Category Archives: Jussi Adler-Olsen

Give Me One Quick Glance*

Authors build suspense in many different ways, depending on the story, the (sub)genre, and a lot more. One way that some authors do this is by referring to a pivotal incident without actually detailing it, at least at first. When it’s done well, this strategy can invite the reader to engage in the story to find out more about the incident. But it’s not easy to do well. And when it’s done poorly, it simply annoys readers, many of whom don’t want to be strung along like that. That said, though, we do see this strategy in crime fiction.

For instance, in Claire McGowan’s The Lost, forensic psychologist Dr. Paula Maguire returns from London to her native Northern Ireland. She’s been persuaded to help set up a cold case review team in her home town of Ballyterrin. She’s reluctant to return, but her father has recently broken a leg, and this will give her the opportunity to help take care of him. Professionally, she gets involved in the search for several young girls who’ve gone missing. But at first, we’re not told why she left Ballyterrin in the first place. It was a pivotal incident, and it’s referred to here and there, but it’s not detailed until later in the novel. We get hints of it as the story goes on, but we’re not told everything right away.

Joseph Wambaugh’s The Choirboys begins with references to a shooting that takes place in Los Angeles’ MacArthur Park. We are not told who’s been shot, nor what led to the shooting. What we do learn is that several police officers were involved, and there’s going to be an internal investigation into what happened. The novel then goes on to tell the stories of those officers. It seems that they regularly gather in the park for what they call ‘choir practice’ – drinking, venting, commiserating, and occasional sex with a couple of cocktail waitresses who stop by from time to time. The group has gotten the name ‘the choirboys,’ and they’re the main focus of the investigation. The novel follows these officers in the days and weeks and months before the shooting as they make arrests, work together, and so on. The, we learn of some key events that take place just before the shooting. The story of what actually happened in the shooting isn’t laid out until close to the end of the book, and then the story moves to the impact it all has on those involved.

In a slightly similar way, Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Mercy mentions a line-of-duty shooting incident from very early in the novel. Copenhagen homicide detective Carl Mørck has just returned to work after being badly wounded in this incident, and it’s still impacting his mental as well as his physical health. In fact, he’s become so difficult to work with that he’s ‘volunteered’ to head up a new department – ‘Department Q’ – mostly to get him out of others’ way. This department is charged with looking into cases ‘of special interest,’ which are unsolved cases that need attention. The idea is to show that the police are not ignoring them. The first case that Mørck and his new assistant, Hafez al-Assad investigate is the five-year-old disappearance of up-and-coming politician Merete Lynnggard. It was always believed that she went overboard in a terrible ferry accident, but now, new evidence hints that she is still alive. If she is, the team may not have much time left to find her. The shooting incident that left Mørck injured, one colleague dead, and another with paralysis is not detailed until later in the novel. Then, we learn what led up to it and why Mørck feels as he does about it.

Spencer Quinn’s The Right Side is the story of U.S. Army Sergeant LeAnn Hogan. She’s been very badly wounded in a bombing in Afghanistan and has been in Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in Bethesda, Maryland. While she’s at Walter Reed, LeAnn befriends her roommate, Marci Cumming, who’s dealing with her own injuries. Then, Marci unexpectedly dies. With that important support system gone, LeAnn decides to leave Walter Reed. She takes a road trip across the US to Bellville, Washington, Marci’s home town. She arrives too late to attend Marci’s funeral, but she does at least want to pay her respects to the family. That’s when she learns that Marci’s eight-year-old daughter, Mia, has gone missing. LeAnn wants to help find the child if she’s still alive, but she soon learns that not everyone is enthused about that. In fact, she encounters some hostile reactions. That doesn’t really deter her, though. In the meantime, LeAnn hears from Captain Gerald Stallings, who’s investigating the bombing that wounded her. There are several things about the incident that aren’t what they seem, and Stallings wants her help, since she was there. LeAnn doesn’t want to get involved for a number of reasons, but she’s not given any other option. So, very reluctantly, and in exchange for Stalling’s help finding Mia, she agrees. It’s not until later in the story, as Stalling’s investigation continues, that we learn the details of what happened in that bombing.

And then there’s Jane Woodham’s Twister, which takes place mostly in Dunedin. A nasty ‘flu virus has decimated the ranks of the police, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. Five days of rain soak the city, and then a twister comes through. In the aftermath of the storm, the body of Tacey Wenlock, who’s been missing for two weeks, is discovered in Ross Creek. Detective Senior Sergeant Leo Judd is tapped to head the investigation into her death, and he wouldn’t have been the first choice. He’s a skilled detective, but his own daughter, Beth, went missing nine years earlier, and has never been found. He and his wife are still devastated, and no-one would have asked him to handle a case so ‘close to home’ as the Wenlock case if there were any other option. Judd and his team dig in and start looking for the truth. Beth’s disappearance is mentioned early in the book, but not detailed. It’s only as the story goes on that we learn what led to it, how that day played out, and what really happened to her.

And there are times when referring to a pivotal incident like that without detailing it can work quite well. If the author gives enough information so that the reader doesn’t feel cheated (but not so much that the reader isn’t curious), the strategy can work. But it’s tricky and can easily fall flat if it’s not done well.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from The Cramps’ What’s Behind The Mask.

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Filed under Claire McGowan, Jane Woodham, Joseph Wambaugh, Jussi Adler-Olsen, Spencer Quinn

Jump*

One way authors invite readers to engage in a story is to begin that story at a climactic moment. In other words, authors invite the reader to ‘jump right in’ to the action. This climactic plot structure has the advantage of ‘hooking’ readers immediately. Then, as the story goes on, the author adds in details about the characters, about what led to the story’s climax, and so on. It’s got some disadvantages, too. Readers don’t really get to know the characters well before a major incident happens. So, it can be hard to identify (or choose not to identify) with a character. It can also be tricky to keep the story moving if it’s started with a major plot event. Still, it can work well.

There are lots of examples of crime novels in which this happens. For instance, Agatha Christie’s Sad Cypress begins with the trial of Elinor Carlisle for the murder of Mary Gerrard. We don’t know who those two people really are at first, nor what, exactly, led to the murder. Soon enough, Christie fills in the gaps, starting with an anonymous letter in which someone alleges that Mary Gerrard is unduly influencing Elinor’s wealthy Aunt Laura Welman. The inference is, of course, that Elinor may want to look into the matter if she’s to be assured of her considerable inheritance. So, she and her fiancé, Roderick ‘Roddy’ Welman do just that, and pay a visit to Aunt Laura. Unexpectedly, Roddy is smitten with Mary, to the point where he and Elinor break off their engagement. Not long afterwards, Mary is poisoned, and there is evidence that Elinor is responsible. But is she the killer? The local GP, Dr. Peter Lord, wants her name cleared, and asks Hercule Poirot to investigate. Then, the story leads up to the trial, and we learn the truth about what happened to Mary.

Kate Atkinson’s One Good Turn begins as Paul Bradley is driving his silver Peugeot in Edinburgh. He brakes suddenly to avoid hitting a pedestrian and is hit from behind by a blue Honda. The Honda driver gets out and the men begin an argument. Then, the Honda driver brandishes a bat and attacks Bradley. Mystery novelist Martin Canning happens to be nearby, and instinctively throws his computer case at the Honda driver, saving Bradley’s life. Out of a sense of obligation, Canning accompanies Bradley to a local hospital, and gets drawn into much more than he imagined. After detailing this climactic event, Atkinson begins to tell the different characters’ stories. We learn what they are like, how they happen to be at that place at that time, and what led to the crash. Then, we learn what happens after the crash, and how it impacts everyone involved.

There’s a sort of climactic plot structure in Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Mercy (AKA The Keeper of Lost Causes). It starts as an unnamed character is involved in a desperate situation. We don’t yet know who that person is, nor how that person got into that situation. But the reader is invited right away to engage in the story and learn more. And very soon, Adler-Olsen starts to tell the rest of the story. Copenhagen homicide detective Carl Mørck recently returned to work after a line-of-duty shooting incident in which he was badly injured. One of his colleagues was left with paralysis, and another was killed. So, he’s taken some time off for recovery. A lot of people think he’s not ready to come back, though. He’s even more difficult than usual to work with, to the point that his colleagues don’t want to work with him any more. So, he’s placed in charge of a new department, ‘Department Q,’ that’s dedicated to investigating cases of ‘special interest’ (unsolved cases). It’s a strategy to placate members of the press and public who think the police aren’t doing enough to solve difficult cases. The first case Mørck and his assistant, Hafez al-Assad, take on is the five-year-old disappearance of promising politician Merete Lynnggard. She disappeared during a ferry ride, and it was always believed she went overboard in a terrible accident. But there are hints that she may still be alive. If she is, she may not have much time left. So Mørck and Assad will have to work quickly. As the story goes on, Adler-Olsen shares more about the characters, and fills in the blanks, as the saying goes.

Finn Bell’s Dead Lemons also begins with a climactic event. The narrator, whose name is also Finn Bell, is precariously perched on a cliff, with every chance of going over it. He’s in a wheelchair, so there’s very little he can do. Then, Bell goes on to tell the story of how he got to where he is. He reached a crossroads in his life and needed some change. His marriage was over, and a car crash had left him in a wheelchair. Wanting to start all over again, he took a cottage in the small town of Riverton, on New Zealand’s South Island. When he happened to learn about a mystery concerning the cottage’s former occupants, he got curious. Two people, a father and daughter, disappeared a year apart. Neither was found, and the mystery’s never been solved. Slowly, Bell tells the story of his interest in the mystery, the questions he starts asking, and the danger it all means for him. As he does, we learn more about his character and those of the other people involved in the story.

And then there’s Jock Serong’s The Rules of Backyard Cricket. As that novel begins, Darren Keefe is trussed up in the boot/trunk of a car. He doesn’t know where he’s being taken, but he is utterly convinced he is going to be killed. We don’t know anything, really, about him other than his predicament. But, soon enough, Serong starts to tell the story. Darren and his brother, Wally, have both always loved cricket. They played backyard cricket as children in the Melbourne suburb where they grew up, and both showed talent for the game. As time went on, they developed in different ways, mostly because of their very different personalities. Wally is very driven and disciplined. He is determined to be the best and works very hard to achieve that. Darren, who is two years younger, has rare, once-in-generation talent. But he is far less disciplined. When he is at his best, he is absolutely superb. But he is inconsistent. As the two boys grow into men, they enter the world of professional cricket, and they find that that world isn’t what they imagined. It takes its toll on both, in different ways, and ends up with Darren being trussed up in the car. The reader is invited right away to engage in the story, because it ‘jumps right in’ to the action.

And that’s the thing about climactic plot structures. They involve the reader immediately. What are your thoughts about structures like that? If you’re a writer, do you use them?

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a Van Halen song.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Finn Bell, Jock Serong, Jussi Adler-Olsen, Kate Atkinson

Blue-Jeaned and Jaded*

Most of us are too busy to get bored and jaded. And that’s probably a good thing. When you have to work for what you want, and you have goals, life seems to be more interesting. That might not be much comfort when work gets really hectic or you go through a financially difficult time. But having everything isn’t all it might seem to be on the surface.

Just a quick look at crime fiction is enough to show that being jaded can lead in all sorts of dangerous directions. And for the crime writer, jaded people can also form an interesting contrast to a determined protagonist. Little wonder we see this sort of character in a lot of crime stories.

There’s a very interesting jaded character in Agatha Christie’s Five Little Pigs (AKA Murder in Retrospect). Carla Lemarchant hires Hercule Poirot to find out who killed her father, famous painter Amyas Crale. Sixteen years earlier, Crale was poisoned, and his wife, Caroline, was arrested, tried, and convicted in the matter. She had motive, too, since Crale was rather openly having an affair with Elsa Greer, whose portrait he was painting. Caroline and her husband had several arguments, and the poison used in the murder was found in her possession. But Carla is convinced her mother was innocent. Poirot agrees to look into the case, and he interviews the five people who were present at the time of the murder.  He also gets written accounts of the murder from those people. That information leads him to the truth. The case also puts him into contact with Elsa Greer, who is now Lady Dittisham. In the years since the poisoning, she’s done quite well for herself, as the saying goes. She’s very wealthy and has gone through a few husbands. But, she’s bored with the money and possessions, and she’s jaded about life. Poirot’s visits give her a new interest, and readers see the impact of that interest on her.

Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep is the story of the wealthy, privileged Sternwood family. In it, General Guy Sternwood hires PI Philip Marlowe to solve a family problem. It seems that a book dealer called Arthur Geiger has set him an extortion letter that mentions Sternwood’s daughter, Carmen. Sternwood wants Marlowe to find Geiger and stop him. Marlowe takes the case, and has little trouble finding the man. But by the time he gets there, Geiger’s been shot. As it happens, Carmen is in the room, but she’s either too drugged or too dazed to be able to say what happened. Marlowe gets her out of the room as quickly as he can to keep her out of the case. Since Geiger’s been killed, that seems to be the end of the Sternwood case. But, when there’s another death, Marlowe finds himself drawn more and more into the family’s drama. As he works with the family, we see just how jaded they are about their money and power. It’s a very dysfunctional family to begin with, and that jadedness does nothing to make them more sympathetic.

The focus of Jussi Adler-Olsen’s The Absent One (AKA Disgrace) is a group of rich, privileged, jaded young people who attend a boarding school together in Denmark during the late 1980s. Their jadedness has arguably contributed their cruelty. In 1987, they are responsible for some brutal murders. Years later, Copenhagen homicide detective Carl Mørck and his team are given the file that contains these still-unsolved killings. Their department, ‘Department Q,’ is responsible for cold cases, and they soon begin work on this one. It’s not long before they learn an important reason that these murders were never successfully prosecuted. Those responsible are wealthy and well-connected. So, they’re carefully protected. The only one who’s not is Kimmie, who has ended up living on the streets. Mørck knows that if he’s going to solve this case, he’s going to have to find Kimmie and get her to help. But that won’t do any good if her former schoolmates find her first…

Claudia Piñeiro’s Thursday Night Widows takes place at the very end of the 1990s, mostly in the ultra-exclusive community of Cascade Heights Country Club, located about 30 miles from Buenos Aires. It’s a wealthy and very selective community, and the people who live there are sated with money and privilege. They’re jaded about it all, and they find things like custom-designed gardens that are changed every season, and cosmetic surgery for its own sake, to occupy them. Everything changes when Argentina’s economy falters. Now, the money isn’t as easily available as it was, and some of those who live in Cascade Heights begin to panic at this intrusion of the real world into their safe, if boring, ‘cocoon.’ That uncertainty – even fear – leads to real tragedy.

And then there’s Shadaab Amjad Khan’s Murder in Bollywood. Mumbai Senior Inspector Hoshiyar Khan is drawn into the ultra-wealthy, privileged lives of Bollywood’s crème de la crème when top director Nikhil Kapoor and his wife, famous actress Mallika Kappoor, both die in what look like separate, tragic accidents. The Powers That Be want these cases cleared up quickly, but Khan isn’t sure these deaths were accidents. He’s even less sure when he finds out that, shortly before they died, the Kapoors had hosted an exclusive party at which Nikhil Kapoor had made a startling accusation. He told the guests that he knew one of them had killed and would kill again. It seems clear to Khan that someone took his accusation as a personal threat. As he investigates, Khan gets to know the Kapoors’ son, Rohan. He’s been pampered and indulged all his life and has gotten jaded about it all. While the wealth isn’t really the cause of the murders, it certainly plays a role in Rohan’s personality.

And that’s the thing about having so much of everything that it gets boring. It can cause problems of its own that we might not see ‘from the outside.’ These are just a few examples from crime fiction. Your turn.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Billy Joel’s Los Angelenos.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Claudia Piñeiro, Jussi Adler-Olsen, Raymond Chandler, Shadaab Amjad Khan

What Took You So Long?*

If you watch enough crime-fictional television and films, you might get the impression that crimes can be solved, and investigations finished, in a very short time. And, of course, there are some cases where that happens. Much of the time, though, investigations take more time – sometimes a great deal more time – in real life than they do on television and in films.

So, what takes the police so long to solve a murder? Most police detectives are dedicated to their work, and they want crimes solved. So, in the vast majority of cases, it’s not because the police either don’t care or are incompetent. And detectives know that the first 24-48 hours after a crime like murder is reported are critical, so there’s a lot of pressure to get answers quickly. There are any number of reasons that pressure doesn’t always yield an answer, and crime fiction covers many of them. Space only permits a few here, but you’ll get the idea.

Sometimes, there are questions the police don’t think to ask, and directions they don’t think to take. For instance, in Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Mercy (AKA The Keeper of Lost Causes), Copenhagen homicide detective Carl Mørck and his assistant, Hafez al-Assad, re-investigate the five-year-old disappearance of promising politician Merete Lynggaard. At the time, the theory was that she had gone overboard in a tragic ferry accident. There was no reason to believe otherwise, and no evidence from the ferry that anything else happened. So, the police didn’t carefully follow up. But now, there are little pieces of evidence to suggest that she may still be alive. If that’s the case, then there may not be much time left to find her. In one scene in the novel, Mørck gets very angry at the detective who first investigated, and it’s understandable why he does. But at the same time, the police have limited resources. They can’t look into every single possibility and use all personnel to do so. That scene reflects the delicate balance between following up on leads with due diligence, and acknowledging the reality of limited time and staff.

There’s a similar sort of dilemma in Caroline Graham’s A Ghost in the Machine. When financial advisor Dennis Brinkley is killed in his home, it looks very much like a tragic accident. The victim’s body was found by one of the medieval war machines he collected, and it seems that the machine malfunctioned. But Brinkley’s friend, Benny Frayle, doesn’t think so. She goes to visit Inspector Tom Barnaby to ask him to look into the matter again. He duly goes through the reports from the investigating officers, and does a bit of follow-up, but everything shows that they were careful and painstaking, and did their jobs effectively. So, he sees no reason to invest resources to go over the case again. Then, there’s another death. This time, the victim is a self-styled medium who actually described things about the murder scene that she couldn’t have known beforehand. Now, Barnaby sees that there’s more to Brinkman’s death than it seems, and he does re-open that case. It turns out that these two murders are just as closely linked as they seem.

When the police investigate a murder, they often have to rely on experts such as medical examiners and forensics teams. Those people (unlike what’s on the television), almost always have plenty of cases on their hands. So, there is sometimes a delay in getting results. Fans of Donna Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti series, for instance, know that Brunetti relies on the expertise of medical examiner Dr. Ettore Rizzardi. And his trust is not misplaced. But Rizzardi’s a busy person. He doesn’t just deal with Brunetti’s cases. There are plenty of deaths that aren’t necessarily murders, but that Rizzardi needs to look into as part of his work. And it’s interesting to see how the two men have to find a balance between Bunetti’s desire for quick answers, and the realities of Rizzardi’s work.

There’s also the fact that smaller and less affluent police departments may not have access to a state-of-the-art forensics laboratory. That means samples need to be sent out, tested, and so on. And that process can take weeks or more. There’s an interesting look at how that can work in P.D. James’ Death of an Expert Witness. That novel’s focus is Hoggett’s Laboratory, in East Anglia. The lab provides forensics and other specialty testing in cases of un-natural death. So, when there is a murder, both the police and defending counsel rely on the lab. It’s a busy, high-stress work environment. For one thing, there are a lot of cases, and results are expected quickly. For another, evidence has to be handled in very specific ways. Tests can take days or longer, depending on how busy the lab is and what the tests are. Commander Adam Dalgleish and Detective Inspector (DI) John Massingham explore the inner workings of the lab when Dr. Edwin Lorrimer, one of the senior staff, is murdered. Admittedly, this novel was first published in 1977. Testing, technology, and much more have changed dramatically since then. But there’s still forensic testing, it still takes time, and it’s still conducted at busy labs that can’t devote themselves to one case at a time.

There are also plenty of cases where there’s not much evidence. So, it’s hard to find clear clues that point to the killer. That’s what happens in Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders. A series of murders keeps Hercule Poirot, Chief Inspector Japp, and several local police departments busy for an entire summer. They don’t catch the killer after the first murder, or the second, or the third. And it’s not because there’s not a team trying to solve the case. But, the killer is very careful. There aren’t fingerprints, and the only clue left at each scene is an ABC railway guide – the kind you can buy in hundreds of places. So, there’s no way to trace them. The other clue – cryptic warnings sent to Poirot – isn’t helpful at first, either. The paper isn’t remarkable, there aren’t unique stamps, and the writer typed the notes, so there’s no handwriting clue. It’s a difficult case, and even though Poirot solves it, it’s not hard to see why it takes so long.

And that’s the thing. Police cases can take a lot longer than people want them to take. The police don’t generally like that any more than other people do. Admittedly, it’s not easy to acknowledge those very realistic delays in a crime novel, and still keep it interesting. But it’s a fact of police life.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Phil Collins’ I Missed Again.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Caroline Graham, Donna Leon, Jussi Adler-Olsen, P.D. James

I Keep Hoping You’ll Come Back to Me*

For families and other loved ones, one of the major differences between a missing person case and a murdercase is the possibility that the missing person will return. Sometimes, people nurse that hope for years. That’s part of the reason, for instance, that many families won’t move from their homes if a loved one goes missing, so that that person will be able to find them. And there are stories of people who’ve been missing for years, who do return.

It doesn’t happen often, but the fact that it happens at all gives people hope. And sometimes, people sustain that hope, even when it’s clear to just about everyone else that the missing person isn’t coming back. We see that happen in crime fiction, and it can add a solid layer of both character development and suspense. After all, the person who’s disappeared could come back…

In Pascal Garnier’s Boxes, for instance, we meet book illustrator Brice Casadamant. In the main plot thread, he and his wife, Emma, have bought a house in the countryside, and are ready to make the move. Emma’s gone on a trip, though, so Brice has deal with the frustrations and aggravations of the move by himself. He gets to the new house and waits for Emmy to return. In fact, he’s so confident she’ll be back soon that he doesn’t even unpack the moving boxes, as he might not put things where Emmy wants them. But, as time goes by, it becomes more and more clear that Emmy is not coming back. And we slowly learn why. Brice won’t accept that, though, and lives among his unpacked boxes, rummaging through them when he needs something. Gradually, Brice sinks deeper and deeper into depression, and comes close to a complete mental break with reality. He can’t bring himself to work on his latest illustration commission, he won’t unpack, and he doesn’t have many social contacts. Among other things, this story shows how strong the need can be to believe that a loved one will return.

In Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Mercy (AKA The Keeper of Lost Causes), Copenhagen police detective Carl Mørck is assigned to head a new department – Department Q – dedicated to looking into cases ‘of special interest.’ These are ‘cold’ cases that the police department has been under pressure to solve. Mørck and his assistant, Hafez al-Assad, begin with the five-year-old disappearance of up-and-coming politician Merete Lynggaard. According to reports, she was on a ferry ride with her younger brother, Uffe, when she went missing. The explanation at the time was that she went overboard in a terrible accident. But there are pieces of evidence that suggest that she may still be alive. If she is, then Mørck and Assad might not have very much time to find her. As you might imagine, Mørck pays a visit to Uffe to get his perspective on what happened. But Uffe has communication problems and some mental health problems. So, he isn’t able to be of much help. Still, we learn that, in his way, Uffe thinks his sister may be alive, too. And, in the end, we find out the truth about what happened to her.

Paddy Richardson’s Hunting Blind is the story of Stephanie Anderson. When she is fourteen, her younger sister, Gemma, goes missing during a community picnic at Lake Wanaka. Despite a thorough search and police investigation, Gemma is never found. For a long time, though, the family hopes that she will return. Seventeen years later, Stephanie is beginning her career as a psychiatrist in Dunedin. She gets a new patient who tells her a story that’s eerily similar to her own. This patient’s younger sister also went missing and was also never found. After so much time, Stephanie is sure that Gemma isn’t going to return, but she does want to lay her ghosts to rest. And she wants to find out who is responsible for the devastation wrought on her family, and that of her patient. So, she returns to her home town of Wanaka, and starts to look for answers. And, in the end, she gets them. Among other things, this story shows the terrible toll that waiting and hoping takes on families.

In one plot thread of Honey Brown’s Through the Cracks, Mitch and Pauline Fisher go to Market Day with their young son, Nathan, when he goes missing. There’s no trace of him, not even after a thorough search. And it’s not spoiling the story to say that the Fishers never give up hope that Nathan will return. Their story is connected to another story, this one of fourteen-year-old Adam Vander. One day, he finally gets up the courage he needs to run away from his abusive father, Joe. Adam’s been kept under lock and key, so he knows almost nothing of the world. This makes him, of course, very vulnerable. But he finds an ally in a young man named Billy Benson, who visits the house just as Adam is leaving. In the week that follows, Billy uses his streetwise knowledge to take care of both of them, and as the week goes by, they get mixed up in real danger.

And then there’s Jane Woodham’s Twister. Dunedin’s had to deal with five straight days of hard rain. Then, a twister comes through, and the police have to deal with a series of problems. Against this backdrop, the body of Tracey Wenlock, who went missing two weeks earlier, is discovered in Ross Creek. Detective Senior Sergeant Leo Judd is given the case, and it won’t be easy for him. Nine years earlier, his own daughter, Beth, went missing and never returned. Judd and his wife, Kate, are still coping with that awful loss. Ordinarily, he wouldn’t have been asked to do this sort of case, but a ‘flu epidemic has left the police department with a serious shortage of people. So, there is no choice but Judd. As Judd and his team work to find out the truth about Tracey’s death, we also see how he and his wife have gotten through the last years, and how a part of both of them still hopes that Beth will come home.

And that’s what can be so hard about a missing person case. There isn’t the closure that comes from knowing a person has died. So, it’s not surprising that some people whose loved ones go missing still have hope – even after a long time – that their loved ones will return.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Felice and Boudleaux Bryant’s Sleepless Nights.

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Filed under Honey Brown, Jane Woodham, Jussi Adler-Olsen, Paddy Richardson, Pascal Garnier