful about the company you keep. The old saying is, ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer.’ Especially if they have weapons. So…Shall we talk some business? I know a guy who knows a guy… ;-)