Category Archives: Anthony Bidulka

The Highway is Long But We’ve Come so Far*

As this is posted, it’s 61 years since the publication of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. As you’ll know, the novel’s focus is a set of road trips. That context – a road trip – is an effective way to explore all sorts of characters, different places, and adventures.

For the crime writer, a road trip also offers plenty of opportunities for misadventure, danger, and tension. And that can add to the suspense of a novel. Here are just a few examples; I know you’ll think of many more.

In Martin Edwards’ short story, 24 Hours From Tulsa, we are introduced to a sales and marketing director named Lomas, who’s on a road trip. He’s under tremendous pressure, and a lot of it is because he finds it hard to get used to the way the world’s changed. He was always at the top of his game, as the saying goes, but people aren’t buying in brick-and-mortar stores the way they did. Companies need to come up with new ways to get sales, and Lomas is finding that difficult. He’s not much of a one for computers, anyway. Even the routes he takes on his road trips have changed, and that’s hard for him, as well. It doesn’t help matters that he’s also got personal problems. The pressure has been building up to the point where Lomas finds it impossible to tolerate it any more. With all of this going on, Lomas decides to stop for the night at a roadside motel. And there, he takes a drastic step.

Geoffrey McGeachin’s Fat, Fifty & F****d! introduces readers to bank manager Martin Carter, who lives and works in a small, dying Australian town. His marriage has fallen apart, and he is made redundant, so he’s really reached a crossroads in his life. On his last day at the bank, he can’t resist the chance to get his hands on a million-dollar payroll and just chuck it all in. So, he takes the money and makes his getaway in a police-issue 4WD. He doesn’t have a particular destination in mind at first, but he knows he wants to start over. He starts off on a road trip that will involve all sorts of eccentric characters and adventures he hadn’t imagined when it all started. This novel isn’t, strictly speaking, crime fiction (well, OK, Carter does take a million dollars and some other ‘crimey’ things happen). But it does tell the story of an unusual road trip.

There’s also quite a road trip in Anthony Bidulka’s Amuse Bouche. Russell Quant is a Saskatoon-based PI, who gets a new client in successful business executive Harold Chavell. He and his fiancé, Tom Osborn, had planned to marry and take a honeymoon trip to France, but Osborn disappeared, taking a copy of the honeymoon itinerary. Chavell wants Quant to go to France and find Osborn. So, Quant travels to France, and follows the itinerary the couple had planned to use. He makes progress, but Osborn seems to stay one step ahead. Then, Quant gets a note saying that Osborn doesn’t want to be found. When Chavell learns that, he asks Quant to return to Saskatoon. Not long afterwards, Osborn’s body is discovered in a lake near a home he and Chavell owned. Now, Chavell is a suspect in a murder investigation, and he asks Quant to stay on the job and clear his name. The road trip through France doesn’t really solve the mystery, but it adds a bit of adventure (and, of course, the setting) to the story.

France is also the setting for Fred Vargas’ Ghost Riders of Ordebec. In one plot thread of that novel, Paris police detective Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg and his team investigate a car fire that killed wealthy Antoine Clermont-Brasseur. It’s not long before it’s established that this was a case of arson. The most likely suspect is a known arsonist named Momo, who has a history of burning cars. He claims that he’s innocent, though, and there’s evidence to support him. Because the victim was very well-connected, there’s a lot of pressure for the police to make a quick arrest and for the case to be settled. But Adamsberg isn’t convinced that Momo’s guilty. And he doesn’t want an innocent man to be jailed. So, he takes a very unusual course of action to be sure that doesn’t happen. In the meantime, his teammates discover that more than one person might have wanted to kill this victim. In one part of this novel, there’s a very interesting road trip that a couple of characters take. And it adds to the plot to follow along with them.

And then there’s Spencer Quinn’s The Right Side. In that novel, US Army Sergeant LeAnn Hogan is in Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in Bethesda, Maryland. She was badly wounded in a bombing incident in Afghanistan and has been left with severe injuries and psychological damage. During her stay at the hospital, Hogan makes friends with her roommate, Marci Cummings. Then, unexpectedly, Cummings dies. Seeking some sort of solace, Hogan leaves Walter Reed and takes a road trip across the US, ending up in Bellevue, Washington, where Cummings lived. Along the way, she struggles with her injuries, and with deciding what she’s going to do and how she’ll fit in, now that she’s back in the US. Hogan arrives in Bellevue too late to attend her friend’s funeral. But she still wants to pay her respects to the family. That’s when she finds out that Cummings’ eight-year-old daughter, Mia, has gone missing. Search parties are out, the police are involved, and everyone is hoping that the child will be found safe. Hogan wants to help, too, and starts asking questions. But it’s soon very clear that her input is not welcome. Some people are downright hostile; others are evasive. But Hogan is not without resources. In the end, we learn the truth about Mia, and about the bombing incident that changed Hogan’s life.

There are lots of other crime novels that involve road trips. They can be effective plot tools, and they can add suspense and tension to a story. Which crime-fictional road trips have stayed with you?

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s Freeways.

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Filed under Anthony Bidulka, Fred Vargas, Geoffrey McGeachin, Martin Edwards, Spencer Quinn

I Had to Let it Happen, I Had to Change*

Don’t tell anyone, will you, but one of the writing projects I’m working on is a standalone (well, thus far a standalone) that features a character from one of my Joel Williams novels. By the time the book is ready for human consumption, it will have been a few years since we ‘met’ this character. And that means that (hopefully), the character’s done some growing and maturing. After all, as we get older, have experiences, and so on, we hopefully learn and become more mature.

That’s one of the advantages, really, of following (and writing) a series. Readers can follow along as characters grow, evolve, and mature. And authors can enrich their characters and explore them. This allows for all sorts of possibilities.

Agatha Christie’s main characters don’t really evolve and mature the way some other authors’ characters do. Hercule Poirot has aged considerably in Curtain, and Miss Marple becomes warmer, more compassionate, and less of a gossip in later novels than she is in The Murder at the Vicarage. But Christie didn’t really focus on character evolution over time in the same way that some other authors have.

Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder has evolved considerably as the series featuring him has gone on. In the first novel, The Sins of the Fathers, he is still reeling from a tragic accidental shooting that caused him to leave the New York Police Department. He drinks far too much, he and his wife have parted ways, and he’s at loose ends, as the saying goes. Over time, Scudder slowly starts to pick up the pieces. He stops drinking and starts attending AA meetings. And, although his alcoholism is always a struggle for him, Scudder makes the commitment to stay sober. He finds love again, too. As you can imagine, he never ‘gets over’ the shooting that changed his life. That scar is permanent. But he learns to live with it, if I can put it that way.

When we first meet Alexander McCall Smith’s Mma Grace Makutsi (in The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency), she is an overeager graduate of the Botswana College of Secretarial and Office Skills. She is bright and hard-working, but she has growing to do (don’t we all!). Over the course of the novels, Mma Makutski gains some confidence and learns that sometimes, rules are made to be – erm – flexible. She also develops an interest in and talent for detection, so that she becomes an Associate Detective who investigates cases just like her boss, Mma Precious Ramotswe.

In Jane Casey’s The Burning, we are introduced to her sleuth, Met Detective Constable (DC) Maeve Kerrigan.  In The Reckoning, Casey introduces another regular character/fellow sleuth, Detective Inspector (DI) Josh Derwent. When we first meet him, Derwent has the reputation for being,
 

‘…obsessively hard-working and infinitely aggressive.’
 

He’s not overly pleased to be working with women (one of whom, Una Bart, ends up outranking him). And he’s not much of a ‘team player.’ Over time, he does do some growing. He slowly learns to pay attention to his colleagues’ views of cases. And he grudgingly starts to learn that women can be highly competent and professional colleagues. None of it’s easy for him, and he butts heads with Kerrigan quite often. But he does do some growing.

Anthony Bidulka’s Russell Quant also does his share of growing as the series featuring him goes on. When we first meet him in Amuse Bouche, he’s recently hung out his shingle as a PI in Saskatoon. He isn’t really reckless or rash, nor is he completely immature (he’s in his thirties as the series begins). Still, he does have some growing and maturing to do, especially when it comes to personal relationships. Over the course of the eight-novel series, Quant matures in more than one way. For one thing, he learns the value of the friendships he’s made. I don’t want to spoil story arcs, but that’s an important part of his growth. He also learns sometimes-painful lessons about what it takes to form and keep an intimate partnership. Oh, and by the way, if you’re reading this, Mr. Bidulka, I think Quant has had a long enough hiatus. I would love to see another Quant outing! Hint, hint…  Just sayin’

And then there’s Vicki Delany’s Constable Moonlight ‘Molly’ Smith, whom we first meet in In the Shadow of the Glacier. In that novel, she’s recently started her work in the small British Columbia town of Trafalgar, where she grew up. When she finds the body of wealthy developer Reginald Montgomery in an alley one night, she and Sergeant John Winters get involved in a murky case of murder. Things are awkward for Smith at first in several ways. She’s just learning her job (and she makes her share of mistakes as the series goes on). She’s also working in the town where she grew up, and it’s a challenge to establish her identity as an adult there. Over time, she develops confidence, and ‘grows into her uniform.’ She also grows personally, as she copes with love and loss in her private life.

And that’s the thing about well-rounded characters. Like real-life people, they grow over time. Hopefully, they become more mature And part of the pleasure of a series is watching the characters develop over time. Space has only allowed for a few examples here. Your turn.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Alexander McCall Smith, Anthony Bidulka, Jane Casey, Lawrence Block, Vicki Delany

And Now I’ve Done My Time in the Kitchen at Parties*

One of the skills most of us have to learn as adults is how to mingle and make small talk. Whether it’s at a conference, a company cocktail party, or a university’s department mixer, it often serves a person well to be able to chat with strangers and fit in at a gathering. Some people loathe those events, and others enjoy them. Either way, they’re part of many of our lives, so it’s often an advantage to be able to negotiate them.

For an author, a mixer or cocktail party offers all sorts of possibilities. Any number of things can happen, which can add tension and suspense to a story. A character’s way of handling mixers and cocktail parties can also show-not-tell quite a lot about that person. And, in whodunits, cocktail parties and mixers can be very good places to find out information, especially as alcohol starts to loosen people’s tongues.

Agatha Christie makes use of these sorts of events in several of her stories. In Mrs. McGinty’s Dead, for instance, detective story writer Ariadne Oliver is staying in the village of Broadhinny, visiting up-and-coming playwright Robin Upward. They’re collaborating on an adaptation of one of her novels for the stage, and, to say the least, they have different visions of what the play ought to be like. Hercule Poirot, as it happens, is also staying in Broadhinny. He’s there investigating the murder of a charwoman who was killed, so everyone says, by her lodger, James Bentley. The evidence is very much against him, too. But Superintendent Albert ‘Bert’ Spence doesn’t think he’s guilty. So, he’s asked Poirot to look into the matter again. One night, both Poirot and Mrs. Oliver are invited to a cocktail party. Mrs. Oliver isn’t much for such events, but Poirot has told her why he’s there, and she knows that mixers like this are good places to learn things. And, as it turns out, they do find out something important. Not long afterwards, Upward takes Mrs. Oliver to a play to ‘vet’ an actor he’s considering for the lead role in their collaboration. Afterwards, there’s a cast party, which Mrs. Oliver doesn’t enjoy at all:
 

‘The play itself she had enjoyed, but the ordeal of “going round afterwards” was fraught with its usual terrors.’
 

Still, Mrs. Oliver hears something interesting at the party that proves to be a clue to Mrs. McGinty’s murder and another that occurs.

In Robert Barnard’s Death of an Old Goat, Professor Belville-Smith, a noted Oxford academic, is scheduled to do a tour of Australia, and is including the University of Drummondale in his itinerary. Professor Bobby Wickham and the rest of the English faculty are to play host, and everyone’s hoping the events will go well. But, right from the start, things go wrong. First, Professor Belville-Smith is condescending, even contemptuous, which endears him to no-one. As if that weren’t enough, his lectures are dry and very boring. He’s given the same lectures so many times that he drones, rather than interacts with the audience. Still, he is a noted scholar, so Wickham and his staff do their best to put out the proverbial red carpet. That includes a cocktail party at which he’s to meet the staff. The party isn’t much of a success; certainly Belville-Smith doesn’t make any new friends. Later that night, he is stabbed in his hotel room. Inspector Bert Royle has never investigated a murder before, but he’s called to do so now. And it’s interesting how different people have different memories of the ‘greet-the-guest’ event.

In Anthony Bidulka’s Flight of Aquavit, Saskatoon PI Russell Quant gets a new client, Daniel Guest. It seems that Guest, who is a ‘closeted,’ married, gay man, is getting blackmailed over trysts he had with other men. He wants Quant to find the blackmailer and get that person to stop. Quant tells Guest that he’d be far better off simply coming out as gay, but Guest won’t consider it. So, Quant begins asking questions. The trail leads to New York and back to Saskatchewan, but after that journey, and a murder, Quant gets to the truth. At one point, Guest arranges for Quant to attend his accounting firm’s Christmas party, so that Quant can ‘vet’ some of the people who work there. Quant is, fortunately, not bad at small talk and mingling. But Guest is nervous about the whole thing. It’s very important to him that no-one know why Quant’s really there (he’s being passed off as a potential client). What’s more, he doesn’t want anyone to know that Quant’s gay. So, he refers to the friend Quant’s brought as his ‘girlfriend,’ which leads to the inevitable, ‘So how long have you two been together?’ sort of question. It all ends up being awkward for Guest, for Quant, and for Quant’s friend.

Teresa Solana’s A Shortcut to Paradise begins just after an Barcelona awards gathering, where famous novelist Marina Dolç is awarded the Golden Apple prize for her latest novel. There’s lots of mixing and mingling, and Dolç doesn’t get back to her hotel room until just after two. The party’s still going on when, less than an hour later, a friend stops by Dolç’s ‘s hotel room and discovers her body. The police soon arrest Amadeu Cabestany, Dolç’s top rival for the Golden Apple prize. The two were at odds, and it doesn’t help matters that Cabestany’s hotel room is right next to Dolç’s. But he claims he wasn’t at the hotel at the time of the murder, and that he left the party early and went elsewhere. But no-one can corroborate his story. There was so much mixing, mingling, and drinking that no-one remembers when he left. Cabestany’s literary agent hires PIs Josep ‘Pep’ Martínez and his brother Eduard to find out who killed the victim.

And then there’s Sinéad Crowley’s Can Anybody Help Me? In that novel, we are introduced to Yvonne and Gerry Mulhern, who’ve just moved from London to Dublin, so that Gerry can take advantage of an attractive job opportunity. The move goes smoothly enough, but Gerry spends a lot of time at work, which means Yvonne is left alone much of the time to care for their newborn daughter, Róisín. She doesn’t really know anyone in Dublin, and she’s overwhelmed with the demands of taking care of a newborn. So, she joins an online group called Netmammy. There, she finds answers, support, and friendship. All goes well until one of her new online friends goes ‘off the grid.’ And then a body is found in an abandoned apartment – a body that matches what Yvonne knows about her friend’s description. If the body is the same person, then what does that mean for Netmammy? And for Yvonne? At one point in the novel, Gerry persuades Yvonne to go with him to a cocktail party for people at his work. She doesn’t want to be there, doesn’t know anyone there, and Gerry spends almost no time with her. So, as you can imagine, she’s miserable. Her saving grace? She’s brought her ‘phone, and logs onto Netmammy from the party.

Some people really do enjoy mixing, mingling and exchanging small talk. Others do everything possible to avoid it. Either way, those events crop up in crime fiction, just as they do in real life.

 
 
 

*Note: The title of this post is a line from Jona Lewie’s You’ll Always Find Me in the Kitchen at Parties.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Anthony Bidulka, Robert Barnard, Sinéad Crowley, Teresa Solana

Just Picture a Great Big Steak*

One of the things I love about crime fiction is the way it shows how we’ve changed over time. As society changes, so do social attitudes and customs. One of the many kinds of changes we’ve seen is in our diets and the way people eat.

I got to thinking about this after an interesting comment exchange with Brad at ahsweetmysteryblog. By the way, if you like to read crime fiction, especially classic and Golden Age crime fiction, you don’t want to miss Brad’s richly detailed and informative blog. I learn every time I visit. Every time.

Brad and I were mentioning Fritz Brenner, who, as Rex Stout fans know, is Nero Wolfe’s chef. He is world-class, and always creates gourmet eating experiences for his boss. But, by today’s standards, we’d probably say that his cooking is far too rich and too full of calories, fat, and so on. Our views about what people should be eating have certainly changed since Stout was writing. Today’s top chefs know that there are healthful ways to cook that are also unforgettably delicious and beautifully presented. And many restaurants now offer vegetarian/vegan options, smaller servings, and low-fat/low-calorie dishes.

Choices such as low-calorie foods or vegetarianism haven’t always been seen as mainstream as they are now. For instance, in Agatha Christie’s Dumb Witness, Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings travel to the village of Market Basing when one of its prominent residents, wealthy Emily Arundell, unexpectedly dies. At first, her death is put down to liver failure, but soon enough, it turns out that she was poisoned. And that wasn’t the first attempt on her life. Not many months before, she had a fall down a staircase that was deliberately engineered. There are several suspects in this case, since Miss Arundell’s relatives are all in need of money. And there’s the fact that her companion, Wilhelmina ‘Minnie’ Lawson, has inherited most of her fortune. Two of the witnesses that Poirot talks to are Isabel and Julia Tripp, who are friends of Minnie Lawson, and who were there on the night Miss Arundell died. These are eccentric ladies, to put it mildly. They have many non-conformist beliefs and are avid spiritualists. To add to this, they are vegetarians. While that fact isn’t the reason for Miss Arundell’s murder, it offers a glimpse of how such a diet might have been viewed at the time. Certainly, Poirot, who is a gourmand, is not exactly excited about the prospect of having dinner with the Tripp sisters…

Just because our views of what ‘counts’ as an appropriate diet have changed, doesn’t mean that all fictional sleuths eat healthfully. For instance, Reginald Hill’s Andy Dalziel isn’t particularly concerned with keeping to a healthy diet. He’s not stupid; he knows that it’s a good idea to limit fat, salt, and so on. But he likes his pub grub and has no intention of cutting things like bacon out of his diet. The same goes for Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse and for Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone. It’s not that they don’t know what they ought to be eating. Fans of Dexter’s series, for instance, know that Morse’s doctors have told him often enough. But that’s not the way they live their lives. What’s interesting about these sleuths’ attitudes is that they go against the proverbial tide. It’s now considered perfectly normal – even healthy – to eat less meat, less salt and fat, fewer fried foods, and so on.

We see another interesting example of that change in attitude in Anthony Bidulka’s Russell Quant series. Quant is a Saskatoon-based PI who does enjoy the occasional ‘not-good-for-you-but-delicious’ meal at his ‘watering hole,’ Colourful Mary’s. Still, he tries to watch what and how much he eats. That becomes difficult when his mother, Kay, comes for a visit in Flight of Aquavit. She is a farm wife, who’s spent her life making heavy-duty meals for hard-working farm people. So, her idea of what ‘counts’ as breakfast, for instance, are quite different to her son’s. It’s not that Quant doesn’t enjoy her cooking; he does. It’s delicious. But he also knows it’s got many times more calories, fat, salt, and so on than he should be having. This difference in views isn’t the main plot of the novel, but it does show how our attitudes about diet have changed. It also shows (but this is perhaps the topic for another time), how lifestyle, culture, and other factors influence diet.

Helene Tursten’s Irene Huss is a Göteborg police detective, whose squad investigates murder and other violent crimes. In Night Rounds, we learn that Huss’ daughter, Jenny, has decided to become vegan. In fact, in one sub-plot, Jenny goes out one night with a militant vegan group to do what she thinks will simply be putting up vegan posters. It turns into something far more than that, and things quickly turn ugly. Fortunately for Jenny, Huss has suspected there might be trouble, and is able to get Jenny out of harm’s way. Jenny’s choice to become vegan does set up a conflict with her father, Krister, who is a well-regarded chef. But neither veganism nor a more conventional diet is portrayed as ‘right.’ It makes for an interesting discussion of what we think of when we think of ‘good’ food.

Sujata Massey’s Rei Shimura is a half-Japanese/half-American antiques dealer who’s originally based in Tokyo (although her adventures do take her to several other places). She likes and respects some of the Japanese traditions she’s learned, but in many ways, she has a very modern outlook. And that includes her choice to be a vegetarian. What’s really interesting about that is that it doesn’t even raise an eyebrow as a rule. It’s simply accepted. And that shows something, at least to me, about the way our views about diet have changed.

That makes sense, too, since society is always changing. Thanks, Brad, for the inspiration. Now, folks, if you’ll be kind enough to go visit Brad’s blog, I’ll excuse myself. It’s time for lunch!

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Lionel Bart’s Food, Glorious Food.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Anthony Bidulka, Colin Dexter, Helene Tursten, Reginald Hill, Rex Stout, Sue Grafton, Sujata Massey

You’re Dying to Kill Me*

Imagine how you might feel if you really, honestly believed someone was trying to kill you. It would likely be even worse if you didn’t exactly who it was, because you wouldn’t know the source of the threat. All of the tension, anxiety, and worse that comes from feeling threatened like that plays havoc with someone’s life.

In a crime novel, though, it adds tension and suspense. And it’s an effective tool for involving a sleuth in a case. So, it’s little wonder that we see it as often as we do in the genre. The ‘someone’s trying to kill me’ plot line has arguably become a trope, and that tension and conflict are part of the reason.

Agatha Christie uses that plot point in several of her stories. For instance, in Peril at End House, Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings are staying at the Majestic Hotel in St. Loo. Poirot has determined to take his ease and retire from active investigating. Everything changes when he happens to twist his ankle, and Magdala ‘Nick’ Buckley comes to his aid. In the course of their interaction, she tells him that she’s had a few escapes from death in the last few days. On the surface, it can all be passed off as a series of weird events and nothing more. But then, Poirot discovers a hole in the hat she leaves behind. And the bullet that seems to have made that hole. Now, he suspects that someone’s trying to kill her. He warns her and starts to get to know the other people in her life, to find out who might be targeting her. Then, there actually is a murder. Nick’s cousin has come to visit and borrows a distinctive shawl one evening. While she’s wearing it, she’s shot. Poirot slowly puts the pieces together and discovers who threatened Nick’s life and killed her cousin.

In Catriona McPherson’s Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains, we are introduced to private detective Dandelion ‘Dandy’ Gilver. One day, she gets a letter from Walburga ‘Lollie’ Balfour, that begins this way:
 

‘Dear Mrs. Gilver,
…My husband is going to kill me, and I would rather he didn’t.’

 

The two arrange that Dandy will visit her new client in the guise of a maid seeking a job. That will give her the opportunity to get to know the various members of the household, and in particular, Philip ‘Pip’ Balfour. Dandy duly goes to the house, gets a job using an alias, and starts her duties. Early the next morning, Pip Balfour is found dead, and Superintendent Hardy is called in. Lollie claims that she didn’t commit the murder, but she is a prime suspect. Then, there’s another murder. Now it’s clear that something sinister is going on in the house. Dandy and her business partner, Alec Osborne, work to find out who the killer is.

Anthony Bidulka’s Tapas on the Ramblas begins as Saskatoon PI Russell Quant gets a visitor. Wealthy business tycoon Charity Wiser has come to suspect that someone in her family is trying to kill her. So, she sends her granddaughter, Flora, to Quant to ask him to investigate. And Charity Wiser has an idea for helping him get to know the suspects. She is planning a family cruise on her private boat and invites Quant to join the group. This, she believes, will give him the opportunity to ‘vet’ the members of her family. Quant’s pleased at the opportunity for an all-expenses cruise and agrees. He soon finds that almost everyone in the family has a good reason to want Charity Wiser dead. Not only does she have a fortune to leave, but she is manipulative, and seems to delight in wielding her power and in putting her family in situations that she knows will make them uncomfortable. Against this background, Quant will have to find out who the real enemy is before that person finishes the job.

Elmore Leonard’s Maximum Bob is the story of South Florida judge Robert Isom ‘Maximum Bob’ Gibbs. He’s earned his nickname because of his reputation for handing out the stiffest sentences that the law allows. He wields a lot of power in the county, and he’s made his share of enemies. One day, an alligator is found on his property. It doesn’t hurt anyone, although it causes damage. Still, an alligator is a dangerous animal, and the police are called in, in the form of local police officer Gary Hammond. He begins to wonder whether the alligator might have been put there deliberately, and if so, by whom. But he doesn’t have much to go on. Then, one night, shots are fired into the judge’s home. Now it’s clear that someone is trying to kill the judge, and there are plenty of suspects. After all, he’s infuriated plenty of convicts and parolees. And there’s his wife, who might have any number of motives. There’s also the fact that he’s a womanizer, with all that that entails. In the end, and after more than one death, Hammond and parole officer Kathy Diaz Baker find out who has been targeting the judge.

One of the more interesting uses of this plot point comes in Kazuhiro Kiuchi’s Shield of Straw. In that novel, wealthy Tokyo magnate Takaoki Ninagawa is devastated when his granddaughter, Chika, goes missing. Matters get even worse when her body is found, and it’s discovered that she was raped before she was killed. Ninagawa decides to do something about it. He finds out that the killer is a man named Kunihide Kiyomaru and offers a bounty of one billion yen to anyone who kills Kiyomaru and can prove it. When Kiyomaru learns of the price on his head, he goes into hiding in Fukuoka, about 1100 km/685 mi from Tokyo. If Kiyomaru is to be prosecuted for the rape and murder, he’ll need to be transported back to Tokyo, and SP (Special Police) officer Kazuki Mekari of the Tokyo Municipal Police Department (MPD) is given the task of making that happen. Mekari and his team travel to Fukuoka and prepare for the journey to Tokyo with their prisoner. But it won’t be easy. Many thousands of people know about the bounty and would like nothing more than to kill Kiyomaru. And there’s nothing to say that one of the members of the police escort couldn’t be tempted, too. With so many people trying to kill this particular person, getting him back alive will be a daunting task.

The thought that someone is trying to kill you is an eerie one. In real life, it’s truly awful. In crime fiction, it can add suspense, tension and an interesting plot like to a story. These are just a few examples. Your turn.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from the Giraffes’ Louis Guthrie Wants to Kill Me.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Anthony Bidulka, Catriona McPherson, Elmore Leonard, Kazuhiro Kiuchi