Category Archives: Apostolos Doxiadis

You Put My Life in Danger*

Most people don’t want to think that someone they know may be in danger. It’s a very unsettling feeling, if you think about it. That’s part of why it’s so tempting to dismiss that sort of threat, rather than take it seriously. ‘Maybe you’re just under stress,’ or ‘Perhaps you’re just misinterpreting something,’ or, less charitably, ‘It might be your imagination.’

Sometimes, of course, the threat of danger isn’t real, but a product of imagination, stress, or misinterpretation. But every once in a while, it’s quite real. And that possibility can add tension and plot points to a crime novel, especially if the threat turns out to be real…

For instance, in Agatha Christie’s Murder in Mesopotamia, we are introduced to Louise Leidner. She is accompanying her husband, noted archaeologist Eric Leidner, on a dig a few hours from Baghdad. And the trip isn’t easy for her. As she tells her husband, she’s been hearing odd noises, and seeing strange things out her window. She’s even begun to fear for her life. She isn’t really taken seriously, though. One of the people on the dig even refers to Louise’s fears as ‘fancies,’ and even those more kindly disposed aren’t convinced of the danger. One afternoon, Louise is tragically proved right about the danger she’s been in when she’s found murdered in her room. Hercule Poirot is in the area and is persuaded to look into the matter. He finds that this murder has much to do with the sort of person Louise was, and how that impacted others.

In Cornell Woolrich’s Night Has a Thousand Eyes, New York Homicide Bureau Detective Tom Shawn gets drawn into the lives of wealthy business executive Harlan Reid and his daughter, Jean. Through their housemaid, they’ve met a man named Jeremiah Tompkins, a man who, as he puts it, is cursed with being able to predict the future accurately. Since their meeting, Reid has begun meeting with Tompkins whenever he has a big decision to make. So far, all of what Tompkins has said has proven true, and now Reid believes in him utterly. Then comes a shocking prediction. Tompkins says that Reid will die on a certain night at midnight. Jean isn’t sure whether it’s going to happen or not, but her father has no doubt at all. That belief dramatically affects him, and by extension, his daughter. When Shawn meets the Reids, they’re already distraught. Shawn isn’t sure whether any of the danger is real. What’s more, he does know that there are plenty of scammers who pretend to predict things. But he feels for Jean, and he does want to protect Reid if he is, in fact, in danger. That possibility – that Reid and Tompkins are right – adds real tension to the novel.

Ellery Queen’s The Origin of Evil begins as Queen rents a home in the Hollywood Hills so that he can do some writing. His peace and quiet don’t last long, though. He gets a visit from nineteen-year-old Laurel Hill, who wants him to investigate the death of her father, Leander. He died of a heart attack, but Laurel thinks that it was deliberately induced. Before he died, he received a series of macabre ‘gifts’ that Laurel says caused his death.  What’s more, his business partner, Roger Priam, has also been receiving similar ‘gifts.’ Queen’s not inclined at first to get involved. But the puzzle does intrigue him. So, he starts to look into the matter. When he talks to Priam, though, he’s surprised to find that the man has no interest in whether anyone might be trying to kill him or might have killed his business partner. At first, he refuses to have anything to do with the investigation. Queen pushes the issue, and then there’s another attempt on Priam’s life. Now it’s clear that Laurel’s belief, and her father’s fear, were justified, and that someone has targeted both men.

Apostolos Doxiadis’ Three Little Pigs is the story of the Benvenuto ‘Ben’ Franco and his family, who emigrate from Italy to New York City at the turn of the 20th Century. Shortly after they arrive in New York, Franco gets a job at a shoe repair shop. Before long, he’s saved up enough money to open his own shoe sales and repair business, and the family prospers. Then, one night, Franco kills a man in a bar fight. To make matters worse, the victim turns out to be Luigi Lupo, son of notorious crime boss Tonio Lupo. Lupo curses the Franco family, saying that each of his sons will die at the age of forty-two, the same age Luigi was at his death. As the story goes on, we learn what happens to Franco’s three sons. And it’s interesting to see how each of them reacts to the threat of being killed.

And then there’s Shadaab Amjad Khan’s Murder in Bollywood. One night at a private party, famous Bollywood director Nikhil Kapoor makes the eerie pronouncement that one of the people at the party has killed and will kill again. Not long afterwards, Kapoor himself is killed one night while he is working at his film studio. A few hours later, his wife, noted actress Mallika Kapoor, also dies, apparently of a drug overdose. Both deaths look like terrible accidents on the surface. But Senior Inspector Hoshiyar Khan sees little pieces of evidence that suggest otherwise. At first, the other people at the party aren’t overly concerned about Kapoor’s comments. But then, there’s another death. That, plus the Kapoors’ deaths, makes everyone tragically aware that what Kappor said was true, and that they might be the next victims.

It’s very tempting to put the fear of danger aside. The alternative is a lot too unsettling for many people. But sometimes, those fears are real…

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Steel Pulse’s Said You Was an Angel.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Apostolos Doxiadis, Cornell Woolrich, Ellery Queen, Shadaab Amjad Khan

He Talked of Life*

Crime writers use all sorts of strategies for giving background information and clues. One of them is to use a character who tells a story. I’m not talking here of legends and myths; rather, I mean personal stories, or at least, stories of actual events. Those characters can sometimes be easily dismissed (e.g. ‘Oh, that guy? He’s always rambling about something.’). But, as any crime fiction fan knows, any story can be important…

Agatha Christie used this strategy in several of her stories. For instance, in A Caribbean Mystery, Miss Marple is staying at the Golden Palm Hotel on the Caribbean Island of St. Honoré. Courtesy of her nephew, she’s taking some time to rest and heal from a bout of illness. One day, she happens to get into a conversation with another guest, Major Palgrave. In the course of the conversation, he starts to tell her a story about a man who got away with murder more than once, and even offers to show her a picture. Then, unexpectedly, he changes the subject. There are several people around, so it’s hard to tell whose presence caused the abrupt shift. The next day, a maid finds Major Palgrave dead in his room. Then, there’s another murder. And an attempted murder. It turns out that the rather rambling story Major Palgrave was telling plays a major role in working out who the killer is and what the motive is. I see you, fans of Taken at the Flood.

In one plot thread of Tony Hillerman’s Hunting Badger, we learn of an old Ute Nation story about a man named Ironhand. According to the stories, he was almost magically able to steal Navajo sheep and escape again without being caught. On the surface of it, that seems a bit like a set of rambling myths. But, in fact, there’s truth to the story. And, when Sergeant Jim Chee of the Navajo Tribal Police hears this story from an old Ute woman, he pays attention to it. It turns out that Ironhand’s exploits are very helpful in solving the mystery of a casino robbery and an unsolved murder.

In Paddy Richardson’s Hunting Blind, we are introduced to Stephanie Anderson, who is just beginning her career as a psychiatrist. One day, she gets a new client, Elisabeth Clark. At first, Elisabeth is not open at all to the therapy process, and it’s very difficult for Stephanie to interact with her. Finally, though, Elisabeth begins to trust Stephanie. Little by little, she tells her a haunting story. Several years earlier, Elisabeth’s younger sister, Gracie, was abducted, and never found. Not even a body was recovered. Needless to say, the tragedy devastated the family and wreaked havoc on Elizabeth’s mental health. That story resonates deeply with Stephanie, who lost her own younger sister, Gemma, seventeen years earlier. In fact, the circumstances of Gemma’s disappearance are eerily similar to the story Elisabeth tells. Against her better judgement, Stephanie decides to lay her own personal ghosts to rest and find the person responsible for these abductions. So, she travels from Dunedin, where she lives and works, to her home town of Wanaka. In doing so, she finds the answers she’s been seeking.

Adrian Hyland’s Gunshot Road is the story of the murder of Albert ‘Doc’ Ozolins, a former geologist who’s been studying the area around Green Swamp Well, Northern Territory. He’s been working on some research that he thinks is significant, but even his brother hasn’t paid a lot of attention to what he says. Then, Doc is murdered. At first, it looks as though it’s the tragic end to a drunken quarrel at a nearby pub. But Aboriginal Community Police Officer (ACPO) Emily Tempest sees some evidence that suggests otherwise. As she investigates this death, she finds that the things Doc had to say are key to understanding why and by whom he was killed.

Janice MacDonald’s Another Margaret features her sleuth, sessional lecturer Miranda ‘Randy’ Craig. Years earlier, she did her master’s degree thesis on an enigmatic novelist named Margaret Ahlers. That’s how she knows that Ahlers is gone. But then, a friend tells her that a new Ahlers novel, called Seven Bird Saga, is about to be published. And Craig has the strong feeling that this isn’t a case of a manuscript stuck behind a filing cabinet or left in an attic. So, who has written the book? The closer Randy gets to the truth about that question, the more danger there is for her. Then, disaster strikes, and there’s a murder at what’s supposed to be a celebratory Homecoming weekend. Folded within this novel is the story of how Randy came to study Margaret Ahlers’ work, what happened when she did, and her search for the reclusive author. As it turns out, a key to both the current-day mystery and the original one is found in the Ahlers stories themselves.

And then there’s Apostolos Doxiadis’ Three Little Pigs. An unnamed art restorer is visiting a monastery in Switzerland, with an eye to repairing some of the frescoes in the chapel. There, he meets an old man who promises to tell him a story – ‘a good one’ – if he records it. This the art restorer agrees to do. He buys some cassettes (this part of the novel takes places in the 1970s), and the old man begins the story. It concerns the Franco family, who emigrated from Italy to the United States early in the 20th Century. The family prospered until patriarch Benvenuto ‘Ben’ killed another man in a bar fight. The dead man turned out to be the son of a notorious gangster, who then cursed the three Franco sons. The old man goes on to tell what happened to the sons, and how the curse impacted the Francos’ lives. On the surface, it sounds like an old man’s ramblings.  But it turns out to be a very important story.

There are a number of ways in which an author can use those seemingly meaningless, even rambling stories. When they’re done well, they can add interest to a novel. They can also serve as clues and can provide important information.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Jerry Jeff Walker’s Mr. Bojangles.

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Filed under Adrian McKinty, Agatha Christie, Apostolos Doxiadis, Janice MacDonald, Paddy Richardson, Tony Hillerman

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.

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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.

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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.

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