Category Archives: Agatha Christie

You Had to Open Up Your Mouth*

LooseLipsThere’s wisdom to the old wartime saying, ‘Loose lips sink ships.’ A person may mean well, and may even agree to keep quiet about something. But the right setting, the right atmosphere and the right confidant can get people to say things they otherwise might not. And there are those who enjoy the feeling of seeming important – to whom boasting might come naturally.

In crime fiction, anyway, saying too much can get a person into real trouble. For the police, it can put an investigation in jeopardy. For a criminal, it can lead to getting caught. And in any case, it can lead to murder.

For example, in Agatha Christie’s Hallowe’en Party, we are introduced to twelve-year-old Joyce Reynolds. She and several other people are at the home of Rowena Drake one afternoon, getting ready for a Hallowe’en party to be held there that night. One of the others at that gathering is detective story writer Ariadne Oliver, who’s staying locally with a friend. When Joyce finds out who Mrs. Oliver is, she boasts that she herself saw a murder. Nobody believes her, and at first everyone hushes her up. But Joyce continues to insist that she’s telling the truth. Many people there put those remarks down to the efforts of a young girl to get the attention of a famous writer. But that evening, during the party, Joyce is murdered. Mrs. Oliver asks Hercule Poirot to look into the matter, and he travels to the village of Woodleigh Common to do so. It now seems clear that what Joyce said got someone frightened enough to kill, and that the peaceful town may very well be hiding a murderer.

In Arnaldur Indriðason’s Jar City, Reykjavík police inspector Erlendur and his team investigate the murder of a seemingly harmless older man named Holberg. At first, the case looks like a home invasion gone very wrong. But a few clues suggest that this was a deliberate killing. If that’s the case, then the more the team members know about Holberg, the more likely they are to find his killer. So they start to dig into the victim’s past. What they find is not at all pleasant, either. It turns out that Holberg has a history that includes multiple rapes. To check up on this, they have a conversation with a man named Ellidi, who’s been in regular trouble with the law and is currently in prison. Ellidi has this to say about Holberg:
 

‘Holberg liked talking about it [one particular rape incident]. Boasted. Got away with it.’
 

It soon turns out that more than one person could easily have wanted Holberg dead.

Gail Bowen’s A Killing Spring features her sleuth, Joanne Kilbourn, who is an academician and political scientist. In one plot thread of this novel, she is concerned about a student of hers, Kellee Savage, who has missed several classes lately. The last time anyone saw Kellee was one night when several students were at a local bar. The evening ended in disaster when someone noticed that Kellee had secretly been recording everyone’s conversation. Kilbourn follows up on what happened that night, and what was said. It turns out that Kellee had been drinking heavily, and said some things that would have been far better left unsaid. Later, those comments have their consequences.

Tonino Benacquista’s Badfellas concerns Fred and Maggie Blake and their two children, ex-pat Americans who have moved to a small town in Normandy. As we learn, though, the Blakes are not the people they seem. Fred Blake is really Giovanni Manzoni, a former member of the New Jersey Mafia. In return for testifying against his fellow gangsters, Manzoni was placed in the US Federal Witness Protection Program, along with the members of his family. Because of the sensitive and dangerous nature of what’s happened, it’s vital that all of the ‘Blakes’ keep quiet about everything related to that part of their lives. And at first, all goes well enough, although there’s plenty of ‘culture shock’ as they get used to living in Normandy. Then, the ‘rule of silence’ is broken, and word of the family’s whereabouts gets back to New Jersey. Now, getting along in a different country is the least of the family’s troubles.

In Donna Malane’s Surrender, missing person expert Diane Rowe learns of the murder of James Patrick ‘Snow’ Wilson. This death has special significance for her, because it’s suspected that Snow killed Rowe’s sister Niki a year earlier. Before his death, that suspicion was confirmed. Snow confessed that he’d been hired to commit that murder; he even boasted of his skill. Now he’s been killed in the same way. Rowe reasons that if she can find out who hired (and, presumably, killed) Snow, she’ll also learn who paid Snow to kill her sister.

And then there’s David Whish-Wilson’s Zero At the Bone, the second of his novels featuring former Perth Police Superintendent Frank Swann. It’s the late 1970’s, and Swann is dealing with the fallout from events in the first novel (Line of Sight  – recommended, by the way). One of the consequences of that fallout is that he’s not working as a copper. In one plot thread of this novel, another former police officer, Percy Dickson, hires Swann to help him get to the truth about a series of robberies. Dickson is head of security at one local department store, and consults with several others, and with some local jewelers. So for him, a series of robberies like this will mean the end of his job. Swann agrees to look into the matter, and in fact, finds out the truth about the thieves. This particular truth is very dangerous, though, and Dickson is under strict orders not to say anything to anyone about how the stolen merchandise was recovered, or even that the case has been solved. Unfortunately for both Dickson and Swann, Dickson makes mention of it to the wrong people…

And that’s the problem with unguarded words, whether they’re casual comments, boasts, drunken remarks, or things said in anger. They can get people in a lot of trouble. These are only a few examples; over to you.

 

 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Billy Joel’s Big Shot.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Arnaldur Indriðason, David Whish-Wilson, Donna Malane, Gail Bowen, Tonino Benacquista

Was I So Unwise*

Unwise ChoicesI’m sure you’ve had those moments. Someone you know, who’s otherwise an intelligent person, is doing something really foolish. You may even think (or say), ‘How can you be so stupid?’

There are lots of reasons why smart people do stupid things. All sorts of factors (denial, greed, and fear being a few) play roles in what we do; intelligence is only one of them. We all have those ‘blind spots’ though. And in crime fiction, when smart people make foolish choices, the result can bring real trouble. This sort of plot thread has to be done carefully; otherwise, it takes away from a character’s credibility, and can pull a reader out of a story. Still, when it’s done well, it can make for a solid layer of suspense and character development.

For instance, in Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Red-Headed League, we are introduced to pawn shop owner Mr. Jabez Wilson. One day he visits Sherlock Holmes, bringing with him an unusual story. His assistant showed him a newspaper advertisement placed by the Red-Headed League, inviting red-headed men to apply for membership in the group, and for a job. Wilson went along to apply, and was chosen for the job. It turned the work was easy, too: copying the Encyclopaedia Britannica. The only stipulation was that he was not to leave his work during ‘office hours.’ Then one day, Wilson went to his new job only to find the building locked and a sign indicating that the Red-Headed League was disbanded. He wants Holmes to help him solve the mysteries behind these weird occurrences, and Holmes agrees. Wilson isn’t a particularly stupid person (although he could be accused of being a bit credulous). But he seems to have had a sort of ‘blind spot’ about this job, which turns out to be connected to a gang of robbers who wanted to use his pawn shop to tunnel into a nearby bank.

In Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Hercule Poirot retires (or so he thinks) to the village of King’s Abbot. He is soon drawn into a case of murder, though, when retired manufacturing magnate Roger Ackroyd is stabbed in his study. The most likely suspect is his stepson Ralph Paton. Not only had the two quarreled about money, but also, Paton went missing shortly after the murder and hasn’t been seen since. But Paton’s fiancée Flora Ackroyd doesn’t believe he’s guilty, and she asks Poirot to investigate. Ackroyd was a wealthy man, so there are plenty of suspects, one of whom is his widowed sister-in-law (and Flora’s mother). It turns out that each of these suspects is hiding something, and in the case of Mrs. Ackroyd, it’s a stupid decision on the part of an otherwise smart enough woman. She was eager for money, and Ackroyd wasn’t exactly a generous person. She ran up bills she couldn’t afford to pay, and became a victim of some unscrupulous moneylenders.

There’s a chilling example of smart people doing very unwise things in Ruth Rendell’s A Judgement in Stone. George and Jacqueline Coverdale are well off and well educated. You wouldn’t think they’d do a lot of foolish things. But when they decide to hire a housekeeper, Jacqueline does a very stupid thing indeed. She hires Eunice Parchman without doing any real checking into her background, her previous experience, or much of anything else. Still, Eunice settles in and at first, all goes well enough. But Eunice has a secret – one she will go to any lengths to keep from her employers. When that secret accidentally comes out one day, the result is tragic for everyone. And it all might have been prevented if Jacqueline had done a little background checking before making her hiring decision.

In Linwood Barclay’s Bad Move, we meet science fiction writer Zack Walker and his journalist wife Sarah. Walker is concerned about the family’s safety, and decides that they’d be better off moving from the city to a safer, suburban home. The cost of living is lower, the amenities are better, and so he convinces his wife to make the move. All goes well enough at the very beginning, although the children aren’t happy. But then one day, Walker goes to the main sales office of their new housing development to complain about some needed repairs to the home. During his visit, he witnesses an argument between one of the sales executives and local environmentalist Samuel Spender. Later, Walker finds Spender’s body in a nearby creek. He calls the police, who interview him – a wise enough decision. But then, one day during a shopping trip with his wife, Walker accidentally discovers a handbag left in a supermarket cart. He thinks it belongs to his wife, and takes it, only later discovering that it doesn’t belong to her. Instead of taking it back to the supermarket or to the police, Walker keeps it, hoping to return it to the owner himself. And that gets him more and more deeply involved in a tangled case of fraud and murder. In the end, his family gets in much more danger in the suburbs than they ever did in the city.

And then there’s Donna Leon’s A Question of Belief. In one plot thread of that novel, Ispettore Lorenzo Vianello has gotten concerned about his aunt, Zia Anita. An otherwise intelligent woman, she’s been behaving oddly lately. For one thing, she’s taken what Vianello thinks is an unhealthy interest in astrology. As if that’s not enough, she’s been withdrawing money from the family business and giving it to a man called Stefano Gorini. The money is hers to do with as she wishes, so she’s not stealing it. But the family is worried about the choices she’s making. Vianello asks his boss, Commissario Guido Brunetti, to look into the matter, and Brunetti agrees. He does some background checking on Gorini, and finds that the man has been in trouble with the law before. In fact, he lost his medical license. Now he’s back in business again, promising ‘miracle’ cures that he can’t deliver. In this case, Zia Anita wants so badly to believe in Gorini that she’s made some very unwise choices.

And that’s the thing. Even the smartest of us sometimes have ‘blind spots,’ and make some very foolish choices. The consequences aren’t always drastic, although they can be embarrassing. But sometimes, they’re devastating.

ps. You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned the many crime novels in which otherwise intelligent people make really stupid romantic choices. Too easy.

 

 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from The Beatles’ The Night Before.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Donna Leon, Linwood Barclay, Ruth Rendell

Things Are Going Great, and They’re Only Getting Better*

Multimedia and Other DevelopmentsWhen most of us think of reading a story or novel, we think about opening a book or clicking on an ebook link and reading, turning or swiping pages as we go. Lots of people also experience stories by listening to them, too, either through podcasts or as audio books. Those traditions (reading in the ‘regular’ way and listening to stories) have been with us for a very long time.

But times change. So does technology. So does our knowledge of how people learn from what they read, and how young people read. And this means that the options for experiencing stories are changing, too. This is a broad topic, so I won’t be able to do justice to it in one post. Hopefully these few examples will suffice to show you what I mean.

One of the many changes we’ve seen in the last years is the availability of crime fiction classics in graphic novel form. Several of Agatha Christie’s novels, for instance, have been re-published as graphic novels. For instance, Ordeal by Innocence is, as Christie fans will know, the story of the murder of Rachel Argyle. Her adopted son Jacko was arrested, tried and convicted in connection with the killing, and died in prison. Two years later, Dr. Arthur Calgary visits the Argyle home, Sunnyside, with news he thinks will please the family. He can conclusively prove that Jacko Argyle was not a murderer. He wasn’t able to give evidence at the trial, because he had amnesia. But he wants to put things right now. Far from being grateful to Calgary, the family members don’t want this case brought up again. They know that if Jacko was innocent, then one of them is a murderer. This novel, and others by Christie, have been recast as graphic novels by Chandre, and many people find them enjoyable. What’s more, research suggests that, for struggling and reluctant young readers, graphic novels can provide an important way to experience a story and build reading skills.

Several of Arthur Conan Doyle’s works have also been adapted as graphic novels. One of those is The Hound of the Baskervilles, adapted by J.R. Parks and Vinod Kumar. That classic story of a supposed family curse, and mysterious deaths associated with it, has been one of Conan Doyle’s more popular Sherlock Holmes stories. And it was one of only four full-length Holmes novels. Many people argue that making this and the other Holmes stories available in graphic form helps interest new generations in the Holmes canon. And, as I say, there is research that supports such formats, especially for struggling and reluctant readers, as well as those who are language learners.

It’s not just a matter of graphic novels, either. The ‘photo you see is of a video game version of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. In that game, players take on the role of a character who ends up on Indian Island with the ten people Christie depicts in the novel. As the story goes on, the player’s task is to find the clues and discover who’s responsible for the killings that take place. The game permits the user to ‘travel’ from room to room, ‘talk’ with the various characters and so on. And this isn’t even the most updated of video games. Christie’s The ABC Murders, for instance, is available for both Playstation and X-Box users.  The modern gaming industry has made possible a whole new way of experiencing a classic story.

Stories can also be published, co-written, shared and so on – on telephones. Apps such as Wattpad allow readers to experience a story on any device that can host the app.  Such apps are flexible, too, allowing authors to make changes or add to a story instantly. They can write a story a little at a time, much like stories told in serial form in newspapers and magazines. My Wattpad account is right here, so you can see what Wattpad is like.

And it doesn’t stop there. Twitter users will know that there are stories written in the 140-character-at-a-time-format, and then sent out to Twitter followers. This allows for a lot of flexibility, too, since Twitter allows one to include a ‘photo or video as part of a tweet.

In fact, so does Wattpad (and it’s not the only app with this capability). Certain apps allow the author to integrate ‘photos, videos and audios, so as to make stories multimedia experiences. And there is logic to it. Research has shown for years (to my satisfaction, anyway) that we don’t just think and know in one way. We all have different intelligences, as Howard Gardner puts it. Those intelligences include visual and musical as well as linguistic. If that’s true, so the logic would dictate, why not provide a story that allows the reader to follow the plot on more than one cognitive level?

Not everyone is happy with these new developments, though. There are questions, for instance, about how such new formats help young people build actual reading fluency. And for many people, there is nothing like the feeling of opening a paper book and reading the words, letting their imaginations fill in the gaps. Others have concerns about ‘watering down’ books by adding multimedia elements. Still others wonder about things like focus and attention spans if young people don’t experience books as they were originally written.

What do you think of all of this possibility? Is a story still a story if it’s told in a multimedia format? In the form of a video game? If you’re a writer, what do you think the implications are for your work? It may not just be a matter of deciding whom you’d like to play the role of your main character in a TV or film adaptation. For the author, this could mean working with game developers, graphic artists and others in the visual arts field to add different components to your stories. On the one hand, wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to add a video of, say, a rainstorm or ocean if that’s the context for your story? Or a street map? On the other, is that necessary? Or even desirable? It’s certainly not a settled matter, but, technology being what it is, I doubt it will go away soon.

 

 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Timbuk-3’s The Future’s So Bright (I Gotta Wear Shades).

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle

And You Said You Had to Get Your Laundry Clean*

LaundryThere comes a time when it just has to be done. You know what I mean: the laundry. You can only let it pile up so much before you run out of things to wear. And most of us don’t have the means to replace our clothes every week or so. Laundry really is an integral part of our lives, so of course, it’s there in fiction, too. Don’t believe me? Check out this terrific post by Moira at Clothes in Books. It’s all about hanging out clothes to dry. And while you’re there, do have a look at the rest of Moira’s excellent blog. It’s the source for great discussions of clothes and culture in books, and what it all has to say about us.

In fact, that post got me thinking about laundry and washing in crime fiction. There are lots of examples of it, so space won’t allow me to mention them all. But here are a few (and you thought you were the only one stuck washing the clothes).

In Agatha Christie’s A Pocket Full of Rye, wealthy Rex Fortescue is poisoned, and Inspector Neele is assigned to the case. He begins, as is logical, with the family members. And to say the least, there are plenty of motives there, as the family was not a happy one. But those motives don’t explain the pile of rye seeds found in his pocket. Neele is trying to make progress on the case when there’s another murder. This time, it’s the housemaid, Gladys Martin. She goes missing and is later found outdoors with the laundry that’s ready to be brought in. She’s been strangled, and a clothes-peg left on her nose. When Miss Marple learns of this, she’s particularly upset, because Gladys used to work for her. So she takes an interest in the case, and helps Inspector Neele find out who the killer is.

We are introduced to Catriona McPherson’s 1920’s sleuth Dandelion ‘Dandy’ Gilver in Dandy Gilver and The Proper Treatment of Bloodstains. Walburga ‘Lollie’ Balfour is afraid her husband Philip ‘Pip’ is trying to kill her. So she hires Dandy to look into the situation and, of course, try to prevent the murder. In order to allay any suspicion, Dandy takes an undercover job as a housemaid, and gets started with her investigation. Late on Dandy’s first night at the house, Pip is stabbed. His body is found the next morning when one of the maids takes his tea in to him. As Dandy gets to know the various members of the household, she finds that there are several suspects. There’s her client, for one thing. And it comes out that the victim was abusive and cruel to his staff, so more than one of them could be the killer. In one interesting scene, Dandy hears the noise of running water coming from the laundry room. When she goes in, she sees the maid who brought the victim’s tea desperately trying to wash blood out of her clothes. Dandy isn’t sure the maid is the killer, so she takes a very practical approach to the matter:
 

‘’Apart from anything else, Miss Etheldreda, hot water sets a bloodstain so nothing will ever shift it. A cold water and salt soak is what’s needed.’’
 

It gives her the chance to really see how much (if any) blood there is.

In Kerry Greenwood’s Unnatural Habits, Phryne Fisher gets involved in a mystery surrounding a laundry. Abbotsford Convent, Melbourne, runs the Magdalen laundry. Originally conceived as a place where girls who were seen as needing more support and discipline were taken in, the laundry is not at all a pleasant place to be. Working there is supposed to teach these girls domestic skills and give them a way to earn a living, but there are stories that conditions there are deplorable. Journalist Margaret ‘Polly’ Kettle has learned that three Magdalen girls have disappeared, and is interested in the story. Evidence from the girls’ families suggests they didn’t run away to return home. There’s also the fact that all three of them were pregnant. It’s a strange case, and Phryne decides to see what she can do to help. Then, Polly Kettle herself goes missing. Now the case gets more sinister, and Phryne digs more deeply into what’s going on behind the tightly closed doors of the laundry.

With all of that danger connected with doing laundry, it might be better to send it out. But that’s no guarantee, either. For instance, there’s Ben Hecht’s short story, The Mystery of the Fabulous Laundryman. Journalist Dick McCarey tells a bizarre story to a friend of his – a former reporter himself. The story concerns a Harlem (New York) laundryman named Meyer who did business in the area for ten years. He had his laundry in the basement of the building where he lived, and led a very quiet life. One day he’s found dead in his rented room. He’s been shot, and one of his hands is missing. The odd thing about this case is that the victim had an obsession with security. He always bolted his doors and barred his windows, and they’re found that way when the body is discovered. It’s a ‘locked room’ mystery with a fascinating explanation. To add to the interest here, this is Hecht’s fictional account of a real-life case: the 1929 murder of Isodore Fink. Also a laundryman, Fink was murdered and his body found in his bolted room. That case was never solved, so it’s not surprising that crime writers would find it irresistible.

And then there’s Claire M. Johnson’s Beat Until Stiff. Mary Ryan is the pastry chef at American Fare, a trendy, upmarket San Francisco restaurant. Early one morning, she goes to the restaurant to start preparations for an elaborate party to be held there that evening. When she goes into the laundry room to get a chef’s jacket, she finds a body in one of the laundry bags used by the restaurant’s laundry service. The victim is Carlos Perez, one of Ryan’s assistants. Then, there’s another murder. This time, the body is left at Ryan’s own home. Is someone trying to sabotage the restaurant? Or is this a more personal sort of case – someone trying to frame Ryan? You see? Even when you’re not doing the laundry yourself, there can still be a lot of trouble.

There are lots of other crime novels, too, where clues come from laundry marks, or where characters try to clean off evidence from their clothes. It just goes to show you that doing laundry is a dirty business…

Thanks, Moira, for the inspiration!

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Matthew Wilder’s Break My Stride.  

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Ben Hecht, Catriona McPherson, Claire M. Johnson, Kerry Greenwood

All Day Long, Wearing a Mask of False Bravado*

Hiding Behind MasksWe all wear masks, if you think about it. A person may be honest and straightforward, for instance, in business, but does anyone really need to know about the knee-knocking fear that person feels every time a major presentation comes up? When people go on first dates, they want everything to go smoothly and to make a good first impression. So, they take pains with appearance, try to keep the conversation to things they know about, and so on.

Sometimes those masks are deliberately deceptive of course. We’ve all read stories, both real and fictional, of people who pretend to be something they most definitely aren’t. More often, though, the masks we wear are meant to preserve privacy or to hide our insecurities and weaknesses. Because that’s such a human thing to do, it’s no surprise that we see it in crime fiction, too.

In Agatha Christie’s Three Act Tragedy (AKA Murder in Three Acts), for instance, Hercule Poirot is present at a cocktail party during which one of the guests, Reverend Stephen Babbington, suddenly dies of what turns out to be poison. He didn’t have any enemies, and certainly no fortune to leave, so it’s hard to establish the motive at first. Not very long afterwards, there’s another, similar poisoning, this time at another house party. Many of the same people were at both events, so it’s hard to argue that the two cases are not connected. One of the ‘people of interest’ here is Oliver Manders, a young man who’s just getting started in his career. He has all of the insecurities that a lot of young people have as they move out into the world. So he wears a mask of jaded boredom and sarcasm. It certainly doesn’t endear him to others, but Poirot sees that he’s really just an unhappy young man who’s no more pleased with his annoying mask than anyone else is.

Fans of Reginald Hill’s series featuring Superintendent Andy Dalziel and Sergeant (later Inspector) Peter Pascoe will know that Sergeant Edgar Wield wears a sort of mask, at least at first. Wield is a part of Dalziel’s team, and does his job well. But he’s gay at a time and in a place where it’s not wise to let that fact be widely known. Everything changes in Child’s Play, though. In that novel, the team is investigating the strange case of the Lomas family. Wealthy Geraldine Lomas left her considerable fortune to her long-lost son, provided he returned by 2015. When she died, a man claiming to be that son came to her funeral, so now it looks as though he is set to inherit the money. Then he’s killed, and his body found in a car at the police station. In one of the sub-plots of this novel, Wield comes out as gay. It’s awkward for him, but as it turns out, not nearly as difficult for his bosses as he thought it might be.

We see a similar kind of mask in Anthony Bidulka’s Flight of Aquavit. Successful (and married) accountant Daniel Guest has been leading a sort of double life. He’s also had several trysts with men, and in that sense, identifies as gay. But he doesn’t want to come out. That choice has gotten him into trouble, as he’s being blackmailed. Guest hires Saskatoon PI Russell Quant to find out who the blackmailer is and get that person to stop. Quant thinks it would be better for his client to come out as gay, but Guest refuses to do that. So Quant starts asking questions. The trail leads him to New York City – and to an unexpected murder.

Megan Abbott’s Die a Little introduces readers to Pasadena schoolteacher Lora King and her brother Bill, who’s a junior investigator for the district attorney’s office. It’s the 1950’s, when everyone is expected to get married, settle down and have a family. So when Bill meets former Hollywood dressmaker’s assistant Alice Steele, it seems that ‘suburban dream’ is about to come true for him. Lora tries to be happy for her brother, but right from the start, she’s not too fond of Alice. Still, Bill is in love, and the two get married. For Bill’s sake, Lora tries to get along with her new sister-in-law. And on the surface, Alice is a happy suburban wife. She becomes the ‘star’ of their circle of friends, and takes great pains to ensure that every event she hosts comes off perfectly. Behind that mask, though, Lora senses something dark. As she starts to learn more about Alice’s life, she is both repelled by it and drawn to it. Then there’s a murder, and a good possibility that Alice may be mixed up in it. Now Lora worries for her brother’s safety. Alice isn’t what she seems, but what, exactly, is she?

And then there’s Louise Penny’s Yvette Nichol. When we first meet her in Still Life, she’s just been made a member of the Sûreté du Québec, and is excited about this promotion. Even more, she’s been assigned to work with Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, who has a strong reputation. Nichol has had an unfortunate background with a dysfunctional family. That in itself puts her at a disadvantage. She also has the insecurities that any young person might when starting a career with a prestigious leader. She doesn’t want to appear weak, and wants desperately to belong. But instead of asking questions, listening to advice, and doing as she’s asked, Nichol hides her insecurity behind a mask of smugness and arrogance. Her decision not to be honest with herself and others leads to a tense story arc (which I won’t spoil by revealing).

Masks may not always be the wisest choice. But we all wear them. We all present ourselves (as best we can) in the way we want others to see us. So it’s no wonder that there are so many masks in crime fiction.

Thanks to Tim, who blogs at Beyond Eastrod, for the inspiration for this post. Now, do go visit his blog. Lots of interesting ‘food for thought’ awaits you there.
 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Player’s Baby Come Back.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Anthony Bidulka, Louise Penny, Megan Abbott, Reginald Hill