Category Archives: James Lee Burke

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

The Other Side of You*

multipleseriesMany crime fiction authors write more than one series. There are a lot of reasons for doing that, too. For instance, the author may want to ‘start fresh’ if a series has gone on for a while. Or, the author may want to experiment and try something new. Sometimes, if an author’s first series has done well, a publisher may request that the author start another series. Whatever the reason, the choice to have more than one series raises a question: how to generate interest in what may be a lesser-known series.

In some cases, both (or, at times, all three) of an author’s series are well-known. For instance, one of Elly Griffith’s series features Ruth Galloway, a forensic archaeologist who teaches at North Norfolk University. Her expertise is frequently tapped by the police, mostly in the form of Harry Nelson. Griffiths fans will know that she also has another series, the Max Mephisto novels. These novels are set in the 1950’s, and feature Mephisto, who is a magician by profession. Both series are highly regarded. In this case, you might argue that Griffiths’ success with the Ruth Galloway series meant that there was an audience likely to be interested in the Max Mephisto series.

Robert B. Parker first gained a reputation with his Spenser novels, which he wrote between the mid-1970s and 2013. In fact, he may be best known for those novels. But he also wrote other series. Beginning in the late 1990s, he wrote a series featuring Police Chief Jesse Stone, and another featuring PI Sunny Randall. He even took the risk of having Stone and Randall join forces, both personally and professionally. Those series may be less well-known than the Spenser novels, but they are well-regarded.

Beginning in 1970, Reginald Hill became best-known for his series featuring Superintendent Andy Dalziel and Sergeant (later DI) Peter Pascoe. As fans can tell you, the series ran for decades, and was successfully adapted for television. Starting in 1993, Hill created another protagonist, small-time PI Joe Sixsmith. He’s quite a different character to Dalziel (and to Pascoe). He’s an unassuming former lathe operator who also sings in a choir. Among other differences, this series isn’t as gritty as the Dalziel/Pascoe series can be. It’s also likely not as well known. But it’s certainly got fans.

That’s also the case for Kerry Greenwood. Her Phryne Fisher series takes place in Melbourne in the late 1920s, and features socialite Phryne Fisher, who becomes a ‘lady detective.’ Phryne is wealthy, elegant, and has access to the highest social circles. She’s quite independent and free-thinking, too. Greenwood’s other series, which began in 2004, is a contemporary series, also based in Melbourne, that features accountant-turned baker Corinna Chapman. Like Phryne, Corinna is independent and intelligent. But this is a very different series. Chapman is very much ‘the rest of us’ in appearance and income. Like most people, she has bills to pay, and doesn’t live in a sumptuous mansion. Both series feature regular casts of characters, and tend to be less violent and gritty than dark, noir novels are.

If you’ve read any of James Lee Burke’s work, my guess is that you probably read from his Dave Robicheaux series. That series features New Iberia, Louisiana police detective Robicheaux, and is one of the best-regarded series in American crime fiction. It’s a long-running series, and has gotten all sorts of acclaim. But it’s not Burke’s only series. He’s also written a series that feature the different members of the Holland family. This series is written as a set of standalone books that feature the different members of the Holland family. For instance, there’s Texas sheriff Hackberry Holland and his cousin Billy Bob Holland (who is a former Texas Ranger and now an attorney). Their grandfather was another lawman, also named Hackberry Holland. There’s also Weldon Avery Holland. He is another of the original Hackberry Holland’s grandsons. Several of the Holland family novels are historical, and are almost as much saga as they are crime novels. In fact, some question whether some of them are crime novels. In that sense, they’re quite different to the Robicheaux stories.

Fans of Ann Cleeves’ work can tell you that she’s done the Jimmy Perez Shetland novels, as well as the Vera Stanhope novels. These series are set in different parts of the UK, and feature different protagonists with different backstories. Both are very well regarded, and both have been adapted for television. But, before either of those series was published, Cleeves wrote another series featuring Inspector Ramsay of the Northumberland Police. She also wrote a series, beginning in the late 1980s, featuring retired Home Office investigator George Palmer-Jones and his wife, Molly.

And then there’s Vicki Delany, who writes the Moonlight ‘Molly’ Smith series, a contemporary police procedural series set mostly in British Columbia. She’s also written historical crime fiction featuring saloon and dance hall owner Fiona MacGillivray. That series takes place at the end of the 19th Century, in Dawson, Yukon Territory. Delany has also just started a new series. This one takes place in Rudolph, NY, and is a lighter series featuring shop owner Merry Wilkinson.

There are, of course, other authors, such as Elizabeth Spann Craig, who write multiple series. Sometimes, those series are equally well-known. Other times, one series is much better known than the other.

Now, here’s the question. If you’ve really enjoyed an author’s work in one series, does that prompt you to go back and look for another series by that author? Does it depend on whether the two series are concurrent? Or on whether they’re similar (e.g. both cosy series)? I’d really like your opinion on this. Please vote, if you wish, in the poll below. I’ll let it run for a week, and then we’ll talk about it again.
 

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a title of the song by the Mighty Lemon Drops.

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Filed under Ann Cleeves, Elizabeth Spann Craig, James Lee Burke, Kerry Greenwood, Reginald Hill, Robert B. Parker, Vicki Delany

We Can Discover the Wonders of Nature*

natural-restorativeIf you’ve read novels featuring Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, you’ll know that she’s very fond of her garden. Admittedly, she likes the opportunity that gardening gives her to – erm – observe others. But she also likes being outdoors when the weather allows it.

She’s not alone. There’s actually credible research that suggests that we all benefit in many ways (cognitive, emotional, and more) from being in nature. In fact, research that a colleague and friend has done suggests that children learn better, have fewer mental and other health problems, and are more creative if they are out in nature. And that’s only a few of the benefits. That may be one reason so many of us were told to ‘run outdoors and play’ when we were young.

Certainly being outdoors, without electronics, can be a real restorative. So it’s not surprising that we see plenty of cases of sleuths who like their time in nature. For instance, in Dorothy Sayers’ Have His Carcase, mystery novelist Harriet Vane is recovering from the traumatic experience of being charged with murder (read Strong Poison for the details of that). She decides to take a break from the world by going on a hiking holiday near Wilvercombe. And at first, she does find it both relaxing and restorative. It helps her get some perspective, as nature tends to do. One afternoon, she stops to take a rest near a beach. When she wakes up, the tide is out, and she sees the body of a dead man. She alerts the authorities, who begin the investigation. The man is soon identified as Paul Alexis, a Russian-born professional dancer who works at a nearby hotel. Before long, Lord Peter Wimsey joins Vane, and together, they work to find out who would have wanted to kill the victim. It turns out that there are several possibilities.

The central focus of Ruth Rendell’s Road Rage has to do with Framhurst Great Wood, which lies near the town of Kingsmarkham. There’s a plan to run a road through the wood, and plenty of people are upset about it. And that includes Inspector Reg Wexford. He’s resigned to the development, but he’s not happy about it:
 

‘When I retire, he had told his wife, I want to live in London so that I can’t see the countryside destroyed.’
 

He’s not alone. Many people love the forest, and don’t want to see it ruined. Several activist groups arrive in the area to protest the new road, and Wexford knows there’s going to be trouble. Matters get far worse when the situation disintegrates to a hostage-taking incident. What’s more, one of the hostages is Wexford’s own wife, Dora. Then there’s a murder. Now Wexford and his team have to solve the murder as well as try to find a way to free the hostages.

Louise Penny’s Armand Gamache enjoys spending time in nature, too. In fact, in A Rule Against Murder, he and his wife, Reine-Marie, travel to the Manoir Bellechasse for an annual getaway to celebrate their anniversary. It’s a time for them to get away from it all, and at first, it’s a wonderful trip:
 

‘One day rolled gently into the next as the Gamaches swam in Lac Massawippi and went for leisurely walks through the fragrant woods.’
 

They enjoy themselves thoroughly until they begin to get to know the dysfunctional Finney family, who are also staying at the lodge. Then, there’s a murder. Now Gamache finds that his peaceful, natural retreat is anything but.

Fans of James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux can tell you that, in the first novels in the series, he lives in a small, rural home on a bayou where he operates a fish dock. Later, he lives in a house that’s a little less rural, but not far away from the bayou. Robicheaux often finds peace when he simply spends time out on a lake, away from ‘it all.’ Although he’s not an eco-warrior, he understands the value of nature’s rhythms, and some of nature’s healing power. And Burke’s descriptions share that natural beauty with the reader.

Many indigenous cultures are infused with the understanding of how important a connection with nature really is. Fans of Tony Hillerman’s Jim Chee, or of Arthur Upfield’s Napoleon ‘Bony’ Bonaparte can tell you that those sleuths pay very close attention to nature, and are attuned to its rhythms. They connect on a regular basis with the natural world.

So does Adrian Hyland’s Emily Tempest. In Diamond Dove (AKA Moonlight Downs), we learn that she spent her childhood among her mother’s Aborigine people:
 

‘…my little mob and I would hunt in the hills, fish in the creeks, climb the skeletal trees, scour the countryside on horses borrowed from the stock camps.’
 

Emily ended up being sent away to boarding school in Adelaide, but she returns to the Moonlight Downs encampment and finds a place to belong. And she reconnects in this novel and in Gunshot Road with the natural world.

Even dedicated city dwellers know how restorative it can be to take a walk in a park, listen to birds, grow plants, or sit watching the sea. For instance, there isn’t a much more determined ‘city person’ than Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe. But fans know that he gets his ‘nature fix,’ too. He spends a few hours each day with his orchids. If you find that being in nature calms you and helps you focus, well, the research supports you. Little wonder we see so many fictional sleuths who know that.

Speaking of nature…just for fun, can you spot the baby lizard in the ‘photo (You can click on the ‘photo to enlarge it if you like)?

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from the Grateful Dead’s Sugar Magnolia.

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Filed under Adrian Hyland, Agatha Christie, Arthur Upfield, Dorothy Sayers, James Lee Burke, Louise Penny, Rex Stout, Ruth Rendell, Tony Hillerman

Still the Rain Kept Pourin’ *

hurricanesHave you ever experienced a hurricane (they’re also called typhoons and cyclones, depending on where you live)? I have, and trust me, they can be frightening. On the one hand, people do now get advance warning about hurricanes, so that there’s a little time to evacuate if that’s necessary, or to lay in supplies, fasten the hurricane shutters and wait the storm out.

But the fact is, no matter how prepared one is, a hurricane is a furious storm. That’s even more the case if people don’t have the means or the infrastructure to withstand that kind of weather. As dangerous as hurricanes can be, they can make for a very effective context for a crime novel. There’s the element of danger, and there’s the suspense. All sorts of things can happen in a hurricane, too. So it’s no wonder that we see them in the genre.

Before he began his Travis McGee series, John D. MacDonald wrote several standalone novels that most people consider hardboiled. One of them was Murder in the Wind. In that novel, Hurricane Hilda forms, and slowly moves from the Caribbean towards Florida. As it does, many people try to leave the area and outrun the storm. The plot of this novel features six carloads of people who are driving north of Tampa when the bridge over the Waccasassa River goes out. Unable to turn back, they take shelter in an abandoned house to wait out the storm. As you can imagine, when a group of different sorts of characters is thrown together, anything can happen. And as MacDonald shows us, the storm itself adds to the conflict. I know, I know, fans of Condominium.

James Lee Burke’s The Tin Roof Blowdown takes place in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Many people have been left stranded by the high water, and Father Jude Le Blanc sets off in a boat to try to save some of his parishioners. He goes missing (and has presumably been shot), and the boat he was using ends up in the hands of looters, police detective Dave Robicheaux makes a connection between them and Le Blanc’s disappearance. Since they two were old friends, Robicheaux feels an especially strong need to find out what happened to the priest. Among other things, this novel shows the devastation that was left behind after Katrina, especially in poor and remote areas.

In Fly on the Wall, Mike Hirsh introduces volunteer Sheriff’s Deputy Paul ‘Fly’ Moscone. He’s retired from his job selling mainframe computers, and moved to Punta Gorda, Florida. Now, he works a few days a week as ‘an extra body on the streets.’  When Hurricane Charley slams through the area, there’s a lot of damage and chaos. And in its aftermath, there’s a dead body: wealthy John Catlett. His body is found in his upmarket apartment, and at first, it’s not clear that it’s a murder. But Moscone isn’t completely convinced, and he and his buddy Jinx, a recovering reporter, look into the matter. One of the other plot points in the novel is that someone has apparently been targeting the insurance claim adjusters who always move in on a hurricane-hit area. It’s an interesting look at that aspect of making it through this sort of weather.

Chris Grabenstein’s Free Fall doesn’t, admittedly, take place during a hurricane. But the fictional town of Sea Haven, New Jersey is one of many, many towns that were severely impacted by Superstorm Sandy. So, at the beginning of the novel, police detective Danny Boyle and John Ceepak, his former boss, now Chief of Detectives, are faced with budget cuts and a limited police force. All of this has come from trying to repair the damage and open the town for the all-important summer tourist season. One day, Boyle and his new partner are on patrol when they get a call about an alleged assault. The supposed assailant is Christine Lemonopolous, a friend of Boyle’s. She claims to be innocent, and Ceepak and Boyle believe her. Then, one of Christine’s home health care patients dies. Now the two detectives have to face the possibility that they’ve let a killer loose. This novel mentions, among other things, what it takes to get a place working again after a major storm.

There’s also David Holmberg’s The Hurricane Murders, which takes place in 1998. In that novel, Hurricane Angela strikes the West Palm Beach/Palm Beach, Florida area. Journalist Jake Arnett has been ‘sentenced to paradise,’ and now lives in West Palm Beach. In the aftermath of the hurricane, Arnett is assigned to the story when the bodies of Diane and Carolyn Madigan are found in their apartment. Both have been shot, and there are no signs of forced entry. So the police and Arnett start by looking among the people the victims knew. Arnett slowly builds a portrait of the women, the people they’d met, and the places they’d been. And in the end, he finds out who the killer is.

Jane Harrod’s Deadly Deceit finds British Diplomat Jess Turner on temporary assignment at the Governor’s Office of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) in the Caribbean. She arrives to the terrible news that the Governor’s been in an awful hit-and-run accident, and been rushed away for emergency surgery. It’s not long, though, before Jess finds that this was no accident. In the meantime, Australian DI Tom Sangster is in Miami for talks on global solutions to criminal gangs who engage in smuggling migrants. Jess is a friend of his, so when he learns she’s in the Caribbean, he visits her to find out how the British government manages the problem in the islands, especially immigration from nearby Haiti. While he’s visiting her, there’s a brutal murder.  And an approaching hurricane means he and Jess are not going to have much time to look into the secrets the island is hiding. The storm certainly adds a layer of urgency to the story.

Real-life hurricanes can do an immense amount of damage. And as you know, Hurricane Matthew has shown us all very recently just how awful a hurricane can be. It’s not just a matter of providing physical shelter for people. It’s water, tents, medicine, food that’s not contaminated, functioning hospitals and more.

You can do something to help those who’ve been so badly affected by the hurricane. This is important in all the areas impacted, but perhaps especially in Haiti, where there’s little infrastructure and less money. How can you help? Check out the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund. G’wan, click it. I have it on trustworthy authority that this is a reliable way to do your part for those in so much need.

You can also donate to the Red Cross, which is helping those who’ve lost so much in Haiti, and in the US. Don’t live in the US? No problem. There’s a Red Cross in your country. Perhaps you can’t hop on a plane and go rebuild. But you can help.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Creedance Clearwater Revival’s Who’ll Stop the Rain?

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Filed under Chris Grabenstein, David Holmberg, James Lee Burke, Jane Harrod, John D. MacDonald, Mike Hirsh

Sister Mary Used To Be a Nun*

Former NunsAn interesting post from Moira at Clothes in Books has got me thinking about women who join a convent, but then later, decide to leave it. Nuns who choose to leave the convent have to re-accustom themselves to the outside world, and that’s not always easy. But they have an interesting perspective on both the religious life and the secular life. There are several such characters in crime fiction. Here are few; I know you’ll think of others.

In Catherine Aird’s The Religious Body, Inspector D.C. Sloan and his assistant, Constable William Crosby, investigate a mysterious death at the Convent of St. Anselm. Sister Mary St. Anne (Sister Anne)’s body has been found at the bottom of the basement staircase, and it’s soon clear that this was no accident. One of the lines of investigation that Sloan has to follow is the network of relationships among the nuns. To get a perspective on that, and on the victim’s interactions with the others, he turns to the former Sister Bertha, now once again using her birth name of Eileen Lome. She’s been out of the convent less than a month, and still finds everything very, very different. What she tells the Sloan doesn’t solve the murder. But it does give an important perspective on Sister Anne’s personality and background. And it provides readers with an interesting look at what it’s like to leave the convent.

Marian Babson’s Untimely Guest is the story of a staunchly Catholic Irish family, headed by a strong-willed matriarch known only as Mam. Mam’s adult sons Kevin and Patrick are married and have their own families. Her daughter Dee Dee has committed what, for Mam, is the terrible sin of getting divorced. Her daughter Veronica lives at home and cares for her. The whole family is rocked when Mam’s daughter Bridget ‘Bridie’ returns to the family after ten years in a convent. Financial problems have meant the closure of the convent, and Bridie really has nowhere else to go. Besides having to adjust to the outside world again, Bridie’s going to find it extremely difficult to tell the truth to Mam, since it was Mam who was determined she’d enter the convent in the first place. As it happens, Dee Dee also returns to the family, hoping to introduce them to her new fiancé. All the ingredients are there for a family feud, and that’s exactly what happens. Then one day, Dee Dee takes a tragic fall down a staircase and dies. But was it an accident? And if it wasn’t, which family member is responsible?

Fans of James Lee Burke’s Louisiana police detective Dave Robicheaux will know that, in Crusader’s Cross, he investigates the 50-year-old murder of a prostitute. In the course of that, he goes up against the powerful and wealthy Chalon family. And it turns out, they’ve had some run-ins before with one Sister Molly Boyle, who runs a group that builds houses for the poor and homeless. So he follows up that lead by meeting Sister Molly and talking to her. That interview is the beginning of what turns into a romance between them. Fans will know, too, that she later leaves the convent and becomes Robicheaux’s wife.

In Gene Kerrigan’s Rage, Dublin DS Bob Tidey and Garda Rose Cheney investigate the murder Emmet Sweetman, a banker who was murdered, execution-style, in his own home. In the meantime, Vincent Naylor has recently been released from prison. Now he re-connects with his girlfriend, Michelle Flood, his brother Noel, and some of his friends. Together, they plan a heist that will set them all up financially. The target is to be a van belonging to Protectica, a security company that transports money among banks. The Naylor brothers and their friends duly pull off the heist. But then there’s a tragedy that changes everything. In the midst of it all, and a link between these cases, is a former nun named Maura Cody. She has her own secrets, and her own private reasons for leaving the convent. Something she sees draws her into Tidey’s investigations, and makes her vulnerable. So Tidey and Cheney determine to do everything possible to keep her safe.

There are also some series with former nuns as protagonist. For example, there’s Alice Loweecey’s series featuring Giulia Falcone, whom we meet in Force of Habit. In that novel, we learn that she’s recently left the convent and gone to work for Driscoll Investigations, which is run by former cop Frank Driscoll. The main plot in this novel features wealthy Blake Parker and his fiancée, who’ve been getting some disturbing ‘gifts.’ But woven throughout the novel is also Falcone’s process of getting used to the outside world again. As the series goes on, she gets more accustomed to it, and more streetwise, and that evolution of her character adds a layer to the novels. Oh, and it’s also worth noting that Loweecey herself is a former nun.

There’s also Lee Harris’ (AKA Syrell Leahy) Christine Bennett series. Bennett is a former nun who lived at St. Stephen’s Convent, and taught English. Now she’s moved to Oakwood, in upstate New York, and lives in her now-deceased Aunt Margaret’s house. In The Good Friday Murder, where we first meet her, Bennet attends a town meeting where one point of contention is the planned relocation of Greenwillow Institution to the town. For Bennett, this has personal implications, since her cousin, Gene, is a resident in the institution, and she is his legal guardian. Through Gene, Bennett has gotten to know a pair of savant twins with mental retardation who were convicted many years earlier of murdering their mother. Now senior citizens, they’ve become friends to Bennett, and she doesn’t think they’re guilty of murder. The institution needs support for its plan to move to Oakwood, and Bennett is a connection between the two. So she agrees to look into that old murder case to try to exonerate the twins. Along with the murder investigation, readers also get a look at what it’s like to readjust to the outside world after a long time ‘away.’

There are plenty of other crime novels and series that include this sort of character. Which ones have stayed with you?

Thanks, Moira, for the inspiration. Now, may I suggest your next blog visit be Clothes in Books? A treasure trove of posts about clothes and popular culture in fiction, and what it all means about us, awaits you.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Jewel Kilcher’s Everybody Needs Someone Sometime.

 

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Filed under Alice Loweecey, Catherine Aird, Gene Kerrigan, James Lee Burke, Lee Harris, Marian Babson, Syrell Leahy