Are you a morning person? Many cops find that they have to get used to the early morning, even if they aren’t fond of it. It’s interesting (although I don’t think surprising) how many fictional calls-to-the-scene take place early in the morning. Little wonder fictional sleuths don’t always get a lot of sleep…
Arthur Conan Doyle’s Dr. Watson may be accustomed to odd hours, being a doctor, but his schedule is quite normal compared to that of his friend Sherlock Holmes. And Watson gets roused awfully early more than once. In The Adventure of the Abbey Grange for instance, Watson is awakened early on a winter morning with a very famous crime-fictional line:
‘‘Come, Watson, come!’ he cried. ‘The game is afoot. Not a word! Into your clothes and come!’’
The reason for Holmes’ urgency is that he’s received word (at not long after 3:30 am, no less!) that Sir Eustace Brackenstall has been killed. It looks very much as though this is a case of a burglary gone wrong and that the notorious Randall gang is responsible. But Holmes doesn’t think so. And when it’s found that the Randall gang was nowhere near the Brackenstall home at the time of the murder, Holmes is proven right.
In Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders, Hercule Poirot, Chief Inspector Japp and several groups of local police get involved in a case that looks very much like the work of a serial killer. First, Alice Ascher is found murdered in the newsagent’s shop she keeps. Then, coffee shop waitress Betty Barnard is found strangled with her own belt on the beach one morning. A man’s up early walking his dog when the dog discovers her body. Now the case begins to get a lot of attention, and when the body of Sir Carmichael Clarke is found, everyone’s sure that there’s a deranged murderer on the loose. Poirot discovers that the case is neither as simple nor as complicated as that, but for a time, there’s a real fear that
‘He may be in YOUR town.’
Of course, one has to feel for the Colonel whose dog discovers Betty Barnard’s body. All he wanted to do was take a morning walk…
In Gail Bowen’s The Wandering Souls Murders, political scientist and academic Joanne Kilbourn gets a disturbing early-morning call. Her daughter Mieka has just discovered the body of seventeen-year-old Bernice Morin in a trash bin outside her catering shop. Mieka is understandably badly shaken, especially since Bernice was one of her employees. The police assume that this murder is the work of the same person who’s committed other murders in the area – a group of killings the police call the Little Flower murders. So this death is investigated at first in that way. Meanwhile, Kilbourn is busy with other matters, especially Mieka’s upcoming wedding. Still, she finds it hard to forget this victim. Then, her son Peter’s ex-girlfriend Christy Sinclair comes back into their lives, even saying she and Peter are back together. When Christy tragically drowns in what looks like a suicide, Kilbourn begins to believe that something more is going on. In the end, these events are all tied up with Christy’s past and some secrets that she was keeping.
Camilla Läckberg’s The Ice Princess introduces us to writer Erica Falck. In this, the first novel of the series, she’s just returned from Stockholm to her family home in Fjällbacka. Her parents have died and she’s planning to sort out their things and arrange for what will happen with their house. Early one morning, she’s taking a walk to clear her head when she’s stopped by a neighbour Eilert Berg. He, too, was out for a walk when he stopped at the weekend home of Alexandra ‘Alex’ Wijkner to check on it in her absence. To his terrible shock he’s found Alex’s body in the bathtub. At first it looks as though she has committed suicide. But the death is soon proven to be murder, so police officer Patrik Hedström begins to investigate it that way. As he’s interviewing the victim’s friends, family members and the like, Erica is doing her own investigation. She and Alex were best friends when they were girls, but hadn’t seen each other for twenty-five years. Erica decides to write a biography of Alex as a way of getting to know the woman that her girlhood friend had become. Slowly, each in a different way, the two sleuths get to the truth about what really happened to Alex Wijkner and why.
Fans of Andrea Camilleri will know that his novels always begin in the morning. Inspector Salvo Montalbano isn’t a fan of being called to a case early, but it happens often enough. For instance, in The Wings of the Sphinx, he’s just finished showering when he’s interrupted by a call from Sergeant Catarella.
‘‘Chief, whadd I do, wake y’up?’
‘No, Cat, I was awake.’
‘You sure sure ‘bout that, Chief? Yer not jess sayin’ ‘at to be nice?’
‘No, you needn’t worry. What is it?’
‘Chief, what else would it be if I’m callin’ you foist ting in the morning?’
‘Cat, do you realize that you never call to give me any good news?’’
And this morning is no exception. Catarella tells his boss that the body of an unknown young woman has been found near a landfill. The only way of identifying her is that she has a tattoo on her shoulder. Her death turns out to be connected to a group of Eastern European women who’d come to Sicily to look for work. It’s also linked to corruption in a social services agency.
Even sleuths who aren’t fond of early mornings end up having to get used to that time of day. As crime fiction shows us, it’s a busy time for discovering bodies…
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Sublime’s What I Got.