Category Archives: James Ellroy

We Can Be Heroes*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

11 Comments

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

Politics – the Art of the Possible*

Whenever groups of people work together, there’s the issue of what I’ll call politics (I don’t mean government politics here. That’s the subject for another post at some point). Who’s in charge? Who gets ahead? Who’s allied with whom? Most people say that they get sick of office politics. On the other hand, it’s wise to be able to get along with colleagues. It’s a delicate balance to strike.

Some people, though, learn to be masters of workplace politics. They’re the ones who move along quickly in their careers. We may resent them, and even decide not to trust them. But it’s hard not to notice their ability to manage their careers. And we certainly see those characters in crime fiction.

For example, James Ellroy’s LA Confidential introduces readers to Los Angeles police detective Edmund ‘Ed’ Exley. He is the son of the much-revered Preston Exley, whose dream it is for his son to get to the top of the LAPD. He gives Ed all sorts of advice, pulls the right proverbial strings, and so on. And Ed certainly learns to play the ‘politics game.’ The real action in the story begins on Christmas Day, 1951, when seven civilians are brutally attacked by the police. Two years later, there’s another tragedy. This time, it’s a late-night shooting at the Nite Owl Diner. Exley is involved in both of these situations, and he uses his political skills (and the prodding from his father) to manipulate matters so that he can move ahead in his career.

Fans of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch novels will know that Bosch runs up against Irvin Irving more than once in his career. Irving is a very politically astute member of the LAPD, who’s quite skilled at protecting himself and those in high positions on the force. He isn’t above squashing investigations if they might impact his image, or the images of those above him in the pecking order. And, more than once, he works to impede investigations that Bosch is conducting. As any Bosch fan can tell you, Harry Bosch follows the trail wherever it leads, and that doesn’t always sit well with Irving’s political ambitions. The two butt heads more than once in the course of the series.

Martin Edwards’ Lake District mysteries feature Hannah Scarlett, who heads up the Cumbria Constabulary’s Cold Case Review Team. Her Assistant Chief Constable (ACC), Lauren Self, is extremely politically conscious and astute. She takes every opportunity she can to advance her career; and, while she’s not deliberately malicious, she has no intentions of letting anything get in the way of her success. On the one hand, Scarlett has much less interest in ‘office politics.’ She wants to get the job done. Sometimes that putts her at odds with her boss. On the other hand, she can’t help but notice, and, in a way, respect the way Self manages the political realities of the job.

Donna Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti works at the Venice questura. He wants to see crimes solved, and justice done. But he’s often hampered by his boss, vice-questore Giuseppe Patta. Patta’s main focus is his own career. So, he toadies to those with money and power. If an investigation happens to lead to someone with influence, or someone who could help Patta’s career, he’s not above squashing the investigation. He’s been known to remove Brunetti from cases, too. Fortunately, Patta’s assistant, Signorina Elettra Zorzi, likes Brunetti and generally supports what he’s doing. She’s quite good at manipulating her boss, too, so she and Brunetti find ways to get things done.

It’s not just police forces where we see these politically astute characters. Many other groups and businesses include them. For example, in Robert Rotenberg’s Old City Hall, we are introduced to Albert Fernandez. He’s a Crown Prosecutor who lives and works in Toronto. Frenandez wants to move ahead in his career, and he does a lot to make that happen. He’s the first in the office in the morning, and the last to leave. He calculates the political risks of what he does, who he spends time with, and so on. It’s not that he’s soulless, but he’s intent on career success, and he has a sense of what that takes. He gets a chance at a real ‘feather in the cap’ when famous broadcaster Kevin Brace is arrested for killing his common-law wife, Katherine Thorn. It ought to be an easy case. Brace told a witness that he killed her. And he hasn’t said anything since to defend himself (actually, he hasn’t spoken since. He communicates with his own lawyer, Nancy Parish via handwritten notes). Fernandez isn’t going to find this case as easy a win as he thinks, though. Parish is no slouch, and there’s more to this case than it seems on the surface.

And then there’s Megan Abbott’s Dare Me. That novel takes place mostly within the context of a high school cheerleading team. Addy Hanlon and Beth Cassidy are members of their high school’s cheerleading squad, and undisputed ‘queen bees’ of their school’s social order. They know all about the politics of ‘making it’ in high school, and they’ve done well. Beth, in particular, is at the top of the high school social ladder. Then, Collette French is hired to coach the cheerleading squad. Right from the beginning, French changes the social order. The cheerleading squad becomes an elite social group, and Addy is welcomed into the ‘inner circle.’ Beth, though, is not. Then, there’s a suicide (or was it?). It’s interesting to see how the politics of high school, and those who play that game well, are important in this novel.

There are plenty of other fictional examples of people who are astute at ‘office politics.’ Such characters have important social survival skills; even as we may resent them, it’s hard to deny their ability to negotiate some dangerous waters, as the saying goes. Which ones have stayed with you?

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s The Art of the Possible.

22 Comments

Filed under Donna Leon, James Ellroy, Martin Edwards, Megan Abbott, Michael Connelly, Robert Rotenberg

Do You Still Feel the Pain of the Scars That Won’t Heal*

Whenever someone dies, whether it’s murder or not, those left behind are affected permanently. That may be especially the case when the death is untimely. All sorts of raw emotions and hidden feelings come out, and such a death often alters the relationships among the loved ones left behind.

It’s only natural that this would be woven into crime fiction, especially crime fiction where there’s a murder. And it is. There are plenty of examples of what happens to family relationships after a sudden death. Here are just a few; I know you’ll think of plenty of others.

In James Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential, we are introduced to Edmund ‘Ed’ Exley. He’s a Los Angeles police officer whose father, Preston Exley, is beloved and revered among the police. Preston had his hopes set on his son, Thomas, rising to the very top of the LAPD as a detective. Thomas, though, was killed during World War II (the novel takes place in the early-to-mid 1950s). Now that Thomas is no longer alive, Ed Exley has the dual burden of being the surviving brother, and of living up to his father’s expectations. And it’s a difficult challenge, too, as Preston Exley is determined that a son of his will rise to the proverbial top of the tree. All of this impacts Ed when, on Christmas Day of 1951, seven civilians are brutally beaten by police officers. There’s a lot of public outrage, which has consequences for the police. Then, two years later, there’s a late-night shooting at a diner called the Nite Owl. The two incidents turn out to be related, and we see how the Exley family dynamics play a role in what happens.

Anne Perry’s Face of a Stranger is the story of the murder of Joscelin Grey, a ‘blueblood’ who was bludgeoned in his own home. London police detective William Monk is put in charge of the investigation, but he is facing a real difficulty. He was involved in a terrible accident and has lost his memory. He doesn’t even know, at first, who he is or why he is in a hospital. He does know that he wants to pick up his life again, and he can’t reveal his memory difficulty if he’s going to do that. Still, bit by bit, he and his assistant, John Evan, start asking questions. And, naturally, they want to talk to Grey’s family. This is Victorian London, where the ‘better classes’ are not accustomed to having their word questioned. And they see no reason to cooperate with a ‘mere’ policeman. But, eventually, Monk and Evan start to learn about the family dynamic. The dead man was the apple of his mother’s eye, and she won’t hear anything against him. None of her other children can quite measure up. Those children, though, don’t see things that way. And they’ve all been impacted by their mother’s bias. As the story goes on, we learn more about the complicated network of relationships in the Grey family. We also learn that more than one person had a good reason to want to kill Joscelin Grey – and not all of them are family members.

Belinda Bauer’s Blacklands introduces us to the working-class Lamb family. Nettie Lamb lives with her mother, Gloria, and her children, Steven and Davey, in the small Exmoor town of Shipcott. This isn’t an ordinary family, though. Nineteen years earlier, Nettie’s brother, Billy Peters, disappeared and never returned. The belief is that he was abducted and killed by a man named Arnold Avery, who’s currently in prison for other murders. Billy’s body was never found, though, so the family has had no real closure. Then, Steven decides to write to Avery in prison, and find out where his Uncle Billy’s body is buried. Thus begins a psychological game of cat and mouse between him and Avery, which turns very dangerous. But it also brings up real family issues. Gloria always preferred Billy over Nettie; yet, Nettie’s the one who survived. That plays its own role in the story. Among other things, it’s meant Nettie has conflicted feelings about Billy.

Paddy Richardson’s Hunting Blind begins in 1988, at a school picnic at Lake Wanaka, on New Zealand’s South Island. The Anderson family goes to the picnic, and the members soon scatter among the rest of the people there. When it’s time to go, Stephanie’s mother, Minna, sends her to get four-year-old Gemma, the youngest. But Stephanie can’t find her sister. And no-one’s seen the child since earlier. Now panicked, the entire family searches for Gemma, but can’t find her. The police are called in, and a thorough, official, search begins. But no trace of Gemma is ever found – not even a body. Gemma’s loss devastates her family, and I can say without spoiling the story that none of the family members are really the same again afterwards. Stephanie, especially, feels the loss. She feels responsible, in her way, and she feels a sense of guilt. Seventeen years later, she’s finishing up her psychiatry studies in Dunedin, when she starts to work with a new patient, Elisabeth Clark. At first, Elisabeth won’t work with Stephanie. But gradually, Stephanie learns that Elisabeth lost her sister, Gracie, in a way that’s eerily similar to the way Gemma disappeared. Stephanie decides to lay her family’s ghosts to rest and find out who wreaked so much havoc on these families. As she searches for the truth, we see how the loss of one sister has impacted the other, and their brothers (and that’s to say nothing of the parents).

And then there’s Donna Morrisey’s The Fortunate Brother. That novel features Sylvanus Now, his wife, Addie, and their children, Sylvie and Kyle. The family is suffering deeply from the loss of Sylvanus and Addie’s other son, Chris, who died three years earlier in a terrible oil rig accident in Alberta. They’re doing their best to go on with life, but they haven’t started to heal, and they’re all hurting in their own ways. Kyle, for instance, carries a great deal of guilt and grief, although he’s not responsible for Chris’ death. The Nows are jolted out of their own suffering when a local bully named Clar Gillard is killed. He was, to say the very least, unpopular, so no-one will miss him. This makes investigating the murder difficult for the police, since few people are interested in finding out who the killer is. But some of the evidence suggests that one of the Now family might be responsible. As they’re coping with this suspicion, they start drawing together just a little. That, plus a health scare, bring the members of the family a little closer, so that they can start to face their pain. Among other things, this novel offers a close look at how families are impacted when members die suddenly.

Whenever there’s a murder or other untimely death (e.g. an accident), family dynamics are permanently changed. And all sorts of things can come to the surface that might have been hidden before. That reality can add to the suspense of a crime novel and can bring in layers of character development.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s Daniel.

16 Comments

Filed under Anne Perry, Belinda Bauer, Donna Morrissey, James Ellroy, Paddy Richardson

I Wasn’t There But I Heard it All*

As this is posted, it’s 103 years since Thomas Edison invented the telescribe, a device for recording telephone conversations. Since that time, of course, technology has dramatically changed the way conversations are recorded. But the basic idea – that someone can record and later listen to one’s telephone conversations – hasn’t.

The notion of recording private telephone conversations without consent is controversial. On the one hand, wiretapping can lead to valuable information that catches criminals. On the other, there are serious issues of privacy and civil rights when telephone conversations are recorded. So, in general (not to say this always happens!), the police need a warrant in order to be allowed to record someone’s conversations without that person’s consent.

As you can imagine, there are plenty of mentions of wiretapping in crime fiction. And it doesn’t just happen in spy thrillers. Space only permits a few examples; I know you’ll think of many more than I ever could.

In Lawrence Sanders’ The Anderson Tapes, we meet professional thief John ‘Duke’ Anderson. He’s recently been released from prison, and is trying to live a legitimate life, with a legitimate job. Then, he gets the chance to visit a luxury Manhattan apartment building. The visit gives Anderson the idea for a major heist: robbing the entire building. To do that, he’ll need materials and support, so he begins to enlist both from his contacts. What he doesn’t know is that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have been wiretapping several of those contacts. So, most his conversations with those people are being recorded. In fact, plenty of the story is told through transcripts of those recordings. As Anderson begins to make final plans, the question becomes: will the police find out about the heist in time to be able to stop it?

James Ellroy’s Blood’s a Rover is the third in his Underworld USA trilogy. The novel takes place between 1968 and 1972, and it follows the political and other machinations of those years (e.g. J. Edgar Hoover’s obsession with civil rights leaders, the Mob’s behind-the-scenes development of casinos, and Nixon’s political ambitions). Three people – Wayne Tedrow, Jr. (who is a drug runner), Dwight Holly (an FBI agent whose father was a member of the Ku Klux Klan), and Don ‘Crutch’ Crutchfield (who does menial PI work) – are caught up in all of the complexity. The plot involves several ‘backroom deals’ and more than one betrayal. And it features quite a lot of wiretapping, which shouldn’t be surprising to those who know what the US political situation was during that era.

In Lynda La Plante’s Above Suspicion, Anna Travis joins the Murder Squad at Queen’s Park, London. At the time, the squad is facing a perplexing case. Seventeen-year-old Melissa Stephens has been murdered, and the profile of her death fits that of six other women who’ve also been killed. But there are major differences. For instance, the other victims were older sex workers, but Melissa was young, and not a sex worker. Still, Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) James Langton believes that the same killer is responsible. After a time, the team settles on a suspect: up-and-coming television/film star Alan Daniels. But it’s going to be difficult. He is beloved, wealthy, and well-connected. What’s more, there’s very little evidence that conclusively links him to the crime. He may, in fact, be innocent. As the story goes on, the team uses recordings and ‘wires’ to find out the truth, and it’s interesting to see how those fit in.

Ed McBain’s Criminal Conversation (he wrote this one as Evan Hunter) features an ambitious assistant district attorney named Michael Welles. He has a particular loathing for the Mob, so when a thug named Dominick di Nobili is ready tell what he knows about Mob operations, Welles is only too happy to listen. It seems that de Nobili owed a big gambling debt to a loan shark, and the result is that he’s now caught between two major crime families: the Colottis and the Faviolas. As he sees it, he’s safer in police custody than he is on the streets. Welles arranges for all sorts of telephone tapping and other surveillance, thinking he finally has the opportunity to bring down these crime groups. But what he doesn’t know is what the wiretapping will actually reveal. When he finds that out, he learns that it’s all much closer to home than he imagined.

And then there’s Michael Connelly’s The Closers. In that novel, Harry Bosch is working in the Open-Unsolved Unit of the LAPD. And, in one plot thread, he re-opens the murder of sixteen-year-old Rebecca Verloren, who was taken from her parents’ home and shot. Bosch finds that there’s a possible DNA match between evidence on the gun used in the crime, and a man named Roland Mackey. Now that his interest in Mackey is piqued, Bosch wants to trace Rebecca’s last few days and weeks, to see if there’d been any contact with Mackey. More than that, Bosch wants to record Mackey’s telephone conversations. As he says to his colleague, Kiz Rider,
 

‘‘…since Nine-Eleven and the Patriot Act it’s easier for us to get a wiretap.’
 

And she agrees:
 

‘The word’s sort of gotten around that this is a tool we can use now.’’
 

That said, though, approval for recording telephone conversations isn’t usually given capriciously.

And there’s good reason for that. Recording and listening to someone’s telephone conversations is an invasion of that person’s privacy. But at the same time, it can yield valuable information. So, it’s little wonder that tactic is used in some criminal investigation. An, of course, that means it shows up in crime fiction.

 
 
 

*NOTE: the title of this post is a line from the Undertones’ Listening In.

12 Comments

Filed under Ed McBain, Evan Hunter, James Ellroy, Lawrence Sanders, Lynda La Plante, Michael Connelly

But His Blood Runs Through My Instrument and His Song is in My Soul*

Crime-fictional sleuths get into the business for any number of reasons. And one of those reasons is that their father or mother was a detective. You might say these sleuths are legacies to their parents.

Sometimes that’s a good thing. It can give a detective an ‘in’ (e.g. ‘Oh, yeah, of course. Knew your dad.’). Sometimes it can be a burden, especially when the sleuth makes a mistake, or if the parent is or was under a cloud of suspicion. Either way, that connection to the past can add an interesting layer of character development. It can add tension to a plot, too.

In Agatha Christie’s The Clocks, we are introduced to Special Agent Colin Lamb. As the story begins, he’s searching for clues to the death of a colleague. Apparently, the dead man had uncovered evidence of a spy ring but was killed before he could name names. The clues that Lamb does have lead him to Wilbraham Crescent, a development in the town of Crowdean. Lamb’s trying to find the address he wants when a young woman runs out of one of the houses screaming. Lamb settles her as best he can, and then goes into the house. There, he finds the body of an unidentified man. He alerts the police, and inspector Richard Hardcastle takes the case. It’s an intriguing mystery, and Lamb thinks it might interest his father’s friend, Hercule Poirot. Poirot is, indeed interested – more than he admits at first – and he and Lamb work with Hardcastle to find out who the victim was and who killed him. It’s clear that Poirot has an affection for Lamb’s father, and it’s interesting to see that aspect of Lamb’s past as the story goes on.

In James Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential, we are introduced to Edmund ‘Ed’ Exley. He’s become a member of the LAPD mostly because of the influence of his father, the beloved and revered Preston Exley. It’s Exley Senior’s dream that his son will rise to the very top of the LAPD, and he does everything he can, including pushing and prodding his son, to make that happen. It’s a real challenge for Exley Junior, as everyone in the police department knows his father. Still, he aims to please, and does work to ‘get to ahead.’ On Christmas Day, 1951, seven civilians are brutally attacked by members of the police department. A groundswell of public outrage forces an internal investigation, and that has consequences. Two years later, there’s another tragedy, this time a late-night shooting at the Nite Owl diner.  As it turns out, these two incidents are related, and Ed Exley’s drawn into both. As the story goes on, we see how Exley is impacted by having a father who’s well-known in the business.

Above Suspicion is the first of Lynda La Plante’s novels to feature Anna Travis. In the novel, she’s just been promoted to the rank of Detective Sergeant and has applied to join the Murder Squad at Queen’s Park, London. Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) James Langton is looking for the right new person on the Murder Squad, and Travis’ résumé is impressive. It doesn’t hurt matters that Langton knew Travis’ father, Jack, who had a very good reputation on the police force. Travis misses her father, so she appreciates that Langton mentions him when they first meet. There’s not much time for sentimentality, though, because the Murder Squad has a difficult case on their hands. The body of seventeen-year-old Melissa Stephens has been discovered. In many ways, her murder resembles that of six other ‘cold case’ murders the team has. So, it could be the same killer. But there are some important differences. For one thing, the other victims were middle-aged, but Melissa was in her teens. For another, the other victims were sex workers, and Melissa wasn’t. Still, Langton believes they’re dealing with the same person. The team settles on a suspect, Alan Daniels. But that’s going to be a big problem. Daniels is a beloved television star who’s poised for real success in films. What’s more, he’s very wealthy and ‘connected,’ so the team will have to have convincing evidence if they’re to pursue the case. And there’s a possibility that they’re wrong, and the killer is someone else. Throughout the novel, we see the impact on Travis of being the daughter of a well-known and well-regarded police detective.

Cara Black’s Aimée Leduc inherited her Paris detective agency from her father. She grew up around his business, and, tragically, witnessed his murder. Since then, she and her business partner, René Friant, have run Leduc Detective together. In the first novel in this series, Murder in the Marais, Leduc and Friant get a case because of a connection to Leduc’s father. Soli Hecht visits the agency, saying that he needs Leduc’s help. At first, she refuses, but then he says,
 

‘‘I knew your father. An honorable man. He told me to come to you if I needed help.’’
 

That gives Leduc pause, and she hears Hecht out. It seems he wants her to decrypt a particular computer code and give the information she gets to a woman named Lili Stein. Leduc agrees, but by the time she finishes, Lili Stein has been murdered. Now, she gets drawn into a case of murder that is connected to another, long-ago murder.

There’s an interesting twist on this dynamic in Martin Edwards’ Lake District Series.  That series features Hannah Scarlett, who leads the Cumbria Constabulary’s Cold Case Review Team. Earlier in her career, she was mentored by Ben Kind, and they worked together on more than one case. His son, Daniel, has become an Oxford historian who’s taken a cottage in the Lake District. He knows Scarlett, because of the connection with his father, and she’s able to shed some light on his father’s professional career. Each in a slightly different way, Scarlett and Kind work together as she investigates cases.

Being a sort of legacy can be a challenge in real life. In fiction, though, it can add an interesting layer to a character. It can also add a solid plot point or point of suspense.

 
 
 

*NOTE:  The title of this post is a line from Dan Fogelberg’s Leader of the Band.

12 Comments

Filed under Agatha Christie, Cara Black, James Ellroy, Lynda La Plante, Martin Edwards