Category Archives: Dorothy L. Sayers

Livin’ On The Edge*

Anyone who’s ever lived in wildfire/bush fire country can tell you that, when even a small fire starts, things can turn very, very bad, very, very quickly. So, there’s often a lot of tension as everyone looks at things such as prevailing winds, terrain, availability of firefighting staff, and size of the blaze. Wise people take precautions, in case they need to evacuate. After all, there may only be 10-30 minutes to evacuate once the order is given. That’s not the time to discuss who will take what, or where to go. By the way, if you want to read a realistic account of what this situation is like, read Adrian Hyland’s Kinglake-350. G’wan, read it. Admittedly, it’s not crime fiction, but it’s such a good fit here that I decided to mention it, anyway.

That tension, as people wait to see what will happen, is almost palpable. In real life, it can be a big challenge. In fiction, it can add an engaging layer of suspense. And crime writers have used it in several different ways.

For instance, Agatha Christie’s Taken at the Flood begins in Hercule Poirot’s club. Everyone’s taking shelter there against World War II air raids, and it’s not in the least clear how things will pan out. So, there’s a lot of tension. In part to break that tension, Poirot listens to a story told by fellow member Major Porter. It seems he knew a Robert Underhay who died in Africa. Underhay’s widow, Rosaleen, later married Gordon Cloade. But Porter’s story suggests that Underhay might still be alive. This possibility becomes crucial later, when Cloade is killed in a bombing. He dies without having made a will, which in most cases would mean Rosaleen inherits all of his considerable wealth. But if her first husband is alive, that would mean she couldn’t inherit. And that’s exactly what Cloade’s family wants, for various reasons. So, Poirot’s interest is piqued when he learns that a stranger named Enoch Arden has been killed in Warmsley Vale, where most of the Cloads lived. Arden hinted that he knew Underhay was still alive, and that could certainly have something to do with his murder. Poirot travels to the village and slowly learns the truth about Arden, the Cloades, and Rosaleen.

Dorothy L. Sayers’ The Nine Tailors takes place mostly in the East Anglia village of Fenchurch Saint Paul. When a car accident strands Lord Peter Wimsey and his assistant/valet, Mervyn Bunter, the village’s vicar, Reverend Theodore Venables, rescues the men and lodges them in the rectory until the car is fixed. That’s how Wimsey ends up getting involved in a case involving an unknown ‘extra’ corpse in a grave, some missing emeralds, a long-ago robbery, and change-ringing. In one plot thread of this novel, heavy rains bring on a flood. Venables wants to do what he can to save the villagers, and there are some very tense moments as everyone watches and waits to see how high the waters will rise, and how severe the damage will be.

Rebecca Cantrell’s A Trace of Smoke introduces Berlin crime reporter Hannah Vogel. It’s 1931, and the Great Depression has meant that everyone is desperate for money. Hannah herself has very little, although she has enough to eat and keep her home. What’s more, there’s a great deal of tension as everyone waits to see whether and to what extent the Nazis will get power. They’re already a force to be reckoned with, and people know that it’s best not to get in their proverbial sights. Against this very suspenseful background Vogel learns that her brother, Ernst, has been found dead. She wants to know why, and, if he was murdered, who killed him. So, she starts to ask questions. She’ll have to work very quietly, so as not to call too much attention to herself. But she’s determined to find answers. The background tension to this novel adds a real layer of atmosphere, as people watch and wait and wonder what will happen to the country.

Adrian McKinty’s The Cold, Cold Ground is the first of his series to feature Sean Duffy. He’s that rare thing, a Catholic member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). The novel takes place in 1981, in the midst of the Troubles, when everyone’s nerves are frayed from the constant conflict. People do try to go about their lives, but they watch and wait to see what ‘the other side’ will do, and where the next attacks might be. There aren’t many really trustworthy people, and for Duffy, it’s especially difficult. For one thing, almost all of his colleagues are Protestant, reason enough for suspicion on both sides. For another, the public is suspicious, too. He’s a police officer, which is a problem in itself. Then, he’s a Catholic in the RUC; hence, he’s a traitor to a lot of Catholics. And Protestant civilians won’t trust him, either. All of that undercurrent of tension, as people wait to see what will happen, adds to the story as Duffy works to solve two murders that seem to be related.

And then there’s Peter Temple’s Truth.  That novel takes place during a siege of brush fires that are threatening the state of Victoria. It’s an extremely tense time, and it’s not at all clear how much damage there will be, which way the fires will go, and so on. Everyone is very much on edge as people watch and wait. Against this backdrop, Inspector Stephen Villani and his team work to solve the murder of an unknown woman whose body was found in a very posh apartment.  Meanwhile, they’re also investigating the killings of three drug dealers whose bodies were found in another part of the Melbourne area. The brush fires are not the central focus of the novel. But the suspense they cause adds much to the novel.

Watching and waiting, and not knowing how things will pan out, can be extremely hard to deal with in real life. In a novel, though, that suspense can add much to a plot if it’s not done in a melodramatic way. Which examples have stayed with you?

ps. The ‘photo is of a wildfire evacuation map. Red means a mandatory evacuation. Purple is voluntary/evacuation warning. Everyone who’s anywhere near a wildfire pays close attention to those maps, and the tension often builds as people watch and wait to see what will happen on their streets.

 
 
 

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

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Peter Temple, Adrian Hyland, Rebecca Cantrell, Adrian McKinty, Dorothy L. Sayers

Bohemian Like You*

There are certain communities of people who tend to live what people have sometimes called a bohemian lifestyle. They don’t keep conventional hours, or dress conventionally. And they don’t look at the world in a conventional way. We often think of artists, writers, musicians and actors as being in this category, and some are.

Those communities can be really effective as settings for crime novels. The bohemian lifestyle is intriguing, and can even be appealing. And there are all sorts of possibilities for character developments and for plots.

Several of Agatha Christie’s stories include bohemian characters and settings. As just one example, in Third Girl, Hercule Poirot gets a visit from a young woman who claims she may have committed a murder. Before she can give any details, though, she tells him she’s made a mistake, and that he’s too old. She leaves without giving her name, so at first, Poirot can’t follow up. But his friend, detective novelist Ariadne Oliver, happens to know who the woman is. She is Norma Restarick, daughter of successful businessman Andrew Restarick. Mrs. Oliver tries to trace Norma’s whereabouts, beginning with her London flat. One of Norma’s flatmates is Frances Cary, who works in an art gallery, and sometimes models. She lives a very bohemian lifestyle. It also turns out that Norma’s been seeing a man named David Baker – a man Mrs. Oliver calls the Peacock because of the way he dresses. Baker, too, is a bohemian. Oddly enough, Norma really isn’t, although she’s mixed up with that community. Poirot and Mrs. Oliver try to find out whether Norma really might have committed a murder. But first they’re going to have to find her. They do, but not before there’s a murder…

When we first meet Dorothy L. Sayers’ Harriet Vane, she is in the dock, on trial for the murder of Philip Boyes. And the situation doesn’t look very good for her. For one thing, there is evidence against her. For another, she lives somewhat of a bohemian lifestyle, even daring to live with Boyes without being married to him. At the time this was written, that was enough to make a woman notorious. Lord Peter Wimsey attends the trial, and falls in love with Vane. In fact, when the jury cannot reach a verdict, he determines to clear her name, so that he can marry her. As it turns out, this case isn’t what it seems on the surface.

Edmund Crispin’s The Case of the Gilded Fly is the first of his Gervase Fen novels. It takes place mostly at Oxford, and its focus is a group of people who are all connected in some way to playwright Robert Wright’s new work, Metromania. They’re all ‘theatre people:’ actors, musicians, writers, and some admirers. And they all live bohemian lifestyles, with little interest in social conformity. Preparations are being made for a production of this new play, and the pace is getting a bit frenetic. Then one night, Yseute Haskell, who has the lead in the play, is shot. On the surface, it seems like an ‘impossible crime,’ since she was alone in her room, and no-one was seen to go into it or leave it. In fact, the police think it may be a suicide. Fen doesn’t think so, though, and he gets involved in the investigation. It turns out that this wasn’t suicide at all.

Fans of Ngaio Marsh’s work will know that she had a lifelong connection to the theatre and ‘theatre people.’ Many of her novels (e.g. Enter a Murderer and Opening Night) take place mostly in a theatre setting. Others involve actors in other settings. And, of course, Marsh’s Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn meets and later marries an artist, Agatha Troy. So, several of her novels also feature art and the art world. Throughout these novels, we meet characters with bohemian lifestyles and nonconformist views about life.

Stuart Kaminsky’s Toby Peters is a PI in 1940s Hollywood. A former Warner Brothers security officer, he has several connections in the film business, and he certainly gets his share of clients from the world of acting. Both Bullet For a Star and Murder on the Yellow Brick Road are set in the Hollywood filmmaking context. So are several other books in this series. And the actors and other ‘Hollywood types’ that Peters meets often live unconventional lives. So do some of Peters’ other clients (he has one adventure, for instance, that takes place in a circus setting). He certainly doesn’t meet a lot of ‘suburban couple with two children and white picket fence’ families…

Sulari Gentill’s Rowland ‘Rowly’ Sinclair is a member of a wealthy, ‘blueblood’ family in 1930’s New South Wales.  His conservative older brother, Wilfred, runs the family business. But Rowly has a very different view of life. He’s a ‘gentleman artist,’ and his closest friends are also artists, or writers. While Rowly himself lives a mostly conventional lifestyle, his friends really don’t. They keep the hours they want, dress in ways that suit them, and don’t hold as much with traditional social structure. Their politics are unconventional, too. All of that sometimes puts Rowly at odds with Wilfred, who’s more comfortable with traditional ways of thinking and living.

Bohemian lifestyles and unconventional views can make for a really interesting community of people. And those communities can add richness to a crime novel or series. There are many more of them in crime fiction than I have space to discuss (right, fans of Elly Griffiths’ Max Mephisto series?). But these examples should give you a sense of how bohemian communities fit into the genre. Which ones have stayed with you?

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by the Dandy Warhols.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Edmund Crispin, Elly Griffiths, Ngaio Marsh, Sulari Gentill

Confide in Me*

Most of us would probably say that we have private matters we don’t discuss with others. I know I would. And yet, it’s surprising how often people talk about sometimes very personal things with complete strangers. I don’t mean strangers such as doctors or attorneys, who need that personal information. Rather, I mean strangers such as someone in the same waiting room, or taking the same flight.

The thing is, though, that you never know where confiding in a stranger might lead. On the one hand, it might be perfectly harmless – even pleasant. On the other, it could be very dangerous. Just a quick look at crime fiction should show you what I mean.

In Agatha Christie’s The Mystery of the Blue Train, we are introduced to Katherine Grey. She’s served as a paid companion for ten years, but her employer has died. And she’s shocked to learn that she’s inherited her employer’s considerable fortune. She decides to use some of that money, and travel a bit. Her first stop will be Nice, where she has a distant relative, Lady Rosalie Tamplin. During her trip to Nice on the famous Blue Train, Katherine meets Ruth Van Aldin Kettering. They fall into conversation, as people do on a train, and before long, Ruth has confided some of her personal story to Katherine. The next morning, Ruth is found murdered in her compartment. Since Katherine is possibly the last person to speak with the victim, she is a ‘person of interest,’ although not a suspect. And before she knows it, she’s drawn into a mystery. Hercule Poirot is on the same train, and works with the police to find out who killed Ruth Kettering and why.

There’s an interesting case of confiding in strangers in Dorothy L. Sayers’ Strong Poison. Mystery novelist Harriet Vane has been arrested for the murder of her former lover, Philip Boyes, and there is solid evidence against her. Lord Peter Wimsey attends the trial, and before long, he has fallen in love with the defendant, even though they have never been introduced. When the jury cannot reach a verdict, the judge has no choice but to schedule another trial, to be held in thirty days. Lord Peter decides that he will use the time to clear Harriet’s name, so that he can marry her. First, of course, he’s going to have to meet her, and get her to cooperate with him. Harriet isn’t accustomed to sharing her private life with strangers, but in this case, it’s the right choice, as Lord Peter finds out who really killed Boyes.

Insurance representative Walter Huff finds that confiding in a stranger can be dangerous in James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity. In that story, he happens to be near the home of one of his clients, H.S. Nirdlinger, and decides to stop in to see if he can get Nirdlinger to renew his policy. Nirdlinger isn’t there, but his wife, Phyllis is. She and Huff get to talking, and before long, they’ve slipped into a comfortable familiarity, although they are strangers. And it doesn’t take long for them to become involved romantically. Phyllis tells Huff that she wants to be rid of her husband; by this time, he’s so besotted that he falls in with her plan, even writing the sort of policy she’ll need to benefit as much as possible from her husband’s death. The murder is duly planned and carried out. Then it really hits Huff what he’s done. By this time, though, it’s too late, and things have already begun to spin completely out of control…

For many people, the classic example of this trope is Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train. Guy Haines is on a cross-country train journey to visit his estranged wife, Marian. He meets Charles Anthony Bruno, who’s taking a journey of his own. The two fall into conversation, and Haines is happy to have a sympathetic listener. For his part, Bruno has a very dysfunctional relationship with his father, and finds Haines pleasant company. Bruno suggests that each man commit the other’s murder, so to speak. His point is that if he kills Haines’ wife, and Haines kills his father, neither will be suspected, because neither man will have a motive. Haines brushes off the idea, thinking that Bruno isn’t serious. But, as Haines finds out, Bruno is completely serious. And that pulls Haines into a dangerous trap.

Karin Alvtegen’s Betrayal begins when Eva Wirenström-Berg discovers that her husband, Henrik, has been unfaithful. Devastated at this news, she determines to find out who this other woman is. One night, she goes to a pub, where she happens to meet Jonas Hansson, a man with his own demons and tragedies to face. The two get to talking, and it’s not long before things spiral out of control for both of them. The end result is more tragedy for a lot of the characters.

And then there’s Apostolos Doxiadis’ Three Little Pigs. In it, an unnamed art restorer happens to be visiting a Swiss monastery, with an eye to restoring some of the frescoes in the chapel. One day, he happens to meet an old man who’s living in the elder care facility on the monastery property. The old man offers to tell the art restorer a story – ‘a good one’ – if it can be recorded. The art restorer agrees and buys some tapes (this part of the story takes place in 1975). Then, the old man proceeds to tell him the story of the Franco family, who immigrated from Italy to New York City at the turn of the 20th Century. Benvenuto ‘Ben’ Franco started out in a shoe repair shop, and ended up opening his own shoe and shoe repair company. The family prospered, and all seemed well. Then, Ben killed a man named Luigi Lupo in a bar fight. As it happened, the victim’s father is notorious gangster Tonio Lupo. When Lupo finds out who killed his son, he visits Franco in prison, and puts a curse on his three sons, saying that they will die at the age of forty-two, the age of his own son when he was killed. At this point, the old man tells the story of the three sons, and what happened to them. This story is involved, and includes more than one sudden death. And it all comes about because of sharing a confidence with a stranger.

And yet, private as we may be, it still happens sometimes that people tell personal things to strangers. Sometimes, it can be the right choice. But other times, at least in crime fiction, it’s a big mistake…

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Melissa Manchester and Stanley Schwartz.

 

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Apostolos Doxiadis, Dorothy L. Sayers, James M. Cain, Karin Alvtegen, Patricia Highsmith

Wouldn’t You Like to Get Away*

If you think about it, most people have three major ‘places’ where they spend most of their time. That usually means three major social networks. One of them is, of course, home and family. Another is work.

It’s that third place that’s really interesting. It might be a pub or bar, or a sport club, or a religious group, or a group of people with a shared hobby or interest. Whatever it is, that ‘third place’ can help people unwind, and can put them in touch with others in a unique way. And, for the crime writer, the ‘third place’ offers all sorts of possibilities for plot threads, characters, tension, backstory, and more. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that we see a lot of ‘third places’ in the genre.

One of the classic ‘third places’ that people have is their local. Bars and pubs are often gathering places for ‘regulars.’ That makes sense, too. For plenty of people, there’s nothing like a drink and a chance to catch up with friends who go there, too. And, of course, they can be really effective places for character interactions, plot points, and more.

There are dozens of series with a bar or pub as the ‘third place.’ One of them is Peter Temple’s Jack Irish series. Irish is a sometimes-lawyer, who is also good at finding people. So, he does his share of PI work, too. Besides his work, Irish also has a ‘third place’ – the Prince of Prussia pub. His father’s ‘football friends’ all gather there, and they all know Irish. They may not help him solve mysteries, but that ‘third place’ is very important to Irish.

The focus of Ray Berard’s Inside the Black Horse is a pub on New Zealand’s North Island called the Black Horse Bar and Casino. It’s owned by Toni Bourke, a recently-widowed Māori who’s doing the best she can to support her children. She isn’t getting rich from the pub, but she makes ends meet, usually. It’s not an upmarket or famous place, but the local people gather there. Toni knows most of them, and they know her. Everything changes when a young man named Pio Morgan targets the Black Horse. He’s in debt to a ruthless local pot grower, and the only way he can think of to get money quickly is to rob the pub. Unfortunately, he picks a time when a drugs dealer, Rangi Wells, happens to be there, so that deal is interrupted, and there will be consequences for that. The robbery goes horribly wrong, and there’s a murder. Pio gets thousands, though, and flees, leaving Toni with a large debt she now owes to the betting authorities. Toni’s insurance company isn’t about to pay up without an investigation, so they send PI Brian Duncan to look into the matter. Little by little Brian and Toni get to the truth about the theft and murder, but they have to go up against two nasty gangs and an insurance company that suspects Toni of being a thief.

Another traditional ‘third place’ is the club. Club memberships are a major part of several cultures, and have been for a long time. Just ask Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. His brother, Mycroft, is a member of the Diogenes Club, and rarely goes anywhere but there or his home. Everyone there knows him and vice versa. What’s interesting, too, is that he can put together clues and make solid deductions on cases without ever leaving his club.

In Dorothy L. Sayers, The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, Lord Peter Wimsey investigates two murders, one of which takes place in his own club. Old General Fentimen dies while sitting in his usual chair at the club. His sister, wealthy Lady Dormer, also dies. The question of which died first becomes extremely important, because of the terms of Lady Dormer’s will. Under those terms, if Lady Dormer dies first, her considerable fortune passes to Fentimen’s grandson. If Fentimen dies first, the money goes to Lady Dormer’s distant cousin, Ann Dorland. Matters get complicated when it’s discovered that Fentimen was poisoned. Now, Lord Peter and his friend, Inspector Parker, have to discover not just which person died first, but also, who killed Fentimen. Among other things, it’s an interesting look at the club setting.

Agatha Christie used that setting in several of her novels and stories, too. For instance, in Taken at the Flood, Hercule Poirot first hears about the small town of Warmsley Vale, and the Cloade family that lives there, from a fellow club member named Major Porter. The story comes back to haunt, as it were, when a murder takes place in Warmsley Vale, and the Cloade family is involved in it.

For many people, their local church or other house of worship is that ‘third place.’ It’s not just a matter of religion. It’s also about social interaction. We see that, for instance, in Elizabeth Spann Craig’s Pretty is as Pretty Dies. In that novel, retired teacher Myrtle Clover is ‘volunteered’ by her son to volunteer at her church. She’s not happy about that, but she goes to the church. Then, she discovers the body of real estate developer Parke Stoddard in the church. Myrtle’s not ready to be ‘put out to pasture’ yet, and she decides to prove that by finding out who the murderer is.

A Toronto-area mosque serves as a ‘third place’ for the transplanted Bosnian Muslim community in Ausma Zehanat Khan’s The Unquiet Dead. In that novel, Inspector Esa Khattak and Sergeant Rachel Getty of the Community Policing Section (CPS) of the Canadian federal government investigate the death of Christopher Drayton. It comes out that he may have been Dražen Krstić, a notorious war criminal known as the butcher of Srebrenica. So Khattak and Getty have to consider those who might have known him in that capacity. They make contacts within the mosque, and get to know some of its members. But at the same time, they don’t overlook the victim’s family members. There are other possibilities, too, and this case becomes more complicated than either thought it would be.

Some ‘third places’ are sport or hobby groups. Just ask the surfers we meet in Don Winslow’s The Dawn Patrol. This group of San Diego surfers meets just about every morning for a pre-work surf session. And it’s much more than just fun for them. They are passionate and very knowledgeable about the water, about surfing, and about weather conditions, too. They have their differences, but surfing is part of the glue that holds them together. For former cop-turned-PI Boone Daniels, the Dawn Patrol is very much his ‘third place.’ In fact, he’d probably say that it’s more important than his work. That’s the impression we get when he’s hired to find a missing stripper named Tamera Roddick. Then, her best friend, who goes by the name of Angel Heart, is murdered. Daniels and his friends get drawn into the case, and Daniels is forced to face his own past.

Almost all of us have a ‘third place.’ Certainly, fictional characters do. What’s yours?

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo’s Where Everybody Knows Your Name.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Ausma Zehanat Khan, Don Winslow, Dorothy L. Sayers, Elizabeth Spann Craig, Peter Temple, Ray Berard

I Hope You’re Enjoyin’ the Scenery*

Have you ever visited a place (even locally to you) just for the scenery? Or taken a longer (but more scenic) route to get somewhere? There are many places with breathtaking scenery, so it’s not surprising that people visit them, spend holidays in those places, and so on.

Scenery can be a good reason for a real-life trip (or ‘road stop’). But in crime fiction, it doesn’t always work out well. Just because the scenery is interesting (or even gorgeous) doesn’t mean a place is safe…

For example, in Agatha Christie’s The Mystery of the Blue Train, we are introduced to Katherine Grey. She’s spent the last ten years in the village of St. Mary Mead, serving as a paid companion. When her employer dies, Katherine is shocked to learn that she’s inherited a fortune. One thing Katherine wants to do with her new-found wealth is to travel. She wants a change of scenery, at least for a while, so she decides to accept a distant relative’s invitation and go to Nice. Part of her journey takes her on the famous Blue Train, where she meets Ruth Van Aldin Kettering. The two strike up a conversation, which turns out to be one of the last interactions Ruth has. She’s found strangled the next day, and the police are called in. Katherine isn’t really a suspect, but she is a ‘person of interest,’ so she gets involved in the murder investigation. Hercule Poirot is on the same train, and he works with the police to find out who the killer is. Nice doesn’t turn out to be the restful, lovely trip it might seem on the surface…

In Dorothy L. Sayer’s Have His Carcase, mystery novelist Harriet Vane decides to take in some scenery on a hiking holiday. At first, she enjoys the trip. The scenery is beautiful, and it’s good to get away for a break. Everything changes one afternoon when she stops near the town of Wilvercombe. It’s been a tiring morning, so she decides to take a rest by the beach. When she wakes, she discovers a dead man. She alerts the authorities, and an investigation begins. It turns out that the dead man is Paul Alexis, a Russian-born professional dancer who works at a local hotel. With help from Lord Peter Wimsey, Harriet discovers the truth about the victim, and finds the murderer.

Charlotte Jay’s A Hank of Hair begins when publisher/bookseller Gilbert Hand decides to take the advice of his doctor and move to London, so he can get a change of scenery. He’s still coping with the death of his beloved wife, Rachel, and it’s hoped that the move will help. Hand takes a room in a very respectable hotel, and settles in. One day, he opens the davenport in the room he’s been given, and discovers a silk scarf in which is wrapped a coil of long, dark hair. Curious about whose hair it might be, and how it got there, Hand begins to ask some questions. He learns that the man who had his room previously is named Freddie Doyle, and sets about to learn who Doyle is. He becomes even more curious when Doyle shows up at the hotel, asking for the ‘package.’ Little by little, Hand becomes obsessed with Doyle, and begins to see them as opponents in a sort of chess game. Before long, things spin out of control, and the result is tragedy.

Things turn tragic in Karin Fossum’s Bad Intentions, too. Three young men, Jon Moreno, Axel Frimann, and Philip Reilly, decide to spend a weekend at a cabin by Dead Water Lake. The scenery is lovely, and it’s hoped that a break will do them all good. They’re especially concerned about Jon, who’s recently been released from a mental institution, and is still quite fragile. At first, all goes well. But one night, the three men go out on the lake and a tragedy occurs. Only two come back. Oslo police detective Konrad Sejer and his assistant, Jacob Skarre, investigate. In the meantime, another body is recovered, this time from Glitter Lake. So, the detectives also have to determine whether the two incidents are related. Very slowly, they piece together what happened. In this case, the cabin by the lake doesn’t turn out to be peaceful at all…

And then there’s Virginia Duigan’s The Precipice. In it, former school principal Thea Farmer buys some property in New South Wales’ Blue Mountains. Partly, she wants to live away from a lot of people. She also loves the scenery. So, she has the perfect home custom-built. Then, bad luck and poor financial decision-making leave her with no choice but to sell the house she’s bought, and settle for the one next door – a house she refers to as ‘the hovel.’ As if that’s not bad enough, Frank Campbell and Ellice Carrington buy the home that Thea still thinks of as hers. Now, she has to put up with people nearby, and in ‘her’ house!  Then, Frank’s niece Kim moves in with him and Ellice. At first, Thea thinks that will make things only worse. But to her surprise, she finds herself forming a kind of awkward friendship with the girl. And that’s one reason she gets so upset when she begins to believe that Frank isn’t providing an appropriate environment for Kim. Thea tries to tell the police, but there’s nothing they can do. So, she makes her own plans. The Blue Mountains may be breathtaking, but that doesn’t mean they’re peaceful and friendly…

And that’s the thing about scenery. No matter how gorgeous it is, you never know what might lurk. So be careful if you go out for a ‘Sunday drive.’

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Jimmy Buffett’s Come Monday.  

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Charlotte Jay, Dorothy L. Sayers, Karin Fossum, Virginia Duigan