Category Archives: Andrea Camilleri

I Won’t Do That*

Codes and Crossing LinesOne thing that crime fiction shows us is the complexity of human nature. We see just a part of that complexity when we think about people’s personal ‘codes of conduct.’ Just about everyone seems to have a code, too, even criminals. We all have lines that we don’t cross. And it’s interesting to look at how those codes differ and how they play out in crime novels. They can add richness to a character, and a layer of interest to a story.

Several of Agatha Christie’s stories feature such codes. For example, in Murder on the Orient Express, Hercule Poirot is en route to London on the famous Orient Express. On the second night of the journey, one of his fellow passengers, American businessman Samuel Ratchett, is stabbed to death. The only possible suspects are the other passengers on the same coach, so Poirot concentrates on them. And that’s one of the interesting things about this case. The murderer doesn’t want other people on the train to be suspected and perhaps arrested. There’s another aspect of this case, too, that shows the codes of conduct people can have, even if we might not agree with it. Mentioning it would spoil the story for those who don’t know it, but it adds an interesting layer to the story, as well as an interesting topic for discussion.

In William McIlvanney’s Laidlaw, Glasgow DI Jack Laidlaw and his team are investigating the rape and murder of eighteen-year-old Jennifer Lawson. Laidlaw knows that very few people will be willing to talk to him about what they might have witnessed. So he and DC Brian Harkness take another approach. They go to visit John Rhodes, who is unofficially in charge of the part of Glasgow where the murder occurred. Rhodes didn’t get to the top by being pleasant and easygoing. He’s a hard man who has no compunctions about using violence, even murder if it comes to that. But he draws the line at involving women and children. To him, the murder of Jennifer Lawson has crossed a line that goes against his code. And on that score, he agrees to find out what he can about anyone who might have witnessed the crime.

One of the ‘regulars’ in Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Salvo Montalbano series is his old school friend Gegè Gullotta. Gullotta is a small-time drug dealer and local crime leader. He runs a notorious area outside the town of Vigàta called The Pasture. It’s a place for sex workers to meet their clients and drug deals to be made. Gullotta is a criminal who doesn’t hesitate to profit from his ‘enterprises. But he has a code. He doesn’t involve children in his deals, and he doesn’t condone violent crimes like rape and murder. In fact, he works to make sure that what happens in The Pasture doesn’t cause trouble for those who don’t want to be involved in what goes on there.

Sophie Littlefield’s Stella Hardesty runs a sewing supply store in rural Prosper, Missouri. On the surface, she seems harmless enough. But she also has a ‘side business.’ Having once been a victim of domestic abuse herself, Hardesty is determined that no other woman or child will have to endure what she endured. So, when survivors of domestic abuse ask for her help, she obliges. Her first step is to pay a very unpleasant visit to the abuser. If that isn’t enough to make him mend his ways, she visits again. And this visit is even more unpleasant. Few of her ‘parolees’ need more warning than that. What Hardesty does is criminal, according to the law. She can be quite violent. But she does have a code. Except in the few cases where she has to defend herself, she doesn’t kill. And she doesn’t target just anyone. Although it may not always seem like it, there are lines that she doesn’t cross.

There’s a different sort of code in Garry Disher’s Bitter Wash Road. Constable Paul ‘Hirsch’ Hirschhausen has just been stationed in Tiverton, in rural South Australia. He was more or less exiled from Adelaide because he got the reputation as a ‘whistleblower’ in an internal investigation. When the body of fifteen-year-old Melia Donovan is discovered by the side of Bitter Wash Road, Hirsch gets involved in the investigation. Along with finding Melia’s killer, he has to deal with the very deeply held police code that you don’t ‘do the dirty’ on a fellow officer. Police will forgive each other a lot of things, but reporting each other is the line most of them won’t cross. On the one hand, that makes sense when you need to trust other officers with your life. On the other, it means a lot of unethical and illegal activity doesn’t get reported. It’s a double-edged sword, as the saying goes, but it’s a very firm line for a lot of police. And it makes for a really interesting topic for discussion.

There are a lot of other example of characters, including criminals, who have their own personal codes. Each one’s a little different, and each one can make for interesting dilemmas and tension in stories. Those codes, and those lines that aren’t crossed, also make for layers of character depth.



*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Jim Steinman’s I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That).


Filed under Agatha Christie, Andrea Camilleri, Garry Disher, Sophie Littlefield, William McIlvanney

You’ll Find it Takes Teamwork Every Time*

TeamworkIt’s very rare that an individual solves a crime, especially a crime as complex as murder, alone. And even in crime fiction from the classic and Golden Age years, there are plenty of examples of sleuths who work with a partner (e.g. Holmes and Watson, Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, and Poirot and Hastings). But since the advent of the more modern police procedural, we’ve seen a growth in crime fiction that follows not just one or two sleuths, but a whole team of them. These novels aren’t just stories of the crimes; they are also the stories of the groups of people who solve them. So they are arguably character studies as well as crime novels.

This kind of series can be a bit challenging to write. On the one hand, the author wants a group of interesting, perhaps even eccentric characters. On the other, it’s important to keep the focus on the mystery at hand. That balance isn’t always easy, but when it does work, the result can be memorable.

Beginning in 1956, Ed McBain published a long series of novels featuring the police of the 87th Precinct. Although Steve Carella, Meyer Meyer and Bert Kling appear most frequently in this series, it’s really about many other people at the precinct, too. The various characters have their eccentricities and foibles, but they work together as a team, and each one brings something to that team. The series is a long one, and there are several story arcs throughout it that involve the personal lives of the various detectives. But that said, the focus in these novels really is the cases at hand.

Shortly after the 87th Precinct series got underway, Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö began their ten-novel Martin Beck series. Starting with Roseanna, this series follows Beck and his Stockholm homicide team as they go about their work. The novels do include story arcs that deal with the characters’ personal lives, and we get to know them as people. They have their eccentricities, as we all do, and they certainly don’t always see eye to eye. But they do work as a team, and they know they depend on each other. Fans will know that Sjöwall and Wahlöö used this series as a way to critique Swedish government and society. Even so, the novels keep their focus on the crimes that are the focus of the novels. The plots don’t tend to get lost, if I may put it that way.

The same might be said of Reginald Hill’s series featuring Superintendent Andy Dalziel and his team. Beginning with 1970’s A Clubbable Woman, this series follows Dalziel, his assistant, Peter Pascoe, and the various members of their team. On one level, many of the sub-plots and story arcs follow the characters’ personal lives. We get to know their backgrounds, and we see them as people. They’re in some ways a very disparate group, too, so it’s interesting to see how they interact. They don’t always agree; and sometimes, there’s real tension among them. And yet, they do respect each other, and each one adds to the team’s collective ability. That’s arguably why Dalziel supports them as he does. Part of what has made this series so successful is arguably the way in which the characters develop, and their personal stories. But Hill also didn’t lose sight of the mysteries at hand in these novels. The real focus is the set of cases that the team investigates.

One of the most eccentric groups of detectives is the one supervised by Fred Vargas’ Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg. His team includes Danglard, a ‘walking encyclopedia’ who drinks far more white wine than you’d think judicious; Mercadet, who deals with narcolepsy; and Betancourt, a naturalist who interacts more effectively with animals than with people. There’s also (in a few novels) Snowball the office cat. These are very disparate characters, and their personal stories are woven through the series. In several story arcs, we learn about their backgrounds and their home lives. They certainly don’t always agree on things, but they do know that they depend on each other and their boss. And Adamsberg knows he depends on his team. These particular characters may not be conventional, but they get the job done. While the stories in this series do include character development, their focus is the mysteries that the team solves.

More recently, Andrea Camilleri’s Salvo Montalbano series also shows how a disparate team of people work together to solve crimes. Montalbano may get irritated with one or another (or even a few) members of his team from time to time. And each member has weaknesses and personal foibles. But all of the team members know that they depend on each other. They’re quite a motley crew, as the saying goes. But they each bring something to the team, and everyone knows that, especially Montalbano. There are story arcs and sub-plots that explore the personal lives of some of the team members, and Camilleri fleshes out the characters. But the focus here, as it is in the other series I’ve mentioned, is the plots – the actual cases.

Thus far I’ve discussed police teams, but there are also plenty of examples of this sort of teamwork outside the police station, too. For example, Kerry Greenwood’s Corinna Chapman series features Chapman, who lives and has her bakery in a distinctive Melbourne building. But the stories are most definitely not just about her. Several other people also live and/or have businesses in the same building, and we get to know them all as the series goes on. They’re all quite different, and each has eccentricities. But they do work together and each contributes to the series. Their personal stories are woven into the series in the form of story arcs and sub-plots, but the main focus is the set of mysteries. Greenwood weaves together character development and plot development as the series goes on.

And that seems to be the key to making such ‘ensemble’ series work. Readers want to know about the characters; story arcs and sub-plots can help in this. But such novels work best when the real focus is on the plot. Which ‘ensemble casts’ do you like best? If you’re a writer, do you use teams?



*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen’s Teamwork.


Filed under Andrea Camilleri, Ed McBain, Fred Vargas, Kerry Greenwood, Maj Sjöwall, Per Wahlöö, Reginald Hill

Everywhere You Look Now There’s Murder Incorporated*

Changing Bad GuysWell-written crime fiction shows us ourselves – who we are as people. We can learn a lot about what we wish for, fear, and more as we read in the genre. For instance, if you consider the ‘bad guys’ in certain crime novels, you see that they reflect sociopolitical events, societal fears and sometimes prejudices. You also see how those have changed as the world has changed.

For example, if you look at early crime fiction, or historical crime fiction that takes place during the late Victorian Era and the Edwardian Era, you see that the ‘bad guys’ were frequently members or leaders of shadowy syndicates and crime rings. The best known example that I can think of is, of course, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Professor Moriarty. Fans will know that he is a highly intelligent master-criminal who gives Sherlock Holmes quite a run for the money, as the saying goes. But he’s not the only criminal of that type. You see that influence also in Will Thomas’ Fatal Enquiry. In that novel, private enquiry agent Cyrus Barker and his assistant Thomas Llewelyn go up against Sebastian Nightwine, a dangerous opponent whom Barker exposed as a criminal years ago. When Nightwine returns to London, Barker is sure that trouble is going to follow, and he’s right. Barker ends up accused of murder and on the run, with all of his assets frozen. Then there’s another murder. He and Llewelyn will have to work hard to clear his name and take down Nightwine’s.  A few of Agatha Christie’s novels (The Big Four being one of them) also set up shadowy syndicates as ‘the enemy).

More modern novels, such as Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano stories, have a more contemporary take on the crime syndicate. Sometimes, as in Camilleri’s work and that of authors such as Michael Dibdin and Tonino Benacquista, the syndicate takes the form of what we call the Mafia (sometimes in the US, it’s called the Mob). There are also modern takes on crime syndicates from other places, too, such as the Glasgow underworld that we see in William McIlvanney’s and Malcolm Mackay’s work.

World War I and World War II had profound influences on people’s conceptions of ‘bad guys.’ Several of Agatha Christie’s stories (N or M? and Postern of Fate, for instance) set up first the Triple Alliance, then the Axis powers (specifically the Nazis) as ‘the bad guys.’

And by no means is Christie the only author who’s used Nazis, their associates, and their modern-day incarnations as antagonists. You see that in a lot of crime fiction and thrillers, actually. Just to take a few examples, there’s Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther novels, Ira Levin’s The Boys From Brazil, and Robert Gott’s The Holiday Murders.

In fact, the Nazis-as-enemies have had a profound influence even in modern crime fiction that simply touches on the World War II years. I’m thinking, for instance, of Camilla Läckberg’s The Hidden Child, Åsa Larsson’s Until Thy Wrath be Past, and Ferdinand von Schirach’s Der Fall Collini (The Collini Case). In those novels (and many more), we see how modern relationships, interactions, and even crime has its roots in the war, in Nazi occupation and in loyalties of that time.  It will be interesting to see what happens to that theme as time goes on, and there are fewer and fewer people whose parents/grandparents/great-grandparents lived through World War II.

In the post-World War II era, one of the most important geopolitical realities was the Cold War between the UK, US and their allies, and the then-Soviet Union and its allies. This arguably set up the KGB and other Soviet-bloc spy agencies as very effective ‘bad guys.’ Read the work of authors such as John le Carré, Len Deighton and Robert Ludlum, and you’ll see that in a lot of those novels, the enemy is usually the KGB or other such agency in some form or another. Sometimes it’s one person who’s a member of such a group, but that person often represents the Soviet Union and its policies. You can even see such sentiments in books that aren’t exactly what you would call spy thrillers. For example, there’s Martin Cruz Smith’s work featuring Arkady Renko. And Walter Mosley’s The Red Death has his sleuth Ezekiel ‘Easy’ Rawlins being asked to take down a suspected Communist. As I think about the Cold War era, I often wonder what impression I’d get if I could read Russian well enough to read some of the novels of those years that are written in that language.

When the Soviet Union broke up in 1993, the world changed, and so did crime fiction. There are arguably two kinds of ‘bad guys’ that have populated crime fiction since that time. One is the Eastern European crime gang that we see in novels such as Daniel Pembrey’s The Harbour Master. Another, very closely related, outgrowth is arguably the Eastern European/Russian human trafficking gang (check out Tess Gerritson’s Vanish as an example). The other sort of ‘bad guy’ is the Russian oligarch/shady businessman. With official Communism at an end, these businessmen came to the fore in terms of their power and ruthlessness. Several of Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus novels mention them (especially Exit Music). There are also some thrillers (such as Daniel Silva’s Moscow Rules) that touch on such people as ‘the bad guys.’

Another recent development in terms of ‘bad guys’ is the terrorist group, particularly the Middle Eastern terrorist group. Novels such as le Carré’s 1983 The Little Drummer Girl are earlier examples of such crime fiction, but by no means the only ones. Lindy Cameron’s Redback includes such terrorists as ‘bad guys.’ So do many other novels. In the wake of more recent terrorist events, we’ve seen a lot more such ‘bad guys,’ even in novels that aren’t billed as ‘thrillers.’

There’s also been another development in the sort of ‘bad guy’ authors choose: big corporations and their leaders.  I’m sure you’ve read as many novels as I have in which big developers are depicted as antagonists. Some novels (I’m thinking of Gail Bowen’s Kaleidoscope) present a more complex picture of development. But many depict big companies and developers quite negatively. For instance, there’s Peter Temple’s Bad Debts, several of C.J. Box’s Joe Pickett novels, and more.

Not all crime novels feature this sort of plot. Many are more personal plots, if I can put it that way. They feature crimes where one person (or a group of people) commit murder for reasons such as revenge, fear, or personal greed. That said though, if we look at crime plots over time, we really do see, I think, how they often use certain antagonists to reflect the kind of fears and prejudices that we have. I wonder which group will be next to be depicted in this way…


NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Bruce Springsteen’s Murder Incorporated.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Andrea Camilleri, Arthur Conan Doyle, Åsa Larsson, C.J. Box, Camilla Läckberg, Daniel Pembrey, Daniel Silva, Ferdinand von Schirach, Gail Bowen, Ian Rankin, Ira Levin, John le Carré, Len Deighton, Lindy Cameron, Malcolm Mackay, Martin Cruz Smith, Michael Dibdin, Peter Temple, Philip Kerr, Robert Gott, Robert Ludlum, Tess Gerritsen, Tonino Benacquista, Walter Mosley, Will Thomas, William McIlvanney

I Know You Have Laid a Trap For Me*

Traps and StingsMost criminals don’t want to be caught. So when the police don’t have enough evidence to pursue a conviction, it can be difficult for them to get a confession from the guilty party. There are, after all, limits to what police are allowed to do to obtain a confession. That’s one reason for which police sometimes use ruses and other setups to get criminals to talk.

This is always a bit tricky for the author of a crime novel. As I say, there are limits to what police can actually do. And for authors who write about amateur sleuths, there are limits to what those sleuths can believably do. Still, if it’s credibly done, a ruse or ‘sting’ can build tension in a story, and serve as an interesting plot point.

Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes uses such means in several of his cases. For example, in The Adventure of the Dancing Men, Holmes and Dr. Watson investigate a series of strange, coded notes that have been left for Elsie Cubitt. Her husband Hilton is so worried about his wife’s panicked reactions to the notes that he’s asked Holmes to look into the matter. One challenge in this case is to decipher the notes. The other is to catch the person sending them. Before Holmes and Watson can do both, there’s a tragedy in which Cubitt is shot. Elsie is the prime suspect, but Holmes doesn’t believe she’s guilty. A few clues give him a very good idea of who is responsible for the notes, and he uses the very code in which those notes were written to ‘flush out’ the killer and solve the case.

Agatha Christie’s Cards on the Table features the stabbing death of the very enigmatic Mr. Shaitana. The only possible suspects in this murder are the four people, guests at a dinner party he hosted, who were playing bridge in the same room when he died. Each claims to be innocent, of course, although each had a powerful motive and the opportunity. Hercule Poirot is among four sleuths who were also at the fateful dinner party, and he works with the other sleuths to find out who was guilty. He doesn’t really have conclusive proof, even towards the end of the story, and he knows that a confession from the criminal will be the only way to prove his case. So he uses a bit of trickery to get that person to tell what happened. It raises an interesting question of what would be permitted in real life. And that’s not the only Christie novel in which ruses are used to get confessions (I know, I know, fans of 4:50 From Paddington).

The first of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s Martin Beck novels, Roseanna, proves to be a very difficult case. It starts when the body of an unknown woman is pulled from Lake Vättern. She has no documentation, and there are no records of missing persons who match her description. After a great deal of time and effort, she is identified as Roseanna McGraw, an American who was on a cruise tour of Sweden. It takes another several months and a few strokes of luck to narrow down the possibilities to one prime suspect. But even then, Beck and his team know that this killer will not simply give in and submit to an arrest. So they arrange a difficult and (for one team member in particular) dangerous setup – a trap to catch the murderer. In the end, the ruse is successful, and the murderer is caught. But it raises an interesting question about cases where police go undercover to solve cases. How much danger is reasonable? More modern police procedurals show how important protecting the safety of operatives has become, and the developments in both procedure and equipment. But there is still danger.

Margaret Maron’s One Coffee With takes place mostly on the campus of Vanderlyn College, where Riley Quinn serves as deputy department chair of the Department of Art. One morning, department secretary Sandy Kepler goes as usual to the college cafeteria to bring back coffee for the members of the department. She returns with it and places the cups in their usual spot. Then there’s a buzz of activity as students and faculty go in and out of the main office where the cups are. One by one, various people get their coffee. Shortly after he takes his cup, Quinn dies of poison. NYPD Lieutenant Sigrid Harald and her assistant Detective Tildon take the case and begin the investigation. As they trace the events leading up to Quinn’s death, they find that just about everyone had motive for killing the victim. What’s more, enough people had access both the poison and to Quinn’s coffee that it’s very difficult to pin down exactly who was responsible. And even after Harald and Tildon deduce who the killer was, they haven’t enough conclusive proof to pursue the case in court. So Harald sets a trap for the killer, using one of the other suspects as ‘bait,’ if you will.

In Andrea Camilleri’s Dance of the Seagull, Vigàta Inspector Salvo Montalbano and his team investigate the disappearance of one of their own. Giuseppe Fazio was looking into a case of smuggling when he went missing, so his colleagues decide to follow the trail that he left. They believe that if they pick up where he left off, so to speak, they’ll find him. That turns out to be the right decision, as Fazio is found, wounded but alive. Getting him safely to a nearby hospital, and keeping him protected, is only part of the challenge the team faces. The other is catching the criminals he was after, especially when they end up being responsible for a brutal murder. Montalbano decides that the best way to catch the guilty party is to set up a trap, so with the help of one of the characters, that’s what he does. And in the end, he’s able to expose the murderer quite publicly.

Ruses, traps, and ‘stings’ can be very tricky. There are limits to what’s allowed and what’s feasible. They can be dangerous, and sometimes they don’t work. But they can add some interesting tension to a story. Which ones have stayed with you?



*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Bic Runga’s Captured.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Andrea Camilleri, Arthur Conan Doyle, Maj Sjöwall, Margaret Maron, Per Wahlöö

Zero to Hero – Just Like That*

HeroesIf you’ve ever seen those news stories where people get thrust into the limelight for doing something very brave, you may have noticed that many of these people say the same thing: ‘I’m not a hero.’

There are people, of course, who crave glory. But most true heroes are fairly reluctant about making much of it. In fact, they just want to get back to their normal lives when it’s all over. That’s as true in crime fiction as it is in real life, if you think about it. Plenty of characters end up being reluctant heroes for one reason or another.

For instance, in Agatha Christie’s One, Two, Buckle My Shoe (AKA The Patriotic Murders and An Overdose of Death), Hercule Poirot and Chief Inspector Japp investigate the shooting death of Henry Morley in his dental surgery. One of Morley’s patients is well-known, powerful banker Alistair Blunt. He’s got enough enemies that one very real possibility is that he was the actual target. If that’s the case, then Howard Raikes may be the killer. Raikes is a political radical who wants to get rid of powerful bankers such as Blunt and set up a whole new kind of society. And Raikes was known to be at the dental surgery on the day of the murder. In an odd twist, Raikes turns out to be a hero later in the book. Blunt is spending the weekend at his country place when someone fires a shot at him. Raikes catches the person holding the gun, and there’s a very awkward moment when Blunt has to be grateful to someone whom he knows intensely dislikes him, and when Raikes has to get public attention for looking out for someone he holds in contempt.

In Cornell Woolrich’s Night Has a Thousand Eyes, New York homicide detective Tom Shawn is going for a late night walk when he comes upon a distraught young woman on a bridge. She’s about to jump off, and it takes him a bit of time to convince her not to. But he finally succeeds. When he does, he takes her to an all-night diner where she tells him her story. It turns out that she is Jean Reid, daughter of wealthy and successful Harlan Reid. Although she lost her mother at a very young age, her life had been more or less happy until recently. Through a series of strange events, the Reids met Jeremiah Tompkins, a man who, as he puts it, is cursed with knowing the future. Harlan Reid began to visit Tompkins more and more often, finding that all of Tompkins’ predictions seemed to come true. Then came the day that Tompkins predicted his death on a certain date at midnight. Now his daughter is devastated. Shawn is no hero. He’s not out for glory, and certainly doesn’t want public notice. But he does feel for the young woman. So he does what he can to help. And it turns out that he gets drawn in to a very strange case…

Kate Atkinson’s Martin Canning, whom we meet in One Good Turn, is anything but the heroic type. He’s a retiring sort of person, a crime writer by trade, who happens to be in Edinburgh one afternoon picking up tickets for a lunchtime comedy radio show. While he’s waiting his turn, he happens to witness an accident in which a blue Honda hits a silver Peugeot driven by Paul Bradley. Both drivers get out and start to argue. As you can imagine, the argument escalates until the Honda driver brandishes a baseball bat and begins to hit Bradley. Canning sees what’s happening and, without thinking much, throws his computer case at the Honda driver, saving Bradley’s life. His sense of obligation makes him accompany Bradley to the nearest hospital, to make sure he’ll be all right. That heroism draws Canning into a web of fraud, murder and more. Little wonder he didn’t want to be a hero…

Neither, really, does Kishwar Desai’s Simran Singh, whom we meet in Witness the Night. She is a social worker based in Delhi. Everything changes when she gets a call from an old friend from university who’s now Inspector General for the State of Punjab. He wants her help with a terrible case of murder. Fourteen-year-old Durga Atwal has been arrested for the poisoning deaths of thirteen of her family members. Some were stabbed as well, and the house was burned. There are signs that Durga may have been a victim, too, who just happened to escape. But it’s also possible that she is responsible for this set of crimes. The police can’t get much information, because Durga has said nearly nothing since she was arrested. The hope is that if Simran can get the girl to talk, the authorities can find out what really happened that night. Very slowly, Simran gets to know Durga, and as she finds out the truth, Simran ends up being what most people would call a hero. She doesn’t really want that recognition; she doesn’t do anything to get the credit or ‘earn points.’ She works to find out the truth mostly to help Durga if she can.

And then there’s Andrea Camilleri’s Dance of the Seagull. In that novel, Vigàta police inspector Salvo Montalbano is faced with a particularly difficult case. One of his team members, Giuseppe Fazio, has gone missing. At the time he disappeared, Fazio was working on a smuggling case, so Montalbano is hoping that if he follows the trail Fazio left, he’ll find out what’s happened to his colleague. It’s not spoiling the story to say that the team members find Fazio, wounded but alive, and get him into a hospital. That’s how Montalbano meets Angela, one of the nurses who works there. She’s a skilled nurse, but she certainly doesn’t see herself as a hero. In fact, she doesn’t really want to get involved with the police or with the case they’re investigating. But as it turns out, she behaves heroically. She doesn’t want credit for it, and she never wanted to be involved in the first place. She just wants to do her job.

And that’s the way it is for a lot of people whom we regard as heroes. They’re people, like us, who do remarkable things. They don’t regard themselves as ‘extra special,’ and certainly don’t look for the situations that make them heroes. It just works out that way.



*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from David Zippel and Alan Menken’s Zero to Hero.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Andrea Camilleri, Cornell Woolrich, Kate Atkinson, Kishwar Desai