It may be because of human biorhythms, the benefits of sleep, or our instinctive feeling of greater safety during daylight, but very often, things just seem better when the morning comes. I’ll bet you’ve thought or been told that ‘It’ll all look different in the morning.’ And quite often it does. Now admittedly, not everyone is a ‘morning person.’ Still, there is often greater optimism in the morning whether you’re a ‘morning person’ or a ‘night owl.’ That sense that things will be better in the morning has seeped into crime fiction too.
For example, in Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Red-Headed League, pawnbroker Jabez Wilson has brought a very odd mystery to Sherlock Holmes. He was offered an easy but unusual job by a group calling itself the Red-Headed League. All Wilson had to do was copy the Encyclopaedia Britannica. So long as he didn’t leave the office during his work hours he was promised decent pay for what seemed like little effort. At first all went well. Wilson was able to leave his pawn business to his assistant for a few hours each day and earn extra income. What puzzles and worries him though is that The Red Headed-League suddenly disbanded, leaving no-one in its offices. Holmes and Dr. Watson investigate, and Holmes discovers that the whole thing was a plot to get Wilson out of his pawn shop so that it could be used to tunnel into a nearby bank. Once that discovery is made, Holmes, Watson and the bank manager spend a long and uncomfortable night waiting for the bank robbers to make their move. They do, and the ringleader is duly caught. It all looks better though as the morning comes and Holmes explains to Watson what his thinking was.
It all looks better in the morning in Agatha Christie’s The Murder on the Links, too. In that novel, Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings travel to Merlinville-sur-Mer at the request of Paul Renauld. Renauld has claimed that his life is in danger because of a secret he possesses, and he wants Poirot to come to his assistance. By the time that happens though, it’s too late: Renauld has been stabbed on the grounds of his own property. Bit by bit, Poirot uncovers Renauld’s past history as well as several possible motives for his murder. Eventually Poirot finds out who the killer is, and he and Hastings set up an all-night vigil at the Renauld home to catch that person. With important help from a rather enigmatic young acrobat who calls herself Cinderella, the killer is stopped. It’s all quite traumatic and exhausting though, and no-one is willing to answer Hastings’ questions about what really happened. But it all looks better in the morning when Hastings wakes up.
‘I awoke to find the sun pouring in through the open windows and Poirot, neat and smiling, sitting beside the bed.’
Among other good things, Hastings gets an explanation for everything that went on the night before.
Scott Young’s Murder in a Cold Climate introduces readers to Matthew ‘Matteesie’ Kitologitak of the RCMP. He’s planning to travel from Inuvik back to Ottawa where he lives when he gets a call that drastically changes his plans. Three men believed to be involved in drugs trafficking have disappeared along with the Cessna they had chartered. Matteesie’s boss thinks that it’s possible the men have deliberately lost themselves. It’s also of course possible that their Cessna went down and they’ve been injured or killed. Either way, the Cessna’s owner wants to know what happened to his plane, and of course, the RCMP wants to know about any drugs trafficking in the Northwest Territories. Matteesie agrees to see what he can find out. He’s soon caught up in a murder investigation though, when he takes the same flight from Inuvik as Native activist Morton Cavendish, who’s on his way to Edmonton for emergency medical care. When the plane makes a stop at Norman Wells, a gunman forces his way onto the plane and shoots Cavendish. Matteesie begins to investigate the murder while he’s still trying to look into the downed Cessna. It turns out that the two cases are related and it all comes together during an overnight snowmobile trip that Matteesie takes into the Arctic bush. He gets his answers, but the night is long, dangerous and cold and even though Matteesie is experienced, he’s still at risk. It all looks better when daylight comes the next day though. Some friends he’s made along the way come looking for him and in the end, he returns safely to Fort Norman.
Lilian Jackson Braun’s journalist sleuth James ‘Qwill’ Qwilleran travels to Breakfast Island (AKA Providence Island, Grand Island and Pear Island) in The Cat Who Came to Breakfast. A friend who owns a B & B on the island has asked Qwill to look into some odd incidents of what look like sabotage. Qwill is persuaded to go and soon takes up residence at the Domino Inn. He discovers that there’s a long-standing feud between the island’s natives and developers who are building upmarket hotels and shops. There’s also a group of wealthy summer visitors who have their own island culture. In the midst of this tension, some upsetting things begin to happen. There’s a food poisoning, a drowning, a boat explosion, and a shooting. Qwill puts the pieces of the puzzle together, but in the meantime, new trouble comes in the form of a terrible storm that strikes the island. It’s an awful night when the storm hits, and everyone is badly shaken. They are especially glad when morning finally comes and the sun shines.
In Anthony Bidulka’s Flight of Aquavit, Daniel Guest hires Saskatoon PI Russell Quant to find out who’s been blackmailing him. Guest is a successful business executive who’s been married for several years. But he’s also had some trysts with other men, and someone’s found out about his secret life. Quant would rather see Guest come out as gay, but Guest isn’t willing to do that. So Quant looks into the matter. Someone doesn’t want any interference though. Soon enough, there’s a murder. Quant’s investigating that when he and his friend Jared Lowe are ambushed and abandoned in the middle of nowhere, as the saying goes. This is Saskatchewan just before Christmas, so the danger of death by exposure is immediate and real. Still, the two men manage to find some shelter and get through the night alive. Everything starts to look better the next morning though. The two men even find a shack where they can keep warm. Still, Lowe’s been wounded and Quant’s not in exactly perfect shape himself. So both men are glad when Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) Officer Darren Kirsch arrives:
‘Despite our history of congenial dislike, I was never so glad to see someone as I was that Christmas Eve morning to see Darren Kirsch, coming through the door of that shack with two RCMP officers at his heels.’
There are still one or two ‘loose ends’ in the case, but the coming of that particular morning makes it all seem better.
Some dangerous, scary things happen during the night in crime novels. Little wonder that even those who aren’t ‘morning people’ can be very happy to see the sun come up.
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush.