Category Archives: Agatha Christie

Walk Away From it All*

An interesting comment exchange with crime writer and fellow blogger E. Michael Helms has got me thinking about crime-fictional situations where the sleuth is asked (or sometimes told forcefully (or worse)) not to investigate. That happens quite a lot in the genre, and it’s interesting to consider the many reasons why.

Obviously, the guilty party (or someone in league with the guilty party) wouldn’t want an investigation. I’m not really talking of those cases: the reason is patently clear. But there are other reasons, which can add a layer of interest and character development to a story.

In several of Agatha Christie’s stories, the sleuth is pressured not to investigate. For example, in Appointment With Death, Hercule Poirot is on a trip through the Middle East. Colonel Carbury asks Poirot’s help with a case he’s investigating. The Boynton family has been sightseeing in the area and took a trip to Petra. There, family matriarch Mrs. Boynton suddenly died of what looked at first like sudden heart failure. That wouldn’t be surprising, given her age and health. But it turns out that Mrs. Boynton was poisoned. Poirot starts to look into the case, and it’s not long before one of the characters asks him to let the matter go. The reason is that Mrs. Boynton was tyrannical and, as Poirot says, ‘a mental sadist.’ She kept her family so cowed that none of the members dared disagree with her on anything. It’s felt that the family have suffered enough, and that if one of them is guilty, this will just make things worse.

In A Dark-Adapted Eye, Ruth Rendell (as Barbara Vine) explores the complexities of family dynamics, among other things. The Longley family has always prided itself on being very ‘respectable.’ There’s been no scandal or cause for anyone to gossip. Then, journalist Daniel Stewart digs up a Longley family secret and decides to write a book about it. He contacts Faith Longley Severn to help him with the book, and she agrees. But it’s not going to be easy. Many years earlier, Faith’s aunt, Vera Longley Hilliard, was executed for murder. It was all kept very quiet, and no-one really wanted an investigation. To have the Longley name dragged through the mud like that would have been unthinkable. As the story goes on, we learn what really happened, and how the family dynamics played an important role in everything.

Keigo Higashino’s The Devotion of Suspect X offers another interesting reason people wouldn’t want a murder investigated. In that novel, Tokyo Inspector Shunpei Kusanagi investigates when Shinji Togashi is murdered. The most likely suspect is the victim’s ex-wife, Yasuko Hanaoka, and she certainly had motive. Togashi was abusive and had been harassing her again lately. But Kusanagi can’t find any real evidence to link her to the case. And she has an unbreakable alibi, so there seems no way to connect her to the murder. Kusanagi asks for help from an old college friend, Dr. Manabu ‘Galileo’ Yukawa, a physicist who sometimes consults with the police. Yakuwa discovers that a gifted math instructor named Tetsuya Ishigami lives next door to Hanaoka. He suspects that this man knows more than he is saying about the crime, but Ishigami holds firmly to what he claims. He corroborates Hanaoka’s alibi, and does everything he can to protect her, mostly because he is in love with her. He doesn’t want the case investigated, and he does what he can to keep the police from making progress.

Sometimes fictional characters don’t want cases investigated because they’re afraid of the consequences for themselves if they are. For example, in both Maureen Carter’s Working Girls, and Harry Bingham’s Talking to the Dead, the police are investigating cases of sex workers who’ve been murdered. As you would expect, the police want to talk to the victims’ friends and co-workers to try to find out who the killer is. That makes sense, as those people might know the victims well enough to help. But in both cases, those friends and co-workers (mostly other sex workers) do not want the police to investigate. It’s not because they don’t mourn their friend. And, in an ideal world, they’d want the killer brought to justice. But it’s not an ideal world, and these sex workers are afraid for themselves if the police investigate, since they’re mixed up with some dangerous people. So, they say as little as they can get away with saying.

And then there’s Paddy Richardson’s Traces of Red. Wellington journalist Rebecca Thorne has reached a sort of crossroads in her career. She’s well aware that there are younger, ‘hungry’ journalists out there who would be more than happy to supplant her. So, she’s looking for the story that will establish her at the top of New Zealand journalism. She thinks she finds that story when she hears of the case of Connor Bligh. He’s been in prison for years for the murders of his sister, Angela Dickson, her husband, Rowan, and their son, Sam. Their daughter, Katy, survived only because she wasn’t home at the time of the murders. Everyone’s assumed that Bligh was guilty, but now there are little pieces of evidence that suggest otherwise. If he is innocent, and he’s been wrongly imprisoned, this could be a major story. So, Thorne starts asking questions. Almost immediately there’s a lot of pressure on her not to investigate. Some of it comes from people who are convinced that Bligh is guilty. There are also those who don’t want people’s lives turned upside down. But Thorne persists, and finds herself getting much closer to the case than she thought – or than is good for her.

A murder investigation is a difficult, painful process, even for those who are not suspects (or criminals). So, it’s understandable that sometimes, people wouldn’t want an investigation to be carried out. This reality can add interest and tension to a story.

Thanks, Michael, for the inspiration. Folks, do visit Michael’s site, and his blog, and do try his ‘Mac’ McClellan mysteries. You won’t regret it.


*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Roland Kent LaVoie (AKA Lobo).


Filed under Agatha Christie, Barbara Vine, Harry Bingham, Keigo Higashino, Maureen Carter, Paddy Richardson, Ruth Rendell

Got to Begin Again*

It’s a not-so-pleasant fact of life that sometimes, you have to stop what you’re doing and start all over again. You know the feeling, I’m sure. You’re nearly done putting together a piece of furniture, only to notice you’ve put a key piece on backwards. Or, you’ve just finished an email, ready to click on ‘Send,’ when you notice you’ve made some major mistakes in it and have to rewrite it. We all have to start over sometimes.

That includes fictional sleuths. As sleuths investigate, they develop mental constructs of what probably happened. Sometimes, something happens that makes that construct impossible. So, they have to start all over again. It’s frustrating and time-consuming – so much so that there are people who will ignore new evidence that disproves their own ideas. But, if a sleuth’s to find out what really happened in a case, that frustration is sometimes part of the proverbial package.

In Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Boscombe Valley Mystery, for instance, Inspector Lestrade gets what looks like a ‘cut and dried’ case. Charles McCarthy has been murdered, and the most likely suspect is his son, James. There’s plenty of evidence, too, as the two were seen quarreling loudly just before the killing. James McCarthy’s fiancée, Alice Turner, is convinced that he’s innocent, though. She pleads with Lestrade to take another look at the case. For all of his faults, Lestrade doesn’t want an innocent man executed. So, he contacts Sherlock Holmes about the case, and Holmes and Watson look into the matter. Holmes starts again at the beginning and finds out who really killed McCarthy and why.

Fans of Agatha Christie will know that she uses that trope of starting all over again in several of her stories. There’s a clear example of it in Mrs. McGinty’s Dead. Superintendent Albert ‘Bert’ Spence investigated the murder of a charwoman, and all of the evidence pointed towards her lodger, James Bentley. The evidence was so compelling, in fact, that Bentley was arrested, tried and convicted – all very fair and above-board. But Spence has begun to think he was wrong. The theory of Bentley’s guilt doesn’t make sense to him as it did, and he doesn’t want to see an innocent man hung. So, he asks for Hercule Poirot’s help. Poirot agrees, and travels to the village of Broadhnny, where the murder occured. He begins all over again and goes back over the case. And in the end, he finds out who the real killer is. Although it’s Poirot who finds the solution, it’s Spence’s willingness to start over that makes that possible.

Håkan Nesser’s Mind’s Eye begins as schoolteacher Janek Mitter wakes up after a long night of drinking. Badly hung over, he slowly comes to his senses, only to discover the body of his wife, Eva Ringmar, in the bathtub. The police, in the form of Inspector Van Veetern, are called in and, as you can imagine, Mitter becomes the most likely suspect. In fact, he’s arrested, tried and convicted. He can remember nothing about the murder, because he was far too drunk at the time. So, he’s remanded to a mental facility, rather than a traditional prison, in the hope that his memory will return. Van Veeteren has come to wonder whether his initial theory about the murder was correct. And, when Mitter himself is brutally murdered, Van Veeteren is sure that he was wrong. Now, he and his team have to let go of their theory of Eva Ringmar’s death and start all over again. And now they’ve got two murders to solve.

Gordon Ferris’ Glasgow trilogy features former journalist Douglas Brodie. In The Hanging Shed, he’s just returned from service in World War II (the book takes place just after the war), and is living in London. He’s trying to pick up the pieces, as the saying goes, and start life again. Then, he gets a call from an old friend, Hugh ‘Shug’ Donovan. Donovan’s been arrested for the abduction and murder of a young boy, Rory Hutchinson. There is a great deal of convincing evidence against him, too. For instance, the boy’s clothes were found in his home, and there are traces of heroin in his system (Donovan has the habit). But Donovan claims that he had nothing to do with Rory’s death. Brodie isn’t sure what he can do to help. And, in any case, he’s not entirely convinced that his old friend is innocent. Donovan went through the war, too, and that sort of trauma can do all sorts of things to a person. Still, Brodie agrees to see what he can do, and travels to his native Glasgow. There, he meets Donovan’s lawyer, Samantha ‘Sam’ Campbell. Together, the two have to start all over again and try to put the pieces of the puzzle together in a different way if they’re to save Donovan.

And then there’s Angela Makholwa’s Red Ink. Lucy Khambule is one half of The Publicists, a Johannesburg company which she owns with her friend, Patricia Moabelo. But, she’s at a bit of a crossroads for a few reasons. Everything changes when she gets a telephone call from Napoleon Dingiswayo, who’s in a maximum-security prison for a series of horrific killings. She had written to him during her years in journalism, and he kept her contact information. Now, he wants to meet her and possibly have her write a book about him. The offer is extremely tempting, since Khambule has always wanted to write a book. So, she goes to the prison, and she and her interviewee start working together. Then, some very unsettling and violent things begin to happen. Dingiswayo can’t be responsible for them, since he is in a maximum-security facility. But if he’s not guilty, then who is? And what might that say about the murders for which he’s in prison? Now, the whole theory of what really happened has to be set aside and re-examined. And Khambule will have to do that quickly, before anything else happens.

It’s never easy or fun to have to toss something aside and start over again. But sometimes, it’s the only way to get to the truth. And the sleuth who can do that is more likely to find out the real answers.


*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a Billy Joel song.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Angela Makholwa, Arthur Conan Doyle, Gordon Ferris, Håkan Nesser

Please Don’t Tell Me That I’m the Only One That’s Vulnerable*

Most people would rather not be killed. I know, that’s a painfully obvious point to make, but it has implications if you’re a fictional murderer. Among other things, it means that you have to pick your time. It’s easiest to commit the crime if the victim is already vulnerable, or at the very least, unsuspecting. For the author, that’s not always easy to pull off in a believable way, but there are plenty of examples of how this can work. Here are a few of them, to show you what I mean.

In Agatha Christie’s One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, we are introduced to powerful banker Alistair Blunt. He’s made more than his share of enemies, and he’s generally a careful person, partly for that reason. One day, he goes to see his dentist, Henry Morley, because of a toothache. Later, Morley is found shot in his surgery. And one real possibility is that the intended victim was Blunt himself. After all, people are quite vulnerable when they’re in the dentist’s chair. Chief Inspector Japp’s been told by his superiors to make this case a priority, since Blunt is considered important for national security. Then, there’s another death. A patient of Morley’s dies from a suspected overdose of drugs. When Japp finds out that Hercule Poirot was also at Morley’s office on the day of the murder, he contacts Poirot, and the two work together to find out the truth behind the two murders.

Christianna Brand’s Green For Danger takes place mostly at Heron Park Hospital, which has been converted for military (WWII) use. One day, a postman named Joseph Higgins is brought to the hospital with a broken femur. It’s considered a straightforward operation, and he’s brought in for surgery. Tragically, Higgins dies during the procedure. Inspector Cockrill of the Kent Police is brought in to ‘rubber-stamp’ the report of accidental death. Higgins’ wife, though, does not accept that explanation. She says that Higgins was murdered. Then, one of the hospital nurses has too much to drink at a party, and blurts out that she knows Higgins was murdered, and she knows how it was accomplished. Later that night, she, too, is killed. Now, Cockrill is sure this is a case of murder, and puts the focus of his search on the people who were present when Higgins died. It certainly shows how vulnerable people can be during surgery. Right, fans of Ngaio Marsh’s The Nursing Home Murder?

One plot thread of Ruth Rendell’s Simisola concerns the murder of Annette Bystock. She works at the local Employment Bureau, trying to match available jobs with unemployed people who can fill them. One day, she’s found murdered in her bed. Inspector Reg Wexford and his team begin to trace her last days, and discover that, shortly before she was murdered, she had an appointment with a young woman named Melanie Akande. Melanie has since gone missing, and Wexford and the team wonder whether the two incidents are related. And so they turn out to be, only not in the obvious way. It turns out that, on the day she died, Annette had stayed home from work because she was ill. Her vulnerability, and the fact that she was unsuspecting, made her easy prey for the killer.

In Zoran Drvenkar’s You, we are introduced to a character called the Traveler. His part of the story begins in 1995, during a terrible snowstorm that’s blocked the road between Bad Hersfeld and Eisenach. Many vehicles are stranded on the road, and even emergency vehicles can’t get through because of the snow. Everyone in that traffic mess is extremely vulnerable, and not just because of the snow and the cold. With everyone stuck, the Traveler has plenty of ready-made victims. He works his way along the line of cars, leaving twenty-six people dead by the time the road is cleared. He’s able to make his escape, and as the story goes on, we see what happens to him in the ensuing years.

And then there’s Max Kinning’s Baptism. In that novel, we meet George Wakeham, a London Underground driver. Early one morning, three hostage-takers break into his home, capturing his wife and children. Wakeham is told that his only chance of saving his family is to do exactly what their captors say. Then, they give him a mobile ‘phone and tell him to follow precisely the instructions they give him. This Wakeham agrees to do (what choice does he have?). He’s told to go to his job as usual, and take his place driving his usual train. What he doesn’t know at first is that the hostage-takers have boarded the train as well, and they have his family with them. Wakeham starts his route as usual, but before long, one of the hostage-takers joins him in the cab. He’s soon told to stop the train, and it’s only then that he sees what his enemies really wanted from him. The train is now stopped in an underground tunnel with over 400 very vulnerable people aboard. Word of the captured train gets out, and Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Ed Mallory is assigned to contact the hostage-takers, find out what they want, and free the passengers. It’s not going to be easy, though, as this is a group of fanatics with a very specific purpose in mind. As Mallory tries to find out what he can, Wakeham tries to save his own life and those of his family members.

There are lots of other examples, too, of stories where the murderer (or would-be murderer) tries to choose a time when the victim will be especially vulnerable. It can add real tension to a story, and it makes sense. It’s easiest to target a victim who’s at a disadvantage.


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Secondhand Serenade’s Vulnerable.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Christianna Brand, Max Kinnings, Ngaio Marsh, Ruth Rendell, Zoran Drvenkar

His Family Business Thrives*

One of the staples of a lot of economies is the family-owned business. Some of them are large, many are smaller. Either way, they are part of the backbone of a lot of communities.

Family businesses can be very interesting contexts for a crime novel, too. They can be sources of conflict, they can add character development, and they can give interesting insight into a community. Here are just a few examples to show you what I mean.

Agatha Christie’s After the Funeral (AKA Funerals Are Fatal) begins directly after the funeral of wealthy family patriarch Richard Abernethie. In this case, the family built its fortune in the making of corn plasters and other, similar remedies. The business was very successful, and Abernethie has quite a lot of money to leave. His will distributes his money evenly amongst his nephew, two nieces, brother, sister-in-law, and younger sister. On the one hand, it seems on the surface like an equitable distribution. On the other, it also suggests that he didn’t have enough faith in any one member of his family to leave everything to that person. At the funeral gathering, Abernethie’s younger sister, Cora Lansquenet, blurts out that her brother was murdered. At first, everyone hushes her up, and even she tells the others to pay no attention. But privately, everyone begins to wonder if Cora was right. And, when she herself is murdered the next day, everyone is convinced that she was. Family attorney Mr. Entwhistle asks Hercule Poirot to look into the matter, and he agrees. He finds out that more than one person could have wanted to kill both people.

Ellery Queen’s The French Powder Mystery features family-owned French’s Department Store. The store does well, and store owner Cyrus French and his family are well off. Then, one tragic day, French’s wife, Winifred, is found dead in one of the store’s display windows. Inspector Richard Queen is called in to investigate, and of course, his son, Ellery, takes part. The Queens soon discover an interesting thing about family businesses: sometimes it’s hard to separate ‘family’ from business. Was Winifred killed by a family member? A business associate? It’s not an easy case to solve.

Riley Adams’ (AKA Elizabeth Spann Craig)’s Memphis Barbecue series features Lulu Taylor. She is the current owner of Aunt Pat’s Barbecue, one of Memphis’ popular eateries. It’s a family-owned business in which she takes great pride. She inherited the restaurant, and is planning that her son, Ben, will take over as owner when she is ready to step aside. As it is, he does plenty of work in the restaurant, and even Lulu’s two granddaughters help out at times. Part of what makes Aunt Pat’s special is that it isn’t an impersonal chain restaurant.

We also see several family-owned businesses in Lilian Jackson Braun’s Cat Who… series featuring James ‘Qwill’ Qwilleran. He is a journalist who’s moved to the small town of Pickax, Moose County – ‘400 miles north of nowhere.’ Most of the local businesses are owned by families, rather than by large companies. For example, the local department store is owned by the Lanspeak family, the local newspaper is owned by the Goodwinter family, and so on. Some of those families have been in the area for generations, too. It’s that sort of place. And that plays its roles in the mysteries that Qwill encounters.

Apostolos Doxiadis’ Three Little Pigs tells the story of the Franco family, who emigrate from Italy to New York at the turn of the 20th Century. Benvenuto ‘Ben’ Franco brings his wife and children to the US in hopes of a successful ‘American Dream’ sort of life. He gets a job in a shoe repair shop, works hard, and in a few years, has been able to open his own shoe repair and sales shop. The business does well, and he is hoping to pass it along to his three sons. He changes the family name to Frank, and everyone prospers at first. Unfortunately, it doesn’t last. Ben gets into a bar fight one night, and kills a man named Luigi Lupo. It turns out that his father is notorious gangster Tonio Lupo, and that Lupo has every intention of getting revenge. He visits Ben in prison and curses his family, promising that all three of his sons will die at the age of forty-two, the same age Luigi was at his death. The story goes on to follow the lives of Alessandro ‘Al,’ Niccola ‘Nick,’ and Leonardo ‘Leo’ Frank, and it’s interesting to see how the family business shapes them. Al Frank takes over the business and oversees real success for it. Nick Frank wants to be an actor, and he has a little talent. For a while, he does well enough in Hollywood, which suits him, because he doesn’t want to be in the family business. Leo takes several wrong turns and has his own issues. But after a number of years, he also chooses the family business. As the book goes on, we see what happens to each son, and how the curse plays out in their lives.

And then there’s Rajiv Patel, whom we meet in Angela Savage’s The Half-Child. Originally from India, he wanted a chance to see more of the world. His family wanted him to stay nearby, find a local woman to marry, and settle down. But that wasn’t in his plans. As a way of keeping the peace, and still doing what he wanted to do, Patel went to Bangkok’s Little India, where his uncle’s family keeps a bookshop. The agreement was that he would live with the family and help in the bookshop. And that’s where he meets PI Jayne Keeney, who loves to read. The two get to talking, find that they like each other, and begin to date. And Patel gets involved in the case Keeney’s working on, which involves the mysterious death of a young volunteer at an orphanage/children’s home. Later, they become business partners as well as partners in life.

Family businesses have been with us for a very long time. Perhaps you even have a business in your own family. They add much to the economy, and a lot to crime fiction, too.


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s Levon.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Angela Savage, Apostolos Doxiadis, Ellery Queen, Elzabeth Spann Craig, Lilian Jackson Braun, Riley Adams

These Days There’s a Million Ways to be Pulled and Torn, to be Misdirected*

Real life illusionists such as Penn and Teller (yes, that’s the duo in the ‘photo), and fictional ones such as Elly Griffiths’ Max Mephisto know something very important. People find it hard to pay attention to a lot of things at the same time. So, if you focus your audience’s attention on one thing, they’re less likely to notice something else you may be doing. It’s called misdirection, and these people are experts at it.

Misdirection is an important part of crime fiction, too. Authors use it all the time. In fact, there’s probably a book’s worth of commentary on the way crime writers manipulate readers’ attention. So do fictional characters. After all, if you’re a fictional murderer, it suits you very well if everyone’s paying attention to something else, so that you can get away with your crime.

Misdirection is a part of many of Agatha Christie’s novels and stories. I’ll just give one example. Christie fans will know there are plenty of others. In Death in the Clouds, a group of people boards a plane for a flight from Paris to London. Among them is Marie Morisot, a French moneylender who goes by the name of Madame Giselle. Just before the flight lands, one of the stewards goes around to the different passengers to give them their meal bills. That’s when he discovers that Madame Giselle is dead. At first, it looks as though she’s had a serious allergic reaction to a wasp sting (and there is a wasp on the plane). But Hercule Poirot, who’s on the same flight, notices some things that suggest she was deliberately poisoned. And so it proves to be. The only possible suspects are the other passengers, so Poirot works with Chief Inspector Japp to find out which passenger is the killer. And it turns out that the murderer used misdirection quite effectively to carry out the crime.

In Nicholas Blake’s The Beast Must Die, we are introduced to Frank Cairnes, a detective novelist who writes under the name of Felix Lane. As the story begins, he is distraught over the death of his son, Martin ‘Martie’, who was killed six months earlier in a hit-and-run incident. Cairnes decides to find and kill the man who murdered his son and sets out to learn who that person was. After a time, he establishes that the driver of the car is a man named George Rattery. So, he contrives an introduction by starting a romance with Rattery’s sister, and soon gets to know Rattery. He’s decided to kill Rattery by drowning him during a sailing trip. The only problem is that Rattery has found Cairnes’ diary, so he knows Cairnes’ plan. He tells Cairnes that if anything happens to him, the police will know who is responsible. Cairnes counters with the threat that if the police read the diary, they will also know that Rattery killed Martie. With the two men at a stalemate, they return to the Rattery home. Later that day, Rattery dies of what turns out to be poison. Cairnes contacts PI and poet Nigel Strangeways to ask for his help. He knows he’ll be suspected of murder, but he says he’s innocent. After all, he claims, why would he plan to poison a victim after already having planned to drown him? What’s more, there turn out to be several other possibilities when it comes to suspects. In the end, Strangeways finds that the killer has used misdirection to keep from being caught.

Elizabeth Peters’ Crocodile on the Sandbank introduces her sleuth, Amelia Peabody. In the novel, Miss Peabody decides to take a tour of the Middle East. When her companion falls ill and can’t join her, she fears she’ll have to cancel her trip (this story takes place in the days before it was considered appropriate for ‘proper ladies’ to travel alone). Her problems seem to be solved when she meets Evelyn Barton-Forbes. It turns out that Miss Barton-Forbes has been abandoned by her lover, and now has to make her way in the world as best she can. She’s delighted and grateful at the chance to serve as Miss Peabody’s companion, and the two set out for Egypt. That’s where they meet archaeologist brothers Radcliffe and Walter Emerson, who are working on an excavation in Amarna. Miss Peabody has an interest in ancient ruins, and is well-informed on them, so when the two women stop at the excavation site, they decide to stay on for a bit. That’s how they get drawn into a bizarre case. First, a mummy that the team has found seems to disappear. Then, villagers and other locals report that a mummy has been seen at night. Other strange and disturbing things begin to happen, and it’s now clear that someone wants the Emerson excavation to stop. If the team is to stay alive, and continue the work, they’re going to have to find out the truth. And it turns out that someone has used misdirection to get everyone frightened about the mummy, so that the real motive for what’s going on will stay hidden.

In Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man, Nick and Nora Charles, who live in San Francisco are on a visit to New York City. By chance, Nick, who is a former PI, is spotted by Dorothy Wynant, the daughter of a former client. She’s worried because her father, Clyde Wynant, seems to have gone missing. Later, Nick gets a visit from Wynant’s lawyer, who thinks he’s in New York to track Wynant down. That’s not the case, but Nick seems to be getting more and more drawn in to the matter. The next day, Wynant’s secretary, Julia Wolf, is found dead. Now, Nick’s even more deeply drawn into the case. As it happens, there are several suspects in the murder, any one of whom might be guilty. Misdirection plays an important part in this story as we find out the truth about Wynant’s disappearance and his secretary’s murder.

And then there’s Tarquin Hall’s The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing. Delhi PI Vishwas ‘Vish’ Puri is saddened when he finds out that a former client, Dr. Suresh Jha, has been killed. Jha was at a meeting of the Rajpath Laughing Club when something extraordinary happened. Witnesses say that the goddess Kali appeared, and stabbed Jha. To Kali’s devotees, this makes sense, since Jha was dedicated to science and to debunking people who used religion and spiritualism to deceive people. But Puri doesn’t think Kali really appeared and committed murder. So, he starts to ask questions. And he discovers quite a lot of misdirection as he finds out what really happened.

See what I mean? Misdirection is critical to crime fiction and crime writers. Wait a second – what was that? Look over there!


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Billy Joel’s Blonde Over Blue.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett, Elizabeth Peters, Elly Griffiths, Nicholas Blake, Tarquin Hall