Category Archives: Elizabeth Daly

We’re No Longer Strangers*

An interesting post from José Ignacio at A Crime is Afoot has got me thinking about the way we interact with people we don’t know. In his post (which you’ll want to read), José Ignacio reviews Agatha Christie’s Evil Under the Sun, which takes place mostly at the Jolly Roger Hotel, on Leathercombe Bay in Devon. Hercule Poirot, who’s there on holiday, gets involved in a murder investigation when fellow guest, Arlena Stuart Marshall, is murdered.

One of the interesting things about this novel is the way Christie uses the interactions among the guests, some of whom were complete strangers to each other when they first arrived.  And yet, they come to know a lot about one another as the story goes on. They play tennis, they sit and chat, and so on, and those conversations form part of the plot. In large part, that’s because in 1941, when the novel was published, modern electronics weren’t available. Television had been invented, but most people didn’t have one. That meant that, especially on holiday, people were more inclined to talk to one another.

That’s also apparent in Elizabeth Daly’s Unexpected Night, which takes place at the Ocean House resort in Ford’s Beach, Maine. In that novel, a young man named Amberley Cowden is found dead at the bottom of a cliff. He had a serious heart condition and wasn’t expected to live long. So, his death might have been natural. But was it? Rare book expert Henry Gamadge is staying at the same resort and gets involved in the investigation. In this novel, too, we see people who don’t know each other start to talk and interact. There are many other novels, too (I’m thinking of Patricia Moyes’ Dead Men Don’t Ski, for instance), in which people come to the same place for a holiday and interact quite a lot with strangers. That’s what people did before television and other modern electronics changed the way we communicate.

It’s arguably harder for contemporary authors to create a credible similar scenario (where strangers at a hotel or other gathering place start chatting with each other and get to know each other). It still happens of course. For instance, if I may, let me share a personal example. Not many years ago, there was a widespread power outage in the area where I live. It affected my entire community. Without television, air conditioning, or the Internet, people wandered outdoors, and began chatting. The big topic was, of course, the blackout itself. But we started talking about other things, too. That sort of scenario also happens in fiction, too, and gives the author plenty of opportunities for conflict, misdirection, and more.

That said, though, today’s authors often need to explore the other ways in which people communicate and get to know each other. For instance, Cat Connor’s Ellie Conway is an FBI Special Agent (Later Supervising Special Agent (SSA)). Her cases often involve online groups, chat rooms, and other fora, both legitimate and in the ‘dark web.’ These groups also involve people who are complete strangers to each other at first, but who get to know one another. A major difference between these groups and an in-person collection of strangers is that it’s very easy to be anyone you want online. So, contemporary crime novelists can build tension and suspense as they explore what online anonymity may be covering up.

That’s what happens, for instance, in Sinéad Crowley’s Can Anybody Help Me. When Gerry and Yvonne Mulhern move from London to Dublin with their newborn daughter, it means big changes for everyone. For Gerry, a new job offers a lot of promise for his career. For Yvonne, though, the changes aren’t so easy. She’s overwhelmed by the many demands of tending to a newborn. And she doesn’t really know anyone in Dublin. Then, she finds an online forum called Netmammy. It’s a mutual support group for new mothers, and for Yvonne, it’s a lifesaver. She finally begins to find the friendship and help that she’s been needing. And then, one of the forum members goes ‘off the grid.’ Yvonne gets concerned enough to go to the police about it, but there’s not much they can do. Then, the body of an unknown woman is found in an empty apartment. Her description matches that of Yvonne’s missing online friend. But is it the same person? If so, what does this mean for Netmammy? Is someone in the group adopting an identity? Detective Sergeant (DS) Claire Boyle investigates the murder and finds the link between the online group and the dead woman.

The anonymity of online groups can provide another sort of protection. In Qiu Xiaolong’s Enigma of China, for instance, Chief Inspector Chen Cao learns about an online watchdog group. In the late-1990s Shanghai in which Chen lives and works, it can be very risky to chat about certain things in real life. And people don’t generally do a lot of face-to-face chatting with complete strangers, anyway. It’s different online, though. Because of the government’s close supervision of printed news, many people feel that the only credible news comes from the Internet. And that’s mostly because it’s harder for the government to keep tabs on members of online groups. So, when an online watchdog group accuses Zhou Keng, head of Shanghai’s Housing Development Committee, of corruption, the government has a dilemma. On the one hand, they have to act on the accusation, because the group has made the alleged corruption public. On the other hand, it’s in the interest of the government to monitor and, if necessary, clamp down on this online group. And Chen gets caught in the middle of it all when Zhou suddenly dies. Is it suicide, as the government claims? Or did someone kill Zhou?

Technology has radically changed the way we do a lot of things, including communicate. But what’s interesting is that it hasn’t changed the fact that we communicate. People have a need to reach out, whether it’s face-to-face or online, even to complete strangers. That dynamic can add a lot to a crime novel.

Thank you, José Ignacio, for the inspiration. Now, folks, give yourselves a treat and go visit José Ignacio’s excellent blog. Fine reviews, discussions, and photographs await you.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Lewis Lebish, Jerry Leiber, Irving Nahan, Mike Stoller, and George Treadwell’s Dance With Me.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Cat Connor, Elizabeth Daly, Patricia Moyes, Qiu Xiaolong, Sinéad Crowley

What Time Was It?*

When there’s a murder, whether it’s real or fictional, it’s important to establish time of death if possible. Sometimes there are witnesses who can help in that process. But even so, establishing time of death isn’t always as simple as it may seem on the surface.

In crime fiction, at any rate, there are plenty of factors that can make it harder to establish when a victim actually died. Sometimes, for instance, fictional murderers set things up to make it seem as though a victim died at one time, when the death really took place either earlier or later. And that makes sense, too. If the killer has an unbreakable alibi for the supposed time of death, it’s easier to avoid getting caught. There are a few Agatha Christie stories in which the time of death is manipulated. No spoilers here, but the end result is that everyone has to go back to the proverbial drawing board when the real time of death is established.

Sometimes, knowing when someone died plays an important role in inheritances. That, too, can impact the way people think about it. In Dorothy L. Sayers’ The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, General Fentiman dies while sitting in his customary chair at his club (which also happens to be Lord Peter Wimsey’s club). His sister, wealthy Lady Dormer, has also passed away. The time of these deaths matters greatly, mostly because of inheritances. If Lady Dormer dies first, the family fortune passes to Fentiman’s grandson. If Fentiman dies first, it passes to Lady Dormer’s distant cousin, Ann Dormer. Then, it’s discovered that Fentiman was poisoned. Wimsey looks into the case and finds that more than one person had a stake in exactly what time each death happened.

There’s also a question of time of death and inheritance in Elizabeth Daly’s Unexpected Night, which introduces her sleuth, rare book expert Henry Gamadge. In the novel, Eleanor Cowden, her son and daughter Amberley and Alma, and Amberley’s tutor Hugh Sanderson, pay a summer visit to Ford’s Beach, Maine. Amberley’s in very bad health because of his heart condition, and he’s not expected to live long. He stands to inherit a fortune from a deceased aunt if he lives to the age of 21, but there’s a good chance he won’t live that long. Still, he’s determined to make this trip, as he is interested in the summer stock theatre in the area. The family arrives in the last few hours before Amberley turns 21 and settles in. The next morning, he’s found dead at the bottom of the cliff. One question is, how did he end up at the cliff in the middle of the night? Another is: did he die of heart failure or was this a murder? And, of course, there’s the question of when he died. This makes all the difference when it comes to the money he was to inherit.

Håkan Nesser’s Mind’s Eye begins as schoolteacher Janek Mitter wakes up with a terrible hangover after a drunken sleep. He takes stock of himself and then slowly gets up. Within minutes, he discovers the body of his wife, Eva Ringmar, in the bathtub. Mitter was so drunk that he has no memory at all of what happened the night before. So, he has no alibi when the police begin to investigate. Having no choice, they arrest him, and he’s soon put on trial. Because Mitter was thoroughly drunk, he can’t establish when he last saw his wife alive. So, it’s difficult to pinpoint when she died. In part because of that, Mitter is the only one who was definitely at their home at the time his wife died. He claims to be innocent, but there’s no clear time of death that would put anyone else at the scene. He’s therefore convicted and remanded to a mental hospital until he can recover his memory of the murder. Inspector Van Veeteren’s team gathered the evidence against Mitter, and at first, it seemed persuasive. But now, Van Veeteren has doubts. And, when Mitter himself is murdered, it’s clear that this case is much more complicated than it seems.

And then there’s Julia Keller’s Bitter River, which features Raythune County, West Virginia, prosecuting attorney Belfa ‘Bell’ Elkins. Early one morning, the body of sixteen-year-old Lucinda Trimble is found in a car at the bottom of Bitter River, in Acker’s Gap. At first, it looks possible that she either committed suicide or that the car went into the river by accident. But soon enough, forensics reports reveal that Lucinda was dead before she went into the river. The fact that she was submerged in water makes it hard enough to pinpoint when she died. But now, Elkins and local sheriff Nick Fogelsong have to cast a wider net, as the saying goes, since they don’t have a clearly established time of death. And it turns out that there are more suspects than it may seem on the surface.

There are lots of other crime novels in which the time of death turns out to be very important to the story. Sometimes it’s because of one or another alibi. Sometimes it has to do with another aspect of the plot. Either way, the process of finding out when a victim actually died is central to murder investigations, whether they take place in real life or fiction.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from the Unicorns’ Sea Ghost. 

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Elizabeth Daly, Håkan Nesser, Julia Keller

Plan B*

planbIn To a Mouse, Robert Burns makes the point that
 

‘…foresight may be vain.’
 

He then goes on with one of the most famous of his lines:
 

‘The best laid schemes o’ Mice and Men
Gang aft agley.’
 

It’s quite true, when you think about it. You leave for the airport, having packed carefully and allowed plenty of time, only to be caught in a traffic jam caused by an accident. Or, you plan a dinner (to which you’ve invited people), only to have to cope with a power outage just as people begin to arrive. I’m sure you can fill in your own examples.

It’s true that we can’t plan for every eventuality. So, it makes sense to also be flexible. The more quickly one can adapt, the better able one is to cope with things going agley. Just read crime fiction, and you’ll see this flexibility in action. Fictional criminals and fictional sleuths find that being able to think quickly and be flexible is very helpful.

In Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, for instance, American business tycoon Samuel Ratchett is stabbed on the second night of a three-day trip on the famous Orient Express train. As Hercule Poirot learns (he’s on the same train, and is enlisted to investigate), this murder has been carefully planned, down to the small details. But those plans didn’t include a terrible snowstorm that stops the train and changes everything. Now, the original plan can’t work, so new plans have to be made. And it’s interesting to see how that happens. It doesn’t stop Poirot from finding out who’s responsible for the murder, but it shows quick thinking.

Elizabeth Daly introduces her sleuth, rare book expert Henry Gamadge, in Unexpected Night. Gamadge is staying at the Ocean House Resort at Ford’s Beach, Maine, to escape the summer heat of the city. During his visit, Gamage makes friends with the Barclay family, who are staying in a nearby cottage. Soon, the Barclays are joined by relatives Eleanor Cowden, her son and daughter, Amberly and Alma, and Amberly’s tutor, Hugh Sanderson. Amberly is set to inherit a large fortune if he reaches the age of twenty-one. But that doesn’t seem likely, as he has a very serious heart condition. Still, he insisted on coming along for this trip to Maine. The Cowdens arrive late on the last night before Amberly’s twenty-first birthday, and settle in. The next morning, though, he is found dead at the bottom of a nearby cliff. Since Gamadge already knows the Barclays, and has met the Cowdens, he gets involved with the investigation into this death. And it turns out that this fall was no accident. As we later learn, too, this is a case of someone having to think quickly when something happened to upset plans…

Having to be flexible and change plans is one of the hallmarks of Donald Westlake’s John Dortmunder series. Dortmunder is a professional thief, who works with a group of his allies. He’s not stupid, and he plans quite well. In fact, his ability to scheme and plan has gotten him a good reputation. But he and his team run into more than their share of bad luck and unexpected events. What’s more, not all of the team members are quite as skilled as Dortmunder is. So, he frequently finds himself having to think quickly, re-do plans, and be flexible.

Sleuths have to be able to think quickly, too, and adapt when their plans go wrong. In Alexander McCall Smith’s The Kalahari Typing School For Men, for instance. Botswana PI Precious Ramotswe gets a new client, successful civil engineer Mr. Molefelo. A brush with death has convinced him that he needs to set some things in his life right. He wants Mma Ramotswe to track down his former landlady, so that he can make amends to her for taking a radio that belonged to the family. This many years later, it’s a little difficult to trace someone, but Mma Ramotswe agrees to see what she can do. She discovers that the landlady is the widow of a government employee, and so, is entitled to a pension. So, Mma Ramotswe travels to the office that administers those. Her plan is solid enough, but she hasn’t bargained for a ‘by the books,’ self-important clerk who won’t provide the address Mma Ramotswe needs. So, thinking quickly, she adapts and manages to talk her way into getting the information she needs.

In Kerry Greenwood’s Cocaine Blues, we are introduced to her sleuth, Phryne Fisher. In this novel, Phryne returns from London to Melbourne, where she’s been asked to check up on the daughter of some family friends, as they’re concerned for her welfare. In the process, Phryne discovers a deadly web of the drugs trade, murder, and gang activity. At one point, she and one of her friends, taxi driver Bert Johnson, are following a lead that takes them to a local drugstore. Just then, some thugs make an unexpected appearance, and Phryne and Bert have to make a quick getaway. A moment or two later, they’re in an alley, when they hear the thugs coming. Quick thinking and flexibility come naturally to Phryne, so she and Bert pretend to be lovers who are looking for a quiet spot, until the thugs pass by.

A lot of flexibility and quick thinking are needed in Kazuhiro Kiuchi’s Shield of Straw. Special Police (SP) Officer Kaxuki Mekari of the Tokoy Metropolitan Police is assigned to take a team and travel to Fukuoka to bring a fugitive, Kunihide Kiyumaru, back to Tokyo. This isn’t going to be an ordinary trip, though. The prisoner is responsible for a horrible rape and murder, and the victim’s wealthy grandfather has offered a one-billion-yen reward to anyone who kills the man. Because of this, the arrest team has much more to contend with than just an unpleasant prisoner. And, as word of the bounty spreads, more and more people think of different ways to get close enough to Kiyumaru to try to kill him. As it turns out, several of Mekari’s plans go wrong, and he has to stay flexible.

No matter how well you plan, no matter what you may take into account, it’s not possible to plan for everything. So on this, what would have been Robert Burns’ 258th birthday, it’s a good time to remember that things often don’t work out perfectly, and it’s best to be flexible.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a Huey Lewis song.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Donald Westlake, Elizabeth Daly, Kazuhiro Kiuchi, Kerry Greenwood

Doesn’t Seem To Be a Shadow in The City*

Summer in the CityThe weather is heating up in the Northern Hemisphere. In some places, people are already using their air conditioning, pulling out beachwear and fans, and looking through those recipes for cold drinks.

In the days before air conditioning, anyone who had the means at all would get out of the city as soon as possible. Some would spend the summer at the beach; that’s how many coastal towns got their start. Others would go to the country; in fact, there’s a long tradition of wealthy families who have both city places and country homes. Even today, it’s not uncommon for people who can afford it to beat the heat by getting out of the city.

We certainly see that in crime fiction. And it’s surprising how often that custom ends up getting a character involved in a case of murder. I’ll bet you’re already thinking of examples; here are just a few of my own.

Mary Roberts Rinehart’s The Circular Staircase begins when Rachel Innes and her maid, Liddy Allen, travel to Sunnyside, a country home that she’s rented for a summer holiday. The idea is to get away from the heat of the city for a while. Rachel’s also looking forward to spending some time with her nephew, Halsey, and niece, Gertrude, whom she’s more or less raised since their father (and her brother) died. If Rachel had only known that taking that house would get her and her family involved in a case of theft, murder and fraud, she might have made different summer plans…

In Elizabeth Daly’s Unexpected Night, rare book dealer Henry Gamadge is spending some time at the Ocean House resort at Ford’s Beach, Maine. At the time this book was written, it wasn’t uncommon for people from New York or Boston (and sometimes even cities such as Philadelphia) to spend the summer in Maine. During Gamadge’s visit, he makes friends with Colonel Harrison Barclay and his family, who are staying nearby. So he’s on the scene when the Cowdens (relatives of the Barclays) arrive for their own summer getaway. Eleanor Cowden has brought her daughter Alma, her son Amberley, and Amberley’s tutor Hugh Sanderson. Amberley has a very serious heart condition, but he’s insisted on this trip, so that he can support a cousin of his who has a theatre group in nearby Seal Cove. On the night of the Cowden’s arrival, Amberley dies, and his body is found the next morning at the foot of a cliff. Then there’s another death. And two attempts at another murder. Gamadge works with local police detective Mitchell to find out who’s behind all of these events.

In Phoebe Atwood Taylor’s The Cape Cod Mystery, we are introduced to Prudence Whitsby and her niece, Betsey. A heat wave has arrived, and they’re planning to escape it by taking a trip to their summer cottage on Cape Cod. They’ve gotten a sheaf of letters and telegrams from potential guests, but have narrowed down the list to two, and the holiday begins. One night, Prudence’s cat Ginger escapes; while chasing after the cat, Prudence discovers the body of Dale Sanborn, a famous writer who’s staying in the   cottage next door. A family friend of the Whitsbys, Bill Porter, is the most likely suspect. He was in the area at the time of the murder, he can’t account for himself, and he has a motive. But his employee and ‘man-of-all-work,’ Asey Mayo, doesn’t believe he’s guilty. Together, Asey and Prudence set out to prove that Bill Porter is innocent.

As anyone who’s ever lived there can tell you, Delhi can get extremely hot in the summer. So in Aditya Sudarshan’s A Nice Quite Holiday, Justice Harish Shinde is happy to escape the heat. He accepts an invitation from an old friend, Shikhar Pant, to take a holiday in Bhairavgarh, in the Indian state of Rajasthan. With him, the judge brings his law clerk, Anant.
 

‘In Delhi, it was that time of summer when cool days are difficult to recollect and impossible to imagine.’
 

So Anant is delighted to be included in the trip. The pair arrive, settle in, and soon meet the rest of Pant’s guests. Trouble soon starts, because two of those guests, Ronit and Khamini Mittal, run a controversial NGO. Its purpose is AIDS education and prevention in the rural areas, and there are plenty of people who oppose both the NGO and its pamphlets. One afternoon, Kailish Pant, the host’s cousin, is found murdered. He was a strong supporter of the Mittals’ work, so this presents one important avenue for investigation. But as Shinde and Anant soon learn, it’s by no means the only possibility.

Donna Leon’s sleuth, Commissario Guido Brunetti, tries to escape the Venice summer heat in A Question of Belief. He, his wife, Paola Falier, and their children Chiara and Raffi, are planning a trip to the mountains, and everyone is excited about it. The family is on the train, on the way to their destination, when Brunetti gets a call from a colleague. Araldo Fontana, a clerk at the local courthouse – the Tribunale di Venezia – has been bludgeoned in the courtyard of the apartment building where he lives. Now Brunetti has to get off the train at the next stop, return to Venice and the heat, and try to find out who committed the murder and why.

And in Andrea Camilleri’s August Heat, Inspector Salvo Montalbano doesn’t even get the opportunity to make plans to beat the Sicilian summer heat. His second-in-command, Mimì Augello, has had to change his own summer travel plans, so Montalbano has to stay in sweltering Vigàta. When he explains the situation to his longtime lover, Livia, she has the idea of renting a beach house near Montalbano. And, since Montalbano is likely to be busy with work, she’ll bring some friends to stay with her and keep her company. Montalbano’s not happy with the idea, but the plan’s put in motion. It doesn’t work out to be a good solution, though. When the son of Livia’s friend disappears, that’s bad enough. He’s found, unharmed, in a secret tunnel that runs underneath the house. But so is an old trunk that contains a corpse…

See what I mean? Sometimes it seems there’s no escaping trouble. Even when you try to escape the heat…

 

 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from The Lovin’ Spoonful’s Summer in the City.

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Filed under Aditya Sudarshan, Andrea Camilleri, Donna Leon, Elizabeth Daly, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Phoebe Atwood Taylor

Look At Me, I’m Falling Off Of a Cliff Now*

CliffsThe thing about crime-fictional murders is that they work best if they’re realistic. I don’t just mean credible in terms of motive (‘though that’s certainly important!). I also mean credible in terms of things such as the weapon that the killer uses. It’s important for credibility that the author choose a weapon and other circumstances that are believable given the killer’s size, gender, age and the like.

Enter the cliff. If you’ve ever taken a walk on a cliff, or driven on a narrow, mountainous road, then you know that cliffs can be very dangerous places. And that’s exactly why they can be useful for the crime writer. Besides, a push off a cliff doesn’t require a great deal of special skill or extra strength. And, pushes off cliffs can serve as useful ‘disguises’ for other kinds of murders. So they offer a lot of possibilities for the crime writer. Little wonder that we see pushes off cliffs in a lot of crime novels.

Agatha Christie uses the cliff motif in more than one of her stories. In the short story The Edge, for instance, we are introduced to Clare Halliwell, a ‘pillar of the community’ in the village of Daymer’s End. She’s been friends with Gerald Lee for a very long time; in fact, Clare thinks their relationship is more than friendship. But then, Gerald shocks her by marrying Vivien Harper. Vivien is not particularly well-liked in the village; still, Clare tries to get on with her at first. It doesn’t work out well, though, and Clare finds herself disliking Vivien more and more. Then, she accidentally finds out that Vivien is having an affair.  Now, she’s faced with a dilemma: should she tell Gerald what she knows about his wife? Vivien begs Clare not to tell, and it’s interesting to see how Clare gradually comes to enjoy having Vivien in her power. The tension mounts between the two women, and it ends in tragedy, and a fall from a cliff. But the real question is: what, exactly, caused the fall? You’re absolutely right, fans of The Boomerang Clue (AKA Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?).

In Anthony Berkeley’s Roger Sheringham and the Vane Mystery, journalist and newspaper correspondent Roger Sheringham gets a new commission. His employer, The Daily Courier, wants him to travel to Ludmouth Bay in Hampshire to report on the investigation into the death of Elise Vane, whose body has been found at the bottom of a cliff. At first, her death looked like an accident, but soon enough, evidence comes to light that suggests she was murdered. Sheringham’s assignment is to investigate that possibility. That’s how he meets Inspector Moresby, who’s investigating the death. Between them, Sheringham and Moresby discover that the victim was a very unpleasant person who’d made her share of enemies. As it turns out, more than one person had a strong motive for killing her.

Elizabeth Daly’s Unexpected Night also involves a cliff. In that novel, rare book expert Henry Gamadge is staying at Ocean House, a resort in Ford’s Beach, Maine. While he’s there, Eleanor Cowdean and her children, Amberly and Alma, come to the resort as well. With them is Amberly’s tutor, Hugh Sanderson. Amberly is set to inherit a large fortune when he turns 21. But there’s a very good chance that he won’t, as he has a very serious heart condition. He’s insisted on coming along, though, and everyone settles in on the night of their arrival, which also happens to be his birthday. The next morning, Amberly is found dead at the bottom of a cliff. The first explanation is that he died of heart failure. And that makes sense, given his poor health. But if that’s what happened, what was he doing at a cliff in the middle of the night? And in whose interest was it that he should die just after inheriting a large amount of money? Gamadge works with police detective Mitchell to find out the truth behind his death.

Anne Zouroudi’s The Messenger of Athens introduces her sleuth, Hermes Diaktoros. He’s a rather enigmatic detective who travels from Athens to the island of Thiminos after Irini Asimakopoulos falls, or jumps, or is pushed, off a cliff. The local police believe this death was an accident, and they don’t want any further investigation into it. But Diaktoros turns up some evidence that calls that into question. As he looks into the matter more deeply, he learns more of the history, both of the victim and of the other people on the island. As it turns out, the island’s culture, and the intersecting relationships among its residents, have everything to do with what really happened to Irini Asimakopoulos.

In T.J. Cooke’s Defending Elton, solicitor Jim Harwood gets a difficult case. The body of Sarena Gunasekera has been found at the bottom of a cliff at Beachy Head near Eastbourne. The police soon settle on a suspect, Elton Spears. He’s a mentally ill young man who actually has a history of inappropriate contact with a young woman. And he was in the area at the time of the murder. So there’s every possibility that he’s responsible for the crime. Harwood has worked with Spears before, and takes his case. Together with barrister Harry Douglas, Harwood prepares to defend his client. In this novel, we know the truth about the victim’s death from the beginning of the story; the question is whether the person responsible will get away with the crime.

Ausma Zehanat Khan’s The Unquiet Dead tells the story of the death of Christopher Drayton, who dies from a fall (or was it a jump? Or a push?) from Scarborough (Ontario) bluffs. Under normal circumstances, this would be a matter for local police, or Ontario Provincial Police. But this isn’t an ordinary case. There is a good chance that Drayton was really Dražen Krstić, a notorious war criminal who was responsible for many deaths during the Bosnian War. If he was, this raises important questions about how a war criminal managed to get permission to live in Canada. What’s more, if he was Krstić, this changes the whole complexion of the case. So it’s given to Inspector Esa Khattak and Sergeant Rachel Getty of the Community Policing Section (CPS) of the Canadian federal government. This group is concerned with investigating bigotry, hate crimes, and other community relations issues, so it’s a good fit for this case. As Khattak and Getty look into the matter, they find that there are several angles to this death, and more than one possible explanation.

See what I mean? Cliffs are not exactly the safest places to be. But they are very handy for crime writers. They can provide a straightforward means to an end for the murderer, and an effective way to ‘hide’ a murder that was committed in another way.  I see you, fans of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of the Final Problem…

 

 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from The Offspring’s I Choose.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Anne Zouroudi, Anthony Berkeley, Arthur Conan Doyle, Ausma Zehanat Khan, Elizabeth Daly, T.J. Cooke