Category Archives: Ian Rankin

Gotta Get Down To It*

One of the more challenging jobs that police do is manage crowds of people. On the one hand, safety is the most important consideration. So, the police have to ensure that people aren’t looting, hurting each other, or worse. On the other hand, most of us agree that people have the right to go about their business, even in large crowds, without being stopped by the police. In many countries, too, it’s been determined that people have the right to protest peacefully, and protests and marches can draw large crowds.

The balance between protecting people’s rights, and ensuring public order and safety isn’t an easy one. And the vast majority of police strike that balance. If you think about it, a large number of crowd events, whether for fun, for protest, or something else, go off quite smoothly. But even so, they can be tense, and some spill over into conflict, or worse.

That’s certainly true in real life, and it’s true in crime fiction, too. For instance, in Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders, Hercule Poirot, Chief Inspector Japp, and several local police officers, are looking for an elusive killer. Their target has already killed three people, and has warned that there’ll be more deaths. Before each murder, the killer sends a cryptic warning to Poirot, so he’s told in advance that this next murder will take place at Doncaster. At first, preventing that murder seems straightforward. But, the police haven’t considered the fact that the St. Leger is to be run in Doncaster on the day the killer has specified. Now, the police have to manage the crowds, look for a killer, and try to keep potential victims safe. In the end, we learn who the murderer is, and what the motive is. But the large crowds on St. Leger day don’t make things any easier.

There’s a very tense set of scenes featuring large crowds and police in Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s The Laughing Policeman. In one plot thread of that novel, the Swedish government is preparing for a visit from a US senator. Many, many people are upset at the US’ involvement in Vietnam, and a large protest is staged outside the US Embassy in Stockholm. The police are already stretched rather thin, as the saying goes, and the demonstrators are determined. With the police force pushed to its limit, a gunman boards a bus, killing eight passengers, including Åke Stenström, a police officer. And it turns out that this murderer ‘hid’ that death among the others on the bus.

In Peter Robinson’s A Necessary End, the town of Eastvale gears up for an anti-nuclear demonstration. Several groups have come into town for the occasion, and DCI Alan Banks and his team know that things could turn ugly. So, they prepare as best they can for the crowds. The day of the demonstration arrives, and the police do their best to manage everything. Then, tragedy strikes. Someone takes advantage of the large crowd to murder P.C. Edwin Gill. Banks’ superior officer, Superintendent Richard ‘Dirty Dick’ Burgess, is convinced that one of the demonstrators is responsible for Gill’s murder, and wants Banks to make a quick arrest. But Banks isn’t so sure that the demonstrators had anything to do with the killing. And, as he digs more deeply into the case, he finds that Gill had a reputation as a thug, who abused his authority more than once. So, there are plenty of people in town who could have a very good motive for murder.

Ian Rankin’s Mortal Causes takes place during the Edinburgh Festival, which is always a very difficult time for police. It’s a major tourist draw, there are parties, plenty of drinking, and big events. So, it’s very hard to keep the peace and ensure that everyone is safe. That background is tense enough. Matters get worse when the body of Billy Cunningham is discovered at Mary King’s Close, one of Edinburgh’s busiest streets. It turns out that Cunningham may have had ties to the IRA and to some Scottish ultra-nationalist groups. What’s worse, it turns out that he was the son of Morris Gerald ‘Big Ger’ Cafferty, a local crime boss, and Inspector John Rebus’ nemesis. Cafferty, as you can imagine, is all for dealing with his son’s killers in his own way. But Rebus knows that this could lead to a bloodbath. So, he’ll have to find Cunningham’s killer, find a way to manage Cafferty, and deal with the festival crowds.

And then there’s Felicity Young’s The Anatomy of Death (AKA A Dissection of Murder).  In that novel, which takes place in 1910, Dr. Dorothy ‘Dody’ McCleland returns to London from Edinburgh. She’s just finished qualifying in forensic pathology, and is hoping to work with the noted Dr. Bernard Spilsbury in the Home Office. As she’s waiting for that opportunity, she takes a job at a women’s hospital. She’s no sooner arrived and gotten settled when she learns that a women’s suffrage march in Whitechapel turned very ugly. Several of the protesters were beaten, and many were arrested. There were three deaths, too, and McCleland performs the autopsies. It turns out that one of the deaths, that of Lady Catherine Cartwright, might not have been accidental. And it turns out that this killer used the large crowd as a ‘cover’ for a very deliberate murder.

That happens, too, in Brian Stoddart’s A Madras Miasma, which takes place in 1920 Madras (today’s Chennai). This story takes place during the last years of the British Raj, and there’s a lot of talk of social and political reform. In fact, in one plot thread of the novel, there’s a demonstration against the entrenched British establishment. Stoddart’s protagonist, Superintendent Christian ‘Chris’ Le Fanu, understands both the need to keep order and the benefits of some sort of power-sharing. He’d like the ‘powers that be’ to at least hear out the other side’s arguments. There are plenty of people in the upper levels who don’t want to give up power, though, so the protest takes place.  Le Fanu is sympathetic to the protesters’ cause, but, he is a police officer, and is sworn to uphold the law. The demonstration turns ugly, and Madras Commissioner of Police Arthur Jepson insists that his men use their weapons. At the end of it all, there are twenty-three deaths, and eighty-five people with injuries. One of the dead is a key source of information for another case that Le Fanu is investigating, and he learns that that person was killed by someone who used the large crowd and the unrest to ‘cover up’ the murder.

It’s not easy to be a police officer under the best of circumstances. Add in a large crowd, no matter how peaceful, and things can get very dangerous, very quickly. That’s part of what makes such scenes so suspenseful, and potentially so effective in a crime novel.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Neil Young’s Ohio.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Brian Stoddart, Felicity Young, Ian Rankin, Maj Sjöwall, Per Wahlöö, Peter Robinson

Watching My Favorite Reality Show*

I’ll bet you’ve watched at least some of them. They can be addictive, even as you admit they’re not exactly edifying. Yes, I’m talking about TV competitions and reality shows. They’re everywhere, and they cover all sorts of topics. There’s MasterChef Australia, Power Couple, The Chase, Cash Cab, Survivor, and The Bachelor, to name just a few.

They’ve found their way into crime fiction, too, and that’s not surprising. All sorts of things can go on when the camera is turned off. And there’s the suspense and tension of the competition, too. And that’s to say nothing of the stress of the ‘ratings war.’ So, it’s little wonder that we see those shows in the genre.

In Elizabeth Spann Craig’s Delicious and Suspicious, we are introduced to Lulu Taylor, who owns Aunt Pat’s Barbecue, one of Memphis’ popular restaurants. Aunt Pat’s has a chance at television fame (and the resulting increase in sales) when Rebecca Adrian, food critic for the Cooking Channel, visits. She’s in Memphis to search for the best barbecue restaurant in the city, and Aunt Pat’s is a strong contender. It’s exciting to think of the possibilities that the fame will bring, but Adrian is, to say the least, not a pleasant guest. She alienates nearly everyone. Still, Taylor makes certain that she serves the very best the restaurant can provide. Only hours later, Adrian dies of what turns out to be poison. And it’s not long before gossip starts about Aunt Pat’s. Mostly in order to clear her restaurant’s name, Taylor starts asking questions to find out who the killer really is.

Isis Crawford’s A Catered Christmas features a cooking competition on a popular local television show. The Hortense Calabash Cooking Show has invited five local caterers to compete on the show. One of those companies is A Little Taste of Heaven, which is run by sisters Bertie and Libby Simmons. It’s an exciting chance at important publicity, so the Simmons sisters get to work planning what they will cook. Then, on the day of the competition, an oven on the show’s set explodes. The blast kills Hortense, and of course, puts an end to the competition. The natural conclusion is that one of the five competitors must have been responsible. But it’s not the only possibility, and it turns out that Hortense had plenty of enemies. So, the Simmons sisters have a number of possible suspects as they look for answers.

A reality show turns very, very creepy in Ian Rankin’s Dark Entries, a graphic novel illustrated by Werther Dell’Edera, and featuring John Constantine, from the Hellblazer series. In this novel, Constantine (a paranormal investigator) is hired by the staff of Haunted Palace. That’s a reality show in which young contestants are trapped in a ‘haunted house.’ The only way to win is to get into a hidden room and claim the prize. This group of contestants has been bothered by visions and other scary incidents, but they aren’t the ones that the show’s staff have rigged. It seems, instead, that these young people are seeing these visions themselves. Constantine’s been engaged to find out who, or what, is behind the eerie events, before anyone is killed…

Max Allan Collins has written two novels featuring a sort-of reality show called Crime Seen! The host, former sheriff J.C. Harrow, tracks down criminals with the help of tips and information from viewers. In the first, You Can’t Stop Me, the show’s team uncovers a dangerous murderer who just might have been the one who killed Harrow’s family, and got him started with the show. In the second, No One Will Hear You, Harrow is about to wrap up the show, which was never intended to be a permanent fixture. But then, a killer sends a grotesque ‘demo tape,’ challenging the show’s crew to spotlight him. At the same time, there’s another killer at work, too. So, instead of ending production, the team has no choice but to try to find the killers before more people die.

And then there’s Douglas Lindsay’s We Are the Hanged Man. Met DCI Robert Jericho is ‘volunteered’ by Superintendent Dylan to participate as a consultant on a reality show called Britain’s Got Justice. In this show, contestants compete as apprentice police officers, and Jericho is to be one of the experts/judges. As it is, Jericho isn’t particularly interested in doing the show. He’s got other cases and concerns on his mind, and he’s not a big fan of reality television to begin with. Everything changes, though, when one of the contestants, Lorraine, ‘Lo’ Allison, goes missing. At first, it’s suspected that she simply decided to drop out of the competition, and gave no warning. But soon enough, it’s shown that she wanted to win as much as anyone else does. So, the police start a missing person search, and, since Jericho’s been involved with the show, he takes a major part in it. Among other things, this novel takes a cynical look at reality television, its creators, and the people who watch it.

And that’s the thing. A lot of people do watch this sort of TV, even at the same time as they acknowledge that it’s not exactly highbrow. And it can make for a very effective context for a crime novel. Do you ever watch reality/unscripted shows? What’s the draw if you do?

 

 

 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Pascale Picard’s That is the Matter.

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Filed under Douglas Lindsay, Elizabeth Spann Craig, Ian Rankin, Isis Crawford, Max Allan Collins, Werther Dell’Edera

The Man Said, Why Do You Think You’re Here?*

counselingPolice work and other criminal investigation can take a real toll on a person. After all, these people see the worst that humans can do to each other, and that can leave scars. Even the most sane, balanced person can get pushed to the breaking point under those circumstances.

That’s why many police departments have psychologists, either on their staff or as professional associates. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the detectives will actually use those services unless required. There’s still, to some extent, a stigma attached to getting mental health care. But more and more, people are seeing the wisdom of getting such support when it’s necessary. And that aspect of police work – the aftermath of a case – can make a fictional character more human and believable.

For example, in Michael Connelly’s The Last Coyote, LAPD detective Harry Bosch is at the end of his proverbial rope. After an incident in which he attacks a superior officer, he’s sent for mandatory psychological counseling, and relieved of his duties until he completes it. Bosch begins his sessions with Dr. Carmen Hinojos, who tries to help him face some of his personal issues. One of them is the fact that his mother was murdered when he was eleven. She was a prostitute, and not a ‘high profile’ one, either. So not much was done to investigate. Feeling at loose ends because of his enforced break from work, Bosch begins to look into his mother’s death again. That case, plus his work with Hinojos, helps Bosch do some of the work he needs to do to start functioning again.

In Ian Rankin’s Resurrection Men, we meet career analyst Andrea Thomson. On the one hand, she’s not a doctor, a psychiatrist, or a psychological therapist. She’s hired by the police (as a freelancer) to work with the detectives on job-related issues. On the other hand, job counseling and mental health counseling aren’t that far apart, so some of the same issues come up. That’s how she meets Inspector John Rebus, who’s just gotten into deep trouble for throwing a mug of cold tea at a supervisor during a meeting. In Rebus’ case, he’s been sent back to Tulliallan Police College for career counseling and a refresher course on working with others. Needless to say, Rebus isn’t happy being pulled from his regular work. Nor is he deeply interested in reflecting on his career. He’s happiest out on the streets, dong his job. He and a group of other detectives who’ve been sent for the same refresher course are given a ‘cold case’ to work, as a way of building their teamwork skills. But that doesn’t stop him working with Sergeant Siobhan Clarke on a case they were already investigating. Throughout the novel, it’s interesting to see how the police view counseling, Thomson, and the process of reflecting on their work.

Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Mercy (AKA The Keeper of Lost Causes) introduces readers to Copenhagen detective Carl Mørck. As the novel opens, he’s just returned to active duty after a line-of-fire incident in which one of his colleagues was killed, and another left with permanent paralysis. Mørck was badly injured, too, and not just physically. He’s never been overly friendly or extroverted, but since his return, he’s been even worse. In fact, no-one wants to work with him. So he’s ‘promoted’ to head a new department called ‘Department Q,’ which will have responsibility for cases of special interest – cold cases. In this way, the Copenhagen police can respond to media and public criticism over unsolved cases, and at the same time get Mørck out of the way. The first case that Mørck and his assistant, Hafez al-Assad re-open is the five-year-old disappearance of promising politician Merete Lynggaard. At the time she went missing, everyone thought she’d had a tragic fall from a ferry. But Mørck and Assad begin to suspect she may still be alive; if so, she may be in grave danger. In the meantime, Mørck’s boss wants him to get some psychological help. The department has recently hired a crisis counselor, Mona Ibsen, and Mørck is strongly encouraged to work with her. He has no desire to face any personal issues, but he is smitten by the new counselor. And it’s both funny and awkward to see how he starts to do the work he needs to do, even if it is for very much the wrong reasons. Fans of this series will know how both his mental health work and his interactions with Mona Ibsen evolve as the series does.

In David Mark’s Sorrow Bound, Hull D.S. Aector McAvoy and his team are up against a dangerous new crime boss. At the same time, they’re dealing with what looks like a series of revenge killings that are related to past police investigations. And all of this takes place during a heat wave that makes everyone miserable. Things aren’t made easier for McAvoy by the fact that he’s been required to attend six sessions of counseling to help him deal with some of the trauma he’s been through recently. Here’s what he says to Sabine Kean, his counselor:
 

‘‘Look, the people at occupational health have insisted I come for six sessions with a police-approved counselor. I’m doing that. I’m here. I’ll answer your questions, and I’m at great pains not to be rude to you, but it’s hot and I’m tired and I have work to do, and yes, there are lots of places I would rather be. I’m sure you would, too.’’
 

As the novel goes on, we see how McAvoy’s sessions progress and where they lead him, mentally speaking.

Of course, it’s not only the police who occasionally need mental health support, whether they admit it, or want it, or not. Fans of Åsa Larsson’s Rebecka Martinsson series will know that Martinsson, who is a lawyer, needs and gets quite a lot of psychological counseling after experiencing severe trauma in The Savage Altar (AKA Sun Storm) and The Blood Spilt.

It makes sense to weave this element in to crime novels, since crime is traumatic. So long as it’s not melodramatic, that sort of plot thread can help make characters seem more believable.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Amy Winehouse’s Rehab. 

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Filed under Åsa Larsson, David Mark, Ian Rankin, Jussi Adler-Olsen, Michael Connelly

I’m Spread Way Too Thin*

spread-too-thinIt’s a fact of life that the police have limited resources. They simply don’t have the staff to investigate everything, so they have to do the best they can with what they’ve got. That’s doubly true when they’re short-staffed. Whether it’s because of holidays, illness, or competing demands for resources, the police are extra miserable when they’re stretched thin, as the saying goes.

As difficult as it is in real life, being on a skeleton staff can add an interesting layer of tension to a crime novel. People sleep less, eat less healthfully, and are sometimes cooped up together for long hours during a staff shortage. All of that can add tension and conflict. And of course, there’s more possibility of crime when there are fewer people investigating it. So it’s little wonder we see this plot point come up in the genre.

In Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s The Laughing Policeman, for instance, Stockholm police inspector Martin Beck and his team are stretched thin when a US senator comes for a visit. They’re expected to provide extra security, and make sure the visit goes without a problem. But there are plenty of people who oppose the Vietnam War (the novel was published in 1973), so a huge protest takes place at the American Embassy. Things get dangerous, and the police have their hands full trying to keep order. Then, there’s a terrible attack on a bus. A gunmen boards, and kills eight people, including police officer Åke Stenström. At first, it’s believed that this was a terrorist attack. But as Beck and his team look into the matter, they learn that someone was ‘hiding’ Stenström’s murder among the others; he was the real intended victim. But with a shortage of staff, it’s going to be difficult both to investigate the bus murders and to protect the embassy.

Ian Rankin’s Mortal Causes takes place during the Edinburgh Festival, which is always a difficult time for the police. The city fills with tourists, there are a lot of events, plenty of drinking, and it all makes for real trouble when it comes to keeping the city as safe as possible. As if this all weren’t enough, the body of Billy Cunningham is discovered at Mary King’s Close, one of Edinburgh’s busiest streets. The murder was especially brutal and deliberate. This wasn’t a mugging gone wrong. Matters get worse when it turns out that the victim may have had ties to the IRA and to Scottish ultra-nationalist groups. Then, it turns out that Cunningham was the son of Edinburgh crime boss Morris Gerald ‘Big Ger’ Cafferty. And he’d like nothing better than to get revenge in his own way. Now the police have to contend with the crowds, possible terrorist activity, and a gang leader who isn’t afraid to take all sorts of measures to find and deal with his son’s murder.

Robert Gott’s The Holiday Murders also takes place during a holiday – this time Christmas. It’s 1943, and the Melbourne police are stretched thin enough as it is with the war going on. Add to that that people want time off at Christmas, and Inspector Titus Lambert has a definite shortage of staff. But he and Sergeant Joe Sable are doing the best they can. Then, the bodies of John Quinn and his son Xavier are discovered. It might be a murder-suicide situation, but Lambert isn’t sure. And there are other possibilities. For example, there was evidence found in the home that links the family to a pro-Nazi group. That group could have been involved in the deaths. There are other leads, too. Soon, Constable Helen Lord Joins Lambert and Sable in the investigation. Now, it’s more or less three people against what could be an extremely dangerous group.

The Brighton and Hove area is very popular with tourists, and Peter James’ Superintendent Roy Grace is all too familiar with what it’s like to need more people on staff than are actually available. It becomes quite a challenge in Not Dead Yet. In that novel, a male torso is discovered in a disused chicken coop. So Grace and his team get to work trying to find out who the man was and who killed him. As you can imagine, that’s quite a challenge. But then, Grace’s superiors tell him that international superstar Gaia Lafayette is coming to Brighton, where she grew up. She’s set to star in a film being made there, and the studio has insisted that Brighton and Hove provide plenty of extra security – naturally, at no cost. The argument is that her presence in the area will draw lots of commerce, so the payoff will be worth the investment. But protecting Gaia is going to be especially challenging. Her life has already been threatened more than once, and before long, it’s clear that whoever’s responsible is not going to give up. It all makes for very long hours and little sleep for Grace and his team.

And then there’s Jane Woodham’s Twister. As the novel begins, the city of Dunedin is dealing with a virulent ‘flu epidemic. What with people falling ill, and having to take care of sick family members, the ranks of the police are temporarily thinned. Against that backdrop, the city endures five straight days of rain, followed by a twister that roars through the area. The police are hoping that everything will stay relatively calm until the damage is cleaned up and the epidemic dies down. But that’s not to be. In the wake of the storm, the body of Tracey Wenlock, who’d been missing for two weeks, is discovered in Ross Creek. It’s not the sort of case that Detective Senior Sergeant Leo Judd would normally take, as he is coping with the disappearance of his own daughter nine years earlier. But with the staff stretched thin, there’s no-one else available. So Judd assembles a team from among the few healthy members of the staff, and begins to look into the case. He finds that this case will resonate in ways he hadn’t imagined.

Everything is more difficult when there’s a staff shortage. If you’ve experienced what it’s like to do the work of three people during a shortage, you know what I mean. And that stress can add a solid layer of tension to a story.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line form Dirty Heads’ Spread Too Thin.

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Filed under Ian Rankin, Jane Woodham, Maj Sjöwall, Per Wahlöö, Peter James, Robert Gott

And He Recorded It On a Reel Of Tape*

Recording DevicesDo you listen to audio books? Many people do, and there is a long and growing list of publishers that offer audio books to those who want to experience a story that way. And it’s easy to see why. Audio books and podcasts are convenient ways to enjoy a novel, a short story, or even an author interview. You can listen during your commute, as you’re doing the dishes or the laundry, or as you’re being walked by your dog. What’s more, you can hear names and places (and sometimes idioms) pronounced authentically. That can be quite a boon if you’re not familiar with the language of a novel’s setting.

If you enjoy the audio experience, you owe a great deal to Thomas Edison. On this day (as I post this) in 1877, he invented the first sound recording device, which he called the Edisonphone. There you go, nerd fact of the day.   😉

For many years, people thought of sound recording devices as mostly having the purpose of playing back music. But sound recording technology has had a much wider impact. And that includes its impact on crime fiction.

As I mentioned, the most obvious influence is that crime stories are now available in audio form. In fact, you can now download audio versions of books, and listen in digital format. Among other things, the audio option has meant that now, books are available to people with vision loss, without the need for translating into braille.

If you think about it, though, sound recording has also had a powerful impact on what happens in a crime novel. For example, there’s an Agatha Christie novel where a sound recording device has a very important role to play. I won’t mention the title, as I don’t want to give away spoilers. But if you’re familiar with her novels, you’ll know which one I mean.

Gail Bowen’s A Killing Spring makes very interesting use of a recording. In one plot thread of the novel, political scientist and academician Joanne Kilbourn is concerned about one of her students, Kellee Savage. Kellee is emotionally very fragile as it is. And lately, she’s been making accusations against another student. Then, she disappears. Kilbourn learns that she was last seen at a bar where several students had gathered. Without their knowledge, Kellee made a recording of what they said, and what one student says is not exactly flattering to Kilbourn. The recording doesn’t solve the mystery of what happened to Kellee, but it offers a very interesting perspective on the way some students think.

Ian Rankin’s Exit Music introduces readers to Alexander Todorov, a dissident Russian poet now living in Edinburgh. When his body is discovered on King’s Stables Road, the first assumption is that he was the victim of a mugging gone very wrong. But Inspector John Rebus isn’t entirely convinced of that. There were several people, among them some wealthy Russian businessmen, who wanted Todorov dead – one had even made public mention of it. Then there’s another murder. Recording engineer Charles Riordan is killed, and his studio goes up in flames. There could be a connection between the two deaths, too, since Todorov had made a recording there before his own murder. Matters are only made murkier when Rebus learns that his old nemesis, Morris Gerald ‘Big Ger’ Cafferty may be mixed up in the whole business…

In Apostolos Doxiadis’ Three Little Pigs, which begins in 1974, an unnamed art restorer is visiting a Swiss monastery. There, he meets an old man who lives in the care home attached to the monastery. His new acquaintance offers to tell him a story – a good story – in exchange for a recording of it. The art restorer agrees, and gets some audio tapes. He then records the old man’s story, which concerns the family of Benvenuto ‘Ben’ Franco. This family emigrated from Italy to New York at the turn of the 20th Century, so on one level, it’s the tale of an Italian-American family. But on another level, it’s a crime story. Franco got into a bar fight one night, and killed a man named Luigi Lupo. Unbeknownst to Franco, Lupo was the son of a notorious Mafia boss, Tonio Lupo. As revenge for the death of his son, Lupo put a curse on the family, promising that each of Franco’s three sons would die at the age of forty-two. So the old man’s story also includes the murder, the curse, and what happened to the family afterwards. And in the end, the recording that the art restorer makes is a very important part of this novel.

There’s a more sinister use of the recording device, too, in crime fiction. One of the main characters in Paddy Richardson’s Swimming in the Dark is Ilse Klein. As a child, she moved with her parents from Leipzig, in what was then East Germany, to New Zealand’s South Island. They moved to escape the dreaded Stasi – the secret police. As the story goes on, we learn that one strategy the police used to keep people cowed was to encourage listening in on others’ conversations. And that included placing ‘bugs,’ and drilling small holes so that people living in one apartment could make use of a recording device to hear the people next door. Ilse and her mother, Greta, are happy enough in New Zealand, although Ilse feels more strongly attached to Germany than her mother does. Everything changes for them when one of Ilse’s students, fifteen-year-old Serena Freeman, starts skipping class and losing interest in learning. Then, she disappears altogether. The Klein women’s responses to this have real consequences for everyone involved.

If you read police procedurals, or if you’re familiar with the way police work, you’ll know that interviews with suspects are typically recorded. Today, they’re video-recorded, but before that technology was available, they were audio-recorded. And there are many, many examples in crime fiction of the police interview, during which the recorder is switched on and the suspect tells her or his story. It’s a staple of the genre, and it’s another way in which audio recording has changed the crime novel.

Anyone who reads espionage fiction or thrillers can tell you that recording devices – ‘bugs’ – play a really important role in that sub-genre. There are many examples of operatives who ‘take a walk together’ to speak freely. We also see that use of recording devices when police go undercover, or when they use informers.

See what I mean? Mr. Edison’s little invention had much more far-reaching effects than he probably imagined they would. Where would crime fiction be without it?

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Kid Creole and the Coconuts’ Stool Pigeon.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Apostolos Doxiadis, Gail Bowen, Ian Rankin, Paddy Richardson