Humans are social by our very nature. Of course, some of us are much more socially inclined than others, and some of us aren’t really ‘joiners’ at all. But to an extent, we all need social connections.
That may be part of the reason for which there are so many interest clubs. There are book clubs, travel clubs, wine clubs, and sport clubs, to name just a very few. And people join these groups as much for the social interaction as for anything else. After all, you don’t need to belong to a book club to read and enjoy a novel. But many people enjoy the exchange of ideas and different perspectives. There’s also the fact that someone else may notice something about a story that you didn’t. The opportunity to interact with and learn from other people who share an interest is really appealing.
It’s little wonder, then, that we see so many examples of this sort of shared-interest club in crime fiction. In fact, Agatha Christie’s The Thirteen Problems (AKA The Tuesday Club Murders) combines an interest club with murder. It’s a collection of short stories, each detailing a murder. Each story is told by one member of what’s called the Tuesday Club (the group meets each Tuesday). Then, the club discusses the murder and its solution. Miss Marple is a member of this club, so, as you can imagine, her insights prove quite helpful. You’re right, fans of Anthony Berkeley’s The Poisoned Chocolates Case…
In Rex Stout’s Gambit, we are introduced to the exclusive Gambit Chess Club. Matthew Blount is a member of the club, so he’s always interested in new opponents. He’s played a few times against magician and party-trickster Paul Jerrin, and decides to have Jerrin match wits against the rest of the club. The plan is that Jerrin will sit in one room, blindfolded, and play twelve simultaneous matches against different club members, who are in other rooms. Moves will be communicated by messenger. All goes well enough at first. But then, Jerrin suddenly collapses and dies of what turns out to be poisoned hot chocolate. Blount’s immediately suspected, since he was the one who brought Jerrin the chocolate. But Blount’s daughter, Sally, is sure that he’s innocent. She hires Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin to find out who’s really guilty.
Tarquin Hall’s The Man Who Died Laughing begins as Dr. Suresh Jha attends a session of the Delhi-based Rajpath Laughing Club. The group meets to use laughter and silliness to relieve the stress of daily life. This morning, though, everything is different. During the group’s meeting, so say witnesses, the goddess Kali appears and stabs Jha. Believers say that she killed him as punishment for his lack of belief, and the story makes a lot of the news headlines. Jha was the founder of the Delhi Institute for Research and Education (D.I.R.E.), which is devoted to debunking superstition, and he’d made his share of enemies. So, when PI Vishwas ‘Vish’ Puri hears about his death, he suspects that this murderer isn’t a goddess at all, but a human. And, since Jha was once a client, Puri decides to find out who’s responsible.
In Jill Edmonson’s The Lies Have It, Toronto PI Sasha Jackson agrees to help her friend, Jessica, tend bar at the Stealth Lounge, which is a private party room in the Pilot Tavern. A fetish club called Bound For Glory has booked the Stealth Lounge for a big party, and some of the staff members aren’t willing to work that event. So, the Stealth needs some extra ‘fill-in’ help. Soon after the party, Ian Dooley, head of the club, is found murdered near Cherry Beach. At first, it looks as though some of the ‘party games’ went too far. But soon enough, it’s clear that Dooley was deliberately murdered. Now, Jackson adds to her case load as she works to find out who the murderer is.
With today’s online capability, there are also plenty of online clubs. And they, too, pose danger – well, at least fictionally. In Cat Connor’s Killerbyte, for instance, we are introduced to FBI special agent Gabrielle ‘Ellie’ Conway. She’s an ex-pat New Zealander who has a special love of poetry. In fact, she co-moderates an online chat room/poetry club called Cobwebs. When one of the members, Carter McClaren, behaves inappropriately, Conway sees no choice but to ban him from the club. He then shows up at her home to ‘pay her back.’ He’s arrested, but is able to pay bail. Then, later, he’s murdered, and his body is found in Conway’s car. With it is a Post-It note with a cryptic piece of poetry written on it. Then, there’s another murder, also of a club/chat room member. Again, a piece of poetry is left near the body. Now, Conway and her fellow moderator/lover Cormac ‘Mac’ Connelly have to find out which of the other club members is the murderer.
Interest clubs can be really enjoyable. And they’re often excellent ways to get new ideas and have some social interaction. But peaceful? Not always…
*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Saint Etienne.