Category Archives: Brian Stoddart

Such a Shame She Wandered Into Our Enclosure*

Colonialism, tourism and other forces have created a very interesting social reality: enclaves of people (often privileged) from one culture, who live in another culture. These enclaves have their own cultures and social rules and are sometimes completely disconnected from the local cultures. Even when there is some connection, it’s often a case of two very different cultures living side by side.

This context can be a really interesting one for a crime novel. The social dynamics within an enclave can add to character development and tension. So can the dynamics between an enclave and the larger community.

For instance, in Agatha Christie’s A Caribbean Mystery, Miss Marple travels to the Golden Palm resort on the Caribbean island of St Honoré. She’s been in poor health, and her generous nephew has paid for her to spend some time recuperating. The Golden Palm is a privileged British enclave on the island, although many the staff are from the local area. And the dynamics among the English people add to the tension in the story. That tension is heightened when Miss Marple hears a story from another guest, Major Palgrave, about a man who got away with murder more than once. Oddly enough, Palgrave stops mid-story and changes the subject when he sees a group of people not far away. Later, he is murdered, and Miss Marple is certain that his death s connected to the story he had started. She’s right, too, and she finds that this murder has everything to do with past secrets that someone is hiding. At one point in the story, we see a glimpse outside this enclave, in a few domestic scenes with one of the staff members, Victoria Johnson. It’s an interesting contrast to the Golden Palm. I see you, fans of Murder in Mesopotamia.

Rex Stout’s Too Many Cooks sees Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin travel to the exclusive Kanawha Spa in West Virginia. Wolfe has been tapped to deliver the keynote address at Les Quinze Maîtres, a meeting of the world’s top chefs. The resort is beautiful and all-inclusive, with the amenities you’d expect at a very upmarket place. And it’s nothing like the surrounding area. The chefs and those with them duly arrive and the gathering starts. Then, one of the master chefs, Phillip Laszio, is murdered. The evidence seems to point to another chef, Jerome Berin, as the guilty party. But Wolfe doesn’t think Berin is the killer. He’s reluctant to get involved in the case, but he starts investigating, and, in the end, finds out who the killer is. In a few scenes in the novel, we see the contrast between the chefs and other guests, who are a part of this enclave, and the staff members who live outside it.

Roderic Jeffries’ Mistakenly in Mallorca introduces his sleuth, Inspector Enrique Alvarez.  In the novel, John Tatham travels from England to Mallorca to stay for a time with his great-aunt, Elvina Woods. She grows fond of him, and even tells him that she is set to inherit a large fortune, which she wants him to have when she dies. She even promises to make a new will indicating that wish. Then one day, Tatham, who’s been out, returns to the house he’s sharing with Aunt Elvina, only to find that she has died of a fall from a balcony. Now he has a serious dilemma. If he reports her death immediately, as he should, he has no way of knowing whether her benefactor has predeceased her. If not, he won’t get any of the money. If, on the other hand, he keeps her death to himself until he hears that her benefactor has died, he’ll inherit the money. Against his better judgement, that’s what he decides to do. He duly waits and then reports the death to the police. Inspector Alvarez looks into the matter, and, at first, is prepared to treat it as an accident. But little signs suggest otherwise. Soon, it’s a sort of battle of wits between Tatham and Alvarez as Tatham tries to hide what’s happened, and Alvarez tries to find out the truth. Throughout the novel, there’s an interesting contrast drawn between the mostly-British ex-pat/second home community and the local Mallorcans. Neither side is particularly fond of the other, although the British know that they depend on the locals, and the locals know that the British enclave adds to the economy. It’s an interesting dynamic.

Jassy Mackenzie’s Random Violence begins as private investigator Jade de Jong returns to her native Johannesburg after an absence of ten years. She’s there for her own personal reasons, but she is drawn into the case of the murder of Annette Botha. At first, the victim’s murder looks like a carjacking gone tragically wrong. But little pieces of evidence begin to suggest otherwise. Inspector David Patel wants to look into the matter further, but he’s under a lot of pressure to get the case solved and shelved quickly. He asks de Jong, whose father was his mentor, to help in the investigation, and she agrees. Then, there’s another murder. And another. The murders turn out to be tied together, and when de Jong and Patel find the link, they learn what’s behind the killings. Throughout the novel, there’s a strong sense of the divide between the wealthy, mostly-white enclaves, and the ‘regular people,’ mostly non-white, who live elsewhere. Security in those wealthy enclaves is of paramount importance, and it’s interesting to see how those who live in them set themselves apart from others.

And then there’s Brian Stoddart’s Superintendent Christian ‘Chris’ Le Fanu series. These novels take place in 1920’s India, towards the end of the British Raj. The British are still in control of the country, although there is agitation for Home Rule. Many of the British live near each other in certain areas and have formed their own networks. Other than the members of their domestic staffs, they don’t mix much with those who aren’t British, and their social interactions are usually with other British people. It’s an interesting case of a ‘world within a world.’

And that’s the thing about enclaves. They’re small, sometimes-exclusive communities set in larger communities. And sometimes the two groups have little in common. These are only a few examples. Your turn.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Time Rice’s Perón’s Latest Flame.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Brian Stoddart, Jassy Mackenzie, Rex Stout, Roderic Jeffries

I Depend on You*

In many crime novels, there’s a main sleuth (usually, but not always, the protagonist), and an assistant/second-in-command. The main sleuth is usually the one who puts the major pieces of the puzzle together and solves the case. But don’t underestimate the assistant. There are plenty of them out there who quietly do more than their share of solving cases and making the main sleuth look good as a result.

These can be really interesting characters, too, in their own right. Sometimes they’re a bit enigmatic; sometimes they’re more transparent than that. Either way, it can add to a story when the assistant is at least as skilled as (sometimes even better than?) the main sleuth.

Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe, for instance, is a brilliant detective. He often puts together very difficult cases, and his reputation is well-deserved. But make no mistake; his assistant, Archie Goodwin, has quite a lot of skill of his own. In fact, it’s a good question whether he is actually an employee (well, technically, of course, he is) or a business partner. Certainly his ‘street smarts’ and other detecting skills are a match for just about anyone. He’s also an interesting character in his own right.

Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey is the main detective in the novels featuring him (although Harriet Vane does more than her share of detecting as the series goes on!). He’s gotten a certain reputation for being good at solving mysteries, too. But you’d be wrong to underestimate his assistant, Mervyn Bunter. Bunter is Lord Peter’s valet, among other things, so they’re not social equals. But Lord Peter doesn’t make the mistake of discounting what Bunter thinks and says. Bunter is intelligent and observant, and he’s been known to put some of the pieces of a case together. What’s more, because he’s a valet, he fits in with others of the ‘serving class,’ and finds out things that his boss couldn’t. He has his own way of thinking, too, that’s very helpful to Lord Peter.

Helene Tursten’s Inspector Irene Huss is a Göteborg police detective who works with the Violent Crimes Unit. She is the protagonist of the series, so the novels follow her share of the detective work. But that doesn’t mean she does all of the work on her own. She relies on all of her teammates, and her boss. One of the more interesting of those teammates is Harmu Rauhala. The only Finn among the group of Swedes, he’s a bit enigmatic, and he’s not one to spend a lot of time chatting and so on. But he has a way of getting information, of putting the puzzle pieces together, and of being right where he needs to be. And he’s an interesting character, too. He always seems to have a solid sense about a case, and the other members of the team know to pay attention to what he says and does.

Carl Mørck is Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Copenhagen homicide detective. He’s in charge of ‘Department Q,’ which is dedicated to cases of ‘special interest’ – basically cold cases. The department was originally set up in part to respond to media and political pressure to tackle unsolved crimes. It’s a small department, consisting of three people: Mørck; his assistant Hafez al-Assad; and their secretary, Rose Knudsen. Mørck is an excellent detective, if abrasive and often difficult. He does his job well, and he gets results. But just as skilled in his own way is Assad. He has a very mysterious background, and we don’t get to know him as well as we know Mørck. But he is skilled, smart, and shrewd. And he’s sometimes the one who puts the team on the right path or gets information. And Rose is no slouch, either. Mørck knows, whether or not he’ll admit it, that he depends on both Assad and Rose.

Emily Brightwell’s historical (Victorian Era) series features Inspector Gerald Witherspoon of the (London) Metropolitan Police Department. Witherspoon is intelligent enough, and he is a dedicated detective. But he has a reputation for solving cases that’s greater than his actual skills would suggest. That’s in large part because of his housekeeper, Mrs. Jeffries. She’s got a natural ability to put puzzle pieces together, and the supervises a staff of people who do the ‘legwork.’ What’s interesting about Mrs. Jeffries is that, as housekeeper, she is not her employer’s social equal. In that time and place, it doesn’t help that she’s a woman. So, she has to be creative about finding ways to point Witherspoon in the right direction.

And then there’s Brian Stoddart’s Police Sergeant Muhammad ‘Habi’ Habibullah. He lives and works in 1920s Madras (now Chennai). It’s the last few years of the British Raj, and Habi is neither white nor Christian (he is Muslim). He’s not English, either. So, there’s only so far he can rise in the ranks of the police. But he is a dedicated and skilled detective. His boss, Superintendent Christian ‘Chris’ Le Fanu knows that Habi is a trustworthy, skilled detective, who has to be, as the saying goes, twice as good to get half as far. So, he gives Habi as much authority as he can, and supports him. He depends on Habi, too, to help solve cases. Things become very difficult for both of them in A Greater God, during which there is increased bigotry and worse against Muslims. And Le Fanu’s boss, Arthur Jepson, doesn’t make anything easier with his racist beliefs. Le Fanu knows that Habi can be trusted to do his job well. But there are people on the police who believe that Habi will side with his own people. And he is torn, as he sees what’s happening. It makes for real tension in the novel.

The protagonist of a crime novel often gets a lot of the attention. But sometimes, the assistant/second-in-command is just as good – even better. And that can make for an interesting story.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Dean Friedman.

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Filed under Brian Stoddart, Dorothy L. Sayers, Emily Brightwell, Helene Tursten, Jussi Adler-Olsen, Rex Stout

Where Will I Go on My Mission?*

As you’ll know if you’ve been kind enough to visit this blog before, I live in California. One of the important influences in the history of this state has been its missions. Spanish missionaries set up a network of missions, each within a day’s walk of the last. Today, many places still bear the names of those original missions. San Diego, Santa Ana, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and San Francisco are just a few examples. I live within walking distance (well, it’s a long walk, but still…) of the mission at San Luis Rey de Fancia.

Missions and missionaries, of course, have around for a very long time, Sometimes, they’ve been responsible for some horrible things. Other times, they’ve provided food, clothes, medicine, and more to those who needed them. For better or for worse, missionaries have played an important role in real life, and we see them in crime fiction, too.

For example, in Agatha Christie’s One, Two, Buckle My Shoe (AKA The Patriotic Murders and An Overdose of Death), we are introduced to Miss Mabelle Sainsbury Seale. She’s returned from India, where she’s been working with the Zenana Mission there. Now, one of her goals is to get donations to that charity. She gets drawn into a case of murder when she visits a dentist, Henry Morley, who is shot in his surgery. Oddly enough, that evening, Miss Sainsbury Seale goes missing. And another patient dies of what looks like an accidental overdose of anaesthetic. Hercule Poirot goes to the same dentist, so Chief Inspector Japp asks for his insight in making sense of the case. Miss Sainsbury Seale’s missionary work is not the reason that the dentist is killed. But it adds an interesting dimension to her character.

The main plot of Tony Hillerman’s A Thief of Time concerns the disappearance of Eleanor Friedman-Bernal, an archaeologist who was researching the Anasazi ruins in Chaco Canyon. On the surface, it looks as though her disappearance is connected to illegal digging in that area. But it turns out that there’s a more personal motive involved. In the course of the investigation, Lieutenant Joe Leahorn of the Navajo Tribal Police finds some notes and a catalogue of antiquities that may be linked to a man named Slick Nakai. He’s an evangelist missionary who travels around the Reservation holding religious revivals. It turns out that he’s bought a few pots and other items from time to time, and he may have information about who’s been digging them illegally. Slick Nakai’s information doesn’t solve the case. But he’s an interesting character, and missionaries like him are a part of the landscape in the American Southwest.

Missionaries don’t just do their work in rural areas, of course. There are also many missionaries in large cities. For example, in Anna Jaquiery’s The Lying-Down Room, Paris Police Commandant Serge Morel is faced with a strange case. Isabelle Dufour has been found dead in her bed, wearing a red wig and extra makeup. There aren’t a lot of clues at first, but there are potential witnesses. Shortly before she was killed, the victim had lodged a complaint with the local police about missionaries coming to her door and leaving pamphlets. Three other women, Elisabeth Guillou, Marie Latour and Irina Volkoff, also lodged complaints. And not long afterwards, Elisabeth Guillou is found dead, also with a red wig and extra makeup. The only link among these women is the visit by the missionaries, so Morel searches for them. There doesn’t seem to be a motive for murder, but Morel is sure that these evangelists are the key to the case. After a time, he learns who they are. Now, it’s just a matter of finding them…

Loraine Scott’s NYC: A Mission to Die For takes place in New York City. In it, we meet Latter-Day Saints (LDS) Senior Elder Anthony Winter and his wife, Summer. They’re missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and they’re on a 23-month stay in New York. One day, they come back to their offices after a bit of time off only to discover the body of Joseph Engstrom. He wasn’t a missionary, but he visited the place occasionally, so the staff knew him. Winter is a former LAPD police detective, so he knows the routine of police investigation. He’d just as soon let the local police handle the case. Summer, though, wants some answers. She starts asking questions, and the Winters soon find that this case is much more complex than it may seem on the surface.

There are a few mentions of missionaries and their work in Brian Stoddart’s Superintendent Christian ‘Chris’ Le Fanu series. Le Fanu lives and works in 1920’s India, mostly in Madras (today’s Chennai). It’s the last decades of the British Raj, and there’s agitation for home rule. But the British are still in charge, and several UK religious groups have missions in India. There are also doctors and other medical professionals who work among the very poorest. As we learn in A Greater God, there are also missions from other countries, including the US. It’s interesting, too, that there is still at this time a push not just to help those in need, but to convert those who are Hindu to Christianity.

There’s an interesting look at missionary life in India in Abir Mukherjee’s A Rising Man. In that novel, we are introduced to Captain Sam Wyndham, who’s just arrived in 1919 Kolkata/Calcutta to take up his duties with the police. He’s not been in the job long when the body of Alexander MacAuley, head of Indian Civil Service (ICS) finance for Bengal, is found in an alley behind a brothel. Wyndham and his team soon find that there are several possibilities. One is that something might have happened at the brothel. Another is that this might be a politically-motivated murder, since there is activism and sometimes worse against the British. Wyndham discovers that one of MacAuley’s old friends, Reverend Gunn, is a missionary at nearby St. Andrew’s Church, and he wants the man’s perspective on MacAuley. It turns out that Gunn is useful source of information, both on the victim and on the situation between the British and the indigenous people.

Missions and missionaries are a diverse group of people. They’ve been around for a very long time and have had a profound influence. It’s not always been positive, but it’s undeniable. So, it makes sense that missionaries would set up their churches and revival tents in crime fiction, too.

ps. The ‘photo is of the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone’s Two by Two.

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Filed under Abir Mukherjee, Agatha Christie, Anna Jaquiery, Brian Stoddart, Loraine Scott, Tony Hillerman

Find Me a Find, Catch Me a Catch*

One of the major social changes we’ve seen in the last hundred years or so is the acceptance of people, especially women, who don’t marry. It used to be considered almost shameful if a woman wasn’t married by the time she was in her late twenties (sometimes even earlier). And there were reasons for that, too. For one thing, an unmarried woman was an economic burden on her family in times and cultures that didn’t permit women to earn an income. For another, there was no comfortable social place for what used to be called a spinster. She might keep house for elderly parents or a widowed brother. But it wasn’t an easy life.

Today, of course, many women choose not to marry. They may or may not be involved in relationships, but there’s not the rush to marriage that there was. And modern crime fiction certainly reflects that fact. It’s interesting to see how the roles of unmarried women have changed over time.

K.B. Owen’s Concordia Wells series takes place at the very end of the 19th Century. Wells is a teacher at Hartford Women’s College, in Connecticut. She’s also an amateur sleuth who keeps getting drawn into mysteries, even though she’s not exactly eager to be involved in crime. She’s modern in her thinking in some ways, but she’s also, in ways, a product of her times. And in her times, a young lady’s main goal is to get a husband, not pursue a career. In fact, one of the requirements of her position is that she must resign when she gets married. That ends up creating a dilemma for her, as in one story arc, she meets and falls in love with David Bradley. She wants her own identity outside of marriage, and she loves her teaching job, but she also loves Bradley. That balance is difficult to achieve in her society.

Several of Agatha Christie’s novels and stories include unmarried female characters (still called ‘spinsters’). One of them is Georgina Morley, whom we meet in One, Two, Buckle My Shoe (AKA The Patriotic Murders and An Overdose of Death). Miss Morley keeps house for her brother, Henry, who’s a dentist. When he is shot one day in his surgery, she’s one of the people whom the police interview. At first, they think that the killer is someone who personally hated Morley, and it’s natural that they’d speak to his sister. But soon, other possibilities come up. One of Morley’s patients is famous and powerful banker Alistair Blunt. He’s made his share of enemies, and it’s possible that one of them might have been involved in this murder. The case gets even more complicated when another of Morley’s patients disappears. And another dies of an overdose of Novocain. Hercule Poirot is also a patient of Morley’s, and he was at that office on the day of the murder. So, he works with Chief Inspector Japp to untangle the threads of the case. I know, fans of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and of The Clocks.

Brian Stoddart’s Superintendent Christian ‘Chris’ Le Fanu series takes place in 1920s India, during the last years of the British Raj (A Greater God, the latest in the series, came out just recently). Le Fanu is based in Madras (now Chennai), but some of his cases take him elsewhere. In the society in which Le Fanu lives, young ladies are under an awful lot of pressure to find a husband. And sometimes, that’s not easy to do. One of the ways they go about the task is to travel, often with companions, to India to meet young men who are in the military or perhaps in some other professional position (such as the police or medical field). These groups of young women are not very charitably called ‘the fishing fleet.’ Such a group figures in A Madras Miasma, when one of their number is murdered during her visit to India.

Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series spanned several decades, and it’s interesting to see how the roles of unmarried women change over that time. In Champagne For One, a murder takes place at a glittering dinner dance hosted by socialite Louise Robilotti. She is the owner of Grantham House, a home for unwed mothers and their babies, and the dinner dance is held in support of that cause. In fact, a few of Grantham House’s residents are invited to the event each year, in hopes that they will learn from mixing with the ‘right people.’ And a not-too-hidden agenda item is that they will meet eligible young men. It’s not considered acceptable for an unmarried woman to have a career and a child, so the object is to get Grantham House’s residents ‘settled’ if possible. Archie Goodwin attends this year’s dinner dance in place of a friend and ends up getting involved in the murder when one of the guests suddenly dies of what turns out to be poison. In later novels, there are more unmarried female characters who are more comfortable being single.

Even today, in some societies, it’s not always easy being an unmarried woman. Miyuki Miyabe’s All She Was Worth, for instance, is in part the story of Shoko Sikine, who moved to Tokyo from Utsunomiya to make something of herself. And that included, if possible, finding a husband. In fact, one of the facts of life for young women in that society (1990s Tokyo) is that the goal is to go to the city, work for a few years, and then meet someone and marry. When younger women, who are twenty or so, join a company, those who are only a few years older can already feel like ‘spinsters.’ Shoko met Jun Kurisaka, and the two began a relationship. They were even supposed to marry. But then, she disappeared. Kurisaka wants to find her, and he asks his uncle, police detective Shunsuke Honma, to help. Honma agrees and starts asking questions. Before long, he learns that the Shoko Sikine that his nephew was engaged to isn’t the real Shoko. So, who is she? And what has happened to Shoko? It’s a complex murder mystery and reflects the pressure on young women not to stay single. There is arguably less pressure now; in fact, young Japanese people are staying single longer than ever, according to recent research. But there is still the traditional idea that a young woman should find a husband.

It’s not always easy to fit into society. That’s certainly been the case with unmarried women until recently. And it’s interesting to see how that social fact has changed over time (or has it?).

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick’s Matchmaker.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Brian Stoddart, K.B. Owen, Miyuki Miyabe, Rex Stout

And Your Loyalties Are Divided*

One very effective way that authors add tension to their stories is to create divided loyalties for their characters. It’s a little harder if the protagonist is a police officer or a judge. For those characters, there are official policies about being involved in cases where one has a personal interest. But it can be done. It can also be done if the sleuth is a PI or an amateur sleuth. And when it’s done well, that plot point can add suspense to a novel. It can also add a layer of character development.

For example, I was recently privileged to read Brian Stoddart’s A Greater God, the fourth in his Superintendent Christian ‘Chris’ Le Fanu series. It’s just come out, by the way. This novel takes place in India during the 1920s, the last years of the British Raj. In one plot line, Le Fanu returns to his ‘home base’ in Madras (today’s Chennai) to face several severe challenges. One of them is that there is increased bigotry and worse against Muslims. And the Inspector General of the Madras Police, Arthur Jepson, isn’t making things any easier. He’s hardline racist and determined to keep the British firmly in control. All of this creates a major problem for Le Fanu’s colleague, Mohammad ‘Habi’ Habibullah. Habi is a dedicated member of the police force who does his job very well. He is also a friend to Le Fanu. But Habi is Muslim, and it’s his people who are paying a terrible price right now. His loyalties are divided, and several people on the force are not sure he can be trusted. It all makes for real tension in this novel.

In Agatha Christie’s The Murder on the Links, Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings travel to France at the request of Paul Renauld. He writes that his life is in danger and begs Poirot to come to his aid. By the time Poirot and Hastings get there, though, it’s too late; Renauld has been murdered. Poirot works with the police to find out who the killer is and what the motive is. In the meantime, Hastings has a personal situation of his own. He’s met a young woman who calls herself Cinderella, and he finds himself quite attracted to her, although he doesn’t acknowledge it at first. That creates a problem for him when he discovers that she may not be telling him everything about herself. In fact, she may even know more about Renauld’s murder than she’s letting on. It all creates tension between Hastings and Poirot as Poirot gets closer to the truth about what really happened.

The ‘Nicci French’ writing team’s Blue Monday introduces London psychologist Frieda Klein. In one plot thread, she is working with a new client, a man named Alan Dekker. Among other things, he’s been having troubling dreams that focus on having his own son – a boy who looks just like him. In real life, Dekker and his wife, Carrie, haven’t had any children, and Dekker doesn’t want to adopt. He and Klein start the difficult work of ‘unpacking’ his views about having children, and of making connections with things from Dekker’s past. Then, four-year-old Matthew Faraday goes missing. Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Malcolm Karlsson and his team investigate, but there are no good clues. The only case that bears any resemblance to this one is twenty-two years old, and it may not be related at all. But on the chance it is, Karlsson and his team do look back at it. When Klein learns of Matthew’s disappearance, she is faced with a real ‘divided loyalties’ problem. On the one hand, she is dedicated to her profession, and that means respecting her client’s confidentiality. On the other hand, she believes that what she knows about Dekker may help to find Matthew Faraday, or at least find out what happened to him. She finally opts to contact Karlsson, and, each in a different way, the two find answers. But her decision is not taken at all lightly.

Nicole Watson’s The Boundary begins as Justice Bruce Brosnan is hearing the case of the Corowa people, who have claimed the right to Brisbane’s Merston Park. A development company wants the land, but the Corrowa say that the land is theirs. Brosnan rules against them, and just a few hours later, is killed. Then, there are other deaths, all of people involved in the case. Police officer Jason Matthews is one of the investigating officers, and this puts him in a real situation of divided loyalties. On the one hand, he is a police officer, sworn to uphold the law, and dedicated to doing so. But he is Aboriginal. So, he has strong feelings about the Corrowa people’s claim. He finds it very difficult to investigate people he feels have been greatly wronged – his own people. He does his job, but it’s not without difficulty.

And then there’s Stella Duffy’s The Hidden Room. Laurie and Martha have a successful marriage and have raised three children. Everything seems to be going well until Laurie’s past comes back to haunt her. She was raised in a cult in the US, not leaving it permanently until she was a young adult. So, she is still impacted by her experience. Still, she and Martha have built a good life together. Then, Laurie and Martha begin to be concerned about their oldest child, Hope. She recently broke up with her boyfriend, so they expected there’d be a rough patch. But Hope has become obsessed with dance. She’s not eating properly, she’s not getting enough sleep, and she’s dancing and doing other exercise more than is good for her. As if that’s not enough, someone from Laurie’s past has found her. And that’s when she feels, even after all this time, a bit of divided loyalty. She loves her family deeply and will do anything to protect them. But she still feels the ‘pull’ of her old life, and that comes back, in a way.

And that’s the thing about divided loyalties. They impact one’s perspective, and they can make for very difficult decisions. But, in fiction, they can also make for interesting plot points and layers of character development.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from the Lucksmiths’ The Cassingle Revival.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Brian Stoddart, Nicci French, Nicole Watson, Stella Duffy