Category Archives: Jussi Adler-Olsen

Open Your Mind*

A recent powerful post from Marina Sofia at Finding Time to Write has got me thinking about the dangers of arrogance about one’s point of view and perspective. Before I go any further, let me urge you to take a few moments and read her excellent post. Oh, and you’ll want to have a look at her excellent blog while you’re there. Fine reviews, lovely ‘photos, and fascinating discussion await you.  Don’t worry; I’ll wait.

Back now? Thanks. All of us like to think we’re right, but the fact is, there are times when we’re wrong. All of us. It’s part of being human. If we’re unwilling to concede that, and unwilling to be open to others’ views, we never learn anything. In fact, that willingness to be wrong, and to be critical of our own motives and research findings is an important part of any Ph.D. candidate’s preparation. Research goes forward as people conduct studies, produce results, and have those findings reviewed by others. That process can sometimes mean that one’s results are supported. But it also sometimes means that they are refuted, even proven wrong. And that is an important part of moving forward. We make progress as ideas are put forward, tested, and either found correct or reshaped.

That’s certainly true in real life, and we see the cost of blind arrogance in crime fiction, too. If a sleuth has one particular idea about a crime, and is unwilling to be open to other possibilities, then the crime may never be solved. That sort of arrogance may not make for an appealing character, but it can add tension to a story.

For instance, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is a firm believer in testing theories about a crime instead of assuming things. In The Hound of the Baskervilles, for instance, Holmes says,
 

‘‘There is nothing more stimulating than a case where everything goes against you.’’
 

He does have a high opinion of his skills as a detective, but he is open to being proved wrong. And he gets quite impatient with the detectives of Scotland Yard, who latch onto a theory of a crime and are unwilling to entertain any other possible explanation.

Fans of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot will know that he also has, shall we say, a high opinion of his own skills. But he is the first to admit when he has been wrong. More than once in the stories that feature him, he’s the one who calls himself out for being blind to the truth. There’s an interesting case of arrogance in one of his investigations, The Murder on the Links. In that novel, Paul Renauld has been stabbed, and his body discovered on a golf course near his property. M. Giraud of the Sûreté investigates the murder, and he has a very clear perspective on what happened and how to look into the matter. Because of his unwillingness to consider any other point of view or possible explanation, he misses some vital clues, and ends up arresting the wrong person. He also ends up thoroughly annoying Poirot, who has another idea about what happened…

Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Mercy (AKA The Keeper of Lost Causes) introduces his sleuth, Copenhagen homicide detective Carl Mørck. In the novel, he’s been assigned to head up a new department, ‘Department Q,’ that will focus on cold cases. In part, it’s a political move to show that the police are not lax or neglectful. The first case Mørck and his assistant, Hafez al-Assad, investigate is the five-year-old disappearance of promising politician Merete Lynggaard. It was always thought that she went overboard in a tragic ferry accident, but there’s now some evidence to suggest that she might still be alive. If so, she may be in grave danger. As Mørck looks into the case, he finds several areas where the original investigator, Børge Bak, didn’t follow up on leads that didn’t support the official theory of accident. It’s not that he’s particularly lazy or incompetent; it’s more that he didn’t focus on what he thought was unimportant. And when Mørck confronts him with his blindness to other possibilities, Bak’s not happy about it. He’s
 

‘…a detective with a capital D.’
 

So he’s upset when he is shown that he missed some important things because of what you might call arrogance about what he thought had happened.

Gianrico Carofiglio’s Involuntary Witness features his sleuth, attorney Guido Guerrieri, who lives and works in Bari. In this story, he gets a new client, Abdou Thiam. It seems that Thiam, a Senegalese immigrant, has been arrested for the abduction and murder of nine-year-old Francesco Rubino. There’s evidence against Thiam, too. For one thing, he knew the victim. For another, although he can account for his movements on the day of the murder, there is other evidence that he was in the area of the crime at the time the boy was taken. Thiam claims that he’s innocent, although he doesn’t believe he’ll be treated fairly. In fact, he’s resigned himself to prison. Guerrieri agrees to defend Thiam and goes to work. As it turns out, one person’s beliefs, and refusal to consider that those beliefs might be wrong, is an important part of this case, and it’s not until Guerrieri discovers that fact that he’s able to get to the truth.

In Adrian Hyland’s Gunshot Road, Aboriginal Community Police Officer (ACPO) Emily Tempest joins the investigation of the murder of geologist Albert ‘Doc’ Ozolins. According to the evidence, the victim had gotten into a drunken quarrel with John ‘Wireless’ Petherbridge and was killed shortly afterwards. So, the police believe that Wireless’ is the killer. In fact, Tempest’s boss, Bruce Cockburn, is completely convinced of that explanation. So, he refuses to listen when Tempest tries to tell him about some evidence that suggests another explanation. Tempest is strong-willed, and she’s unwilling to obey Cockburn’s order to do as she’s told and not go asking questions on her own. On the one hand, Tempest pays dearly for investigating on her own. On the other hand, Cockburn’s refusal to consider that he might be wrong costs the investigation a great deal.

And that’s the thing about being unwilling to consider other perspectives. It’s usually not fun to be wrong, especially if one’s shown up in public. But we all are wrong sometimes. And even when we’re not ‘officially’ wrong, we don’t get a broad, accurate perspective on things unless we are willing to consider other points of view and other possible ways of thinking.

Thank you, Marina Sofia, for the inspiration!

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Melissa Etheridge.

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Filed under Adrian Hyland, Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Gianrico Carofiglio, Jussi Adler-Olsen

I Searched For You, But I Can’t Find You*

With today’s social media and other technology (e.g. credit card ‘footprints’), it’s getting harder and harder for someone to disappear, voluntarily or otherwise. In fact, there’ve been a few cases recently in which Fitbit tracking proved to be key evidence in getting the right suspect. Here’s an article about just one such case.

But, as you’ll know, it hasn’t always been that way. Only in the last few years has social media information been routinely used to find a person. And before social media, it could be very difficult to find someone.

In Agatha Christie’s One, Two, Buckle My Shoe (AKA The Patriotic Murders and An Overdose of Death), for instance, Hercule Poirot works with Chief Inspector Japp to solve the puzzling murder of a dentist named Henry Morley. As you can imagine, Poirot and Japp follow up on the whereabouts of the patients who were at Morley’s office at the time he was shot. And that’s where things get even stranger. One of them, a wealthy Greek visitor named Mr. Amberiotis, dies of an overdose of anaesthetic. Another, Mabelle Sainsbury Seale, leaves the hotel she’s staying one evening, and disappears. There’s quite a search for her, but without modern tools, Japp and his team can’t find her. As it turns out, this is quite a different sort of case to what it seems to be on the surface.

In Eric Ambler’s The Mask of Dimitrios/A Coffin For Dimitrios, we are introduced to mystery novelist Charles Latimer. He decides to have a change of scenery from his native England, and takes a trip to Istanbul. There, he learns of a notorious criminal named Dimitrious Makropoulos. Apparently, Makropoulos is responsible for at least one murder, and several other illegal activities as well. When Makropoulos’ body is pulled from the Bosporus, Latimer gets the chance to view it at the morgue. He then gets curious about the man, and decides that, although it’s not really rational, he wants to trace the man’s life, and try to find out how and why he did what he did. Latimer doesn’t have the benefit of looking through the man’s emails, Facebook posts or tweets. Rather, he follows Makrapoulos’ footsteps all over Europe, and talks to people he knew. It’s not long before he attracts the attention of some very dangerous people who do not want him to succeed in getting any answers about Makrapoulos. He’s going to have to stay alive if he wants to find out the truth.

John Lutz’ short story Have You Ever Seen This Woman begins as David Hastings wakes up to a scene of destruction in his home. Then, he sees the body of his wife, Agnes, in the living room. He remembers very little about the night before, but he does remember coming home from work and encountering his wife struggling with an unknown man. On that evidence, the police begin investigating the murder. They don’t get very far, though, because Hastings can’t give a clear description of anything that happened. So, Hastings decides to ask a few questions of his own. And one of the painful things he learns is that Agnes had several ‘gentleman friends.’ Thinking that one of them might have killed her. Hastings decides to track her movements in the days and weeks before she was killed. The story was written in 1976, before today’s Internet and social media, so Hastings can’t look through a Contacts list on a telephone or scroll through recent Facebook posts. Instead, he goes the rounds of as many local bars as he can, showing a picture of his wife and asking if anyone has seen her. And, in the end, we learn what really happened to Agnes.

Jonothan Cullinane’s Red Herring takes place in 1951 Auckland, a time of anti-communist paranoia and unrest at the local docks. The dock workers – the wharfies – are about to go on strike for better pay and working conditions. And, of course, it’s in the government’s interest to keep the docks open and shipments coming in and going out. It’s also in the interest of those caught up in anti-communism to stop this example of what they consider full-blown socialism. Against this background, PI Johnny Molloy gets a new case. He is hired by an agent for an insurance company to follow up on a probable case of fraud. Francis ‘Frank’ O’Phelan, AKA Frank O’Flynn, had been reported dead, and the company duly paid out. But then, he was photographed with some of the union leaders. If he’s not dead, he’s guilty of insurance fraud. If he is dead, then who is the man in the photograph? Molloy takes the case and starts looking for the man. And it’s not going to be as easy as it is today, because Molloy can’t depend on electronic ‘footprints.’ He has to talk to people, many of whom do not want to talk to him. And before he knows it, he’s in more danger than he could imagine.

Even as recently as 2007, when Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Mercy (AKA The Keeper of Lost Causes) was published, there wasn’t routine use of social media and other electronics to trace people. In that novel, promising Danish politician Merete Lynggaard goes missing. No trace of her is found, and the belief is that she went overboard in a tragic ferry accident. Five years later, Copenhagen homicide detective Carl Mørck and his assistant, Hafez al-Assad, re-open the case. There is some evidence that Lynggaard might be alive, and they want to find her if that’s possible. But they don’t use Facebook, emails, Twitter, or other electronic ‘tracks.’ They do use computer records, but they also interview people, follow up on leads, and do other face-to-face work.

The use of social media and electronic tracking has made it a lot easier for police and PIs to find someone and to solve cases. It has also completely changed the way crime writers go about adding suspense to their stories, since people can’t disappear the way they used to do. These are just a few examples of how that used to work. I know you’ll think of more than I could (You’re quite right, fans of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s Roseana).

 

 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from April Wine’s Refuge.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Eric Ambler, John Lutz, Jonothan Cullinane, 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