Category Archives: Arthur Conan Doyle

The Way She Brushed Her Hair From Her Forehead*

Not very long ago, I had an author portrait taken. I don’t usually care much for ‘photos of myself – at all. But part of getting the word out about one’s writing is….an author portrait (am I right, fellow crime writers?). I asked my daughter fashion and image expert which of several shots to choose, and she mentioned that I looked angry in one. I asked her what made her think that. After a second’s pause she said, ‘It’s your upper lip.’ Turns out I have a certain facial mannerism I didn’t even know about that gives away irritation.

But I shouldn’t have been surprised. We all have unique mannerisms that are part of our equally unique identities. Sometimes they are very subtle. Other times they’re more obvious. Either way, they help to define us. And they can be really useful to the crime writer. Mannerisms help to make characters distinctive. Readers might not necessarily remember a character’s name, but they might remember, ‘Oh, yeah, the one who tilts her head back to look at you.’

Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is a very distinctive character. His pipe, his violin, and so on have served to make him familiar to millions. But he also has some physical mannerisms that distinguish him from others. Here’s what Dr. Watson says about it in A Study in Scarlet:
 

‘Nothing could exceed his energy when the working fit was upon him; but now and again a reaction would seize him, and for days on end he would lie upon the sofa in the sitting-room, hardly uttering a word or moving a muscle from morning to night.’
 

As time goes by, Watson learns to ‘read’ Holmes’ mannerisms to determine when he’s feeling sociable, when he’s deep in thought, and so on.

Agatha Christie used mannerisms in more than one of her stories. In at least two novels that I can think of (Sorry – no titles. I don’t want to give away spoilers), characters’ distinctive physical mannerisms help the sleuth identify the criminal. Sometimes, Christie used mannerisms to lead readers down the proverbial garden path, too. And of course, her sleuths have mannerisms of their own. Any fan of Hercule Poirot, for instance, can tell you that he has plenty of physical quirks. He absently straightens anything that’s not in perfect alignment. He smooths his moustache unconsciously, too. And those are only two examples.

Fans of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe will know that he has several physical mannerisms. One of them is that, when he’s deep in thought, his lips show it. Here’s a description from Champagne For One:
 

‘…his lips started to work. They pushed out and went back in, out and in, out and in…’
 

Wolfe may not always be consciously aware that he’s doing that, but Archie Goodwin knows to leave him alone when he does. It means he’s pondering a case, and will not take it kindly if he’s interrupted.

Eric Ambler’s The Mask of Dimitrios / A Coffin For Dimitrios introduces us to mystery novelist Charles Latimer. When he hears about a notorious character named Dimitrios Makropoulos, he gets interested. And when he finds out the man has been found dead, Latimer gets even more interested. He decides to trace Makropoulos’ history, and find out how and why he committed the crimes that he did, and how he met his end. It’s a very dangerous undertaking, but Latimer is too curious to stop. Slowly, he gets drawn into the dead man’s story. Along the way, he meets a mysterious man who calls himself Mr. Peters. Peters has the mannerism of smiling – a lot. His smiles change, depending on the circumstances, but he smiles quite often. Latimer finds the smile disconcerting, and it’s interesting to see how that adds to the suspense in the story.

Anne Zouroudi’s Hermes Diaktoros is a somewhat enigmatic sleuth. When he’s on a case, he tells people that he’s been sent ‘from Athens’ to help investigate. But it’s never clear exactly where he’s from or what his actual job is (although he is a sort of private detective). In appearance, he’s not overly distinctive. But he does have the distinctive mannerism of keeping the white tennis shoes he habitually wears pristine.

James W. Fuerst’s Huge is the story of Eugene ‘Huge’ Smalls. It takes place in a small 1980’s New Jersey town, where twelve-year-old Huge lives with his mother and his sister, Eunice ‘Neecey.’ Huge has his problems in school, but he’s highly intelligent, and dreams of being a private detective, just like Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade. He gets his chance when his grandmother hires him to find out who defaced the sign at the elder care facility where she lives. Huge goes to work on the case; and in the process of finding out who the guilty person is, he learns a lot about himself. The story takes place, as I say, in the 1980s, and Fuerst places the reader in that time period in some interesting ways. For instance, Neecey has a habit she’s probably not even aware of, of wrapping the family’s extra-long telephone cord around her waist when she’s having a ‘phone conversation. It’s an unconscious mannerism, and it adds a layer of character and of setting (remember those super-long cords?).

There are lots of other examples of crime-fictional characters who have distinctive physical mannerisms (right, fans of Andy Breckman’s Adrian Monk?). Those mannerisms can add layers of character development, and make it easier to distinguish among characters. If they’re overdone, they can take away from a story, but when they’re written well, they can be interesting.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Paul Simon’s Graceland. 

24 Comments

Filed under Agatha Christie, Andy Breckman, Anne Zouroudi, Arthur Conan Doyle, Eric Ambler, James W. Fuerst, Rex Stout

Any Fish Bite if You Got Good Bait*

Criminals don’t always leave a lot of evidence behind. So, in order to collar them, the police have to catch them in the act, so to speak. And that sometimes means that the police have to use ‘bait.’

This can be a tricky plot point in a crime novel. For one thing, real-life police aren’t eager to risk the safety of one of their own, so they don’t plan such operations without a lot of thought and care. For another, such operations can be legally chancy, and must avoid entrapment. When they’re not done carefully, these plot points can also become almost melodramatic, and that can take away from a story. But, when it’s done effectively, using a character as ‘bait’ can add suspense to a story, and can be a legitimate way for a fictional sleuth to catch a criminal.

You might say that Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes uses himself as ‘bait’ in The Adventure of the Dancing Men. He and Dr. Watson get a visit from Hilton Cubitt, who’s very concerned about his American-born wife, Elsie. When they married, she assured him that she had nothing disgraceful in her own past. But, she’d had some dangerous associations. She made him promise not to ask her about her life in America, and he kept that promise. Now, though, she’s getting cryptic letters that have upset her. The letters take the form of sets of coded characters, so Cubitt doesn’t know what they say. And Elsie won’t tell him. Then, the drawings start appearing on the window ledge of the Cubitt home. Holmes gets to work trying to decrypt the messages, but before he can, Cubitt is shot one night, and his wife is wounded. Holmes sets a trap for the killer with himself as ‘bait;’ he sends a coded message asking the murderer to meet him. Holmes is able to catch the criminal, and we learn what really happened at the Cubitt residence.

Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s Martin Beck series begins with Roseanna. In that novel, the body of an unknown woman is pulled from Lake Vättern. It takes time, but she is eventually identified as twenty-seven-year-old Roseanna McGraw, an American who was on a tour of Sweden when she was killed. Once the victim has a name, Martin Beck and his team get to work tracing her last days and weeks, and trying to find out who would have wanted to kill her. Finally, after several months, some false starts, and a lot of work, the team learns who the murderer is. But there isn’t much evidence, and the culprit isn’t likely to admit any guilt. So, Martin Beck and his teammates set a trap, if you will, using one of their own, Sonja Hansson. She’s made fully aware of the risks, and decides she wants to help. So, everything’s prepared. In the end, that trap is successful in catching Roseanna McGraw’s killer, but it’s risky and it’s scary for all concerned.

The first of Jane Casey’s Maeve Kerrigan novels, The Burning, sees Met Detective Constable (DC) Kerrigan tracking a murderer the press has called the Burning Man, because he incinerates his victims. The police haven’t gotten very far in finding out who the murderer is, because there’s not much evidence. So, the public and the press are losing patience. Then, there’s a new victim, Rebecca Haworth. On the surface, it looks very much as though the Burning Man has struck again. But there are little differences between this case and the others. Kerrigan wants to stay with the Burning Man team, but she’s assigned to follow up on the Haworth case. After all, the police don’t want to be seen as ignoring a murder. And, if this was, in fact, a Burning Man case, Kerrigan’s helping the team. In the end, we find out who the Burning Man is, and how the Haworth murder fits in, and it’s more complex than it seems at first. In one scene, Kerrigan joins the team as they plan to try to catch the Burning Man. An undercover officer, Katy Mayford, will serve as the ‘bait.’ It’s not spoiling the story to say that this operation turns out to be dangerous.

Lynda La Plante’s Above Suspicion is the first in her Anna Travis series. In it, Travis has just joined the Murder Squad at Queen’s Park, London. At the time she comes aboard, the team is working on a case of six older prostitutes who were all killed in the same way. Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) James Langton is sure the murders were committed by the same person, but the culprit doesn’t leave much at all in the way of evidence. Then, seventeen-year-old Melissa Stephens is found dead. Her murder was committed exactly the same way as the others, but she was quite young, and not a prostitute. So, it’s not certain that she’s a victim of the same killer. Langton thinks she is, though, and the team gathers evidence. One possible suspect is a TV actor named Alan Daniels. There is some evidence that he could be guilty, but it’s not conclusive. Besides, he’s beloved, charming, and just about to make it big in films. If he’s not guilty, being dragged into a murder case like this will ruin his career. It could also harm Travis’ career, since she’s found some of the evidence against him. So, the team has to tread lightly.  At one point in the novel, Langton and the team set up an operation with Travis as ‘bait.’ It’s a suspenseful scene, since it’s not clear whether or not Daniels is the killer. There is another solid suspect, and things aren’t always as they seem in such cases. It’s very hard on Travis to serve as ‘bait,’ although she acquits herself well. And it shows just how stressful this sort of operation can be.

And it can. Still, sometimes the best way to catch a criminal is to set and ‘bait’ a trap. When that plot point is well-drawn, it can add a solid dose of suspense, tension and surprise to a novel.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Henry Thomas’ Fishing Blues.

11 Comments

Filed under Arthur Conan Doyle, Jane Casey, Lynda La Plante, Maj Sjöwall, Per Wahlöö

Hello, Young Lovers, Whoever You Are*

One of the hallmarks of a lot of classic and Golden Age crime novels (and not always from that era!) is the trope of the young couple in danger. I don’t mean always in physical danger (although that happens). Rather, in many of these novels, there’s a couple whose relationship is threatened. Sometimes it’s because one of them is suspected or even accused of murder; other times it’s for other reasons.

It’s also worth noting that I’m not talking here of sleuths who are balancing work and romance, or who find love as they investigate. To me, that’s a very different plot element.  That aside, though, there are plenty of crime novels that include the plot point of the ‘young and threatened couple.’

For example, in Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Boscombe Valley Mystery, James McCarthy is arrested for the murder of his father, Charles. There’s evidence against him, too. He and his father had a violent quarrel just before the killing. And it was common knowledge that his father objected strongly to McCarthy’s choice of fiancée. Inspector Lestrade thinks he has the right suspect, but McCarthy’s fiancée, Alice Turner, is convinced it was someone else. She begs the police to look into the matter more closely, and Lestrade agrees. He asks Sherlock Holmes to review the evidence, and Holmes and Dr. Watson do so. In the end, they find that the case isn’t nearly as simple as it seemed. Throughout the story, Jack McCarthy and Alice Turner are under a cloud as it’s not certain what the outcome of the case will be.

Agatha Christie’s The Murder on the Links introduces readers to the Renauld family. Paul Renauld is a Canadian émigré to France, who’s living with his wife and his son, Jack, in the small town of Merlinville sur Mer. Renault writes to Poirot, saying that his life is in danger, and asking him to come to France and help. Poirot and Captain Hastings travel to France, but by the time they get there, it’s too late: Renauld has been killed. M. Giraud of the Sûreté investigates, and it doesn’t take long for him to settle on Jack Renauld as the main suspect. Poirot isn’t convinced of the young man’s guilt, but Renauld is arrested for the crime. And this wreaks havoc on Renauld’s romantic life. If the course of true love is to run true, as the saying goes, Poirot will have to find out who the real killer is.

Grey Mask, the first of Patricia Wentworth’s Maude Silver novels, tells the story of Charles Moray, who returns to England after a four-year absence. He goes to the family home, only to find that it’s being used as the meeting place of a criminal gang. What’s worse, Moray’s former fiancée, Margaret Langton, seems to be mixed up with the group. On the advice of a friend, Moray consults Miss Silver, and she begins to ask questions. In the meantime, Moray tracks Margaret Langton to the shop where she works, and the two resume an up-and-down relationship. That relationship isn’t the reason for the criminal gang, or for a plot that the gang’s leader has concocted. But it’s woven throughout the novel, and the young couple gets into some classic danger; they’re even locked in a basement, in true classic/Golden Age style.

In John Dickson Carr’s Hag’s Nook, Tad Rampole travels to England on the advice of his mentor. Among other things, he wants to meet famous lexicographer Dr. Gideon Fell. On his way to do so, he happens to meet Dorothy Starberth. The two strike up a conversation, and it’s not long before they find themselves attracted to each other. Then, Rampole learns about the Starberth family history. For two generations, Starberth men served as governors at the now-disused Chatterham Prison. Even though the prison hasn’t been in use for a hundred years, the Starberth family still follows a ritual connected with it. Each male Starberth heir spends the night of his twenty-fifth birthday in the Governor’s Room at the prison. During his stay, each heir opens the safe in the room, and follows the instructions written on a piece of paper that’s kept in that safe. Now it’s the turn of Dorothy Starberth’s brother, Martin. The two Starberths are anxious about it, because several Starberths have died suddenly through the years, and there’s talk that the family is cursed. In fact, the last Starberth heir to die in unusual circumstances was Dorothy and Martin’s father, Timothy. Still, Martin goes through with the tradition. That night, he dies in what looks like a tragic fall from the balcony of the Governor’s Room. But Gideon Fell isn’t convinced that this death was an accident. And in the end, he finds out the truth of the matter. Throughout the novel, the romance between Tad Rampole and Dorothy Starberth is ‘clouded over,’ if you will, by the murder of her brother.

And then there’s Elizabeth Peters’ Crocodile on the Sandbank, the first of her Amelia Peabody novels. True, this novel was published after the end of the Golden Age (in 1975), but it takes place at the end of the Nineteenth Century, and Peters stayed true to some of the elements. One of those elements is the young couple in love and threatened. In the novel, Miss Amelia Peabody is in Rome, on her way to Egypt, when she meets Evelyn Barton-Forbes. Miss Peabody’s travel companion has just taken ill, and has had to return to England. Evelyn has her own sad history, and is now on her own. So, it works out well for both of them when she agrees to join Miss Peabody as companion. Not long after their arrival in Egypt, the two ladies meet archaeologists Radcliffe and Walter Emerson, who are working on an excavation in Armana. Walter and Evelyn are immediately drawn to each other, but they have very different sets of plans, and go their separate ways. They meet up again, though, at the excavation site, and at first, things go well. Then, a mummy that the Emerson brothers discovered goes missing. Then, the local villagers report seeing a mummy walk at night. And it’s not fanciful; the very pragmatic Miss Peabody sees it, too, and so does Evelyn. Then, other frightening things begin to happen, and it’s soon clear that something, or someone, is targeting the excavation. By this time, Walter and Evelyn are in love, but there are several obstacles to their becoming an ‘official’ couple. If the excavation is to stay in place, and the couple are to find any happiness, the team will have to discover who’s wreaking havoc on the site, and why.

There are plenty of other classic/Golden Age novels, too, in which there’s a young couple whose happiness will depend on solving a mystery. These are just a few. Your turn.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Richard Rodgers’ and Oscar Hammerstein II’s Hello, Young Lovers.

19 Comments

Filed under Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Elizabeth Peters, John Dickson Carr, Patricia Wentworth

Don’t Ask Too Many Questions*

Las Vegas is the sort of place where it’s very easy to be whatever you want, so to speak. People don’t ask a lot of questions; hence, the iconic Vegas catchphrase: what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

Las Vegas, of course, isn’t the only place or context where people don’t ask questions. There are plenty of places where asking too many questions is considered at best, bad form, and at worst, dangerous. This sort of context – where curiosity is not welcomed – can be a very effective backdrop for a crime novel. We all have secrets that we’d rather no-one ask about, and criminals in particular have things to hide. So it makes sense that they would prefer a context where no-one asks too many questions.

Kate Grenville’s The Secret River isn’t, admittedly, a crime novel per se. But crimes are definitely committed in it. Beginning in 1806, the novel tells the story of William Thornhill, his wife, Sal, and their children. Thornhill is a London bargeman who’s sentenced to transportation to Australia for stealing a load of valuable wood. The family lands in Sydney, which is at the time very much a frontier. It’s the sort of place where questions are discouraged. Most people are trying to start over, and don’t want a lot of discussion about what brought them there and what they’re doing. Thornhill gets a job delivering goods up and down the local waterways; his wife opens a makeshift pub. As time goes by, Thornhill finds a piece of land that he finds irresistible, and decides to claim it for his own. And he’s not alone. Plenty of other new arrivals want land, too. This leads inevitably to conflict and worse with the people who have always been on that land. Some brutal and bloody crimes are committed, and Thornhill wants no part of it, especially at first. But he also comes to see that he’ll have to get his hands dirty, too, if he wants to build the sort of life he wants.

In Megan Abbott’s Die a Little, we are introduced to Pasadena schoolteacher Lora King. She’s particularly close to her older brother, Bill, so she’s concerned when he meets and falls in love with former Hollywood dressmaker’s assistant, Alice Steele. At first, Lora puts her misgivings down to human enough, if not exactly productive, feelings of jealousy and protectiveness, since she is close to her brother. Bill and Alice marry, and Lora tries to be friends with her new sister-in-law. But as time goes by, she gets more and more worried about Alice, and what she finds out repels her. Alice’s former world – or is it really former? – is seamy and dangerous. She knows a lot of the sort of people who don’t welcome questions, and they certainly don’t welcome questions from Lora. At the same time as Lora is repulsed by Alice’s world, she is also drawn to it, though, and this has a real impact on her feelings and choices. Then, there’s a murder. Alice could very well be mixed up in it, too, so Lora decides to protect Bill (or so she tells herself) and find out the truth about what happened. The closer she gets to the truth, the closer she also gets to Alice’s life.

Eva Dolan’s Long Way Home introduces her protagonists, DI Dushan Zigic, and DS Mel Ferreira. They work with the Peterborough Police Hate Crimes Unit, so they’re called in when the body of man is found in a burned-out shed belonging to Paul and Gemma Barlow. The man is identified as an Estonian named Jaan Stepulov, and there’s a good possibility that his murder might be a hate crime. It’s going to be very hard to get answers, though. The immigrant community within which the victim moved is the sort of culture in which no-one asks questions. People often come, work for a while, and leave. Or, they stay longer, have their family join them, and move on. Or, they disappear for whatever reason. But no close ties are formed, and people such as landlords and moneylenders don’t ask any questions. In the end, Zigic and Ferreira find out who killed the victim and why. But they get very little willing help from anyone with whom he interacted.

Malcolm Mackay’s Glasgow trilogy is set mostly in Glasgow’s criminal underworld. It tells the stories of men who kill for hire, and of the people who hire them. It also tells the stories of the victims, and how they get themselves into trouble. One of the important rules among these people is that you don’t ask a lot of questions. You buy your weapons, for instance, from people who won’t ask where the money came from, or how the weapon will be used. You borrow a car from someone who won’t ask why you need it. The more reliable you are at keeping your mouth shut and your curiosity under control, the more you’ll be trusted.

Even between people who are married, there are instances where it’s expected that you don’t ask a lot of questions. For instance, in Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of the Dancing Men, Sherlock Holmes gets a visit from Hilton Cubitt. It seems that Cubitt’s wife, Elsie, has been acting strangely lately. She’s been getting some cryptic letters lately from America, where she was born, and they have upset her greatly. She won’t tell her husband what the problem is, though, so he’s quite worried about her. They’ve always had the agreement that he would ask her nothing about her life in the US, because she had some unpleasant associations there. As she puts it, she has,
 

‘‘…nothing she need be personally ashamed of,’’
 

but she insists that her past be kept strictly private. And Cubitt has always respected that. But now he’s worried. Then, the same cryptic figures that appeared on the letters begin appearing in chalk on the ledges of the Cubitt home. Holmes works out that the drawings are a code, and that Elsie is being stalked. Then, one night, Cubitt is murdered. Holmes uses the code in the letters to lure the killer and learn the truth.

There are times and places where people don’t welcome a lot of questions. Asking them can get you in a lot of trouble – or worse. Especially in crime fiction.
 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Turin Brakes’ Last Chance.

24 Comments

Filed under Arthur Conan Doyle, Eva Dolan, Kate Grenville, Malcolm Mackay, Megan Abbott

Where You Come From*

One of the interesting things about fictional PIs is the diversity in their backgrounds. The profession isn’t limited to people who have a particular academic degree or job experience. This means that the author has a lot of flexibility when it comes to a PI’s background. And that can make for intriguing layers of character development, to say nothing of plot points and other characters.

There are some fictional PIs who decide early in life that that will be their profession. Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, for instance, chose the profession quite deliberately. And, in A Study in Scarlet, he describes himself to Dr. Watson as
 

‘…a consulting detective, if you can understand what that is.’’
 

He’s carefully prepared for his career, too. In fact, his focus is so much on being the finest detective that he doesn’t take a lot of interest in topics unless they’ll be helpful to him professionally.

There are many fictional PIs who are former police officers. This means that they may very well have connections within the police community. And that can either be a source of valuable information, or an obstacle, depending on how the author wants to use that relationship.

For instance, Anthony Bidulka’s Russell Quant is a former member of the Saskatoon Police Service (SPS). He decided that life on the police force wasn’t for him, and hung out his own shingle. But he still has contacts on the force. He doesn’t spend a lot of social time with his former colleagues, and he’s much happier as a PI. But he’s established a useful and mutually beneficial relationship with the SPS.

Fans of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot will know that he used to be a member of the Belgian police. That career ended, and then life changed abruptly with the advent of World War I. Poirot went to England as a refugee and started a career in private detection there. Interestingly enough, Christie doesn’t delve very much into Poirot’s early history. There are a few stories (right, fans of The Chocolate Box) that shed some light on Poirot’s life as a police detective. But he doesn’t maintain ties with his former colleagues.

Sometimes, fictional private investigators get into the business unexpectedly, or even accidentally. For instance, Dick Francis’ Sid Halley was at one time a well-known jockey. But he suffered a riding accident that severely injured his left hand and ended his riding career. At loose ends, so to speak, he got a job working for a large private detective agency, Hunt, Radnor and Associates. Private investigation wasn’t in Halley’s plan, and he’s bitter over the loss of his racing career. Still, he’s had to find some sort of job. His real career in private detection, though, begins in Odds Against, when his former father-in-law asks him to uncover a plot to take over the Seabury Racecourse for development. This case, which brings Halley back into contact with the racing world, also, as you might say, brings him back to life. He becomes a racetrack investigator; and, although he misses riding, and is still sometimes bitter, he manages to put himself back together.

Some PIs start by doing informal investigations, mostly to help friends. It’s only later that they make it an official business. Walter Mosley’s Ezekiel ‘Easy’ Rawlins is like that. As the series begins (in Devil in a Blue Dress), he’s been laid off from his job at an aircraft manufacturing plant. It’s shortly after the end of World War II, and several former aircraft, munitions, and other war-related factories are closing or downsizing. Rawlins has to find some way to earn a living. So, when his friend, a bar owner named Joppy, introduces him to a man named DeWitt Albright, Rawlins listens to what Albright has to say. Albright is looking for a woman named Daphne Monet, who seems to have gone missing. He wants Rawlins to find her, and is willing to pay well for it. Rawlins is in serious need of money, so he agrees. But, as he soon discovers, this isn’t a simple case of finding a woman who may be in hiding. It involves theft, blackmail, and murder. Rawlins solves the case, and he does get paid, but he works informally for the first few novels in this series. Mostly, he does things for friends and their acquaintances.

That’s also the case with Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder. He was a New York homicide detective (another former police officer!). But a tragic accidental shooting changed everything. As the series begins (with The Sins of the Fathers), he doesn’t really have a ‘regular’ job. But he does know how to find people and get answers. He works very informally. As he puts it:
 

‘‘Sometimes I do favors for people. They give me gifts.’’
 

He doesn’t get his official PI license until later in the series.

Some PIs have very unusual backgrounds. Leigh Redhead’s Simone Kirsch for instance, is a former stripper. She still does gigs now and again. It might seem unlikely that a stripper would make the change to a career as a PI. But for Kirsch, there’s a reason. When she got the point where it was time to quit, she tried to join the Victoria Police. That’s because she’s still grateful to the police for saving her life and her mother’s and brother’s when she was younger. But,
 

‘Either I didn’t have the moral credentials to be a girl in blue, or the Victoria Police had enough scandal without dropping a stripper into the mix.
 

She’s not accepted into police training, so she decides that the PI course is the next best thing. And she’s good at it, too. It helps that she stays in close contact with several people in ‘the business.’ They’re often good sources if information.

Fictional PIs (real ones, too) sometimes have some fascinating backgrounds, or at least unusual ones. That can add to a story, and make for solid character development and contexts.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.

18 Comments

Filed under Agatha Christie, Anthony Bidulka, Arthur Conan Doyle, Dick Francis, Lawrence Block, Leigh Redhead, Walter Mosley