Category Archives: Inger Ash Wolfe

This Isn’t Where We Intended to Be*

Almost all relationships are founded on certain assumptions. When those assumptions change, or when something else fundamental changes, the relationship changes, too. Sometimes those changes are what a lot of people think of as positive (a new baby, a major promotion, for instance). Other changes are traumatic (a major injury, say, or the death of a loved one). When those things happen, the old rules don’t apply any more, and a new understanding has to develop. Sometimes it works well; sometimes it doesn’t. Either way, that re-writing of the rules can make for a lot of awkwardness and strain.

And that’s part of what makes it a solid and useful plot thread for a crime novel. Major changes in relationships can add character development, too. And they’re realistic, so they can add authenticity to a book.

For example, one of the major characters in Agatha Christie’s Taken at the Flood (AKA There is a Tide…) is Lynn Marchmont. She’s recently returned from service in WWII to her home village of Warmsley Vale, and for the moment, is living with her mother, Adela. Lynn’s been away for a few years, and experienced a number of things. While she’s still her mother’s daughter, she’s a full-fledged adult with a very different perspective to the one she had. And that makes for some awkwardness between them. It’s clear that they love each other, but their relationship has gotten somewhat strained. That’s especially true with regard to their financial situation. In one major plot thread, we learn that Adela’s brother, Gordon Cloade, was a very wealthy man who’d always promised that his siblings and their families wouldn’t have to worry about money. But he married without changing his will to protect the rest of his family. Shortly after his marriage, Cloade was killed in a bomb blast. Now, his widow, Rosaleen, is set to inherit his considerable fortune, leaving the rest of the Cloades in need of money. Lynn and her mother don’t agree on how to cope with this, and it makes for some friction between them. And that adds to the tension in the story.

Wartime experience also changes the relationship between former Glasgow copper Douglas Brodie and his good friend, Hugh ‘Shug’ Donovan, whom we meet in Gordon Ferris’ The Hanging Shed. As the novel begins, WWII has just ended. Brodie has returned to the UK after his service, and is trying to make a life for himself in London. Then, he gets a call from Donovan. It seems that Donovan’s been arrested and imprisoned for the abduction and murder of a boy named Rory Hutchinson, and he’s soon to be executed. Brodie isn’t sure what, if anything, he can do to help. And in any case, he’s not even sure that his friend is innocent, as there’s solid evidence against him. The relationship was a bit strained anyway, since Donovan had been involved with Brodie’s one-time love interest. Still, Brodie agrees to at least ask a few questions. So, he travels to Glasgow and begins to look into the matter. And soon, he and Donovan’s lawyer, Samantha ‘Sam’ Campbell, find that this case is much more complicated than they thought. As it turns out, there are several people who might have wanted to frame Donovan for this murder. Both Brodie and Donovan have had terrible wartime experiences, and deal with what we now would call PTSD. This doesn’t incapacitate Brodie, but it does impact the friendship between the two men.

Fans of Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series will know Clara and Peter Morrow. They are both artists who live in the small Québec town of Three Pines. The main sleuth in this series is Gamache, but as the series goes on, we get to know the Morrows, along with several other Three Pines residents. At the beginning of the series, Peter Morrow is acknowledged as the Morrow with the real talent. Clara accepts this, and those are the rules by which they live. Gradually, Clara finds her own self as an artist, and over time, her skill begins to eclipse that of her husband. That change causes real upheaval in their marriage. The rules the Morrows have always accepted have to be re-written, and this leads to an important story arc.

There are several important changes in the relationship between Håkan Östlundh’s Gotland police detective Fredrik Broman and his wife, Ninni. For one thing, the rules they’ve always lived by change as a result of an affair that Borman has. In fact, Ninni asks him to leave. Now, the couple have to re-write their ‘rules of engagement,’ since they have two children. They’re working that out when he is seriously injured in the line of duty. Now, the couple re-writes their relationship again, since Borman is in real need of regular care as he recuperates. In that sense, as devastating as his injuries are, it enables the couple to work together, so that they can, well, be a couple again.

That story arc is a just a little reminiscent of what happens to DI Hazel Micallef, whom we first meet in Inger Ash Wolfe/Michael Redhill’s The Calling. She’s been divorced from her ex-husband, Andrew, for some time, and he is now remarried. She’s not overly vengeful about it, but at the same time, she has no great desire to patch things up, or even to be friends with Andrew. They’re civil enough when they need to communicate, and that’s as far as Hazel is interested in going. Then, in one story arc in this series, Hazel finds herself in need of emergency back surgery. This surgery entails a long recuperation, during which Hazel won’t be able to care for herself. And her mother, Emily, is too old and frail to take over. So, for practical purposes, the only choice she has is to move in with Andrew and his second wife. That change causes a real re-writing of the rules they’ve lived by, and makes for an interesting plot thread.

And then there’s Dunedin Detective Senior Sergeant Leo Judd and his wife, Kate, whom we meet in Jane Woodham’s Twister. Nine years before the events in the novel, their daughter, Beth, went missing, and was never found. This in itself changed their relationship dramatically, and they’re still dealing with that. Then, the body of Tracey Wenlock is discovered after a twister and a lot of rain pass through Dunedin. She was reported missing two weeks earlier, and now that her body has been find, the missing person case becomes a murder case. The police department has been hit by a ‘flu epidemic, and Judd’s the only one available to lead the investigation, so he starts the process. The case forces both Judds to look again at their marriage and Beth’s disappearance, and the process is painful for them. And it leads to another re-working of their personal rules.

And that’s what often happens when a major event happens within a relationship. The people involved change, so the relationship changes. Even when that change is for the better, it’s still stressful.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s You Must Love Me.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Gordon Ferris, Håkan Östlundh, Inger Ash Wolfe, Jane Woodham, Louise Penny, Michael Redhill

While I’m in the Middle of a Slow Recovery*

slow-recoveryMost crime fiction fans want their stories to be believable at some level. They want authentic portrayals of characters, police investigations (if they are part of a story), and so on. At the same time, readers also want their stories to keep their interest. As one quick example, DNA analysis can take weeks or even months, depending on a lot of factors. Crime fiction fans don’t necessarily want a description of every single thing that happens during those weeks or months.

This presents a challenge for crime writers. How does the crime writer acknowledge the reality of what really happens when a crime is committed, but at the same time, consider pacing, timing, and other aspects of a well-told story? It’s not an easy balance to maintain.

Still, some writers do it very effectively. We can see that just by looking at one factor: the amount of time it takes to get back to work after a traumatic incident such as a line-of-duty injury. In real life, it may take months (or more) to resume duties after a serious injury, or after serious psychological trauma associated with it. But crime readers don’t want to read about months of physical or possibly psychological therapy.

Some writers handle this by having that recuperation happen before or between novels, as you might say. For example, as Jussi Adler-Olsen’s ‘Department Q’ series begins, Copenhagen homicide detective Carl Mørck has recently returned to work after a line-of-duty shooting in which h e was gravely injured. One colleague was killed, and another left with paralysis in that incident, so Mørck has some healing to do. But Mercy (AKA The Keeper of Lost Causes) doesn’t go into detail about Mørck’s physical recuperation. Although there are some scenes with the department’s psychotherapist, the bulk of the novel concerns an investigation: the disappearance of promising politician Merete Lynggaard. In this case, Adler-Olsen has all of that ‘down time’ occur before the novel even starts.

Kathryn Fox takes a similar approach with one of her protagonists, New South Wales DS Kate Farrer. As a result of some of the incidents in Malicious Intent, Farrer ends up needing to take a few months of leave from her job. Rather than describing in exhaustive detail the physical and psychological therapy she undergoes, Fox simply places the focus on her other protagonist, freelance forensic pathologist Anya Crichton. It’s Crichton who does the sleuthing in the next novel, Without Consent. Farrer returns in Skin and Bones, the following novel, and we learn that she still has some work to do to complete her recovery, but that she’s made a lot of progress. Farrer’s ‘down time’ takes place between novels.

Håkan Östlundh’s crime series features Gotland police detectives Fredrik Broman and Sara Oskarsson. As a result of things that happen in The Viper, Broman is critically injured, and it’s clear that his recovery will take a great deal of time, assuming he can make a full recovery. That ‘down time’ isn’t the focus of the novel, though, nor of its follow-up, The Intruder. Rather, The Intruder begins as Borman returns to work. In fact, Östlundh presents a very realistic portrait of Borman’s uncertainty about returning to work, combined with his understandable resentment that others aren’t entirely convinced he’s ready to return to work.

There are plenty of other examples, too, of authors who deal with recuperation by simply having it occur between books (right, fans of Kel Robertson’s Bradman ‘Brad’ Chen?). But that’s not the only way that authors address this issue.

For instance, Inger Ash Wolfe/Michael Redhill’s DI Hazel Micallef works for the Port Dundas, Ontario police. As the series begins (with The Calling), she’s already suffering from a bad back. As a result of the events in the story, her situation becomes dire, and she needs emergency surgery. As The Taken, the next novel in the series, begins, she’s staying in her ex-husband’s home, so that he and his new wife can help take care of her as she recovers (she’s unable to do much by herself at first). It’s clear in that novel that she’s not yet ready to go back to her regular duties. But Wolfe/Redhill doesn’t go on and on about each detail of her recuperation. Rather, it’s a sort of background context to the actual ‘meat’ of the story, which is a bizarre set of events that eerily mirrors a crime novel that’s being published in serial form in the Port Dundas Record. In this way, Micallef’s recovery is presented authentically, but it doesn’t drag the story down.

Robert Gott doesn’t gloss over the long road to recovery for Sergeant Joe Sable of the Melbourne Police, whom we first meet in The Holiday Murders. In that novel, Sable, his boss, DI Titus Lambert, and his colleague, Constable Helen Lord, investigate a particularly brutal set of murders that occur over the Christmas holidays. As a result of that investigation, Sable is badly injured, and carries a burden of guilt, too. At the beginning of the next novel, The Port Fairy Murders, Sable has just returned to work. The events of this novel take place almost immediately after the events of the first novel. So, several people, including Lambert, think that Sable has returned to work too soon. He insists he’s ready, though, and his help is certainly needed for this new investigation. The team has to contend with a double murder, complete with signed confession, that isn’t at all what it seems. At the same time, the detectives are looking for George Starling, a dangerous man who has his own frightening agenda. As the novel goes on, Sable goes through part of the healing process. It’s painful and difficult, but Gott doesn’t overburden the novel with this aspect of the story. Instead, it’s woven naturally into the plot.

There are other ways, too, in which authors write authentically about recuperation without overburdening the story (right, fans of James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux?). It’s not always easy, but the end result can make for compelling character development.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Lucy Woodward’s Slow Recovery.

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Filed under Håkan Östlundh, Inger Ash Wolfe, James Lee Burke, Jussi Adler-Olsen, Kathryn Fox, Kel Robertson, Michael Redhill, Robert Gott

Still Living With My Parents*

Living With ParentsNot long ago, I came across this article about the rising number of young people living with their parents instead of on their own. There are, of course, a lot of reasons for which adults might choose to (or need to) live with parents. And sometimes that arrangement can work quite well.

Even in the best of situations, though, adults who live with their parents face certain challenges (and so do their parents). On the one hand, there is the old adage, ‘My home, my rules.’ And there’s the history involved. On the other, that former child is now an adult, with adult decision-making authority. That alone can make for friction. It’s a case, really, of two households living under the same roof.

Despite those occasional difficulties, there are plenty of people who live with their parents. That includes several crime-fictional sleuths. Space only permits a few examples here, but they’ll serve to make my meaning clear.

Fans of Ellery Queen will know that, in several of the Queen stories, he lives with his father, Inspector Richard Queen. They don’t always agree about everything, but they don’t have a lot of the friction that you sometimes see when adult children live with their parents. They have a shared interest in criminal investigation, and that’s really the focus of the books.

One of S.J. Rozan’s sleuths is Chinese-American Chin Ling Wan-Ju, who usually goes by the name Lydia Chin. She’s a PI who mostly serves the Chinese and Chinese-American community of New York City. Occasionally, she partners with Bill Smith, also a PI. Chin has a successful business, but finds that it’s easier to live with her mother, Chin Yong-Yun, than it would be to try to afford a place of her own. And if you’re familiar with the cost of living in New York City, then you’ll understand that point of view. On the one hand, the arrangement works reasonably well. Lydia respects her mother, who keeps several of the traditional Chinese customs.  She has a sense of filial obligation, and she does love her family. On the other, Yong-Yun does not really approve of her daughter’s occupation. She’d much prefer it if Lydia found someone special, got married, and had a less dangerous sort of job. And, like any caring parent, she worries for her daughter’s safety. The two do have their moments of conflict, but by and large, they get along.

Under the name of Inger Ash Wolfe, Michael Redhill writes a series featuring Port Dundas, Ontario, DCI Hazel Micallef. She’s in her sixties, and the mother of grown children. She’s also the daughter of octogenarian Emily Micallef, former mayor of Port Dundas. The two live together, and that sometimes makes for some friction. For one thing, they are both strong-willed and independent, and they don’t always agree. For another, each does care about the other, and each wants what’s best for the other. That means they sometimes clash on that level, too. Here’s an example of what I mean from The Calling:
 

‘Hazel smelled bacon. ‘Eat,’ said her mother.
‘I’ll wait for the bacon.’
‘No meat for you, my girl, this is for me.’
Hazel stared down at the anemic omelet on the plate. ‘This isn’t food for a grown woman, Mother,’ she said.
‘Protein. And fiber. That’s your breakfast. Eat it.’ She stared at her daughter until she picked up a fork.’
 

In a lot of ways, they are more alike than either likes to admit.

Anna Jaquiery’s series features Commandant Serge Morel of the Paris Police. He’s found it easier to live with his ageing father Philippe, a former diplomat, than it would be to live on his own. For one thing, he keeps very odd hours, and it’s nice not to come home to an empty place. Those odd hours also mean that it’s harder for him to check in on his father and make sure that he’s well. Living in the same house allows him more time with his father, and a better sense of how he’s doing.  And that makes life easier for his father, too. The two don’t always agree, but they do care about each other, and they have a solid bond.

Eva Dolan’s DS Melinda ‘Mel’ Ferreira of the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit is an immigrant from Portugal. She and her family moved to England when she was a child, so she’s become fluent in English, and adept at English culture. Her family, though, is still Portuguese, and we see that in her interactions with them. Ferreira isn’t married and doesn’t have a partner, so she lives with her parents. In some ways, the arrangement works very well. For Ferreira’s part, it costs much less to live with her parents. And there’s someone there to care whether she got home safely and whether she’s well. For her parents’ part, it’s good to have her close at hand when they need help at the pub they own. And the arrangement’s consistent with their own culture and perspectives.

And then there’s Ausma Zehanat Khan’s Sergeant Rachel Getty of the Community Policing Section (CPS) of the Canadian federal government. We first meet Getty in The Unquiet Dead, in which she works with her boss, Esa Khattak, to solve the mysterious death of successful business executive Christopher Drayton. In a sub-plot of this novel, we learn that Getty lives with her very dysfunctional parents. Life at home is often miserable for her, but she has a specific and important reason for staying. Years ago, her brother Zachary ‘Zach’ left home, mostly as a result of that dysfunction. She’s been trying to find him since then, and hasn’t stopped hoping he’ll come home. If so, she wants to be there and work to mend their relationship. In this case, living with parents is an unpleasant experience, but Getty puts up with it for reasons that she thinks are more important than her own well-being.

As you can see, there are a lot of reasons for which adults might live with their parents. Sometimes it works very well, and sometimes not so well. But either way, that dynamic can add a lot to a crime novel or series.

 

 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Treephort’s Adult Themes.

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Filed under Anna Jaquiery, Ausma Zehanat Khan, Ellery Queen, Eva Dolan, Inger Ash Wolfe, Michael Redhill, S.J. Rozan

What Are We Going to Do About the Other Generation?*

Sandwich GenerationAs people live longer, we’re seeing more and more of what’s sometimes called ‘the sandwich generation.’ By that I mean adults who are taking care of their elderly parents, but at the same time helping to launch their young adult children into their own lives. Sometimes those young people are still living at home.

It can all get very complicated, especially if the young people run into job, drugs, or relationship problems, or have unexpected children of their own. It’s even more complicated if the elderly parent involved has dementia or other health problems. Put all of that together and you have the potential for a great deal of stress. It’s a fact of life for many people, and we certainly see it in crime fiction.

One of the more famous such characters is Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander. As if his job wasn’t stressful enough, Wallander also deals with his elderly father, who has dementia. Their relationship is complicated already, and is made all the more so by the older man’s illness. It doesn’t help matters that Wallander’s sister doesn’t live close by, so she can’t step in and help. At the same time, Wallander is also concerned about his daughter Linda. She’s grown and out of the house as the series begins, but he worries about her, and thinks that at times, she’s not making wise decisions. Their relationship, too, is complicated, and they’ve had their share of estrangement. But he does care about her and tries to be a part of her life.

Elizabeth Spann Craig’s Myrtle Clover is a retired teacher who’s now in her eighties. Although she’s in relatively good health, and certainly of sound mind, that doesn’t mean her son Red doesn’t worry about her. He’s the police chief of Bradley, North Carolina, so he’s all too aware of how much risk there is, especially for an elderly woman. But Myrtle is not the type to be ‘put out to pasture,’ and she’s intrigued by solving crimes. So she’s a constant source of concern to her son. At the same time, Red and his wife Elaine are raising their young son, Jack. He’s a healthy boy, but very active, and of course, his parents want to keep him safe. The Clovers certainly don’t have a restful life, but being in the ‘sandwich generation’ means that life’s never boring for them.

In Catherine O’Flynn’s The News Where You Are, we are introduced to TV presenter Frank Allcroft. He’s happily married, and the proud father of eight-year-old Mo. But he’s gotten to a sort of crossroads in his life. For one thing, he can’t let go of the death of his predecessor, Phil Smedway, who was killed in an apparent hit-and-run incident. Allcroft finds himself drawn to the place where Smedway died, and can’t help asking questions about what really happened. At the same time, he’s concerned about his mother, who has recently moved to an elder care home. She’s having trouble adjusting to live in that new environment, and that adds stress to their already complicated relationship. Still, he cares about her, and wants to make sure that she’s as comfortable and well cared-for as possible.

Tarquin Hall’s Vishwas ‘Vish’ Puri is a successful Delhi PI. Much of his business is concerned with ‘vetting’ potential spouses for each other’s families. But sometimes, he gets involved in much more serious cases. In his private life, Puri is a proud father (his children are grown and on their own) and a dutiful son to his beloved Mummy-ji. Although the family is a healthy, loving family, that doesn’t mean that Puri never feels the pressure of being between two generations. For one thing, his daughter’s just recently had a baby boy of her own, so there are all kinds of family events connected with that. And new parents often need grandparent-ly help. And then there’s Mummy-ji. She’s energetic and active, and gets involved in more than one investigation of her own. Puri loves his mother, but she certainly causes him concern (not that that stops her).

Michael Redhill (who writes as Inger Ash Wolfe) has created an interesting ‘sandwich generation’ character in the form of DI Hazel Micallef. She and her team work out of Port Dundas, Onatrio. Hazel is in early sixties, and thinking about the transition between a full-time life of work, and retirement. She is also very much caught between two generations. For one thing, there’s her octogenarian mother Emily, who is Port Dundas’ former mayor. Emily is very much her own person, and absolutely not one to sit around and knit. But at the same time, she is in her eighties, and her health and stamina aren’t what they were. So Hazel is concerned about her. It doesn’t help matters that she and Emily don’t always agree, and both are very strong-minded. On the other end, so to speak, is Hazel’s younger daughter Martha. Here’s how Hazel describes her in The Taken:
 

‘Jobless, loveless, dogged by depression and unable to make a constructive choice…’
 

Hazel loves her children, but it’s not always easy to be Martha’s mother. It’s not always easy to be Emily’s daughter, either.

And then there’s Wendy James’ The Lost Girls. Documentary maker Erin Fury has decided to do a film detailing the impact of murder on families. As a part of that, she wants to look into the 1978 murder of fourteen-year-old Angela Buchanan. So she asks Angela’s now-middle-aged cousin, Jane Tait, and Jane’s brother Mick, as well as their parents, for interviews. No-one in the family really wants the murder raked up again. But Jane’s daughter Tess wants to know the truth. So the interviews go forward. As we learn about the murder (which was never solved), we also learn more about the family. Jane is very much a ‘sandwich generation’ parent. She is the mother of a university student, and that has its own challenges. But she is also the daughter of Doug and Barbara Griffin, and that adds more challenges. Doug has dementia, and rarely speaks. In fact, he’s just been moved to a care home. Barbara is in reasonable health, but she needs support as she gets accustomed to life without the husband she’s known. Against this backdrop, we learn what really happened when Angela died, and who really killed her.

More and more, as life spans increase, adults find themselves very much between two generations. It’s not an easy position to be in, but it is real life. And it can add important character development and plot layers to a novel.

 

 
 

*NOTE:  The title of this post is a line from Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s The Other Generation.

 

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Filed under Catherine O'Flynn, Elizabeth Spann Craig, Henning Mankell, Inger Ash Wolfe, Michael Redhill, Tarquin Hall, Wendy James

But I Can Feel it Coming*

PredictingAt this time of year, a lot of pundits make all sorts of predictions about the coming year. It might be about an election, a sport team or something else; whatever it is, people do like to predict. That’s what betting is all about, if you think about it.

Those predictions don’t come from mystical revelations – well, not credible predictions, as a rule. They come from dozens of sometimes-subtle clues, patterns and so on that we notice. Experience also plays a role, as does certain knowledge. For example, if you’re a chemistry expert, you can probably predict what the outcome will be if two particular chemicals are mixed. A good lawyer finds out as much as possible about the opposing side’s strategies, patterns and so on in order to predict what the other side will do, so as to win a case.

Sleuths and criminals, both real and fictional, depend on those patterns. Police, for instance, sometimes use patterns of known criminals in their investigations. Criminals use patterns, both subtle and obvious, to predict when people are most likely to be vulnerable.

We see both kinds of this kind of prediction in crime fiction. For instance, in G.K. Chesterton’s The Blue Cross, Father Brown is bringing a large silver cross set with sapphires to show to a large gathering of priests. At the same time, a French detective, Valentin, is pursuing a notorious thief named Hercule Flambeau. At one point, Valentin stops at a restaurant and places his order. That’s when he notices that the salt-cellar is full of sugar and the sugar-basin is full of salt. And then there’s the matter of the soup that’s been thrown against the wall. At first, he doesn’t understand the significance of these odd things. But as it turns out, they are important, and they reflect the ability to predict what someone might do, based on all sorts of psychological and other knowledge.

There’s more than one kind of prediction in Agatha Christie’s 4:50 From Paddington. Elspeth McGillicuddy is on her way by train to visit her friend Jane Marple. When another train passes by, going in the same direction, Mrs. McGillicuddy happens to look up and into the windows of the passing train. That’s when she sees a woman being strangled. She tries to raise the alarm, but at first, nobody believes her. There’s been no report of a missing person, and no dead body has been found. But Miss Marple knows her friend, and takes her seriously. She uses a map and a train trip of her own to predict where the body might have ended up: on the grounds of Rutherford Hall. The property is owned by the Crackenthorpe family, and Miss Marple manipulates the situation so that her friend, professional housekeeper Lucy Eyelesbarrow, gets a position there. Sure enough, the body of a woman is discovered, and Miss Marple works with Lucy and, later, the police, to find out who the woman was and who killed her. In a sub-plot of the novel, Lucy attracts the interest of more than one member of the family, and Miss Marple makes (but doesn’t share) a prediction about which one Lucy will choose.

In Michael Redhill’s/Inger Ash Wolfe’s The Calling, we are introduced to Port Dundas, Ontario police detective Hazel Micallef. She and her team when eighty-one-year-old Delia Chandler is killed. On the surface, there doesn’t seem any motive for murder; the victim was terminally ill, and didn’t have any fortune to leave. So there wouldn’t have been a financial reason to get her out of the way quickly. The team is just looking into this case when there’s another death. Again, it’s a murder that doesn’t seem to have a motive. And in both cases, there is evidence that the killer was admitted to the house and that the victims were willing participants in their own deaths. It’s now clear that this team is up against a killer who’s struck before and is likely to strike again. So they’ll have to find out what the pattern is in order to prevent another killing. It turns out that, in order to predict what the murderer will do next, they have to connect these deaths with some others that have already happened in other parts of Canada.

Kanae Minato’s Confessions introduces readers to middle-school teacher Yūko Moriguchi. As the novel begins, she addresses her class, in part to announce her resignation. But she has another reason to do so. Her four-year-old daughter Manami recently died in what police originally thought was a tragic accident. But she knows it was murder; what’s more, she knows who was responsible: two of her students. She also knows that the Japanese judicial system cannot be trusted to dispense an appropriate punishment, since the criminals are juveniles. So, she has come up with her own plan to get justice. She doesn’t tell her students exactly what she’s planned, but her intent is clear. She duly leaves her position, and a new teacher takes over. At first, it seems that life will get back to something like normal. But it’s not long before things begin to spin out of control for some of the students. And as the novel goes on, we learn exactly what Yūko Moriguchi planned. Without spoiling the story, I can say that her knowledge of the way middle-school students are, and her particular knowledge of these students, help her predict what will happen.

And then there’s Peter May’s The Blackhouse. Edinburgh police detective Fionnlagh ‘Fin’ Macleod is seconded to the Isle of Lewis when the body of Angel Macritchie is discovered. The murder closely resembles a murder that Macleod is investigating, and it’s hoped that he can get some clues to the killer if he works with the Lewis police on this new death. For Macleod, this is a homecoming, since he was brought up on the island; even the victim was someone from his past. So, part of the plot concerns his reunion with some of the people he knew as a boy. As it turns out, the key to this murder involves Macleod facing his own history. It also involves the ability to predict reactions (can’t say more without a spoiler).

You may or may not believe in psychics or psychic predictions. But we all do predict things, even when we’re not aware of it. And sometimes those predictions turn out to be very useful.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from REO Speedwagon’s Take it on the Run.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, G.K. Chesterton, Inger Ash Wolfe, Kanae Minato, Michael Redhill, Peter May