Category Archives: Dorothy L. Sayers

In the Middle of the Night*

In a few of her excellent posts, Moira, at Clothes in Books, has mentioned something very interesting that happens in some classic and Golden Age novels: wandering around at night. And she has a well-taken point. In several novel, you find characters getting up and ‘going for a glass of water,’ or ‘getting a book I’d forgotten,’ or ‘going outside for a breath of air.’

With so many characters up and around at night, it’s easy to see how they can all become suspects when there’s a murder. Moira’s comments about this have gotten me thinking about the ‘wandering round at night’ phenomenon. It does happen in the genre. Here are a few examples; I know you’ll think of more.

In Mary Roberts Rinehart’s The Circular Staircase, we meet Rachel Innes. She’s a practical, no-nonsense type of person who’s decided to take a summer holiday at a large country house she has rented, called Sunnyside. With her will be her grown nephew, Halsey, and his sister, Gertrude, whom she’s raised since their father died when they were little children. Also in the group is the family maid Liddy Allen. It’s not long before some strange things begin to happen. There are weird noises, and the shadow of someone who may be lurking near the house. Other strange things happen, too. Then, one night, a shot is heard. Everyone rushes to the card room to find the body of Arnold Anderson, son of the owner of Sunnyside. The police are called in, and, of course, begin their investigation. That’s when we find that nearly everyone has been up doing something. In fact, both Halsey and Gertrude become suspects on that count. It turns out that the strange events at the house, and Anderson’s murder, are all connected.

Dorothy L. Sayers’ Clouds of Witness involves some odd wandering round at night. In it, Lord Peter Wimsey’s brother, Gerald, Duke of Denver, takes a shooting lodge in Yorkshire. Naturally, his family members, including his sister, Mary, and her fiancé, Captain Denis Cathcart, visit the lodge. Very late one night during one such visit, Cathcart is found shot outside the conservatory. The Duke of Denver becomes a prime suspect, and Mary comes in for her share of suspicion, too. Both were up and out late at night with no really plausible explanation for what they were doing. And they aren’t the only ones, This confuses the investigation, but Lord Peter and his friend, Inspector Parker, find the right clues, and discover the truth about Cathcart’s death.

Several of Agatha Christie’s stories involve people wandering around – or at least being up – at night. I’ll just give one example. In Death on the Nile, Hercule Poirot takes a cruise of the Nile. On the second night, a newlywed bride, Linnet Ridgeway Doyle, is shot. The most likely suspect is her former friend, Jacqueline de Bellefort. But it’s soon shown that she could not have committed the murder. So, Poirot and Colonel Race, who’s also on the cruise, have to look elsewhere for the killer. They soon find that several of the passengers were up that night, in different places on the boat. They all have different reasons for not being asleep, and part of Poirot’s task is to sift through everyone’s explanations to work out who was where at the time of the murder.

Margery Allingham’s The Crime at Black Dudley introduces her sleuth, Albert Campion. But really, the main character in the novel is Dr. George Abbershaw. He’s part of a house party at the home of a young mathematician named Wyatt Petrie, who took over the property from his uncle, Gordon Coombs. Abbershaw wasn’t exactly eager to attend the weekend party, but he’s infatuated with one of the other guests, Margaret ‘Meggie’ Oliphant. For her sake, he’s decided to stay for the weekend. After dinner on that first night, everyone goes into the drawing room, where attention soon falls on a large, carved dagger that’s displayed over the fireplace. Petrie tells the group about a family legend concerning the dagger, and a sort of ritual that the family has developed about it. The ritual involves turning the lights down, and then passing the dagger around, with the aim being to avoid being the last one holding the weapon. As you can imagine, the guests all decide to play the game, and there’s a good bit of wandering around in the dark. Later that night, Abbershaw is wakened and asked to attend to Gordon Coombs, who, it seems, has died of a heart attack. Abbershaw is suspicious because there seems to be a big rush for him to sign a death certificate. And it turns out, he’s right to be suspicious. Someone has murdered Coombs. Campion is one of the other guests, and, although Abbershaw is the main character, Campion is helpful in figuring out the truth about the murder.

There’s a really interesting example of wandering around at night in Gladys Mitchell’s The Mystery of a Butcher’s Shop. Rupert Sedleigh, village squire of the village of Wandles Parva, disappears. Later, he is found dead, and parts of his body discovered in the local butcher’s shop. The case is going to be difficult for the police. For one thing, it’s not clear at first that the body is Sedleigh’s (although that is later shown to be the case). For another, he was the type of person who’d made more than his share of enemies. So, there are plenty of suspects. Mitchell’s sleuth, Mrs. Bradley, has a house not far from Sedleigh’s so she takes an interest in the case. It turns out that the last time Sedleigh was seen alive, he and his cousin had a violent argument in a local wood. But Mrs. Bradley discovers that most of the villagers were in the wood that night, for one reason or another. From their stories, she’s able to piece together the sequences of events. And that helps her work out who killed Sedleigh and why.

See what I mean? Moira was right. There’s a lot of wandering around at night in some crime novels. Perhaps it’s just better to stay in bed and forego that glass of water. Thanks, Moira, for the inspiration. Folks, if you’re not already following Moira’s excellent blog, you’ll want to pay it a visit. A treasure trove of discussion about fashion and culture in books, and what it all says about us, awaits you.


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Billy Joel’s River of Dreams.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Gladys Mitchell, Margery Allingham, Mary Roberts Rinehart

We Can Be Heroes*

One of the interesting contradictions in human thinking has to do with what I’ll call larger-than-life figures. On the one hand, we want the people in our lives to be, well, human. And that means they make mistakes and fall short at times. On the other hand, we want heroes to look up to, as well.

This contradiction’s very clear, at least to me, in the way we read. On the one hand, one consistent thing I learn from other readers is that they want their characters to be believable human beings. So do I. ‘Superheroes’ aren’t really credible. On the other hand, people do want to look up to someone. That’s one reason why, for instance, Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey has been such a popular protagonist. Plenty of readers think that he’s ‘too perfect.’ You may very well be one of them. But plenty of readers love the fact that he saves the day.

We certainly see this contradiction in crime-fictional characters. For instance, in Agatha Christie’s The Hollow (AKA Murder After Hours), we are introduced to Harley Street specialist Dr. John Christow. He and his wife, Gerda, are invited to spend the weekend at the home of Sir Henry and Lady Lucy Angkatell. Gerda very much doesn’t want to go. Not only is she put off by the Angkatells, but she loves her regular, routine life, and she is devoted to her children. But, John wants to go. And, for Gerda, that’s enough. She hero-worships her husband and feels a great need to look up to him. So, the Christows go to the Angkatells’ home. On the Sunday, John Christow is shot. Hercule Poirot is staying nearby and was invited for lunch as it was. So, he gets involved in the investigation. At first, it looks like a very straightforward case. But it turns out to be not very straightforward at all. One of the interesting aspects of this novel is Christow’s contradictory views about being hero-worshipped. He wishes Gerda didn’t look up to him as perfect, the way she does. On the other hand, he admits to himself that he likes his own way, and that he married her in part because she hero-worships him.

John Alexander Graham’s The Involvement of Arnold Wechsler introduces readers to Classics professor Arnold Weschler, who teaches at Hewes College. One day, he is summoned to the office of the college’s president, Winthrop Dohrn. The college has been rocked by student unrest (the book was published in 1971), and Dohrn believes that Wechsler’s brother, David, who’s been involved with radical student groups, may have knowledge of subversive activities. Dohrn wants Wechsler to contact his brother and have him get whatever group is involved to stop what they’re doing. Wechsler isn’t a particularly political person, so he’s reluctant to get involved. It doesn’t help matters that he and David are estranged. But he agrees, and contacts David. Then, there’s a kidnapping. And a bombing that causes a death. David is implicated, although he claims to be innocent, so the brothers have to work together to find out who’s behind these incidents. Without spoiling the story, I can say that wanting to look up to someone as a hero plays an important role in the novel.

It does in Beryl Bainbridge’s Harriet Said, too. As the story begins, the thirteen-year-old unnamed narrator is waiting for her fourteen-year-old friend, Harriet, to return to Lancashire from a holiday in Wales. As it happens, the narrator encounters Peter Biggs, who is middle-aged and unhappily married, during a walk one day. The two strike up a friendship of sorts, and the narrator feels the first stirrings of hormones. But she dares not do anything about it until Harriet gets back. When she returns, Harriet says that they’ll use this as one of the many experiences they’ve been documenting. So, the two decide to spend some time spying on Biggs. One day, they see something they weren’t meant to see, and things start to spin out of control, and the result is horrific. The narrator has interesting contradictory feelings about Harriet. On the one hand, she is well aware of Harriet’s faults. In fact, she has times of thoroughly disliking her. On the other hand, she feels the need for a friend, and for someone to look up to as well. So, Harriet becomes a sort of hero. And it doesn’t work out well…

James Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential explores this same sort of contradiction. One of the main characters in the novel is LAPD detective Edward ‘Ed’ Exley. He is the son of the much-revered Preston Exley. In many ways, he hero-worships his father, as many children do. So, since Preston Exley wants his son to go to the top of the LAPD ladder, that’s what Ed tries to achieve. And it impacts his conduct throughout the novel. On the other hand, Ed has good reason to resent his father, too. And he’s very much aware that his father is anything but a perfect hero. It makes for an interesting exploration of Ed Exley’s character as the novel goes on.

And then there’s Emma Cline’s The Girls, in which we meet fourteen-year-old Evie Boyd. It’s the summer of 1969, and she is feeling restless for something – anything – to happen. Then, she meets a group of young girls in a park, and feels drawn to them, especially to one of them, who’s named Suzanne. Through Suzanne, Evie meets Russell, the charismatic ‘hero’ of these girls. As the novel goes on, Evie gets more and more involved with this group, and more and more obsessed with Suzanne. And we see how hero worship can lead to some very dark places.

But most of us do not blindly worship heroes. Instead, we prefer people who are more realistic. And that means they make mistakes and sometimes fail. At the same time, we want our heroes, too. It’s an interesting contradiction…



*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from David Bowie’s Heroes.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Beryl Bainbridge, Dorothy L. Sayers, Emma Cline, James Ellroy, John Alexander Graham

He’s Gonna Save My Reputation*

People’s reputations sometimes matter a great deal. After all, most people don’t want others gossiping about them. And, of course, reputation has a lot to do with how one’s perceived at work. The wrong reputation can get a person fired, not promoted, or not hired in the first place. It stands to reason, then, that people do a lot to protect their reputations.

Sometimes, people do a lot to protect another person’s reputation too, especially if that someone else is a friend or loved one. And that’s just as true in crime fiction as it is in real life. For instance, there are plenty of crime novels in which a character doesn’t provide an alibi for a crime, because that alibi might compromise someone else. Protecting someone’s reputation can add motive, character development, and even a plot point to a crime novel. Here are just a few examples; I know you’ll think of plenty of others.

We see that sort of gallantry in Agatha Christie’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles. In that novel, Captain Hastings visits an old friend, John Cavendish, who lives at his family’s home, Styles Court, with his wife, Mary, his brother, Lawrence, his stepmother, Emily Inglethorp, her husband, Alfred, and her ward, Cynthia Murdoch. Cynthia becomes a ‘person of interest’ when Emily Inglethorp is poisoned. She was present at the time, she worked in a dispensary (and so, had the requisite knowledge), and she’d been told that she would be provided for in the victim’s will. The family doesn’t want a scandal, so they’re reluctant to have any sort of investigation. But Hastings learns that his friend, Hercule Poirot, is in the area. He persuades the family to engage Poirot’s services, and the investigation begins. When Cynthia learns that there is no financial provision for her, she isn’t sure what she’ll do. At that time, and in that place, a respectable young lady doesn’t live on her own. And Cynthia doesn’t feel she can stay on at Styles Court. What’s more, she’s been mixed up in a murder investigation – enough to tarnish any young lady’s reputation. Hastings decides to try to protect her by proposing marriage. It’s not spoiling the story to say that things don’t work out that way, but it’s an interesting example of wanting to protect someone’s reputation. You’re right, fans of Dorothy L. Sayers’ Strong Poison, that’s a similar sort of situation.

In Stuart Kaminsky’s Bullet For a Star, we are introduced to Los Angeles PI Toby Peters. He is a former security guard at Warner Brothers Studio, so he knows the Hollywood industry. That’s in part why producer Sid Adelman wants his help with a case of blackmail. It seems that famous star Errol Flynn (the book takes place in 1940) was photographed with a very young girl, and someone is threatening to release that photograph to the press and public. That, of course, will ruin Flynn’s reputation, and his bankability. Adelman wants to protect both, so he’d decided to pay the blackmailer. He wants Peters to deliver the money and collect the photograph and the negative. Peters agrees and goes to the appointed meeting place. But while he’s there, someone kills the blackmailer, steals Peters’ gun, and takes the print and the negative. Now, Peters has to get the photograph and negative back. He also has to clear his name, since his gun was used in the murder.

Catherine O’Flynn’s The News Where You Are introduces readers to TV presenter Frank Allcroft. He’s doing well at his job, he has a solid marriage, and a good relationship with his eight-year-old daughter. But he’s reached a sort of crossroads in his life, and he doesn’t feel settled. What’s more, he’s dealing with the death of his predecessor, friend, and mentor, Phil Smedway, who was killed in a hit-and-run incident while he was out jogging. Allcroft’s restlessness draws him to the scene of Smedway’s death, and he notices some things. The road is straight and wide – plenty of room for even an impaired driver to swerve and avoid a pedestrian. The death happened during daylight, too, so it would have been easy to see Smedway. Now, Allcroft gets curious about what really happened, and starts to ask questions. And he finds that wanting to preserve a reputation plays a role in the story.

Zoë Ferraris’ Finding Nouf takes a different perspective on preserving someone’s reputation. In the novel, Palestinian-born Nayir ash-Sharqui works as a desert guide in the Jeddah area of Saudi Arabia. He gets drawn into a murder investigation when his friend, Othman ash-Shrawi, asks him to find out what happened to his sixteen-year-old sister, Nouf. It seems that Nouf went missing and was later found dead in a wadi. Othman wants to know what happened to her, and Nayir agrees to look into things. In the process of seeking answers, he meets Othman’s fiancée, Katya Hijazi, who is a medical examiner. As the two work to find out the truth, we learn how important reputation is in this culture, especially for women. For instance, women do not go out without a male family member or ‘official’ male escort. And they’re expected to dress and act in accordance with the very traditional Islamic culture of the area. Any whispers that they are doing otherwise can have all sorts of consequences. So, Katya has to be very careful about where she goes, whom she speaks to, and so on. She is less conventional in her thinking than Nayir is, but she understands what the risks are. At one point in the novel, the two of them are walking when they are approached by a man:

‘‘In the name of Allah, and Allah’s peace be upon you, Sir, pardon me, but your wife is not properly veiled.’’

Nayir has to think quickly in order to protect Kaya’s reputation. Here’s his response:

‘Nayir frowned, ‘Are you looking at my wife?’ he asked. The man opened his mouth, but Nayir interrupted. ‘She’s my wife,’ he shouted. ‘You’d better have a good excuse for staring at her!’
The man took a step back. ‘Apologies, brother, but you understand it’s a matter of decency.’
‘That’s no excuse.’ Nayir moved closer with a menacing squint. ‘Don’t you have your own wife to worry about?”

The ruse works, and Katya is spared any humiliation.

Brian Stoddart’s Christian ‘Chris’ Le Fanu is a police superintendent in Madras (today’s Chennai) during the 1920s – the last years of the British Raj. As the series begins, he is separated from his wife, who lives in England, He shares his home with his housekeeper, an Anglo-Indian named Roisin McPhedren. He’s in love with Roisin, and she with him. But in that place, and at that time, a public relationship is out of the question. If word of it gets out, she won’t be able to find any sort of respectable work. And his career is at risk. One story arc in this series is the way each of them protects the other’s reputation.

The way other people see us, and the reputations we have, do matter. So it’s little wonder we care about those perceptions. And it’s little wonder that we work to protect the reputations of those who matter to us.


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein and Richard Gottehrer’s My Boyfriend’s Back.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Brian Stoddart, Catherine O'Flynn, Dorothy L. Sayers, Stuart Kaminsky, Zoë Ferraris

Spare Him His Life From This Monstrosity*

It’s easy to understand how people might want to clear their own names if they’re mixed up in a crime, especially a crime such as murder. It’s also easy enough to understand why, for instance, attorneys work to defend their clients and clear their names. That makes sense both in real life and in crime fiction.

But there are also cases in crime fiction where someone else steps in to try to clear another person of a crime. And there are many reasons to do that. It might be that the suspect is a friend or loved one. Or it might be the sleuth him or herself who doesn’t believe a suspect is guilty. There are other reasons, too. This plot point gives an author some interesting possibilities for character and plot development, as well as for adding in tension. There are plenty of examples – far more than I can mention in one post. Here are just a few.

Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Boscombe Valley Mystery introduces readers to Alice Turner. When her fiancé, James McCarthy, is arrested for murdering his father, she goes to Inspector Lestrade to ask him to review the case.  She is convinced that McCarthy is innocent, and wants his name cleared. There’s plenty of evidence against McCarthy, but Lestrade presents the case to Sherlock Holmes, who asks Dr. Watson to help him look into it. In this case, it’s not just Alice Turner’s love for her fiancé that drives her. She is convinced that he wouldn’t be capable of committing murder. And Holmes’ investigation proves that she was right.

In Agatha Christie’s Five Little Pigs, Carla Lemarchant hires Hercule Poirot to investigate the sixteen-year-old poisoning murder of her father, famous painter Amyas Crale. Crale’s wife (and Carla’s mother) Caroline was arrested, tried, and convicted in the matter, and there was plenty of evidence against her.  But Carla doesn’t think she was guilty. And it’s not just because of any sentimental attachment Carla has to her mother. She firmly believes her mother was innocent of murder, and she wants Poirot to investigate. He agrees, and then interviews the five people who were ‘on the scene’ at the time of the murder. He also gets written accounts from each of those people. In the end, he discovers that Carla was right: someone else killed Amyas Crale.  Christie uses this plot point in other stories, too, right, fans of Mrs. McGinty’s Dead?

Lord Peter Wimsey has a very strong motive for wanting to clear Harriet Vane’s name in Dorothy L. Sayers’ Strong Poison: he’s fallen in love with her. Vane is arrested and tried for the poisoning murder of her former lover, Philip Boyes. There is evidence against her, too. But the jury can’t reach a verdict, so the judge declares that there will be a new trial. Wimsey, who attended the first trial, is determined to ask Vane to marry him. But he’ll have to clear her name first. So, he decides to investigate the murder. With the help of some friends, he’s able to find out who really killed Boyes and why.

In Giorgio Scerbanenco’s  A Private Venus, we meet Dr. Duca Lamberti. He’s recently been released from prison, where he was serving a sentence for euthanasia. One evening, wealthy engineer Pietro Auseri offers Lamberti a proposition. It seems that Auseri’s son, Davide, has been drinking heavily, despite going for treatment. Auseri’s concerned for Davide and wants Lamberti to help. Lamberti’s not sure how much good he can do, but he agrees to at least try. After a b it, he discovers the reason for Davide’s drinking and depression. It seems that a year earlier, Davide met a young woman named Alberta Radelli. They had a pleasant day together in Florence, and at the end of it, Alberta asked Davide to take her with him. He refused, and she threatened suicide. Not long afterwards, she was found dead in a field outside Milan. Davide’s convinced he is responsible for Alberta’s death. Lamberti believes that the best way to help Davide is to find out what really happened to Alberta, so he begins to ask questions. It’s not long before he turns up the distinct possibility that Alberta was murdered. So, Lamberti works to find out who killed the victim, so he can clear Davide of his sense of guilt.

In Håkan Nesser’s Mind’s Eye, it’s actually the police detective who decides to clear a suspect’s name. Inspector Van Veeteren and his team gathered the evidence that implicated Janek Mitter for the murder of his wife, Eva Ringmar. Mitter claims that he is innocent, but he was so drunk on the night of the murder that he has no memory of what happened, nor of who else might have committed the crime. So, he is tried and convicted. Van Veeteren has begun to have his doubts about MItter’s guilt, so he goes over the case again. He’s hoping to be able to clear Mitter’s name and find out who the killer is. Then, Mitter himself is murdered. Now Van Veeteren and his team redouble their efforts to find out the truth.

And then there’s Yrsa Sigurðardóttir’s Last Rituals. Reykjavík attorney Thóra Gudmundsdóttir gets a telephone call from Germany, from Amelia Guntlieb. Her son, Harald, was studying at the university in Reykjavík when he was murdered. The police think they have the right suspect in Harald Guntlieb’s friend, Hugi Thórisson. But Amelia Guntlieb doesn’t believe he killed her son. She wants Thóra to defend Hugi and find out who the real killer was. It’s an unusual request, but the fee is irresistible. So, Thóra and the Guntlieb family banker, Matthew Reich, work together to find out the truth about this case.

There are many other cases, both real and fictional, where someone asks for a suspect’s name to be cleared. These are only a few. Your turn.


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Dorothy L. Sayers, Giorgio Scerbanenco, Håkan Nesser, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

Interruptions Are Always on My Mind*

Most readers want a smooth narration in their stories. They’d rather not have the story broken up, because it can be distracting. But sometimes, when it’s done well, a narrative can be broken up successfully, and still be a coherent story. It’s not easy to pull off well, but when it works, it can be an interesting innovation.

Some authors break up the narrative with asides to the reader. The ‘Queen team’ behind the Ellery Queen novels and stories did this more than once (I’m thinking, especially, of The Roman Hat Mystery). At some point in the story, the authors turn to the reader, as it were, and announce that all the clues are there. Then, the reader is invited to work out the solution. After that brief interlude, the story returns to a chronological retelling of the events, and then the solution.

We see just a hint of this in Dorothy L. Sayers’ The Five Red Herrings, too. In that novel, painter Sandy Campbell is found dead in a stream in Galloway, Scotland. Lord Peter Wimsey is in the area on a fishing holiday, so he gets involved in the investigation of Campbell’s death. There are six suspects, all of them artists. One of them is the real killer; the other are red herrings (hence, the title). At one point, Wimsey notices that something is not right about the scene of the crime. Here is how Sayers expresses it:

‘Here Lord Peter Wimsey told the Sergeant what he was looking for and why, but as the intelligent reader will readily supply these details for himself, they are omitted from this page.’

It’s an interesting way to tell that part of the story, and to invite the reader to engage in it.

Sometimes, the author chooses to use devices such as letters, transcripts and the like. This, too, breaks up the narrative, and can convey quite a lot of meaning. We see this in Minette Walters’ The Breaker. When the body of Kate Sumner is discovered near Chapman’s Pool in Dorset, PC Nick Ingram is the first police officer on the scene. He works with DI John Galbraith, WPC Sandra Griffiths, and Superintendent Carpenter to find out who killed the victim and why. The list of possible suspects is soon narrowed to three: the victim’s husband, William Sumner; an actor named Stephen Harding; and his roommate, schoolteacher Tony Bridges. Now, the team has to work through each suspect’s alibi and background to find out which one is guilty. Part of the information in the story is given in the form of transcripts, police files, hospital records, and so on. These pieces of information break up the narrative and provide detail in a different way.

You might argue that Lawrence Sanders’ The Anderson Tapes doesn’t really have a narrative – not in the conventional sense. It’s the story of John ‘Duke’ Anderson and his plot to rob all of the apartments in a wealthy Manhattan building. As he gets the idea, enlists confederates, gets materials, and so on, readers follow along through a series of transcripts, notes, records, and other documentation. Each bit of information tells a part of the story, and it’s interesting to see how plot coheres, even though there isn’t one particular narrative voice that does that.

In one plot thread of Paddy Richardson’s Cross Fingers, Wellington journalist Rebecca Thorne is asked to come up with a new angle for a story to commemorate the (South Africa) Springbok’s 1981 tour of New Zealand. Often called ‘the Tour,’ the event was marked by a lot of controversy. At the time of the tour, South Africa was still under apartheid, and many New Zealanders didn’t want the Springboks to tour on that score. Others simply wanted to watch the rugby matches. And the police were supposed to keep order. There were protests, some of which turned very ugly, and everyone had to deal with that reality. Thorne doesn’t think there is a new angle for this story, as it’s been covered quite often. But then, she notices something. During some of the matches, two dancers dressed as lambs entertained the audience. Then, the lambs stopped attending. Thorne later finds out that one of them was killed. Now, she’s got an angle: what happened to the lambs? As the story of that day unfolds, Richardson uses interviews with some of the people there to help tell the story. Those interviews are woven into the rest of the narrative, and add to it, although they’re not, strictly speaking, part of it.

There are other ways, too, in which authors can break up, or interrupt, the narrative of the story. Sometimes, it’s a distraction, and can pull the reader out of the story. But, when it’s done well, it can actually have the opposite effect. Such breaks can actually invite the reader to process more and engage more. What do you think? Do you get distracted by breaks in the story? If you’re a writer, do you put them into your story?


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Rogue Wave’s Interruptions.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ellery Queen, Lawrence Sanders, Paddy Richardson