Category Archives: Gail Bowen

The Voice of the People Cannot be Denied*

As this is posted, it would have been César Chávez’ 91st birthday. Chávez was, of course, an activist whose focus was farm workers, especially migrant farm workers. His work resulted in better working conditions, collective bargaining (under the auspices of the United Farm Workers), and more. Of course, Chávez wasn’t the only activist to try to improve living and working conditions for workers. There’ve been many in real life.

There’ve been plenty in crime fiction, too. Activists make for interesting characters, since their passion is an important character trait. And that passion can have all sorts of consequences. Activism also can add interesting tension to a story.

For example, in Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile, a group of people embarks on a cruise of the Nile. One of them is a man who calls himself Mr. Ferguson. He is an activist who is determined to improve the lives of working people. Ferguson views the wealthy as parasites who contribute nothing to society, and he has nothing but contempt for the ‘better class’ of people he meets on the cruise. One of those people is Linnet Ridgeway Doyle, who’s on a honeymoon trip with her new husband, Simon. When she is shot on the second night of the cruise, Hercule Poirot works with Colonel Race to find out who is responsible. The most likely suspect is the victim’s former friend, Jacqueline ‘Jackie’ de Bellefort, who was engaged to Simon before he met Linnet. But she can be proven to have been elsewhere at the time of the shooting, so she cannot be the murderer. This means Poirot and Race have to look among the other passengers and the crew for the killer. Mr. Ferguson’s socialist views aren’t the reason Linnet is killed, but they add an interesting layer to the story, and they give his character some ‘flesh.’

Reginald Hill’s An Advancement of Learning sees Superintendent Andy Dalziel and Sergeant Peter Pascoe travel to Holm Countram College. The school is undergoing renovations, and the construction workers have uncovered the body of the college’s former president, Alison Girling. She was supposed to have been killed in a freak avalanche five years earlier, during a skiing holiday. Now it’s clear that she never got to her destination. As Dalziel and Pascoe investigate, they get to know several of the students on campus. One of them is student activist Stuart Cockshut, who’s very much a radical, and wants all sorts of changes that he sees as improvements. His ‘boss’ is Franny Roote, who’s one of the campus leaders. The activism plays its role in the story, and it’s interesting to see the tension between the student leaders and Dalziel. As you can imagine, he has little patience for the student radicals and their demands.

In Donna Leon’s Through a Glass, Darkly, we are introduced to Marco Ribetti. He is an activist leader whose group wants to stop the Venice glass-blowing industry from pouring toxic waste into the local water system and canals. His politics and beliefs are very much at odds with those of his father-in-law, Giovanni de Cal, who owns one of the factories. That doesn’t prevent Ribetti from getting involved in protests and other activity, including demonstrations at de Cal’s place of business. When he is arrested one day during a protest, Ribetti asks his friend, Ispettore Lorenzo Vianello for help. Vienello agrees, and gets his boss, Guido Brunetti, involved. They arrange for Ribetti’s release, but things are far from over. Not long afterwards, Giorgio Tassini, night watchman at de Cal’s factory, dies of what looks like a terrible accident. But Brunetti isn’t convinced this death was accidental. So, he and his team look more closely into the case.

In Peter Temple’s Bad Debts, sometimes-lawyer Jack Irish gets a call from a former client, Danny McKillop. He’s recently been released from prison, where he served time for a drink-driving incident that killed a local activist, Anne Jeppeson. McKillop wants to meet with Irish, but before they can get together, McKillop is murdered. Irish feels guilty as it is, because he didn’t do a good job of defending his client. So, he decides to try to find out what happened. As he looks more deeply into the case, Irish learns that McKillop was framed. Someone else killed Anne Jeppeson, and it wasn’t an accident. There are several possible killers, too, as she and her group were trying to stop a multi-million-dollar Melbourne developed called Yarra Cove. She wanted to keep that area available and affordable for the working-class people who live there, and someone stopped her. As Irish gets closer to the truth, he finds greed and corruption in very high places.

And then there’s Gail Bowen’s Riel Delorme. He’s a Regina-based Métis activist whom we first meet in Kaleidoscope. In that novel, he and his group are trying to prevent a development in the economically depressed North Central part of the city. His methods are arguably questionable, but the goal is to improve the lot of the people who live in that part of Regina. The development company is represented by prominent attorney Zack Shreve, whose wife is Bowen’s sleuth, Joanne Kilbourn Shreve. When one of the developer’s employees is killed, Riel is a likely suspect. But it’s not as simple as that. Matters get even more complicated when Joanne learns that her daughter, Mieka, is romantically involved with Delorme. It’s an interesting exploration of how a development project can divide people.

There’s a lot of work to be done in the world, so it’s no surprise that there’s a lot of activism. Those who lead those movements are often interesting in their own right, and they can add interest, tension, and more to a crime novel. These are just a few. Your turn.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Andrew Webber and Tim Rice’s New Argentina.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Donna Leon, Gail Bowen, Peter Temple, Reginald Hill

I Grieve For You*

Everyone has a different way of coping with grief and loss. And there are dozens of things that affect the way we cope. Culture is one factor. So is the sort of loss it is. So is our individual nature. There are other factors, too.

Realistic crime fiction acknowledges that a murder has devastating effects on the people left behind and shows that. So, there are many, many examples of the different ways people cope with their grief. Here are just a few. I know you’ll think of many other powerful examples – more than I could.

In Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders, Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings work with Chief Inspector Japp to find a multiple murderer. The victims don’t seem to have much in common, but there are a few similarities. Before each murder, Poirot gets a cryptic warning letter. And an ABC rail guide is found near each body. One of the victims is twenty-three-year-old Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Barnard, whose body is found one morning on the beach at Bexhill. Poirot pays a visit to her family to find out about her, and meets her parents and her older sister, Megan. Here’s Megan’s reaction when she first sees Hastings.
 

‘‘I don’t think I’ve got anything to say to you. My sister was a nice, bright girl with no men friends. Good morning.’’
 

She thinks Hastings is a reporter, and she has no desire to air her private grief in the newspapers, or to ‘speak ill of the dead,’ as the saying goes. And her initial response is an interesting example of people’s tendency to deal with loss in that way. It’s not long before Poirot convinces Megan that she’s better off being honest about her sister. And the information Megan provides helps Poirot get a sense of this victim – and in the end, fit her in with the others. You’re absolutely right, fans of The Hollow.

Some people react to grief and loss with anger, even with a need for vengeance. And it’s understandable, regardless of how we may feel about vigilantism. For example, in William McIlvanney’s Laidlaw, eighteen-year-old Jennifer Lawson goes missing after a night at a disco. Her father reports the matter to the Glasgow police, in the form of Detective Inspector (DI) Jack Laidlaw. At first, Laidlaw doesn’t share Lawson’s concern; after all, it’s only a few hours since the girl was supposed to be home, and there are plenty of places she could safely be. Then, news comes that the body of a young woman who was raped and then killed has been found in Kelsingrove Park. When the body is identified as Jennifer’s, her father is not just devastated, he’s enraged. And he wants vengeance. In one plot thread of the novel, he goes to John Rhodes, who is unofficially in charge of the part of Glasgow where the body was found. Lawton wants Rhodes’ help in tracking down the killer. Rhodes knows very well what Lawton intends to do if he finds the killer, but he has sympathy for the man. And his willingness to help Lawton makes it all the more of a challenge for Laidlaw, who’s trying to catch the killer in a more legitimate way.

As John Grisham’s A Time to Kill begins, two men, Billy Ray Cobb and James Louis ‘Pete’ Willard, rape ten-year-old Tonya Hailey and leave her for dead. She survives, and her family, including her father, Carl Lee, finds out what happens. Cobb and Willard are soon caught, and there’s a great deal of local sympathy for Hailey. Still, he’s not sure that the courts will get justice for him. He and his family are black, and the two defendants are white, and this is small-town Mississippi. Besides, he’s enraged at what’s happened to his daughter. So, his grief fuels a plan, and he ambushes Cobb and Willard, killing them and wounding a deputy. Now, he himself is arrested for murder. On the one hand, he did kill two people. On the other, plenty of other folks, including his lawyer, Jake Brigance, admit they might have done the same. This isn’t going to be an easy trial for Brigance, as there are a lot of challenging issues. But he agrees to defend Hailey, and soon finds himself and his client in the middle of a trial in which a lot of powerful, and dangerous, people have a stake.

Gail Bowen’s Deadly Appearances opens as up-and-coming Saskatchewan politician Androu ‘Andy’ Boychuk prepares to give a speech at a community picnic. Soon after he begins, he collapses and dies of what turns out to be poison. Academician and political scientist Joanne Kilbourn is at the speech, and watches in horror as Boychuk dies. He was a personal friend as well as a political ally, so she is in deep grief. As a way of coping with that loss, she decides to write a biography of Boychuk. As she gets started, she soon finds that what she’s learning leads her closer and closer to the truth about Boychuk’s death. She also finds a great deal of danger for herself.

Many of our views about grief and loss are impacted by our culture. We see that in John Burdett’s Bangkok 8. Sonchai Jitpleecheep and his police partner, Pichai Apiradee, of the Royal Thai Police, have been on a surveillance operation, tailing a Mercedes. The car eludes them briefly, and by the time they find it again, the driver, William Bradley, is dead. A first look shows that the victim was trapped in the car with poisonous snakes, and likely died of their bites. So it’s fairly clear that this was a murder. Pichai manages to open one of the doors, but when he does, he, too, is bitten and soon dies. On the one hand, Sonchai wants justice for his dead friend. On the other, here is what he says about death:
 

‘We do not look on death the way you do, farang [foreigner]. My closest colleagues grasp my arm and one or two embrace me. No one says sorry. Would you be sorry about a sunset?
 

He’s a devout Buddhist who sees death as just another part of existence.

There are as many different ways to grieve as there are people who grieve. And when those different ways are woven into a story, the characters can seem more authentic, especially if it’s not done in too heavy-handed a way. These are just a few examples. Your turn.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Peter Gabriel’s I Grieve. 

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Gail Bowen, John Burdett, John Grisham, William McIlvanney

You’re Just Another Face That I Know From the TV Show*

With the obvious exception of journalists, most fictional sleuths don’t spend a lot of time in front of television cameras. So, many of them aren’t particularly comfortable ‘going live.’ Yet, in real life and in fiction, television can be a useful ally in solving crime. That’s why, for instance, police give interviews to the press. Real and fictional lawyers know this, too, and may (or may not) give interviews, depending on whether they see an interview as helpful or hurtful to their clients’ chances.

It’s realistic, especially in today’s world of 24-hour news, to include a TV interview with a sleuth. What’s more, such a plot point can add tension to a story, especially as the media impacts public opinion. So, it’s little wonder that we see that influence of television in crime fiction.

A great deal of Agatha Christie’s writing was done before television dominated the news landscape. But at the time, newspaper interviews often played similar roles. For instance, in The ABC Murders, Hercule Poirot works with Captain Hastings, Chief Inspector Japp and local police to solve a baffling set of murders.  The case has captured the public’s attention, in large part because this isn’t a matter of one murder, or of one murder with a second murder committed to keep someone quiet. Hastings, in particular, isn’t used to being in the media spotlight, and it leads to consternation for him, especially when he learns the way some newspapers operate:
 

‘‘Poirot,’ I would cry. ‘Pray believe me. I never said anything of the kind.’…
‘But do not worry yourself. All of this is of no importance. These imbecilities, even, may help.’
‘How?’
‘Eh, bien,’ said Poirot grimly. ‘If our madman reads what I am supposed to have said to the Daily Flicker today, he will lose all respect for me as an opponent!’’
 

In the end, Poirot gets to the truth about these murders. And it’s interesting to see the way that those public interviews play a role in the story.

Gail Bowen’s Joanne Kilbourn is an academician and political scientist. She understands how important television interviews can be, especially for politicians. But she herself isn’t in front of the cameras very often, at least not at first. But then, in The Wandering Soul Murders, she gets a new opportunity. Nationtv is making some changes to the panel for its politics-themed show, Canada Tonight, and Joanne’s name is put forward as a good choice for a new panelist. At first, she’s reluctant, but she agrees to be a part of the show, and it turns out to be the right choice for her. Still, it requires adjustment for someone who’s usually worked behind the political scenes, rather than in front of the cameras:
 

‘I had bought a new dress for the show, flowered silk, as pretty as a summer garden.
‘Next time,’ she said kindly, ‘try to find a solid colour. That’s going to make you look like you’re wearing your bedroom curtains.’’
 

Joanne learns quickly, and in A Killing Spring, makes really effective use of being on camera.

In high-profile trials, attorneys know that giving interviews can be a useful legal strategy. And, for those lawyers who are ambitious, television interviews can be an effective way to get their names ‘out there,’ especially if they win an important case. So, even those who aren’t particularly comfortable in front of television cameras often learn how to do successful interviews. That part of what a lawyer does comes out in several novels, including John Grisham’s A Time to Kill. In the novel, the small town of Clanton, Mississippi becomes the scene of a very public set of crimes. First, ten-year-old Tonya Hailey is brutally raped and left for dead. Her attackers are soon caught and arrested. Tonya’s father, Carl Lee, is, of course, enraged and heartbroken. And, since the two men responsible are white, while he and is family are black, Hailey doesn’t think justice will be done. So, he ambushes the two men, killing them both, and wounding a sheriff’s deputy. Hailey asks Jake Brigance to defend him, and Brigance agrees. Because of the sort of case this is, it gets a lot of media scrutiny, and television cameras are everywhere. And it’s interesting to see how both Brigance and his opponent, Rufus Buckley, make use of interviews.

In Helen Fitzgerald’s The Cry, we are introduced to Joanna Lindsay and Alistair Robertson. As the novel begins, they’re en route from Scotland to Alistair’s home town in Victoria with their nine-week-old son, Noah. It’s a long, nightmarish flight, and both parents are only too happy when it ends. Then, tragedy happens. During the drive from the airport to their destination, they face every parent’s worst nightmare: the loss of baby Noah. A massive search begins, and the media soon pick up on the story. There’s no sign of the baby, though. At one point, it’s proposed that a television interview with the parents might produce results. Joanna is very reluctant to do this, but Alistair insists, so the cameras are set up and the interview takes place. It’s an awful experience for Joanna, who’s not used to being on television, and who is devastated by the ordeal she’s suffering. What’s worse, when the public sees that interview, plenty of people take her discomfort as one of several signs that she may have had something to do with Noah’s disappearance. It’s not long before the media and the public begin to turn against Joanna and Alistair, and it’s very interesting to see how that tense interview plays a role in what happens.

And then there’s Peter James’ Not Dead Yet. In one plot thread of this novel, Brighton and Hove Superintendent Roy Grace and his team take on a new investigation. The body – well, really, the torso – of an unknown man has been found in a disused chicken coop. There is no identification, and no immediate clues as to who the victim is. This means it’s going to be very hard to identify him, let alone track down the killer. So, it’s decided that a television interview might be a good way to make the public aware of the case.  To that end, the police send Grace’s second-in-command, Glenn Branson, and another colleague, Bella Moy, to appear on a true-crime show called Crimewatch. This show presents re-enactments of real crimes, interviews with people involved, and invitations for call-ins from people who may know something about the cases. It’s not a typical way for police officers to spend their days, but Branson and Moy go on the air.

Not everyone is comfortable in a television interview. But they can be very useful for getting information. And in a crime novel, they can add interesting layers to a story.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Genesis’ Turn It On Again.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Gail Bowen, Helen Fitzgerald, John Grisham, Peter James

What I Didn’t Realise Was How You Would Change My Life*

One of the most common types of blended families is the stepfamily. In fact, there’ve been stepparents and stepchildren for so many years that we could even think of it as one of the traditional family structures.

Blending a family in this way can work, especially if everyone involved is willing to be flexible. But ‘stepping’ almost always presents challenges, even when family members love one another, and really want the relationships to be successful. And when there’s spite or malice, things can turn very bad, indeed.

There’ve been many, many crime novels that involve stepfamilies. One post couldn’t possibly do the topic justice. But I’ll mention a few examples, to start the conversation. Oh, and you’ll notice I don’t include examples of what a lot of people call domestic noir. Too easy…

Agatha Christie used stepfamilies many times in her work, so there are several examples. One is Evil Under the Sun. In that novel, Captain Kenneth Marshall and his daughter, Linda, travel to the Jolly Roger Hotel on Leathercombe Bay for their holiday. With them is Marshall’s second wife (and Linda’s stepmother), famous actress Arlena Stuart Marshall. It’s soon clear that Linda dislikes her stepmother heartily. It’s not so much that Arlena is cruel to her, but she is self-involved, and mostly, she ignores Linda. What’s worse, Arlena is beautiful and graceful, and Linda is at an awkward point in her life, as young people often are at sixteen. One day, Arlena is found strangled in a cover not far from the hotel, Linda becomes a ‘person of interest,’ as does her father. Hercule Poirot is also staying at the hotel, and he works with the police to find out who killed the victim and why. And as far as the ‘evil stepmother’ stereotype goes, there’s Christie’s Appointment With Death

In Ellery Queen’s The Origin of Evil, we are introduced to the Priam family. Roger Priam and his business partner Leander Hill ran a successful company for years. But then, they both began receiving macabre ‘gifts’ that unsettled them. In fact, Hill died of a heart attack shortly after getting one of them. Hill’s daughter, Laurel, asks Ellery Queen  to find out who has sent the parcels, because she believes her father’s death is directly related to them. At first, Queen demurs, but he’s finally persuaded. When he learns that Priam also received packages, he tries to get his help. But Priam is unwilling to get involved at first. Still, Queen meets Priam’s wife, Delia, and her son, Crowe ‘Mac’ MacGowan. Mac is a very unconventional person. He lives in a treehouse he’s made on the Priam property, and wears as little as possible – sometimes nothing at all. He’s convinced that nuclear bombs are about to be unleashed (the book takes place in the early 1950s, during a particularly tense part of the Cold War), and wants to be ready to live in a world where not much is left. Priam has little to do with his stepson; he’s a businessman through and through. There’s an interesting, if dysfunctional, dynamic in the Priam household…

James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity begins when insurance sales representative Walter Huff decides on a whim to visit one of his clients, H.S. Nirdlinger. Huff happens to be in that area, and wants to see if he can get Nirdlinger to renew his policy. When Huff gets to the house, he finds that Nirdlinger isn’t there, but his wife, Phyllis is. The two get to talking and Huff soon finds himself attracted to her. She does nothing to discourage him, and before long, they’re having an affair. Then, Phyllis reveals that she wants her husband killed. By this time, Huff is so besotted that he falls in with her plan, even going so far as to write the double indemnity insurance policy she’ll need in order to collect from the company. The murder is duly pulled off, but that’s really only the beginning of Huff’s problems. He’s going to have to protect Phyllis as best he can if he’s going to protect himself. Then, he meets Phyllis’ stepdaughter, Lola. The two form a friendship (which Huff would like to be more than a friendship), and Lola tries to warn him about her stepmother. There is no love lost between the two, so there’s a possibility her attitude might simply be spite. But it turns out that Huff is in much deeper than he thought…

M.J. McGrath’s White Heat is the first in her series featuring Ellesmere Island hunting guide Edie Kiglatuk. As the story begins, Kiglatuk is escorting two hunters, Felix Wagner and Andy Taylor. During the trip, Wagner is fatally shot. Taylor says he’s not responsible, and the evidence supports him. So, at first, the death is put down to a tragic accident. But Kiglatuk is fairly certain that’s not the truth. Evidence that she saw suggests that another person shot Wagner. But she’s told that the Council of Elders, on whom she depends for her guide license, wants the ‘accident’ explanation ‘rubber stamped.’ Still, she starts to ask some questions. There’s not much she can do officially, but she tries to get answers. Then, there’s a disappearance. Then, her former stepson, Joe, with whom she’s still close, dies. On the surface, it looks like a suicide. But Kiglatuk is now sure that it was murder. In the end, we learn what connects all of these events; it turns out that there’s something much bigger going on than most people knew. The relationship between Kiglatuk and Joe is an undercurrent throughout the novel. It’s clear that they see each other as family, and take care of each other as close family members do. Not much of the ‘wicked stepmother’ stereotype here…

There’s also Surender Mohan Pathak’s The Colaba Conspiracy. In that novel, former safecracker/lockbreaker Jeet Singh has decided to ‘go straight.’ He now owns and runs a small keymaking business. Everything changes, though, when he gets drawn into just one last job, for the sake of his former lover Sushmita. She married wealthy industrialist Pursumal Changulani, but now, he’s been murdered. At first, the murder looked like a carjacking gone wrong. But now, there’s evidence that it was a pre-planned murder. Sushmita is the main suspect, since her husband’s death means she now stands to inherit a considerable fortune. However, Changulani has three children from a previous marriage, and they claim that she was never legally married to their father. They argue that their stepmother was really just their father’s live-in lover. Sushmita needs money to pay a good lawyer to defend her interests, so Singh decides to help her. He ends up, though, being framed for murder. Throughout the novel, it’s interesting to see how stepmother and stepchildren view each other when a lot of money is involved.

Many stepfamilies work well, function as a unit, and love each other (right, fans of Gail Bowen’s Joanne Kilbourn Shreve?). But there are always some complexities, and sometimes, they play out in unexpected ways.
 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Peter Andre’s Unconditional.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, Gail Bowen, James M. Cain, M.J McGrath, Surender Mohan Pathak

Just One More Link to the Chain*

Whenever the police are faced with multiple murders, especially similar sorts of murders, they try to look for links among the victims. There’s almost always some connection among the victims, and if the police can find that link, they can often also find the killer. So, part of investigating multiple murders is tracing the victims’ last days and weeks to see if there’s a common thread.

We see that part of a police investigation in lots of crime fiction – more than there is space for me mention here. But a few examples should suffice to show how the sleuth goes about trying to find those links. And sometimes, they are surprising.

In Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders, for instance, Hercule Poirot begins to receive a series of cryptic notes, warning him of murders that will occur, and giving the name of the town where the killing will take place. Not long after each letter, there is a murder, and a body discovered, in the town the killer has mentioned. An ABC railway guide is discovered near each body, but that clue isn’t very helpful. And nothing else, other than the letters to Poirot, seems to link the victims. They didn’t know each other, they didn’t live in the same place or go to the same school. It creates a very difficult puzzle for Poirot and the police. In the end, though, Poirot discovers what really links the murders. Once he does, he knows who committed them.

Gail Bowen’s The Wandering Soul Murders features her sleuth, academician and political scientist Joanne Kilbourn. In the novel, Kilbourn’s daughter, Mieka, discovers the body of Bernice Morin in a city trash bin. At first, the police think that Bernice was killed by someone the police have dubbed the ‘Little Flower’ killer. But then, there’s another tragedy. Theresa Desjalier, the former girlfriend of Kilbourn’s son, Peter, dies in what looks like a drowning accident. That death turns out to be murder, though, and it’s linked to Bernice’s murder, as well as to other incidents in the novel. Once Kilbourn discovers what links everything, she’s able to get to the root of some very dark truths.

In Jørn Lier Horst’s Dregs, Chief Inspector William Wisting and his team are faced with a baffling case. A left foot clad in a training shoe has washed ashore near the Norwegian town of Stevern. Very soon afterwards, another foot is discovered. Then another. Very soon, all sorts of wild speculations start to circulate, including the possibility that a psychopathic serial killer is stalking the area. There are other possibilities, too, none of which put the local residents at ease. The police try to link the deaths by searching missing person reports. They discover that three of the four missing people were connected with a local elder care facility. The fourth lived in a house that belonged to another resident who died just before the others went missing.  It’s soon clear that these people are somehow linked to the missing feet, and Wisting and his team work to find out what, exactly, is the history behind these deaths.

Carin Gerhardsen’s The Gingerbread House is the story of a series of deaths, and the link among them. The first is of successful real-estate broker Hans Vannerberg. The second is of a prostitute named Ann-Kristin Widell. Then, Lise-Lott Nilsson, a working-class homemaker, is murdered. Stockholm Chief Inspector Conny Sjöberg and his team believe that the murders might be linked; but on the surface, the victims have nothing in common. Then, it comes out that all of the victims were forty-four years old. That doesn’t seem to make sense as a motive or link, but Sjöberg has to start somewhere. Gradually, the victim’s lives are traced, and the team members discover what links them. And that leads to the killer.

In D.S. Nelson’s Model For Murder, retired milliner Blake Heatherington gets involved in a bizarre series of murders in the village of Tuesbury. First, newsagent Harold Slater is murdered. Then, Mr. Davies, the greengrocer; James Dockerty, the local bookie; Albert Pane, the baker; and Mr. Rawlinson, the butcher, are also killed. None of the victims seemed to have enemies, and none had a fortune to leave. So, at first, there doesn’t seem to be any motive. And, although all of the victims had local businesses, there wasn’t anything else that really linked them. Is it possible that someone is targeting the village? It doesn’t seem likely, since other business owners are not killed. What’s more, these killings do not seem haphazard. Tuesbury takes great pride in its miniature ‘model village.’ But someone seems to be defacing it. Before each murder, a cross is marked on the miniature of that victim’s business on the model village. And the statuette representing each victim goes missing. Heatherington is sure that something links those victims, and he slowly begins to put the pieces together. Oh, and I have it good authority that Blake Heatherington will be back in another mystery…

Medical thrillers such as Michael Palmer’s and Robin Cook’s often feature plots that focus on finding a link among medical cases. And that makes sense, since that’s what real-life medical experts do when they’re trying to find and stop outbreaks of illness. If the sleuth can find out what the victims of an illness have in common (e.g. where they ate, where they stayed), then the cause of the illness is easier to identify, and other deaths might be prevented. And if the deaths are deliberate, then the person responsible can be caught.

Finding the link or links among a set of victims can be difficult. And sometimes, the real link isn’t apparent right away. But it can be the key to solving the mystery when the sleuth is looking into multiple deaths.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from The Alarm’s Tell Me.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Carin Gerhardsen, D.S. Nelson, Gail Bowen, Jørn Lier Horst, Michael Palmer, Robin Cook