Here Comes the Rain Again*

The umbrella you see in the ‘photo is one of those that shade the chairs at the pool in my residential community.  A windstorm blew it over, and that got me to thinking about what happens when wind and rainstorms come along. Of course, there’s often damage, but there’s more, too.

In crime fiction, storms and other weather extremes can uncover bodies that have been hidden – sometimes for a while. And that can offer all sorts of possibilities for crime writers. Here are just a few examples; I know you’ll think of others.

In Peter Robinson’s In a Dry Season, a drought has uncovered the long-buried Yorkshire village of Hobbs End. And Adam Kelly is determined to explore the village, which he believes is a magic place. He’s looking for something he calls the Talisman. Instead, he finds the skeleton of a human hand. Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Alan Banks and his team investigate. The body turns out to belong to Gloria Stringer, who seems to have been killed at the end of World War II. Now, Banks and his team have to trace her history and find out who would have wanted to kill her. And it turns out that this murder still has ramifications, decades later.

That’s the case in Elly Griffiths’ The House at Sea’s End, too. In that novel, coastal erosion has led to the discovery of six unidentified bodies. The University of North Norfolk’s Head of Forensic Archaeology, Ruth Galloway, is called in to see what she can find out about the remains. She finds that the bodies belong to a group of Germans who died during World War II. But it’s soon clear that someone doesn’t want the truth about their deaths to come to light. First, a Home Guard veteran named Archie Whitcliffe is murdered after he reveals the existence of a secret about a group of soldiers from that eras. Then, a German journalist, Dieter Eckhart, who’s doing a story about a wartime operation in the area, is also killed. Now, Inspector Harry Nelson has to find out who the killer is before there are any more deaths.

Priscilla Masters’ River Deep begins as the River Severn overflows its banks, flooding the local Shrewsbury area. When the river pours into one particular basement, the body of a man floats out of it. James Humphreys, who owns the house, claims not to know who the dead man is nor what he’s doing in the basement. What’s more, he has a credible alibi for the time of the murder. DI Alex Randall and his team begin the process of trying to find out who the dead man was. At first, they think it may be Clarke Haddonfield, who’s in the same age group and was reported missing by his family. But the body isn’t Haddonfield. It turns out to be Gerald Bosworth. Now, Martha Gunn, who is Coroner for Shrewsbury, has several questions. Who killed Gerald Bosworth? Where is Clarke Haddonfield? And are those two events related? Gunn’s role as Coroner precludes her from conducting an investigation or getting too close to what the police are doing. But in her own way, she looks into the matter; and, in the end, she finds out how the lives of all three men intersect.

Sister Carol Anne O’Marie introduces her sleuth, Sister Mary Helen, in A Novena For Murder. In that novel, Sister Mary Helen has retired from her Order. But she’s not yet ready to be put out to pasture, as the saying goes. So, she trades in her habit for modern clothes, and takes a teaching position at San Francisco’s Mount Saint Francis College for Women. She’s just started her new job when an earthquake hits the area. The college remains intact, but one of the faculty members, Professor Villanueva, is killed. At first, it looks as though it was a terrible accident caused by the quake. But it’s not long before it’s established that the professor was murdered. The assistant cook, a young man named Leonel, is suspected and is soon arrested. But Sister Mary Helen doesn’t think he’s guilty. And she’s determined to find out the truth.

And then there’s Jane Woodham’s Twister. Five days of drenching rain have soaked Dunedin. Then, a twister comes through the area, making matters that much worse. As if that’s not enough, there’s been an epidemic of ‘flu in the area, so, many businesses, including the police, have skeleton staffs. The storm and twister uncover the body of Tracey Wenlock, who’s been missing for two weeks. Now, the police have the thankless task of informing the girl’s family of her death, and of hunting for her killer. Because of the ‘flu epidemic, the only one available to head an investigation team is Detective Senior Sergeant (DSS) Leo Judd, who’s still coping with the loss of his own daughter, Beth, nine years earlier. She was never found, and Leo and Kate Judd have never recovered. Still, Judd does the best he can with this new investigation. In the end, the two plot strands intersect, and we learn what happened to both girls.

And that’s the thing about weather events like windstorms, rain and so on. Sometimes they uncover a lot more than we think they will. These are just a few examples. Your turn.


*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by the Eurythmics.


Filed under Elly Griffiths, Jane Woodham, Peter Robinson, Priscilla Masters, Sister Carol Anne O'Marie

18 responses to “Here Comes the Rain Again*

  1. Very apt for British crime lovers as there is invariably mention of weather of some description! I’m now off to check out River Deep which not only sounds great but is also set further along the Severn from the area I k.ow well

    • Oh, that’s a good series, Cleo; Masters is a skilled writer. If you try that one, I hope you’ll enjoy it, especially as it’s in an area not far from an area you know well. And yes, weather really does feature a lot in British crime fiction!

  2. Col

    Pretty sure the Robinson book sits ignored on the TBR pile. Twister sounds interesting too.

  3. I see several new to me books to add to my TBR list. The weather really does add a new twist to a story.

  4. Egads! No Christie in this posting? Hmmmm.

  5. I love reading about and writing weather complications in mysteries! Just that impish bit of chaos to ramp up the suspense…. *wink*

    • Ha! I know exactly what you mean, Kathy! It is interesting to add in that wrinkle, isn’t it? Not very nice to the characters, perhaps 😉 , but it does ramp up the suspense…

  6. I see you have one about a body floating out of a flooded basement – I’ll add one where a body floats into a cellar during a flood. Gillian White’s The Sleeper involves a rather trying Christmas on a farm, where poor Clover Moon has to cope not only with the aforesaid body but with a disapproving mother-in-law, a failing marriage, and someone threatening to kill her. Ho! Ho! Ho!

    • Happy Christmas, indeed, FictionFan! I admit I’ve not yet read that one, but it’s a perfect example of what I had in mind with this. I’m glad you mentioned it. Certainly not the way I’d want to spend a major holiday!

  7. I love rain, Margot, although I like to be indoors when it is raining. I have had A Novena For Murder forever and have not read it yet. Really need to get to it.

    • I know what you mean, Tracy. There are so many books that I would love to get to that I just haven’t gotten to yet. There’s never enough time in the day. And I love rain, too. It’s especially precious when you live in a place where there isn’t much of it.

  8. kathyd

    Nothing like a rainy day for curling up with tea and a good mystery, especially if thunder and lightning are striking outside. I like weather phenomena in a mystery. However, I don’t like it as a plot device which helps nail the guilty and aid the detectives. Like lightning suddenly strikes the perpetrator or lights up the sky so he/she can be seen. Or an earthquake suddenly occurs, splitting the villain from the good guys. (Is this weather?) Writers have to take care with weather events so the coincidence of a severe storm helps to catch the culprit.
    There is bad weather in the latest Nevada Barr book, Boar Island. It doesn’t play a role in the capture of the bad people, but it’s quite dramatic.

    • I know what you mean about curling up with a book on a rainy day, Kathy. I really like doing that, too. As you say, though, when weather is in a story, the author does have to take care to make it believable and realistic. Otherwise it stretches credibility very much too far. And that takes away from the story.

  9. One of Reginald Hill’s Dalziel books, On Beulah Height, has a haunting plotline about a village that was flooded to create a reservoir: years later the hot weather is lowering the level of the water: we can all guess that something is going to be revealed. It is one of Hill’s best books, sad and memorable.

    • It is, indeed, Moira. Trust you to suggest such a perfect fit for this post – thank you. One of the things I like about this book (and Hill’s work in general) is the way things are brought to the human level. And that certainly happens here.

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