Category Archives: Apostolos Doxiadis

To Sit Up Straight and be Well Behaved*

One of the characters we see in a lot of crime fiction is the ‘dutiful’ child (whether young or adult). That’s the one who never causes trouble, who looks after the elderly parents, takes over the family business, and so on. On the surface, that sort of character may not seem particularly interesting. But the crime novelist has all sorts of possibilities when it comes to the ‘obedient one.’ That character may seethe with resentment. Or, may be quietly plotting who-knows-what. Or may be the protagonist. Or…  Perhaps that’s the reason there are so many such characters in the genre.

Agatha Christie used ‘dutiful’ characters in a lot of her stories. For instance, in 4:50 From Paddington (AKA What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw!), we are introduced to the Crackenthorpe family. Patriarch Luther Crackenthorpe lives at the family home, Rutherford Hall, with his dutiful daughter, Emma, who has never married. He also has three sons, Harold (also dutiful), Alfred (the ‘black sheep’), and Cedric (the family bohemian). Everyone gathers for Christmas, and right away there’s tension. In part that’s because Luther Crackenthorpe resents the fact that his father left the family fortune not to him, but to his children. There are other conflicts, too, and some of them stem from the fact that Emma and Harold have ‘behaved themselves,’ while the others haven’t. But they pale by comparison when the body of a woman is found on the family property. It seems that she was killed on a train, then thrown from it. The murder was witnessed by Mrs. Elspeth McGillicuddy, a friend of Miss Marple’s, but she couldn’t see the murderer’s face. And no-one knows who the victim is at first. Miss Marple finds out who the victim was, and is then able to work out who killed her and why. That sort of family dynamic shows up in other Christie novels, too, doesn’t it, fans of Hercule Poirot’s Christmas?

One of the main plot points in Martin Clark’s The Legal Limit concerns the conflict between brothers Mason and Gates Hunt. They are both products of an abusive home, but they couldn’t be more different. Mason, the ‘good son,’ has taken advantage of every opportunity he’s gotten. He ended up with a scholarship to law school and has plans for a successful career. Gates, on the other hand, has squandered his considerable natural athletic ability, and now lives on his girlfriend’s Welfare payments and on money from the boys’ mother, Sadie Grace. One afternoon, Gates has an argument with his romantic rival, Wayne Thompson. The argument is put ‘on hold’ for a while, but flares up again later that night, when the Hunt brothers encounter Thompson again. This time, the outcome is tragic when Gates shoots Thompson. Out of a sense of loyalty, Mason helps his brother cover up what happened. But it comes back to haunt him years later. Now, he’s a prosecutor for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Gates has become a drug trafficker and is arrested for selling cocaine. He’s given a long sentence and asks his brother to help get him out. This time, Mason refuses. Gates then threatens to implicate Mason in the still-unsolved Thompson murder. When Mason calls his brother’s bluff, he finds himself indicted for a murder he didn’t commit.

Steph Avery’s Our Trespasses is the story of sisters Bridget ‘Bridie’ and Madeline ‘Midge’ Dolan. It’s 1966 South East London, and the sisters both want to experience the culture of experimentation and liberation going on. But they are very different. Bridie is a devout Catholic, obedient to her parents, and protective of her younger sister. Midge, on the other hand, is more daring, and questions her family’s religious beliefs. One Friday night, they persuade their mother to let them go to the Palais Royale to dance. Her only condition is that their cousin, Jimmy, take them and bring them back. That’s something the girls can easily accept, and the plans are made. The night starts off well but ends in tragedy that impacts Bridie and Midge for the rest of their lives. And the fact that Bridie is ‘the good sister’ plays a role in what happens.

In Apostolos Doxiadis’ Three Little Pigs, we are introduced to the Franco family. At the beginning of the 20th Century, Benvenuto ‘Ben’ Franco brings his family from Italy to New York City, to be a part of ‘the American dream.’ He gets a job in a shoe repair shop and, within a few years, has his own repair and sales business. The family prospers, and Ben has hopes for his children. But then one night, he gets into a bar fight with a man called Luigi Lupo and kills him. He’s promptly arrested and jailed. But that’s the least of his problems. It turns out that Lupo was the son of notorious gangster Tonio Lupo, who isn’t about to let this murder go unchallenged. He visits Ben in prison, and curses his family, promising that each of Ben’s sons, Alessandro ‘Al,’ Niccola ‘Nick,’ and Leonardo ‘Leo,’ will die at the age of forty-two, the same as Luigi was when he was killed. As the story moves on, we see what becomes of the brothers, and how the curse plays out. We also see how their personalities conflict. Al is the ‘good son.’ He works hard, spends wisely, and takes over the family business as expected. Nick becomes an actor and has his own successes and abject failures. And Leo gets into quite a lot of trouble, even though Al tries to take care of him. It’s not until much later that he matures. Those differences do make for some conflicts among the brothers.

And then there’s Charity Norman’s See You in September. Cassy Howells and her boyfriend, Hamish, have just finished university, and decide to spend the summer volunteering and exploring New Zealand before settling down to ‘adult life’ in the fall.  The trip starts off well enough, but when Cassy discovers that she’s pregnant, Hamish lets her know that he doesn’t want to be a father, and that she’s on her own. Broken-hearted, alone, and vulnerable, Cassy becomes the perfect candidate to be taken in by a cult led by an enigmatic man named Justin. At first, she feels loved and accepted. But things start to change, and it becomes clear that the Last Day will be coming. Whatever that actually means, it could be tragedy for Cassy. Meanwhile, Cassy’s parents, Mike and Diana, and her younger sister, Tara, are terribly worried about her. When they discover that she’s joined the cult community and intends to stay there, Mike and Diana try to bring her home. But they may not succeed before the Last Day comes. And, even if they do, she may not be the same. One of the threads that runs through this novel is Tara’s feeling towards her sister. She loves Cassy, but she’s angry. She’s been ‘the good sister,’ trying to help keep things together at home. She’s been there to deal with her parents’ fears, her own concerns, etc., while Cassy hasn’t had to face any of it. And that impacts Tara’s perspective.

A character who’s ‘dutiful’ and ‘obedient’ may seem on the surface to be uninteresting. But things may not be that way just beneath. And that can add layers of character development and plot points to a crime novel.


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Maxi Priest’s It Ain’t Easy.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Apostolos Doxiadis, Charity Norman, Martin Clark, Steph Avery

And He’s Got No Past, He’s a Mystery*

One of the tropes that we see in several different kinds of crime fiction is the mysterious stranger. That person may get the sleuth involved in an investigation. Or, that person may be an unidentified victim. There are other possibilities, too, of course.

It’s important to use this trope carefully for a few reasons. For one thing, if a story is to be credible, there has to be a believable reason that that person shows up. For another thing (also related to credibility), there has to be a believable reason that the other characters (or at least the protagonist) pays attention to the stranger. More importantly, there has to be a good reason that the protagonist listens to the stranger and, perhaps, does what the stranger says.

In Marie Belloc Lowndes’ The Lodger, for instance, we are introduced to Ellen and Robert Bunting. They spent years ‘in service,’ but have retired. Now, they live quite modestly, but they do need to think of a way to earn some income. In order to make ends meet, they’re going to have to open their home to a lodger. Ellen is especially particular about the sort of person she wants living in her home, so their rooms go unlet for a while. Then one day, a stranger who calls himself Mr. Sleuth stops in and asks about a room. He is a bit mysterious, but he acts ‘like a gentleman,’ and the Buntings do need the money. So, they take him in. Mr. Sleuth has some strange habits, but he pays well and is quiet, so the Buntings don’t do much about it. In the meantime, they have other worries. A killer who calls himself The Avenger has been at work, and many people are afraid to go out at night. Slowly, Ellen begins to suspect that their lodger may, in fact, be that killer. She doesn’t have direct evidence, though, and the Buntings are benefiting from the income. So, at first, she doesn’t do much. But as she gets more and more concerned, it becomes clear that Mr. Sleuth may be much more than just an eccentric lodger…

Agatha Christie’s Passenger to Frankfurt begins as a low-level diplomat named Stafford Nye is waiting to board a plane. A mysterious woman approaches him and says that she needs to leave the country because her life’s in danger. Out of a sense of chivalry, Nye gives her his diplomatic credentials and his boarding pass (something that couldn’t happen in today’s airports!), and she leaves, promising to return his things. That gesture of what he sees as kindness ends up drawing Nye into a web of international intrigue and a worldwide plot. And it turns out that the strange woman is mixed up in it all.

There’s a mysterious stranger at the heart of Alan Bradley’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, too. Eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce lives with her father and two older sisters in a large old house in the village of Bishops Lacey. One night, a strange man comes to the house, and Flavia hears him arguing loudly with her father. The next morning, she finds the man’s body on the property. As you can imagine, the police are called in, and they have no choice but to suspect Colonel de Luce of having killed the man. But Flavia is sure her father is innocent. So, she decides to find out for herself who the murderer is. But first, she’s going to have to learn the dead man’s identity And that gets her into her share of danger as she tries to solve the mystery.

A strange old man has quite a story to tell in Apostolos Doxiadis’ Three Little Pigs. An unnamed art expert (the narrator) visits a Swiss monastery, with an eye to doing some restoration. While he’s there, he meets the old man, who lives in a care home on the property. The old man says that he has ‘a good story’ to tell, and is willing to do so, if the art expert uses a tape recorder to preserve the story (the novel begins in the 1970s). The narrator agrees, and the old man begins. The story concerns the Franco family, who moved from Italy to New York City at the beginning of the 20th Century. The family settled in and began to prosper. Then, tragedy struck. Family patriarch Benvenuto ‘Ben’ Franco accidentally killed another man in a bar fight, and the victim’s father cursed the family. He promised that all three of Franco’s sons would die at the age of forty-two, the same age his son was at his death. The story continues as the old man relates what happened to each of the three brothers. In the end, we learn who the old man is, and why he wants the story told, but he is a stranger for nearly the entire novel.

And then there’s Kirsten McDougall’s Tess. Lewis Rose is driving through the rain towards his home in Masterton, in the Wellington area of New Zealand’s South Island. On his way, he sees a young woman walking along the road, and he offers her a lift. She accepts, and he takes her into Masterton. He doesn’t know her name, or much of her story, but he feels glad that he was able to help. The next day, Rose sees the young woman again when he rescues her from some thugs who are harassing her. He takes her back to his house, where he soon learns that she is ill. He lets her stay in the house as she gets better, and, slowly, he learns a few things about her. Her name is Tess, and she’s nineteen. She’s fleeing a bad situation (on which she doesn’t elaborate) and is glad for the place to stay. As the novel goes on, we find out more about Tess, and we see what happens to her and to the Rose family as she stays with them.

It’s not easy to introduce ‘the mysterious stranger’ into a novel. But when it’s done well, it can add to the tension in a story. And it can make for an interesting character.


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Bad Company’s Stranger Than Fiction.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Alan Bradley, Apostolos Doxiadis, Kirsten McDougall, Marie Belloc Lowndes

I’ll Be There For You, Like I’ve Been There Before*

If you have siblings, then you know that the dynamics can be complicated. But what’s interesting is that siblings tend to protect each other. You’re allowed to tease your brother or sister, but you wouldn’t likely put up with it if someone outside the family did that.

That protectiveness about siblings plays a big role in crime fiction, too. There are a lot of examples of how this plays out in crime fiction, and it’s interesting to see how it works. Space only permits me to mention a few instances; I know you’ll think of plenty of others.

In Agatha Christie’s Murder With Mirrors (AKA They Do it With Mirrors), we are introduced to Ruth Van Rydock. She’s concerned about her sister, Carrie Louise, whose health seems to be poor. And Ruth is worried that her sister might be in real danger. When her old school friend, Miss Marple, pays her a visit, Ruth shares her thoughts, and Miss Marple agrees to check on Carrie Louise, who is also an old school friend. Carrie Louise lives with her third husband, Lewis Serrocold, in a house called Stonygates, which includes a home and school for delinquent boys. There are some other family members who also live there as well, and a few who visit while Miss Marple is at Stonygates. One day, one of those visitors, Carrie Louise’s stepson, Christian Gulbrandsen, is shot. Out of concern for both of her friends, Miss Marple extends her visit to help find out who the killer is, and what the truth is about Carrie Louise’s health. I see you, fans of Appointment With Death.

Martin Clark’s The Legal Limit is the story of Virginia brothers Mason and Gates Hunt. They were raised by an abusive, alcoholic father and a mother who fell in for her own share of abuse. Gates tried to protect his younger brother from their father’s attacks, and Mason is grateful for that. That protectiveness comes back to haunt the brothers later, though. As they grow, Mason takes advantage of every opportunity that comes his way. Eventually, he gets a university scholarship and goes to law school. Gates, on the other hand, squanders his considerable athletic ability, and ends up living on his girlfriend’s Welfare payments, and on money he gets from his and Mason’s mother, Sadie Grace. One day, Gates has an argument with his romantic rival, Wayne Thompson. The argument is put ‘on hold’ for a while, but it flares up later when the Hunt brothers encounter Thompson that night. Tempers flare more and more, and before anyone really knows what’s happened, Gates has shot Thompson. Out of a sense of loyalty and his own kind of protectiveness, Mason helps his brother hide the evidence of the crime, and life goes on for both. Years later, Mason has become a prosecutor for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Gates has turned to drug trafficking and is arrested on cocaine-related charges. When he receives a long prison sentence, he begs his brother to help get him out. This time, Mason refuses. Gates threatens that if he doesn’t get out of prison, he’ll implicate Mason in the still-unsolved Thompson murder. Mason calls his brother’s bluff, and before long, finds himself accused of murder. Now, he’s going to have to clear his name, and it’s not going to be an easy process.

In Patricia Abbott’s Concrete Angel, Christine Moran grows up in a toxic environment. Her mother, Eve, has always wanted to acquire. And she’s never been afraid to do whatever it took, including murder, to get what she wanted. Christine’s been profoundly impacted by this environment, and she’s developed a dysfunctional relationship with her mother. Then everything changes. Christine sees that her younger brother, Ryan, is at risk of being caught in the same web, and she doesn’t want that to happen. She has to find a way to free herself and her brother if they’re going to have a chance to survive.

Apostolos Doxiadis’ Three Little Pigs features the members of the Franco family. At the turn of the 20th Century, Benvenuto ‘Ben’ Franco and his family emigrate to the United States from Italy. They start life again in New York, where Ben gets a job in a shoe repair shop. Within a few years, he’s got his own shoe sales and repair company, and the family prospers. Tragedy strikes one night when Ben gets into a bar fight and ends up killing his opponent, Luigi Lupo. It turns out that Lupo is the son of notorious gangster Tonio Lupo, and that spells disaster for the Franco family. Lupo curses the family, promising that each of Franco’s three sons will die at the age of forty-two, the same age Luigi was when he was killed. And Lupo has the connections and the will to make good on that curse. As the story goes on, we follow the three Franco sons, Alessandro ‘Al,’ Niccola ‘Nick’ and Leonardo ‘Leo,’ and we learn how the curse plays out. We also see how, in their ways, the brothers try to protect each other. There’s a strong sense of family loyalty here.

And then there’s Steph Avery’s Our Trespasses. This novel begins when the South London police get an anonymous letter in which the writer confesses to the murder of a vagrant whose body was found on the tracks in an underground station. The police can’t do very much about the letter, even if it is genuine (which it soon proves to be). The story then moves to 1966 South East London. Mods, Rockers, and all sorts of experimentation are the rage, and teenage sisters Madeline ‘Midge’ and Bridget ‘Bridie’ Dolan want to be a part of it. They’re sheltered ‘good girls,’ but they want to see a bit of life. One Friday night, they coax and plead, and finally get their mother to let them go to the Palais Royale to dance. Her condition is that their cousin, Jimmy, will need to take them there and bring them back. That’s not a problem for Midge and Bridie, who think their cousin is ‘cool,’ so plans are made. The night turns tragic, though, and impacts the girls for the rest of their lives. Throughout the novel, we see how Bridie and Midge try to take care of each other, and that plays its role in the novel.

And that’s the thing about siblings. It’s one thing for one sibling to pick on another. It’s another if someone from the ‘outside’ does. And, even when that protectiveness goes too far (or is even toxic in itself), it’s often there.


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from the Rembrandts’ I’ll Be There For You.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Apostolos Doxiadis, Martin Clark, Patricia Abbott, Steph Avery

I Don’t Know if I Can Stop It*

You’d think that, if the police knew about a murder ahead of time, they’d be able to prevent it. But it’s not always that easy. For one thing, there’s not a lot the police can do about a crime until it’s been committed. For another, knowing there’s going to be a crime doesn’t always mean one knows exactly where or when it’s going to happen.

A quick look at crime fiction shows that knowing there’s going to be a crime – sometimes even when and where that crime will take place – doesn’t always prevent it. That plot device can push the limits of credibility, so it does have to be handled well. But when it is, it can be interesting, and can add tension to a story.

For instance, the real action in Agatha Christie’s A Murder is Announced begins when this announcement is placed in the local newspaper of Chipping Cleghorn:

‘A murder is announced and will take place on Friday, October 29th, at Little Paddocks, at 6.30 pm. Friends accept this, the only intimation.’

It’s hard to get more obvious than that. Various members of the village community see this announcement, and find reasons to drop by Little Paddocks, which is owned by Letitia Blacklock. Sure enough, at 6:30, the lights go out and a man bursts through the door saying ‘Stick ‘em up!’  A shot is fired and the man, whose name is Rudi Scherz, is killed. Inspector Craddock investigates, and he suspects that this is not some sort of strange accident or weird joke. Miss Marple happens to be staying at the hotel where the victim works, and she and Craddock work together to find out who the killer is.  You’re absolutely right, fans of The ABC Murders.

Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal is the story of a plot to kill French president Charles de Gaulle. A far-right French group wants him assassinated, but their members are well-enough known to police that it would be difficult for one of them to get close enough to de Gaulle to commit the crime. So, they decide to hire a paid killer. They know almost nothing about the man they choose – only that he’s English and that he goes by the name of the Jackal. No-one even knows what he looks like, and this is seen as all to the good. When the police find out about this plot, Detective Claude Lebel is given the thankless task of trying to prevent a murder by someone whose name he doesn’t know, and appearance he’s never seen.

In one of the cases in Alexander McCall Smith’s Morality For Beautiful Girls, Mma Precious Ramotswe gets a visit from an important Government Man. He is convinced that his new sister-in-law is trying to kill his brother, and he wants Mma Ramotswe to prove it, and to stop her. Mma Ramotswe agrees to at least visit the family and see what she can find out. So, she goes to the Government Man’s family home, where she meets his brother, his sister-in-law, and other members of the household. Mma Ramotswe’s been warned that there could be a murder, but that doesn’t prevent an unpleasant poisoning attempt one afternoon. Everyone who eats lunch gets sick, including Mma Ramotswe. Now, she has to find out who’s responsible, and what the truth is about this family.

In Apostolos Doxiadis’ Three Little Pigs, we are introduced to the family of Benvenuto ‘Ben’ Franco. They travel from Italy to make their home in New York City during the first years of the 20th Century. Ben finds a job at a shoe repair shop, works hard, and in a few years, has his own shoe sales and repair shop. The family prospers, and on the surface, it seems to be a case of ‘The American Dream’ coming true. But one night, Ben gets into a bar fight and kills man. Unfortunately, the man happens to be Luigi Lupo, son of notorious gangster Tonio Lupo. The elder Lupo visits Ben in prison, and curses his three sons, saying that they will all die at the age of forty-two, the age of his son at his death. As the story goes on, we follow the lives of those three sons: Alessandro ‘Al,’ Niccola ‘Nick,’ and Leonardo ‘Leo.’ As the years go by, we also learn that those loyal to Tonio Lupo have not forgotten his curse and are taking steps to make sure it comes to pass. And we see how knowing about a murder in advance doesn’t always prevent it.

And then there’s Alan Carter’s Marlborough Man. Sergeant Nick Chester, his wife, Vanessa, and their son, Paulie, have been relocated from the UK to New Zealand, because Chester was involved in an undercover operation that went wrong. It’s a big change, but everyone’s getting used to their new home in the Marlborough area of New Zealand’ South Island. Then, six-year-old Jamie Riley, who’s been missing for nearly two weeks, is found dead. Chester and his assistant, Police Constable (PC) Latifa Rapata, begin the work of finding out who was responsible. The discover another, similar murder from five years earlier, and follow the leads to see whether the same person might have killed both victims. Then, another young boy goes missing. Chester, Rapata, and their team know that the boy will likely be killed if they don’t find the killer quickly. Even knowing what they know about the case may not be enough to prevent that murder.

Sometimes, a fictional detective may know there’s going to be a murder – may even know something about where and when that murder may take place. But that doesn’t mean the murder can necessarily be prevented. And that possibility can add tension and suspense to a story.


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Neil Young’s Crime in the City.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Alan Carter, Alexander McCall Smith, Apostolos Doxiadis, Frederick Forsyth

You Can’t Compete With Murder Incorporated*

One of the most influential films of the last decades has arguably been Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, which premiered 46 (!) years ago. It’s based, as you’ll know, on Mario Puzo’s novel of the same name, and traces the fortunes of the Corleone family. Many people consider it a remarkable film; certainly, it’s had a real impact.

But it’s not by any means the only story about members of the Mafia. It seems as though we have a real cultural fascination with Mafiosi, crime families, and their doings. And, if you look at crime fiction, such characters and plot lines are woven into the genre. There are crime families and dynasties all over the world, and there’s only so much room in one post. But here are a few examples.

Puzo’s original 1969 novel, of course, had quite an impact of its own, independent of the film. It features the Corleone family, mostly between 1945 and 1955, and traces that family’s rise to power and its feud with other New York crime families. This novel’s focus is the New York Mafia culture, and its links to the Italian Mafia, and that’s become part of the mythology.

As you’ll know, there were also many connections between the New York Mafia and other crime syndicates and the underworld of Havana during the years before Fidel Castro took power there. There’s an interesting look at those links in Mayra Montero’s Dancing to ‘Almendra,which takes place in 1957. In that novel we are introduced to Havana journalist Joaquín Porrata, who writes for the Diaria de la Marina. He’s accustomed to writing ‘puffball’ pieces such as interviews with performers. One day, though, he hears of the murder of Umberto Anastasia, who’s been killed in a New York barbershop. Anastasia was known as the Great Enforcer of Murder, Inc., and Porrata believes that he was murdered because he took more of an interest than was good for him in some of the other Mob bosses’ dealings in Havana. Porrata’s supervisor doesn’t want him to follow up on that story, though. Instead, he sends him to cover the story of a hippopotamus who escaped from a Havana zoo and was later found dead. When Porrata hears that the animal’s death was likely a message to Anastasia, he is convinced that the two incidents are linked, and starts to ask questions about Anastasia’s death, and about what it suggests about the Mob’s hold on Havana. The closer he gets to the truth, though, the clearer it becomes that some people do not want him to find out what’s really going on.

Apostolos Doxiadis’ Three Little Pigs is the story of Franco family, who moves from Italy to New York City at the beginning of the 20th Century. Benvenuto ‘Ben’ Franco wants the ‘American Dream’ for his family, so he gets a job in a shoe repair shop, works hard, and within a few years is able to open his own shoe sales and repair shop. The business does well, too. But then disaster strikes. Ben Franco, who by this time has changed the family’s name to Frank, kills a man in a bar fight. That man turns out to be Luigi Lupo, son of notorious Mafioso Tonio Lupo. Frank is arrested and imprisoned for the murder, and Lupo visits him in prison. There, he curses the family, and says that each of Frank’s three sons will die at the age of forty-two, the same age Luigi Lupo was at his death. It’s not an idle threat, either, as Tonio Lupo is powerful, notorious, and ruthless. As the years go by, we see what happens to Frank’s sons, and how this curse impacts the family. And we also see how the Mafia plays a part in what happens to the Frank family fortunes.

Mafiosi make an appearance in Lawrence Sanders’ The Anderson Tapes, too. In that novel, we are introduced to professional thief John ‘Duke’ Anderson. He’s recently been released from prison and is trying to ‘go straight.’ He changes his mind, though, when he gets the chance to visit a posh Manhattan apartment building. He decides to plan a robbery, but not just of one apartment. His plan will be to rob the entire building. For that, of course, he’ll need equipment, money, and people to work with him. So, for about five months, Anderson makes his plans and gets his team in place. One of Anderson’s sources will be the Angelo family, a Mafia family involved for some time in New York’s underworld. The FBI and other authorities are very interested in anything they can learn about the Angelos’ activities, so they’ve placed the members under electronic and other surveillance. They’ve also got an interest in several other of Anderson’s contacts. The question will be: can the authorities stop this robbery before it takes place? As we get to know the Angelos, we learn a little about how such families work.

And then there’s Tonino Benacquista’s Badfellas. Fred and Maggie Blake and their two children move from New Jersey to a small town in Normandy. The four settle in and try to adjust to the new culture, the new language, and so on. But this isn’t a typical American family. ‘Fred Blake’ is really Giovanni Manzini, a member of the New Jersey Mafia. He’s committed the unforgiveable sin of testifying against his former Mafia colleagues in court. Now, he and his family are in the US Federal Witness Protection Program. The plan to start life over in Normandy works well at first. But then, word of the Manzinis’ new location gets back to New Jersey. Now, the family has much more serious problems on their hands than ‘culture shock.’ This novel was the inspiration for Luc Besson’s 2013 film, The Family.

The Mafia has woven into the underworld for a very long time. So it makes sense that we’d see examples all through crime fiction. I’ve only had the space to mention a few; I know you’ll think of many others (right, fans of Andrea Camilleri’s series?). Which ones have stayed with you?

As you know, I usually take my own ‘photos for this blog. But I just couldn’t resist this iconic image of Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone.

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



Filed under Apostolos Doxiadis, Lawrence Sanders, Mario Puzo, Mayra Montero, Tonino Benacquista