Category Archives: Don Winslow

This Warehouse Frightens Me*

Many companies use warehouses to store things until they are shipped or delivered. And, of course, there’s a big business in residential/individual storage too. That makes sense, as people look for a house, serve in the military, and so on. There’s even a US TV show about goods in storage, where people bid on the contents of different storage sheds.

If you think about it, warehouses and storage places can make for interesting additions to crime novels. They’re convenient for hiding contraband, weapons, bodies, and so on. And they can be awfully creepy, too. So, it makes sense that we’d see them in the genre.

For example, in Freeman Wills Crofts’ The Cask, the Bullfinch pulls in to the London docks from Rouen. When it arrives, the cargo is unloaded into the warehouse. Tom Broughton, who works for the Insular and Continental Steam Navigation Company, is sent to ensure that a valuable consignment of wine has arrived in good order. He checks the casks, and finds that one weighs more than the others, and that gets his attention right away. Soon enough, when he gets a foreman to open the questionable cask, he finds the body of a woman in it. Inspector Burnley of Scotland Yard investigates, and he works with his French friend and counterpart, M. Lefarge of the Sûreté, to find out who the woman was and who killed her.

Deborah Crombie’s In a Dark House begins with a fire in a warehouse in London’s Southwark area. Firefighters are called in and manage to control the blaze. In the ruins of the warehouse, they find the body of an unknown woman. The police, in the form of Superintendent Duncan Kincaid, are called in and begin to investigate. With help from his partner, Sergeant Gemma James, Kindcaid and his team discover that there are four missing persons reported whose descriptions match that of the woman in the warehouse. So, Kincaid, James, and the team work to find out if the dead woman is one of those people and, if so, which one. In the meantime, there’s the question of who set the warehouse fire – especially after it’s followed by other fires…

There’s a very eerie scene in a storage bunker in Tony Hillerman’s The Wailing Wind. In that novel, Navajo Tribal Police Officer Bernadette ‘Bernie’ Manuelito finds the body of a man slumped over in his car. At first it looks a case of a drunk curled up asleep, but soon enough, it’s clear that this man was murdered. Once it’s clear that this is a crime scene, Sergeant Jim Chee takes over the case, and he works with (now retired) Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn to find the truth. It turns out that this is linked to a five-year-old case that Leaphorn wasn’t able to solve – the first time…

Don Winslow’s The Dawn Patrol features San Diego PI Boone Daniels. He’s approached by Petra Hall, from the law firm Burke, Spitz, and Culliver, to take on a new case. The firm represents Coastal Insurance Company, which is currently facing a lawsuit. Daniel ‘Dan Silver’ Silvieri is suing Coastal for bad faith and damages in the matter of a warehouse he owns. The warehouse burned, and Silvieri applied to the insurance company to cover his losses. But the company suspects this is a case of arson, and won’t pay; hence, the lawsuit. Hall wants Daniels to find a stripper named Tamera Roddick, who was a witness to the fire. Her testimony will be important in this case, and she has gone missing. Daniels doesn’t want to take the case at first, but he is finally persuaded. Not long afterwards, a young woman dies from a fall (or a push) off the balcony of a cheap motel room. She’s got Tamera Roddick’s identification, so at first, Daniels and the police draw the obvious conclusion. But they are soon proved wrong. The dead woman is Tamera’s best friend, another stripper who calls herself Angela Hart. Now, Daniels is drawn into a case of murder, arson, and some very ugly things going on. And the warehouse plays a role in the story.

And then there’s Peter Temple’s Truth. That novel takes place as Melbourne faces a serious threat from bush fires, so everyone’s nerves are stretched. Against this backdrop, Inspector Stephen Villani has some very difficult cases to solve. One of them is the murder of three drug dealers whose mutilated bodies are discovered in an abandoned warehouse. Another is the case of an unidentified woman whose body is found in a posh apartment. As the novel goes on, Villani finds that there are several people, including some in his own department, who do not want the truth about these cases to come out.

There are plenty of other examples, too, of crime stories where storage places and warehouses play roles (right, fans of Ian Rankin’s Doors Open?). And it’s not hard to see why. They’re very seldom carefully watched, they offer space for…whatever, and they can be positively creepy. These are just a few examples, to show you what I mean. Your turn.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Dave Matthews’ Warehouse.

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Filed under Deborah Crombie, Don Winslow, Freeman Wills Crofts, Ian Rankin, Peter Temple, Tony Hillerman

We’ve Got Tonight, Who Needs Tomorrow?*

Is it possible to have a truly ‘no strings attached’ sort of relationship? Plenty of people say ‘yes;’ and plenty of those have had them. Many other people disagree. To those people, there’s always some connection, even if it was just a one-night stand.

Crime fiction doesn’t seem to offer a definitive answer on this question, and that makes sense. There are a lot of factors involved, if you think about it. People’s personalities vary greatly. So do contexts. And it’s interesting to see how those ‘no strings attached’ relationships (or are they?) figure into character development, plot points, and more.

Some crime-fictional relationships really do seem to involve no obligations. One of them is the relationship between John ‘Duke’ Anderson and Ingrid Macht, whom we meet in Lawrence Sanders’ The Anderson Tapes. As the novel begins, Anderson’s recently been released from prison, and is on the ‘straight and narrow.’ Then, he gets the chance to visit a posh Manhattan apartment building and gets the idea of robbing all of the apartments. It’s a major undertaking, and Anderson can’t do it alone. So, he recruits a number of associates to help at different points. What he doesn’t know is that many of the conversations he has have been recorded in one way or another. The FBI and various police agencies have an interest in several of the people Anderson deals with, so they’ve been secretly keeping tabs. The question becomes: will Anderson and his team get away with their robbery before they’re caught? Throughout the novel, Anderson has a number of conversations with Macht. They like each other, and sometimes sleep together, but neither feels an obligation to the other. And neither has any illusions that they have an actual relationship.

In Don Winslow’s The Dawn Patrol, we are introduced to San Diego PI Boone Daniels. In this novel, he investigates a warehouse fire (was it or was it not arson?), a missing stripper, a murder, and an ugly truth behind it all. While Daniels is an investigator, he is also, first and foremost, a surfer. Almost every morning, he and his friends (they call themselves the Dawn Patrol) go surfing together. One of those friends is a lifeguard who has the nickname Dave the Love God. He is legendary among women, both local and tourists. In fact, when tourists return to their homes, they often recommend Dave to their friends. Dave the Love God treats his dates well and is completely upfront with them. There are no lies, promises, or expectations. Everyone knows it’s just for fun, and it works well for Dave and for his companions.

In Angela Savage’s Behind the Night Bazaar, we meet Bangkok-based PI Jayne Keeney. Originally from Australia, she now makes her home in Thailand. She gets involved in a murder investigation when her good friend, Didier de Montpasse, is accused of murdering his partner, and then is killed himself. At this point in her life, Keeney isn’t really looking for a relationship. She likes her independence. But that doesn’t mean she wants to be a hermit. For Keeney, it works best – at least at the outset of this series – to have relationships with no expectations. Later, she chooses a partner, and it’s interesting to see how she makes the transition from preferring no strings to feeling a real bond.

Of course, not all ‘no strings attached’ relationships work out. In Agatha Christie’s The Hollow, for instance, Dr. John Christow and his wife, Gerda, are invited for a weekend to the country home of Sir Henry and Lady Lucy Angkatell. What Christow doesn’t know at first is that one of the nearby cottages has been taken by an old flame, Veronica Cray. On the Saturday night, she bursts in at the Angkatell home and asks to borrow some matches. She then sees Christow and insists on having him accompany her home. For Christow, it’s a one-night stand – no obligations or expectations. But that’s not how Veronica Cray sees it. She wants to rekindle their romance and is infuriated when Christow refuses her. The next afternoon, Christow is shot, and Cray becomes one of the ‘people of interest’ in the case.

And then there’s Karin Alvtegen’s Betrayal. When Eva Wirenström-Berg discovers that her husband, Henrik, has been unfaithful, she is devastated. She’d always imagined the proverbial ‘white picket fence’ life for them and their son, Axel. When she finds out who the other woman is, Eva makes her own plans, and they turn out to have tragic consequences. One night, she stops into a pub where she meets Jonas Hansson, who has his own issues to face. The two begin talking and end up in bed. For Eva, it’s a no-strings-attached relationship, in part intended to cope with Henrik’s betrayal. But that’s not how Jonas sees it. Before long, things begin to spin out of control for both of them and end up very badly indeed.

And that’s the thing about those one-night or no-strings sorts of relationships. Sometimes they work out for both people. That’s especially true if both people agree that there will be no expectations. But things aren’t always that easy or clear. And then, it can all get very ugly.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Bob Seger’s We’ve Got Tonight.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Angela Savage, Don Winslow, Karin Alvtegen, Lawrence Sanders

It Wasn’t You*

There are many ways that an author can add suspense to a crime novel. One of them, for instance, is the ‘second murder’ trope. I’ve done that, myself, and it can be effective. Another is what I’ll call the ‘misidentified body’ trope. In that sort of plot, a body is identified. Then, it’s discovered that it’s not that person at all.

This trope gives the writer a lot of flexibility. Perhaps the writer wants to make the real victim the intended victim all along. Or, perhaps the writer wants an ‘accidental murder.’ Or two murders. In any case, a misidentified body can add plot twists, suspense, and interest to a story.

Agatha Christie uses this sort of plot point in more than one of her stories. For example, in The Body in the Library, Colonel Arthur Bantry and his wife, Dolly, awake to the terrible news that the body of a young woman has been found in their library. Neither knows who the dead woman was, nor how her body got there. The police are called in and begin the task of finding out who the victim was, but Dolly Bantry isn’t sure they’ll get to the truth. So, she asks her friend, Miss Marple, to help. A search of missing person records suggests a match with eighteen-year-old Ruby Keene, who was a professional dancer at the Majestic Hotel. With that as a starting point, the police interview Ruby’s co-workers and friends to find out who would have wanted to kill her. There are several suspects, too. Everything gets much more complicated when the burned-out hulk of a car belonging to George Bartlett is discovered with a body in it, also the body of a young woman. As it happens, Bartlett was the last person to see Ruby Keene alive, so there’s a good chance that the two deaths are related. And so they turn out to be. And throughout this story is the question of who, exactly, has been killed…  I see you, fans of The Man in the Brown Suit, and Taken at the Flood.

In Vera Caspary’s Laura, New York police detective Lieutenant Mark McPherson is assigned to investigate when the body of successful advertising executive Laura Hunt is discovered in her apartment. McPherson starts by trying to trace the victim’s movements during her last days, and soon discovers that she had planned to marry a ‘blueblood’ named Shelby Carpenter. She’d postponed the wedding, though, saying she needed some time away. As it turned out, though, she never left town. What’s more, she had planned to have dinner with an old friend, Waldo Lydecker, on the night of her death, but called him to cancel. Neither man knows why she changed her plans, and neither claims to know who killed her. Then comes a shock. The body turns out not to be Laura Hunt’s after all. In fact, she comes home from a stay in the country and surprises McPherson while he’s in her home. Now, the police have to find out who was actually killed. It turns out that the real victim was a woman named Diane Redfern. Laura knew her, and even gave her permission to stay in the apartment. But she claims not to know who killed her. But, as McPherson soon learns, Laura had a very good motive for murder, since Diane was having an affair with Shelby Carpenter. Now, Laura becomes the chief suspect, as McPherson tries to get to the truth.

In one plot thread of Ruth Rendell’s Simisola, Dr. Raymond Akande gets concerned when his twenty-two-year-old daughter, Melanie, goes missing after a visit to the local employment bureau. He tells his friend and patient, Inspector Reg Wexford, what’s happened. At first, Wexford isn’t unduly worried, as there might be any number of reasons why a young woman might take off for a few days. Akande insists that Melanie wouldn’t have left, even for a short trip, without telling her parents. So, after a bit more time goes by, Wexford starts the missing persons process. Then, the body of a young woman is found in a local wood. Wexford’s sure it’s Melanie’s body, and asks her parents to identify her. They go to the mortuary and, to Wexford’s shock, tell him that the young woman is not Melanie. Now, Wexford has two tasks (beyond, of course, making things right with Melanie’s parents as best he can). One is to find out what happened to Melanie. The other is to find out who the dead woman is, and who killed her.

Priscilla Masters’ River Deep is the first of her series featuring Martha Gunn, Coroner for Shrewsbury. In the novel, the body of an unknown man floats out of a basement when the River Severn overflows its banks. The body is not that of the house’s owner. In fact, he says he has no idea who the dead man is. At first, the police think the dead man may be Clarke Haddonfield, who was reported missing, and whose description is a solid match. But they soon learn they’re wrong. Finally, the victim is identified as Gerald Bosworth. So, the police concentrate on trying to trace Bosworth’s last days and weeks and find out who would have wanted to kill him. This raises other questions, though. What happened to Haddonfield? And, is his disappearance related to Bosworth’s death? And why was Bosworth’s body found in the basement of someone he didn’t know?

And then there’s Don Winslow’s The Dawn Patrol. San Diego PI and passionate surfer Boone Daniels gets a new case. It seems that Coastal Insurance is being sued by Daniel ‘Dan Silver’ Silvieri. A warehouse he owned was burned, and he filed a claim with Coastal. However, Coastal investigated the blaze, and concluded that it was a case of arson. Now Silvieri is suing for damages and bad faith. The key to this case is a stripper named Tamera Roddick, who was a witness to the fire. But she’s disappeared. Coastal wants Daniels to find her, so that she can testify. Then, a young woman dies after a fall from the balcony of a cheap motel. She has Tamera Roddick’s ID with her, so at first, the obvious assumption is made. But it turns out that she is Tamera’s best friend, another stripper who called herself Angela Hart. Was she killed in a case of mistaken identity? Was the killer after her the whole time? And where is Tamera? Daniels finds the case getting increasingly complex – and dangerous.

If it’s not handled well, the plot point of a misidentified body can come off as contrived. But if it’s handled effectively, it can add layers of interest and suspense to a crime novel. Which examples have stayed with you?

 
 
 

*NOTE:  The title of this post is a line from Thom Bell and Linda Creed’s You Are Everything.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Don Winslow, Priscilla Masters, Ruth Rendell, Vera Caspary

Everybody in the World Likes Chocolate*

Recently, FictionFan, at FictionFan’s Book Reviews, conducted an interesting scientific study of chocolate. Using the My Life in Books meme from Adam at Roof Beam Reader, Fiction Fan compared two sets of data. One set, collected before eating any chocolate, was an initial list of responses to the My Life in Books prompts. Then, FictionFan provided answers to the same prompts after eating chocolate. As you can clearly see from FictionFan’s answers, there was a definite positive effect of chocolate on mood.

Of course, any study ought to be replicated, if possible, in order to lend support to the results. So, I decided to do just that. Like FictionFan, I collected two sets of data: one was collected before eating chocolate, and the other after. My own data is presented below:

 

Prompts

Before Chocolate

After Chocolate

In high school, I was:

Among Thieves

In Like Flynn

People might be surprised (by):

The Colaba Conspiracy

[What] Harriet Said

I will never be:

You

Wife of the Gods

My fantasy job is:

Nunslinger

An Easy Thing

At the end of a long day, I need:

Burial Rites

A Jarful of Angels

I hate it when:

Days are Like Grass

Not a Creature Was [is] Stirring

Wish I had:

The Frozen Shroud

Greenlight

My family reunions are:

Murder and Mayhem at Honeychurch Hall

Above Suspicion

At a party, you’d find me with:

The Hidden Man

Ruby and the Blue Sky

I’ve never been to:

The Cemetery of Swallows

China Lake

A happy day includes:

Dead Lemons

Crystal Ball Persuasion

Motto I live by:

Can Anybody Help Me?

Happiness is Easy

On my bucket list is:

Talking to the Dead

The Dawn Patrol

In my next life, I want to have:

A Moment’s Silence

A Three-Pipe Problem

 

As you can see, chocolate also had a positive effect on my mood. Now, of course, this study is limited, as all studies are. For one thing, I made use of Belgian chocolates for this research. Other sources and types of chocolates would have to be studied to really confirm the hypothesis that chocolate enhances one’s mood. For another thing, FictionFan’s data and mine are only two iterations of this study. More researchers would be needed, to rule out effects based on any similarities between me and FictionFan (I mean, we are both crime fiction readers, etc..). There are other limitations, too, as any academician can tell you.

That said, though, I think it’s safe to say that this study certainly lends support to FictionFan’s conclusion that chocolate has mood-enhancing effects. Anyone else care to take part in this all-important research?

Thanks, FictionFan, for your groundbreaking study!

 
 
 

NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Soul Control’s Chocolate (Choco Choco).

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Filed under Babs Horton, Beryl Bainbridge, Christopher Abbey, Don Winslow, Edney Silvestre, Finn Bell, Gordon Ell, Hannah Dennison, Hannah Kent, Harry Bingham, Jane Haddam, Jean-Denis Bruet-Ferreol, John Clarkson, Julian Symons, Katherine Dewar, Kwei Quartey, Lynda La Plante, Meg Gardiner, Paco Ignacio Taibo II, Rhys Bowen, Robin Blake, Sinéad Crowley, Stark Holborn, Sue Younger, Surender Mohan Pathak, Zoran Drvenkar

In The Spotlight: Don Winslow’s The Dawn Patrol

Hello, All,

Welcome to another edition of In The Spotlight. Some crime novels are as much about a particular culture or sub-culture as they are about the crime. It’s tricky to pull that off without losing the main plot thread – the crime and its solution. But when it’s done well, such a novel can evoke an atmosphere and culture quite effectively. As an example, let’s turn today’s spotlight on Don Winslow’s The Dawn Patrol.

Boone Daniels is a former San Diego Police Department officer who’s become a PI. But his real passion is surfing. He lives in San Diego’s Pacific Beach, and spends as much of his time surfing as he can. He’s got a group of friends called the Dawn Patrol who join him. Daniels’ friends Hang Twelve (usually called ‘Hang’), High Tide, Johnny Banzai, Dave the Love God (he is a legend among women, both locals and tourists), and Sunny Day almost always surf together before they go to their various jobs. Then, when they can, they get together after work, too, and surf. In fact, Daniels would rather surf than actually make a living at a regular job.

Everything changes when attorney Petra Hall, from the law firm Burke, Spitz, and Culliver, approaches Daniels about taking a case on behalf of Coastal Insurance Company. They’re being sued by Daniel ‘Dan Silver’ Silvieri. It seems a warehouse he owns in Vista (something like 45 miles/72 km north and east of San Diego) burned. Coastal investigated and believes that it’s a case of arson, so they won’t pay. Dan Silver’s now suing them for damages and bad faith to the tune of US$5 million. Hall wants Daniels to find a stripper named Tamera Roddick who is a witness to the fire, and whose testimony will be important. Daniels doesn’t want to take the case, as a major set of waves is due in the area in the next few days, and he doesn’t want to miss his chance. But he’s finally convinced.

Then, a young woman dies of a fall from the balcony of a cheap motel room. At first, it’s assumed that she is the missing Tamera, because she has Tamera’s ID. But it soon turns out that the dead woman is actually Tamera’s best friend, another stripper who calls herself Angela Hart. But why was Tamera’s ID found with the dead woman? And which woman was the killer actually targeting?

As Daniels and Hall try to find the missing woman, they learn bits and pieces about her life in the past few months. And Daniels, in particular, wants to know who killed Angela Hart. He’s driven in part by a case from years earlier, when he was on the police force. A six-year-old girl disappeared from her front lawn, and was never found. He’s been trying to learn what happened to her since, since he blames himself for not solving the case. Little by little, he and Hall find out what happened to Tamera Roddick, how it’s linked up with Angela Hall’s murder, and what it all has to do with the warehouse fire. And before they’re done, they turn up some truly ugly secrets that some people are keeping.

This novel takes place in San Diego County, and Winslow places the reader there in many ways. Winslow provides background information on how the area developed, what it’s like geographically and demographically, and so on. Each reader is different about how much of that sort of information is ‘too much,’ so your mileage, as the term goes, may vary. But it’s more than just the history. The various small towns in the county, the roads that connect them, and so on, are all a part of the story.

San Diego has many different cultures and sub-cultures. Winslow concentrates on the surfing life, including the mix of cultural influences on it. Surfing takes athletic ability and lots of practice to surf, even to surf a little. And these people know the water, the weather patterns, and the beaches. One of them, Sunny Day, is so skilled at surfing that she has a real chance at national and international coverage, endorsements, and more. What’s more, they all have other jobs (cop, PI, lifeguard, restaurant server, etc.). Winslow evokes surfing and the surfing life as the story unfolds, even in details such as the language and surfing customs (and yes, there are surfing customs).

The members of the Dawn Patrol figure heavily in the novel. They don’t join Daniels’ investigation, but all of them have a part to play in the way the mystery unfolds. So, we get to know each. We learn their backstories, how they got into surfing, their plans, and so on. And we see how close-knit the group is. They are close friends as well as surfing partners.

But that friendship is tested and changed by the mysteries at hand. And the truth about Tamera Roddick’s disappearance, Angela Hart’s death, and the warehouse fire, is ugly. It’s even harrowing. Readers who prefer light mysteries will want to know that. There’s violence, too, some of it also ugly. But it’s not gratuitous or extended.

That said, though, there is wit in the story. Here, for instance, is Daniels’ reflection on the explosion of interest in Southern California after the Beach Boys became popular:
 

‘So many people moved to the SoCal coast, it’s surprising it didn’t just tilt into the ocean. Well, it sort of did; the developers threw up quick-and-dirty condo complexes on the bluffs above the ocean, and now they’re sliding into the sea like toboggans.’
 

Daniels mourns the loss of the days before the surge of popularity, when not many people knew about the great Southern California surfing beaches.  

It’s also worth pointing out that this isn’t one of those stories where every question is answered. Readers learn the answers to the main mysteries, but there are some ‘loose ends.’ Things aren’t wrapped up neatly at the end.

The Dawn Patrol is the story of a group of surfers whose lives are changed when one of them takes a case that turns out to be gut-wrenching. It’s set against a distinctive San Diego backdrop, and features a PI who’d rather surf than fight, but has a strong sense of what’s right. But what’s your view? Have you read The Dawn Patrol? If you have, what elements do you see in it?

 
 
 

Coming Up On In The Spotlight
 

Monday, 18 September/Tuesday, 19 September – Another Margaret – Janice McDonald

Monday, 25 September/Tuesday, 26 September – Among Thieves – John Clarkson

Monday, 2 October/Tuesday,3 October – Crocodile on the Sandbank – Elizabeth Peters

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Filed under Don Winslow, The Dawn Patrol