Category Archives: Domingo Villar

Why All These Questions?*

An interesting post from crime writer and fellow blogger Sue Coletta has got me thinking about murder interrogations. This guest post, written by a former homicide detective, details an actual interrogation in connection with a murder. G’wan, read it. It’s quite potent. And as you’ll be at Sue’s excellent blog already, do check out her crime novels. They’re potent, too.

Back now? Thanks. Interrogations aren’t easy. For one thing, the police are, in most cases, limited in what they can do during an interrogation (e.g. they are not allowed to be violent, although there are cases where that has happened). They are allowed to lie to suspects, but they generally aren’t allowed to continue an interrogation if a suspect requests a lawyer. For another thing, most murder suspects don’t want to admit, at least at first, that they are guilty, or that they played a part in a murder. So, whoever does the interrogating often has to get past a tissue of lies, bluster, and so on.

It’s interesting to see how interrogations are done in crime fiction. When they’re done effectively, they can certainly add tension and suspense to a story. And, they can allow for the author to misdirect the reader if the sleuth is interrogating a suspect who later turns out not to be guilty. Whether or not that’s the case, interrogations are a part of real-life criminal investigation, so it makes sense that they’d be woven into the genre. Here are a few examples; I know you’ll think of many more.

Sometimes, the sleuth finds it very effective to appear understanding, even sympathetic, towards the suspect. Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot does this in more than one of the cases he investigates. In Murder in Mesopotamia, for instance, Poirot is in the Middle East when he is asked to investigate the murder of Louise Leidner. Her husband, noted archaeologist Dr. Eric Leidner, is leading an excavation team at a site a few hours from Baghdad, and she has joined the group. One afternoon, she is bludgeoned in her bedroom. Poirot discovers that more than one person could have wanted to kill her, but in the end, he finds out which person actually did. Here’s a little of what that person says in the course of admitting the killing:

‘‘…if you’d known Louise you’d have understood…No, I think you’d understand anyway…’’

Just because Poirot does not approve of murder doesn’t mean he can’t understand what motivates a killer.

We also see that sort of approach in Gail Bowen’s A Killing Spring. In that novel, Bowen’s sleuth, academician Joanne Kilbourn, gets involved in the investigation of the murder of a colleague, Reed Gallagher.  She knows the victim’s widow, so she’s asked to go along to break the news, and before long, starts asking questions about what really happened. In the end, she finds out who the killer is. In one scene, she finds herself alone with the killer, and in some danger, too:

‘All I had going for me was the possibility that…. would be unable to resist the chance to tell his tale.
I tried to keep my voice steady. ‘I’ve always told my kids there are two sides to every story,’ I said. ‘Maybe it’s time I got your perspective on everything that’s happened.’’

At first, the killer sees her comment as condescending. But soon, the whole story comes out, and that keeps Kilbourn alive until the situation’s resolved.

There’s a different approach to getting a murderer talking in Lynda La Plante’s Above Suspicion, which introduces Detective Sergeant (DS) Anna Travis. She joins the Murder Squad at Queen’s Park, London, which is under the supervision of Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) James Langton. That team is currently investigating the murder of seventeen-year-old Melissa Stephens, who was killed in the same way as a group of six other women. There are enough differences between those cases and this new one that there is a chance that two killers are involved. But the team doesn’t think so. Little by little, the members of the team slowly zero in on their prime suspect. But, of course, they could be wrong about the guilty person. Finally, the team finds out the truth. And when they do, they confront the guilty person.  At first, that person is confident. But, as Travis brings up the various pieces of evidence, things change. There’s bluster, even anger. And eventually, Travis’ firmness and the murderer’s own underlying fear get the better of that person. It’s hard on both people, and it’s a very suspenseful scene.

In Domingo Villar’s Death on a Galician Shore, Vigo Police Inspector Leo Caldas investigates the death of a fisher, Justo Castelo. At first, it looks as though it might be a suicide, and that wouldn’t be out of the question. The victim had been dealing with several issues, and it’s not too farfetched that he might have chosen that method of solving his problems. But a few little hints suggest to Caldas that this was a murder. The question, though, is who would have wanted to kill Castelo. By all accounts, the victim had, as the saying goes, kept himself to himself. He didn’t have a lot of money or obvious enemies. Then, Caldas learns about a tragedy that took place years earlier, when Castelo was out on a fishing boat under the command of Captain Antonio Sousa. A storm came up and Sousa went overboard. Castelo and the two other men on board the boat that night have never talked about what really happened, but there is a possibility that whatever it was, it might be related to Castelo’s death. Gradually, Caldas finds out the truth. And when he does, he confronts the killer. At first, the killer remains calm and confident. But, when Caldas confronts that person with the evidence, the confident exterior cracks, and the murderer tells the truth. It’s a suspenseful moment, since the killer,

‘…wasn’t used to losing.’

And it’s an interesting look at a police interrogation.

And then there’s Abir Mukherjee’s A Rising Man. This novel takes place in Kolkata/Calcutta in 1919, just after WW I. Captain Sam Wyndham has joined the Indian Police Service, and is working to investigate the murder of Alexander MacAuley, head of Indian Civil Service (ICS) finance for Bengal. There is a chance that his murder is connected to the Indian independence movement, and that’s what the Powers That Be want as the explanation. There is evidence to support that account, too, and Wyndham duly tracks down and arrests Benoy Sen, a hero of the independence movement. The interrogation scenes between them are full of tension and reveal things about both men’s characters.

Interrogation scenes need to be done carefully, or they run the risk of not being credible, or of being melodramatic. When they’re done well, though, they can add much to the story. These are a few examples. Your turn.

Thanks, Sue, for the inspiration!


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Steel Pulse’s Blame on Me.


Filed under Abir Mukherjee, Agatha Christie, Domingo Villar, Gail Bowen, Lynda La Plante, Sue Coletta

Just a Few People That Both of Us Know*

In many crime novels (especially whodunits), there’s a victim (sometimes more than one) and a set of suspects. And the sleuth investigates the different subjects in terms of their motives, alibis, and so on. There’s often more to it than that, but that’s the basic structure.

Sometimes, there are a lot of suspects, too (e.g. everyone who went in and out of a building during a given day). But sometimes, there are only a few suspects. On the one hand, that makes the sleuth’s job easier. There are fewer people to consider, and fewer sets of alibis and motives to check. On the other, it can be a challenge for the author to make a story really interesting if there are only a few suspects. It’s not easy to do well, but when it is, having only a few suspects can make for an interesting approach to storytelling.

For example, in Agatha Christie’s Cards on the Table, an enigmatic man named Mr. Shaitana invites eight people to dinner. Four of them are renowned sleuths. The other four are people that Shaitana hints have gotten away with at least one murder. After dinner, the group settles in to play bridge. The four sleuths are in one room; the four other guests are in another. By the end of the evening, Mr. Shaitana has been stabbed. He was in the same room as the four people he’d accused of being murderers. No-one else entered or left the room, so those people are the only possible suspects. Poirot is among the sleuths who were invited to dinner, so he works with the other three (Colonel Race, Superintendent Battle, and Ariadne Oliver) to find out who the killer is. In this case, the story has to do with the backgrounds of these four suspects, so each one’s history is told, probably in more detail than might be the case if there were more suspects.

There’s also a limited number of suspects in Ellery Queen’s The Last Woman in his Life. In this novel, Queen is invited for a getaway weekend at the property of wealthy jet setter John Levering Benedict III. He’ll be staying at Benedict’s guest house, so he can get some writing done. Queen settles in, and begins what he hopes will be a peaceful, productive stay. It’s not to be, though. Benedict also has other guests who are staying at his house: his three ex-wives, his attorney, and his attorney’s secretary. Needless to say, this makes for quite a lot of tension, and Queen does his best to avoid the house. Then one night, he gets a frantic call from Benedict, who says that he’s been murdered. He’s not able to get the name of the killer out, but Queen rushes over right away. By the time he gets there, Benedict is dead of blunt force trauma. The only clues are an evening gown, a pair of gloves, and a wig. Each item belongs to a different person, so Queen has to work out how each item got there, and who the real killer is.

In Minette Walters’ The Breaker, PC Nick Ingram is the first called to the scene when the body of Kate Sumner is found near Chapman’s Pool on the Dorset Coast. Not long afterwards, her toddler daughter, Hannah, is found wandering alone in the nearby town. Ingram works with DI John Galbraith, WPC Griffiths and Superintendent Carpenter to find out who killed the victim and why. They soon find that there are really only three possible suspects. One is the victim’s husband, William Sumner. Then there’s Stephen Harding, an actor whom she’d flirted with more than once. There’s also Harding’s roommate, a teacher named Tony Bridges. In this case, solving the murder isn’t really a matter of knocking on a lot of doors or sifting through dozens of mug shots. It’s a matter of examining the relationships that the victim had with each man, and then working out which one was the killer. In this case, the victim’s past, and her psychology, play important roles in the story.

There’s a limited number of suspects in Domingo Villar’s Death on a Galician Shore, too. In that novel, Vigo police inspector Leo Caldas, and his assistant, Rafael Estevez, investigate the death of a fisherman named Justo Castelo. At first, it looks as though he committed suicide by drowning. But little clues suggest otherwise to Caldas, and he decides to look more closely into the matter. On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be much motive. Castelo lived a very quiet life and didn’t have a list of enemies. In fact, Caldas and Estevez can really only find two former friends: another fisherman named José Arias, and Marcos Valverde, who no longer fishes but has remained in the area and become a successful businessman. As the sleuths continue to dig, they find out that all three men (Castelo, Arias and Valverde) were on a fishing boat one night in 1996 when a terrible storm came up and the captain, Antonio Sousa, was lost. That tragedy seems to have had a powerful effect on the survivors, and Caldas think it may have played a role in Castelo’s death. In this case, the men’s histories turn out to be important to the novel, and they’re explored in a bit of depth, since there are so few ‘people of interest.’

In Aditya Sudarshan’s A Nice Quiet Holiday, Justice Harish Shinde and his law clerk, Anant, travel from Delhi to the town of Bhairavgarh, in the Indian state of Rajasthan, for a two-week holiday. They’re looking forward to escaping the intense Delhi heat, and to some relaxation. While there, they’ll be the guests of Shikhar Pant, an old friend of the judge’s. Pant has also invited a few other guests: Ronit and Kamini Mittal, who run an NGO; Pravin Anand and Anand’s son Avinash; and Dr. Davendra Nath and his daughter Mallika and sons Ashwin and Nikhil. Also present is Pant’s cousin, Kailish. One afternoon, Kailish is found stabbed in his cousin’s library. Inspector Patel is called in and begins to investigate. I can say without spoiling the story that the Nath children are not suspects. So, really, Patel doesn’t have a large pool of suspects: Pant, the Mittals, the Anands, and Dr. Nath. The judge and Anant get to know the various suspects; and, in the end, they find out who killed the victim and why. It’s an interesting modern-day country house sort of murder with just a few suspects.

It’s not always easy to pull of an engaging mystery with just three or four suspects. When it works, though, it can be an effective approach to building tension and to character development. Which ones have stayed with you?


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Noel Gay, Douglas Ferber, and L. Arthur Rose’s Me and My Girl.


Filed under Aditya Sudarshan, Agatha Christie, Domingo Villar, Ellery Queen, Minette Walters

As I Recall, It Ended Much Too Soon*

If your TBR is anything like mine, you do not need to add to it. There are always so many fine novels coming out that it’s impossible to ever read them all. And then there are those excellent novels from past years that sit on the ‘I really will read this’ list for too long.

That said, though, there are some series that I, for one, wish would be continued. I understand all about the vagaries of publishing and the demands of authors personal lives. There’s also the matter of what the author would like to do. But still, here are just a few authors I hope will/wish could add to their series.

One is Adrian Hyland. His novels Diamond Dove (Moonlight Downs) and Gunshot Road feature Aboriginal Community Police Officer (ACPO) Emily Tempest. She’s half-Aborigine, half-white, and was brought up in the small Moonlight Downs community. After an absence of several years, she returns, and immediately gets involved in murder cases. The books have met with a great deal of critical acclaim (Hyland won the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction for Diamond Dove), and they’ve been very highly regarded among readers. And yet, there hasn’t been a third Emily Tempest novel. At least, there hasn’t to my knowledge (so someone, please put me right if I’m wrong about that). I would love to know what happens next in Emily Tempest’s life, and I hope there’ll be another in this series.

Ernesto Mallo has written, as far as I know, two novels featuring Buenos Aires police detective Venancio ‘Perro’ Lescano. The stories take place in the late 1970s – a very dangerous time to be in Argentina. The military is in firm control of the government, and has no compunctions about getting rid of anyone who would appear to disagree with their hard-right agenda. Against this backdrop, Lescano tries to simply be a good police detective and do his job well. But that often puts him up against some very dangerous forces. So far, Needle in a Haystack and Sweet Money are the only two Lescano novels. I truly hope that there’ll be more.

Hilary Mantel has gotten a great deal of praise for her two novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. In fact, Mantel won the Man Booker prize for Wolf Hall. These stories detail the early life, rise, and fall of Thomas Cromwell, who was at one time a close confidant of King Henry VIII. As you’ll know, he fell from grace and was executed in 1540. The novels give the reader an ‘inside look’ at court intrigue, Cromwell’s personal life, and the atmosphere of the times. The third novel in this planned trilogy, The Mirror and the Light, is, from what I understand, in progress. I’ve not seen a publication date for it, yet, although I did read that it may be 2019 before we see this release. Mantel has contended with health issues, among other things, but still, I do hope The Mirror and the Light is published sooner rather than later. It’s been a wait…

In Domingo Villar’s Water Blue Eyes, we are introduced to Vigo police detective Inspector Leo Caldas. Along with his police duties, he also hosts a regular radio show called Patrolling the Waves. It’s an attempt to connect the police with citizens, and allows people to call in and ‘talk with a cop’ about their concerns and questions. Caldas features in Death on a Galician Shore as well. But, to my knowledge, there hasn’t been a third Leo Caldas novel. I understand that Cruces de Piedra (Stone Crosses) was to have been published a few years ago, but I haven’t seen it available (at least in the US). I’d love to know if it’s available elsewhere. And I look forward to reading the next Leo Caldas novel if there is one.

Nelson Brunanski is the author of, among other things, three novels featuring John ‘Bart’ Bartowski, who owns a fishing lodge in the northern part of Saskatchewan. He and his wife, Rosie, live further south in the province, in a small town called Crooked Lake. In Crooked Lake, Frost Bite, and Burnt Out, Bart gets involved in investigating mysteries, even though he’s reluctant to do so. These novels have a strong sense of small-town Saskatchewan, and are also character studies. I would like to read more about Bart and his friends and family.

There are, sadly, some series that didn’t continue because their authors passed away. That’s the case with, for instance, Scott Young’s series featuring RCMP police detective ‘Matteesie’ Kitologitak. Both Murder in a Cold Climate and The Shaman’s Knife offer interesting looks at life in Canada’s Far North. They also are police procedurals that show how the RCMP operates, especially in rural areas. I wish there had been more novels in this series.

Authors may choose not to continue a series. Or, publishers may decline to support the continuation of a series. There may be other reasons, too, for which a series might not continue, or for which there might be a delay in a series. But for readers, it can be difficult to wait for that next novel. Even with people’s TBRs as they are. These are just a few of my ideas. Which series would you like to see continue?


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from the Four Seasons’ December 1963 (Oh What a Night).


Filed under Adrian Hyland, Domingo Villar, Ernesto Mallo, Hilary Mantel, Nelson Brunanski, Scott Young

They Tried to Give Me Advice*

helping-the-policeHave you ever noticed that when people say that they don’t want to tell you how to do your job – they do? And it can be awfully annoying when someone tries to be ‘helpful.’ Even if that person has the best of intentions, it can still be grating. The police have to deal with that whenever there’s a very public case. ‘Armchair detectives’ and members of the media are quick to have their say. And, with the advent of today’s social media, it’s easy for members of the public to second-guess an investigation, too. It’s little wonder that the police can get fed up with all of that ‘help.’ But it’s a part of the job. And besides, the police don’t want to miss an important lead. So, it’s worth the annoyance (well, most of the time) to get a sense of what people think.

There are different ways, too, in which people let the police know what they ‘should be doing.’ And many of them show up in crime fiction. That sort of plot point can add a layer of suspense to a story. It can also be an effective tool for providing clues, if the author wants to do that.

We see one example of telling the police what to do in Agatha Christie’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Hercule Poirot works with Chief Inspector Japp and Captain Hastings to discover who poisoned Emily Inglethorp. There are several suspects, as she was a wealthy woman. The killer has been clever, too, so it’s not an easy case to solve. But the victim’s friend and companion, Evelyn Howard, is sure she knows who’s guilty. She tells several people, including Hastings and Poirot, that the criminal is Alfred Inglethorp, Emily’s husband. That’s certainly a possibility, but there are other suspects, too, and other leads to follow. Evelyn sticks to her guns, though, as the saying goes, and insists that the police are wasting their time looking at anyone else as the guilty party. And it’s interesting to see how strident she is about what the police should and shouldn’t be doing.

Domingo Villar’s Vigo-based Inspector Leo Caldas has an interesting way to listen to what members of the public have to say. Along with his police duties, he hosts a radio show called Patrolling the Waves. It’s a call-in show that invites listeners to share their concerns, comments and so on – a chance to ‘talk with a cop.’ And Caldas gets all sorts of ‘helpful suggestions’ for improving police work. On the one hand, it’s sometimes tiresome, even frustrating. On the other, Caldas knows that it’s best to have the reputation of being open to public comment. And a call-in show is an ordered way (well, usually) to hear what people have to say without spending too many hours doing so.

Sometimes, the police use press briefings and the like to update the public on their investigations. And, since the media’s job is to inform people, journalists sometimes ask challenging questions. If they’re not handled well, it can seem as though the press is trying to tell the police how to do their jobs. We see that sort of tension in ’s Dregs. Police detective William Wisting and his team are trying to solve a bizarre case. A left food, clad in a trainer, was found near the Norwegian town of Stavern. Shortly afterwards, another was found. And another. The story has made all of the news outlets, and everyone has an opinion on what’s going on. One of the most popular is that there’s some sort of serial killer at work. There’s so much gossip about the investigation that the police believe it’s best to hold a press briefing, so that they have a say in the information that becomes public. Wisting isn’t a big fan of such events, but he knows they have value. During the briefing, he’s grilled on several aspects of the case. One journalist in particular challenges him on several matters, even suggesting that the police have made mistakes. It’s a tense scene, and certainly doesn’t make Wisting’s job any easier.

The police also have their share of input from individuals who call or visit. Sometimes those visits are fruitful; sometimes not. That’s part of what can make the police’s job challenging. In Martin Edwards’ The Hanging Wood, for instance, Cumbria Constabulary DCI Hannah Scarlett gets a call from Orla Payne. Orla’s brother Callum went missing years ago, and no trace of him has been found. Now, Orla wants his case re-opened. When she calls in, though, she’s both emotionally fragile and drunk. So, she’s not very coherent and doesn’t make a very good impression on Scarlett. In fact, she’s all but brushed off. Then, Orla herself dies by suicide (or is it really suicide?). Now, Scarlett wishes she’d accepted Orla’s suggestion to look into Callum’s disappearance. Her guilt is part of what spurs her on to open the case again. And what she finds is a dark story that goes back decades.

And then there’s Helen Fitzgerald’s The Cry. When Joanna Lindsay and her partner, Alistair Robertson, travel from her native Scotland to Victoria, they’re hoping to make a new start. The trip doesn’t go well, though, as their nine-week-old son, Noah, is not an easy baby. In fact, the flight is dreadful. But, they land safely and start to make their way from Melbourne to their destination, Alistair’s home town. Along the way, they face every parent’s worst nightmare: the loss of baby Noah. The police spearhead a massive search, and they get all sorts of advice from the media and the public. Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and other social media are full of people’s opinions about what the police ought to be doing, and where they should be looking. People are even more ‘helpful’ when they begin to suspect that one or both of Noah’s parents may have had a hand in whatever happened to him. In the end, we find out the truth. We also see how difficult it can be for the police when everyone wants to make suggestions.

But the fact is, you never know when someone’s ‘help’ may actually include vital information. So, the police know that they can’t shut people out entirely. It makes for an interesting dilemma, and (in crime fiction) a solid source of tension.


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Frank Black’s Freedom Rock.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Domingo Villar, Helen Fitzgerald, Jørn Lier Horst, Martin Edwards

They Might Have Split Up or They Might have Capsized*

shipwrecksIf you’ve ever been on a boat of any kind, you know that there’s always risk involved. Even on luxury cruise liners, there are lifeboat drills and other safety precautions. The thing is, you never know, when you’re out on the water, what’s going to happen.

Certainly, the crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald, which went down with all hands on this date in 1975, didn’t know for sure what would happen to them. The ship was caught in a sudden storm, and couldn’t make it to safety in time. The loss of ships and other boats is a part of history all over the world, and it’s woven into crime fiction, too. That makes sense, when you think of all the possibilities (e.g. lost treasure, missing people who may (or may not) turn up again, and much more). There’s only room for a few examples in this one post; I know you’ll think of many others.

In Patricia Wentworth’s Grey Mask, we are introduced to Margot Standing, an ingénue who is set to inherit a large fortune from her father, Edward, who’s recently been lost at sea. The only problem is, Margot’s cousin Egbert also has a claim to the money. And the papers that would prove Edward Standing’s intent have disappeared. Egbert proposes that he and Margot should marry, and keep the money ‘in the family.’ This Margot refuses to do, and ends up leaving her home. What she doesn’t know is that she’s the target of a gang led by a mysterious criminal called Grey Mask. The plan is to get rid of her and take her money. She finds an unlikely ally in Margaret Langton, whose former fiancé Charles Moray already knows about Grey Mask’s plot. Together, Langton and Moray try to unravel the mystery of Grey Mask’s identity, and save Margot from their plans. To do that, they get help from Miss Maude Silver, for whom this novel is a first outing. In this case, the treasure wasn’t, strictly speaking, on the ship that went down. But the shipwreck has a lot to do with the plot.

In Domingo Villar’s Death on a Galician Shore, Vigo police detective Leo Caldas and his team investigate the death of a local fisherman, Justo Castelo. At first, it looks like a case of suicide. But Caldas soon notes a few little inconsistencies that call that explanation into question. So the team members dig a little deeper. They learn that Castelo didn’t have a wide social circle, and no real enemies. The only lead that seems at all promising is Castelo’s connection to José Arias and Marcos Valverde. Years earlier, the three had been out one night on a fishing boat with their captain, Antonio Sousa. A sudden storm came up, and the boat went down. Sousa died, but the other three made it back to land. And, as it turns out, that death has a lot to do with Castelo’s death.

In one plot thread of Mark Douglas-Home’s The Sea Detective, Edinburgh oceanographer Caladgh ‘Cal’ is using his expertise in wave patterns to solve the mystery of his grandfather Uilliem’s disappearance. Years earlier, Uilliem had met his wife on ilean Isagaich Mor, Great Fishing Island, settled there, and prepared to start life. Then, he was lost during a sea voyage. Now, his grandson wants to find out where his body might be and what happened to him. That trail leads back to the island and the relationships among the people there. Among other things, it’s an interesting look at what happens to a community when some of the men are lost at sea.

Sandy Curtis’ Deadly Tide takes place mostly in and around Brisbane. Allan ‘Tug’ Bretton, who captains the fishing trawler Sea Mistress, broke his leg in an onboard incident (on another boat) connected with the death of a deckhand, Ewan McKay. His daughter, Samantha ‘Sam’, wants to skipper Sea Mistress in his place. On the one hand, Tug’s not sure his daughter is ready for the responsibility. On the other, the boat has to go out, or the family stands to lose a lot of money. So, reluctantly, Tug agrees, and Sam starts to plan for the trip. One thing she’ll need to do is get a deckhand. For that, she hires Chayse Jarrett. What she doesn’t know is that he’s actually an undercover copper who’s looking into McKay’s death. He wants to see if there’s any evidence that Tug Bretton is guilty. The police theory is that McKay’s murder might be connected to the Brisbane-area drugs trade, so Jarrett is also investigating any connection the Bretton family might have to drugs smuggling. The fishing trip gets underway, and turns out to be far more dangerous than either Sam Bretton or Chayse Jarrett thought it would be. And, interestingly enough, it’s all related to a long-ago shipwreck, and the mutiny that led to it.

And then there’s Robin Blake’s historical (1742) novel, The Hidden Man. In that story, Attorney and Coroner Titus Cragg works with his friend, Dr. Luke Fidelis, to find out who killed pawnbroker and would-be banker, Philip Pimbo. Cragg and Fidelis learn that Pimbo had financially backed a ship called The Fortunate Isle. A few weeks before the murder, Pimbo’s business partner, Zadok Moon, had filed a claim with the firm that insured the ship. According to that claim, the ship and its cargo were a total loss. That claim, the ship, its cargo and its fate, turn out to be important to solving the murder. One interesting thing this novel highlights is the way insurance companies are traditionally involved in sea voyages.

Of course, not all trips by sea end tragically. Most of the time they don’t. But the fact that they might can add a lot of interesting suspense to a novel. Right, fans of Martin Cruz Smith’s  Polar Star? These are just a few examples. Your turn.


In Memoriam


This post is dedicated to the memory of the 29 members of the crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald. I hope their families have found peace and healing.


NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.


Filed under Domingo Villar, Mark Douglas-Home, Martin Cruz Smith, Patricia Wentworth, Sandy Curtis