Category Archives: Deon Meyer

We got that: [Title of Show]*

Right now, I’m working on a standalone novel (well, it’s a standalone for now, anyway). And one of the decisions I have to make about it is what the title will be. I had a working title for the book, but it wasn’t effective at all. Trust me. It had nothing to do with the plot, and wasn’t a good clue to the sort of story it is.

So, it was back to the proverbial drawing board. That’s a normal part of writing a novel. But, as I think about a title that will work (I haven’t chosen one yet), I have to come up with one that’s going to be distinctive. And that’s not as easy to do as you might think. There are millions of books in print, and more become available each year. So, there are plenty of examples of two very different books with the same title.

For instance, both Michael Robotham and L.R. Wright have written novels called The Suspect. They’re both well-regarded, but they’re very different sorts of stories. The Robotham novel introduces psychologist Joe O’Loughlin. It’s the story of the murder of one of his former clients, and links that murder to several others that occur. All of them link back to the past, and O’Loughlin gets caught up in the web, as someone is working to frame him. The Wright novel is the story of the murder of one man, Carlyle Burke.  We know from the beginning that he was killed by George Wilcox. The main focus of this novel is the slow reveal of the motive. Along with that, readers follow along as RCMP Staff Sergeant Karl Alberg puts together the pieces of the puzzle, and finds out who killed Burke and why.

In the Blood is the title of Steve Robinson’s first novel featuring genealogist Jefferson Tayte. In it, Tayte is commissioned to trace the ancestry of a client’s wife as a birthday gift. The trail leads to the Cornish coast, and draws Tayte into a deadly mystery. As you might guess, it links the past with the current residents of the area. In the Blood is also the title of a Lisa Unger novel. Lana Granger is finishing up her university degree in psychology when she is persuaded to take a job as nanny to eleven-year-old Luke Kahn. Right from the beginning, she’s made aware that Luke’s had trouble in school. He’s unusually intelligent, but he has several social and emotional problems. And she has a great deal of difficulty working with him. Lana soon has a much more serious problem, though. Her roommate disappears, and it soon seems clear that Lana knows more than she is saying about it. How is she involved, and what does it have to do with her work with Luke Kahn?

Kel Robertson’s Smoke and Mirrors features Australian Federal Police (AFP) officer Bradman ‘Brad’ Chen. He’s been taking some time off from his job, but is lured back to it when the bodies of Alec Dennet and Lorraine Starke are discovered at a Canberra writer’s retreat. Dennet was a member of the 1972-1975 Gough Whitlam government who was writing his memoirs; Starke was his editor. So, it’s quite likely that something in the memoirs led to the murders. And that’s not out of the question, since they could have been seriously problematic for several highly-placed people. Chen and his team work through this case, and find that little is as it seems. Elly Griffiths’ Smoke and Mirrors is a completely different sort of novel. The second in her historical (1950s) Stephens and Mephisto series, this one uses children’s fairy tales as a backdrop to the disappearance and murders of two local children, Annie Francis and Mark Webster, in a grim parody of the Hansel and Gretel story. It seems they’d been working with a group of young people who were doing their own theatre productions of some of the fairy tales, with their own interpretations. Magician Max Mephisto works with Detective Inspector (DI) Edgar Stephens to find out what’s really behind these deaths.

Both Carolyn Hart and Paul Thomas have written novels called Death on Demand. Hart’s novel is the first in her Death on Demand series, and introduces her protagonist, bookshop owner Annie Laurance. Both the title and the name of the series refer to the bookshop, which features crime and mystery fiction. In the story, a group of local authors come under suspicion when one of their number, Elliot Morgan, is killed. It seems he wrote a tell-all book that included some unpleasant truths (and allegations) about the other members. Even Annie is mentioned, and that’s part of the reason she becomes a suspect in the murder. Thomas’ novel features Sergeant Tito Ihaka of the Auckland Police. He’s been banished for a time because of a conflict with a powerful man he’d accused of murder. But he returns when that same man, Christopher Lilywhite, is diagnosed with terminal cancer, and decides to tell Ihaka the truth. It turns out that Lilywhite did arrange for his wife’s murder, and he’s learned that the killer is likely still out there, committing crimes. Ihaka puts the pieces together, and connects several murders together. These stories are quite different (they’re even in different sub-genres). But they have the same title.

So do both Deon Meyer’s and Robin Cook’s Fever. Meyer’s novel features Nico Storm and his father, Willem, who are among the few to survive a catastrophic virus. Willem works to form a small community of survivors; and, little by little, the community grows. And so do the challenges that the group faces. Whenever there’s a group of disparate people, especially those thrown together by circumstances, anything can happen. And it does. It all leads to murder, and, in Nico’s voice, we hear what happened. Cook’s novel features Dr. Charles Martel, who’s working on a very promising new cancer study. But his employer wants him to devote his energies to their product, Canceran. He agrees (he needs to keep his job), but continues to work on his own research when he can. Then, his daughter, Michelle, is diagnosed with a form of leukemia, and it’s soon traced to toxic waste from a powerful company. Now, Martel works even harder to see if he can find a way to help Michelle. At the same time, he goes up against the company that’s been dumping toxins, and he finds that that can be a very dangerous undertaking.

See what I mean? Sometimes, some very different books have exactly the same title. It’s a good reminder to look carefully before you ‘click here.’ Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll get back to trying to choose a title, myself.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Jeff Bowen’s Filling Out the Form.

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Filed under Carolyn Hart, Deon Meyer, Elly Griffiths, Kel Robertson, L.R. Wright, Lisa Unger, Michael Robotham, Paul Thomas, Robin Cook, Stever Robinson

A Few More Nights on Satin Sheets*

Most of us feel the need once in a while to take a break and get away. And for a lot of people, a stay at a resort is the perfect antidote to life’s stresses. There are all sorts of resorts, too: mountain resorts, safari resorts, beach resorts, and lots more. Resorts can cost an awful lot of money, but they often offer matchless pampering and personal service. And they’re designed to be worlds unto themselves.

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, whenever you get a disparate group of people together in the same place, as you do at a resort, there are all sorts of possibilities for crime-fictional mayhem. Add to that resort staff, who may have their own backgrounds and secrets, and you have a custom-made context for a crime novel. So, it’s little wonder that resorts show up in the genre as they do.

In Agatha Christie’s A Caribbean Mystery, for instance, Miss Marple’s generous nephew arranges for her to visit the Golden Palm Hotel, on the Caribbean island of St. Honoré, so she can have a much-needed rest. The hotel is really more resort than simply hotel with all of the pampering and amenities you’d imagine for the time. One day, another guest, Major Palgrave, tells Miss Marple a story about a man he knows of who lost two wives. The theory in both cases was suicide, but Major Palgrave says he knows that they were murdered. He doesn’t get the chance to finish his story, but it’s soon clear that someone at the resort overheard what he said. The next day, he’s found dead. Miss Marple is sure that someone connected with these cases is either a guest of, or an employee of, the Golden Palm, and she starts searching for the truth. It turns out that the resort has some very dark secrets.

Fans of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe will know that it takes a lot to get him to leave his brownstone and travel. But, in Too Many Cooks, that’s exactly what he does. He and Archie Goodwin travel to the exclusive Kanawha Spa, in West Virginia, so that Wolfe can deliver the keynote address to a meeting of Les Quinze Maîtres, the world’s fifteen greatest chefs. The resort is quite luxurious, but that doesn’t prevent murder. One of the master chefs, Phillip Laszio, is killed, and the most likely killer seems to be another chef, Jerome Berin. But Wolfe doesn’t think Berin is guilty. So, although he’s very reluctant to investigate, Wolfe looks into the matter. Among other things, this novel shows how things work at a very upmarket resort.

There are several resorts in South Africa’s wildlife preserves. I had the real pleasure of staying at one of them some years ago, and it was a wonderful experience. There are, of course, all of the luxury amenities you’d imagine for an upmarket place. And you can travel out into the bush on a camera safari. There’s nothing quite like being out in the bush to give some perspective on modern life. Deon Meyer takes readers into such places in Blood Safari. Cape Town professional bodyguard Martin Lemmer is hired by Emma le Roux to accompany her to the Lowveld to search for her brother, Jacobus. He was working in the Nature and Environmental Conservation Unit of the South African military when he disappeared. It was thought at the time that he was killed in a run-in with animal poaches. But now, twenty years later, Emma sees a man on television who looks just like her brother. She can’t resist trying to find that man and learn the truth. So, she and Lemmer make their way to the Lowveld, where they stay at more than one bush resort. But luxury surroundings aren’t enough to keep them safe from some very dangerous people who do not want the truth about Jacobus to be revealed.

In Louise Penny’s A Rule Against Murder (AKA The Murder Stone), Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec takes his wife, Reine-Marie, to the Mansoin Bellechasse for their annual anniversary trip. It’s a lovely luxury resort, and the Gamaches are hoping for a relaxing visit. Such is not to be, though. Among the other guests are members of the Finney family. It’s not spoiling the novel to say that they are a very dysfunctional group, and that alone adds tension to the atmosphere. Then, there’s a murder. Now, all sorts of old secrets come out, and Gamache finds a surprising connection in this case to another character in this series.

And then there’s Yrsa Sigurðardóttir’s My Soul to Take. Jónas Júlíusson owns an exclusive luxury resort and spa, but he’s facing an unusual problem. He believes the land is haunted. He hires Reykjavík attorney Thóra Gudmundsdóttir to represent him in a lawsuit he wants to bring against the former owners of that land. His claim is that they knew the place was haunted and never told him. Thóra doesn’t believe in ghosts or haunting. But a fee is a fee. Besides, the case gives her the opportunity to stay at a five-star resort. So, she takes the case and goes to the resort. During her visit, another guest, Birna Hálldorsdóttir, is found murdered on a beach not far from the property. Soon enough, Jónas becomes a suspect in the murder, since he was having a relationship with the victim. He asks Thóra to continue to represent him, this time defending him against the murder charge. She agrees and looks more deeply into the victim’s life. It turns out that several people in the area are keeping some dark secrets, and more than one could have had a reason to want to commit murder.

See what I mean? Resorts are wonderful places – they really are. You can escape the world, get some pampering, and enjoy world-class cooking and other amenities. But safe? Peaceful? Perhaps not so much…

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Billy Joel’s I’ve Loved These Days.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Deon Meyer, Louise Penny, Rex Stout, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

Be My Bodyguard*

In Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, successful American business magnate Samuel Ratchett is making a journey across Europe on the famous Orient Express train. When Ratchett learns that Hercule Poirot is on the same train, he makes an unusual proposal. He wants to hire Poirot as a sort of bodyguard, since he feels threatened. Poirot refuses, angering Ratchett. It turns out Ratchett was right to be concerned, though, because he’s stabbed to death the next night. The only possible suspects are the other passengers in the first-class carriage, and Poirot works to find out who the killer is.

Perhaps we can’t easily imagine Poirot in the role of bodyguard, but there are plenty of people who work in that capacity, in real life as well as crime fiction. They’re professionals, but at the same time, they aren’t law enforcement officers or PIs. So, they fill interesting roles, and they can be interesting characters. And situations that call for bodyguards can add real tension to a story.

In Robert Colby’s novella No Experience Necessary, we are introduced to Glenn Hadlock. He’s recently been released from prison, so his job choices are limited. Then, he sees an advertisement that catches his attention. Victor Scofield is looking for a bodyguard/chauffer for his wife, Eileen. Hadlock decides to apply, and is granted an interview. He learns that Scofield is permanently disabled, and can’t leave his room. But, he says, he doesn’t want to impose the same limitations on Eileen. So, he’s decided to hire someone to escort her. Hadlock gets the job, and at first, everything goes well. The pay is good, he gets a free apartment in the Scofield mansion, and Eileen is pleasant company. But it’s not long before Hadlock discovers that this job has a lot of hidden dangers…

There are plenty of dangers for bodyguard Martin Lemmer, too, whom we meet in Deon Meyers’ Blood Safari. He works for a Cape Town private security firm called Body Armour, and he’s had his share of risky experiences. But he gets in much deeper than he thought when Emma Le Roux hires him to escort her from Cape Town to the Lowveld. She’s following up on a lead that could help her locate her brother, Jacobus. She’d thought he was killed years ago in a skirmish with poachers, while he was working at Kruger National Park. It turns out, though, that he may very well still be alive. If so, she wants to find him. Lemmer goes with her, and soon learns that some extremely dangerous people are determined not to let anyone find out the truth about Jacobus Le Roux. Lemmer’s going to need all of his skills if he’s going to keep himself and his client alive.

In Jassy Mackenzie’s Random Violence, we are introduced to Jade de Jong. Ten years before the events of the novel, she left her native Johannesburg when her police-detective father was killed. She went to the UK, where she spent several years working in private security and bodyguarding. Since then, she’s become a PI. So, she’s well able to take care of herself. But even she’s not prepared for what awaits her when she goes back to Johannesburg. Annette Botha has been killed in what looks like a carjacking gone wrong. But then, there’s another murder. And another. The three deaths don’t seem on the surface to be linked, but there are little pieces of evidence that they might be. Police Superintendent David Patel, who was a friend of de Jong’s father, is glad she’s back in town, and grateful for her help in the investigations. And, in the end, Patel and de Jong find that the three murders are, indeed, linked, in a way they hadn’t imagined.

When key police witnesses are believed to be in danger, they’re often provided ‘safe’ accommodations and bodyguard protection. That’s what happens in T.J. Cooke’s Kiss and Tell. In that novel, London attorney Jill Shadow becomes involved in a web of drugs trafficking, high-level corruption, and murder when she gets an unusual request. Bella Kiss has been arrested at Heathrow Airport on suspicion of drugs smuggling. She doesn’t deny the charges, but won’t say anything about who paid/coerced her to carry the drugs. And Shadow’s been asked to do what she can to defend the young woman. It’s clear that Bella is afraid for her life, and Shadow wants to help her. But it’s not going to be easy, since this client isn’t saying anything. Bit by bit, and after a murder, Shadow comes closer to the truth, and it gets her into grave danger – so grave that she has to be taken to a safe house. There’s she’s provided with a bodyguard/procurer called Ralph, who is her only link to the outside world. And we see how important that protection becomes when some powerful and nasty people target Shadow.

And then there’s Peter James’ Not Dead Yet, which in part tells the story of superstar Gaia Lafayette. A native of Brighton, she’s returning from the US to her home town to do a film. There’s already been at least one attempt on her life, so her personal security is a major issue. She has an entourage that includes personal bodyguards, but her representatives want to be assured of her safety during her stay at Brighton. So, Superintendent Roy Grace is told that the local police will need to make the star’s safety a priority. This isn’t good news for Grace, who’s already dealing with a bizarre murder. But the authorities don’t want there to be any questions about the town’s willingness to protect visitors. So, the word comes down that Grace will have to manage as best he can. And it’s interesting to see the relationship between the police who are supposed to protect the visitors, and the personal bodyguards who have the same charge.

Bodyguards have a unique perspective on security and on their charges. And they certainly have challenging, sometimes dangerous, jobs. That can make for an interesting layer of suspense and character development in a crime novel. Which ones have stayed with you?

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Robyn Hitchcock.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Deon Meyer, Jassy Mackenzie, Peter James, Robert Colby, T.J. Cooke

Try to Find Equilibrium*

equilibrium-and-disequilibriumIf theorists such as Jean Piaget are right, it’s human nature to want equilibrium. We want things to be in balance and to make sense. We want some sort of order. If you think about it, that drive for equilibrium arguably fuels many of our actions. We’re curious (which throws us into disequilibrium because we don’t know something). So, we seek to learn, or to find out about something. Or, perhaps we move to a new home. That throws us into disequilibrium until we unpack, put our things where we want them, and find out where the local library and the grocery stores are. Then, as we settle in, we impose new order on our lives and are back into equilibrium. And the list of examples could go on.

For any story, the drive for equilibrium can be an effective way to construct the action. The protagonist starts out in equilibrium, a conflict happens (which throws the story into disequilibrium), and the protagonist seeks to restore order. Or, perhaps, the story starts out in disequilibrium, and the protagonist sets out to restore equilibrium. There are other possibilities, too. And we see this very obviously in crime fiction. After all, in crime fiction, there’s usually a murder or other crime (disorder), and an investigation (the attempt to explain it and restore order). But even if you put that overarching conflict aside, there are a lot of other ways in which we see the drive to restore equilibrium.

For instance, in Agatha Chrirstie’s Sad Cypress, we are introduced to Mary Gerrard. She’s the daughter of the lodgekeeper at Hunterby, the home of wealthy Laura Welman. As it happens, Mrs. Welman has taken a particular interest in Mary, and has educated her ‘above her station.’ This decision has upset what you might call the social equilibrium of the village where they live. For one thing. Mary no longer feels sure of where, exactly, she belongs, if I can put it that way. For another, it’s upset those who feel that Mary is now ‘above herself.’ In fact, one day, Mrs. Welman’s niece Elinor Carlisle gets an anonymous letter that hints that Mary is actively manipulating the situation to ensure that she, not Elinor, inherits when the older woman dies. Elinor and her fiancé, Roderick ‘Roddy’ decide to go to Hunterby and see for themselves what’s going on. This further upsets the equilibrium when Roddy finds himself smitten with Mary. With her engagement broken and her comfortable assurance of money in question, Elinor has more than one motive for wanting Mary out of the way. So when Mary is poisoned, she’s the most likely suspect, and she’s duly arrested and charged. Local GP Peter Lord wants Mary’s name cleared, and he asks Hercule Poirot to investigate. In this novel, it’s not just the whodunit and whydunit that reflect that drive for equilibrium. I know, I know, fans of Ordeal by Innocence. Yes, indeed, fans of Taken at the Flood.

In Deon Meyer’s Blood Safari, we are introduced to Emma la Roux. She’s watching television one day when she sees a news story on television about a man named Cobie de Villiers, who’s wanted in conjunction with the murder of a traditional healer and three other men. The man the newscasters call de Villiers looks eerily like Emma’s brother Jacobus, who disappeared twenty years earlier. At the time, everyone said he was killed in a skirmish with poachers. Now, though, it seems he may still be alive, and that throws Emma’s world into disequilibrium. She wants to make sense of it all, so she hires professional bodyguard Marin Lemmer to accompany her from Cape Town to the Lowveld. As they search for answers, they find that this case goes deeper than just a man who may have stayed under the proverbial radar. It involves murder, fraud, and corruption in very high places.

Gail Bowen’s Joanne Kilbourn Shreve is a political scientist/academician. She is also the mother of four children, and of course, cares about them deeply. So she’s quite concerned when, in The Wandering Soul Murders, her son Peter’s old girlfriend, Christy Sinclair, comes back into his life. For several reasons, she’d thought Peter was well rid of Christy, and life had gotten back into equilibrium. But one day Christy re-appears. She invites herself along on a family trip to celebrate the engagement of Joanne’s daughter, Mieka, and even says that she and Peter are getting back together. Needless to say, this is discomfiting for Joanne. Then Christy dies in what looks like a successful suicide, but turns out to be murder. And Joanne discovers that this murder is related to another case that’s been proverbially dropped into her lap.

Equilibrium is particularly important for those who have autism and other spectrum disorders. We see that in Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. This story is told from the point of view of fifteen-year-old Christopher Boone, who has autism, although he functions on a high level. One day, he comes upon the dog that belongs to the people next door. The animal’s been killed, and its owners think he might be responsible. Christopher knows he’s not, though, and sets out to prove it, just like Sherlock Holmes. Along the way, he makes a personal discovery that throws his carefully-ordered life into complete disequilibrium. And one important plot thread in this novel is how he reacts to that change, and what happens as a result.

Wendy James’ The Mistake introduces readers to Jodie Evans Garrow. Although she’s from the ‘wrong side of the tracks,’ Jodie has made a very good life for herself. She’s smart and attractive, and is married to a successful attorney whose name is being suggested as the next mayor of their small New South Wales city. She’s got two healthy children, and life is content – even idyllic. Then, Jodie’s daughter Hannah is involved in accident that sends her to the same Sydney hospital where, years ago, Jodie gave birth to another baby girl. She’s never told anyone, even her husband, about that other baby. But a nurse at the hospital remembers Jodie and asks about the child. When Jodie says she gave her up for adoption, the over-curious nurse looks into it, but can find no records of a formal adoption. Now, questions start to come up. What happened to the baby? If she’s alive, where is she? If not, did Jodie have something to do with her death? Jodie’s well-ordered life falls into disarray as an investigation begins to loom. In this novel, there is certainly the plot thread of the mystery surrounding the baby. But there’s also the plot thread of what happens to the Garrows when they are thrown into disequilibrium, and have to find some sort of order in it all.

Human nature seems to be like that. We like equilibrium and balance. We want things to make sense. So when they don’t, this drives us to want to put things right. And that drive can add a lot to a crime novel.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Bush’s The Sound of Winter.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Deon Meyer, Gail Bowen, Mark Haddon, Wendy James

Keep the Fire Burnin’*

Adding InterestIn an essay titled The Simple Art of Murder, Raymond Chandler wrote:
 

‘When in doubt have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand.’
 

He wasn’t offering this comment, really, as a piece of advice. Instead, it was written within the context of discussing his own writing process, and what he would do to move a plot along.

For Chandler, the ‘man with the gun’ was an effective way to move a story forward. He usually wrote hardboiled stories, in which a series of unexpected dangers (such as people with guns coming through doors) make sense. And we certainly see that plot point used effectively in lots of well-written thrillers. For instance, Deon Meyer’s Devil’s Peak features a thriller plot that weaves together the stories of former freedom fighter Thobela Mpayipheli; DI Benny Griessel, who’s got his own issues and challenges; and Christine van Rooyen, a prostitute who’s trying to free herself (and her daughter) from the unwelcome possessiveness of a client who’s from a dangerous and powerful family. Meyer develops the characters over the course of the novel. But the plot is also moved along by means of frightening and jolting events that keep the pace going.

Of course, not all authors write thrillers. And those ‘man coming through the door with a gun’ events don’t work in every kind of crime fiction. There are other ways, though, to move a plot along and keep the interest going. Many crime writers use the ‘second victim’ plot point. Certainly Agatha Christie used it. In novels such as Lord Edgware Dies, Three Act Tragedy, and several others, there’s a first murder. Then, another body is discovered (sometimes more than one other body). And by no means is Christie the only author to use this plot point. Colin Dexter used it in Death is Now My Neighbour, among others of his novels. And there are dozens more examples.

There are advantages to the ‘second/third/etc. murder’ plot point. It can add to the tension and build suspense. It can also make for a solid plot twist (e.g. the major suspect in the first murder is killed. Or the second murder is committed while the prime suspect is in police custody.). And it can fall out naturally from the plot, too. It’s logical to believe that someone who killed might then target a person who knows too much about the crime. It’s also reasonable to believe that a killer might target someone who’s blackmailing him or her. A killer could also target a specific set of people (say, all the other heirs to a fortune, or all of the people in the way of a top job).

There are disadvantages, though, to this plot point. It’s very easy for a high ‘body count’ to become gratuitous. And subsequent murders can take away from a story and pull a reader out of it if they do not contribute directly to a plot. Still, when used effectively, the discovery of that next body can add to a story.

Another way in which an author can move a plot forward is through a major revelation. A character’s real identity, or the discovery of certain information, or perhaps the discovery of a hidden relationship, can all add interest to a story, and can be used to move it along. For example, in Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent, Kindle County prosecutor Raymond Hogan has a very difficult case: the murder of one of the attorneys on his team, Carolyn Polhemus. The case has to be handled carefully, to avoid the appearance of bias or coverup. So Hogan chooses one of his best, Rožat ‘Rusty’ Sabich, to work with the police to build a case. But there’s an important fact that Hogan doesn’t know. Sabichwas was involved with Polhemus for several months. That revelation jolts the story, and changes everything. Hogan now takes Sabich off the case, replacing him with his nemesis. And later, when evidence suggests that Sabich may have committed the murder, the fact of their affair creates a possible motive. In fact, it’s enough to put Sabich on trial.

Those surprise revelations have to be handled carefully. Readers want the author to ‘play fair.’ What’s more, a surprise that pushes credibility too far will likely pull readers out of the story. So it’s important that if there is a major revelation, it makes sense given the story.

An interesting post from creative writing professor, writer, and fellow blogger Khanh Ho suggests another way to keep a story moving: have someone from the past make an appearance. Ho makes the well-taken point that a reunion like that can flesh out a character, add a layer of interest and create conflict. Peter May uses a reunion very effectively, for instance, in The Blackhouse. Fionnlagh ‘Fin’ Macleod grew up on the Isle of Lewis, but left years ago. Now he’s an Edinburgh police inspector. He’s seconded back to Lewis when Angel Macritchie is murdered. That murder closely resembles a murder that McLeod and his team are already investigating, and it’s hoped that if the two murders were committed by the same person, cooperation will help catch the killer. In the course of the investigation, MacLeod reunites with a number of people he grew up with, including old friends, an old flame, and old nemeses, too. Those reunions shed light on MacLeod’s character and history, create tension and conflict in the story, and add to character development.

There are a lot of other ways, too, in which authors can add interest – ‘zip – to their stories to invite the reader to stay engaged all the way through. These are only a few examples. Which ones keep your interest the most? If you’re a writer, how do you keep readers’ interest?

 

 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of an REO Speedwagon song.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Deon Meyer, Peter May, Raymond Chandler, Scott Turow