I’m always grateful when I get inspiration from the rest of you kind folks. You have some terrific ideas, and I like learning from them. Take K.B. Owen, for instance. She’s a skilled crime writer (you want to read her Concordia Wells novels – you really do), and a fellow blogger. She had a great idea for a post, so I thought I’d run with it, as the saying goes.
Safety and security are really important to us. In fact, if you believe theorists such as Abraham Maslow, It’s not really possible to go on to higher things like emotional connections, higher cognitive processing, and so on, if one doesn’t feel safe. So, people will go to a lot of lengths to create a sense of safety – a refuge, if you will.
The problem is that choosing perceived safety or refuge can have consequences. As an extreme example, agoraphobics feel safest at home. But, this means they also limit themselves. But, if you think about it, we all trade some things in for safety. We trade the thrill of very fast driving in for road safety, for instance. That sort of tradeoff happens in real life, and it happens in crime fiction, too.
For example, in Agatha Christie’s Dead Man’s Folly, we meet Amy Folliat. Her family owned Nasse House, in Devon, for many centuries. But World War II and other problems meant that the house had to be sold. Now, it’s the property of Sir George Stubbs and his wife, Hattie. Mrs. Folliat lives in a lodge on the grounds of Nasse House. For her, it’s a safe, secure arrangement, and it means that she gets to stay among the local people she’s always known. But that safety has come at a price. And life has not always been kind to Mrs. Folliat. She’s stoic, though. As she says,
‘‘So many things are hard…’’
She gets involved in a murder investigation when detective novelist Ariadne Oliver is asked to create a Murder Hunt (along the lines of a scavenger hunt) for an upcoming fête to be held at Nasse House. On the day of the event, Marlene Tucker, who’s been chosen to play the ‘victim’ in the Murder Hunt, is actually killed. Mrs. Oliver has asked Hercule Poirot to the house, so he works with Inspector Bland to find out who the killer is.
Romain Gary’s short story, A Humanist, takes place in Munich at the time of Hitler’s rise to power. Toy manufacturer Karl Loewy enjoys a good book, a good glass of brandy and a good cigar. He’s a humanist who believes that common sense will prevail in Germany, and that there is no cause for alarm. Despite warnings from his Jewish friends, he’s determined to stay where he is. Finally, things get dangerous enough that Herr Loewy decides he will need to go into hiding. So, he gets help from Herr and Frau Schultz, who take care of his home and kitchen. They build a secret underground home, and agree to take over Herr Loewy’s affairs until the war is over. Herr Loewy now has a safe refuge from all of the ugliness in the world. But it comes at a very high price.
Robert Colby’s novella No Experience Necessary introduces us to Glenn Hadlock. He’s recently been released from prison, and he’s not finding it easy to get a job. One day, though, he sees something that might work. Victor Scofield is looking for someone to serve as a bodyguard/escort for his wife, Eileen. Scofield himself is permanently disabled, and can’t leave the house. But he doesn’t want his wife to be confined in the same way. So, he’s looking for someone to serve as her driver, and escort when that’s necessary. Hadlock gets the job, and at first, all’s well. The job pays well, it comes with a furnished apartment, and Eileen is pleasant company. But it’s not long before Hadlock learns the high price for all of this safety.
Love, Lies and Liquor is the 17th of M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin series. In it, Agatha’s ex-husband, James Lacey, persuades her to take a short holiday at Snoth-on-Sea, where he spent many holidays as a child. The resort, and the Palace Hotel, where they stay, are both deeply disappointing. In fact, Agatha wants to leave immediately. But she’s soon drawn into a murder that takes place there. Geraldine Jankers is staying at the hotel for her honeymoon (with her fourth husband). One night, her body is found on a nearby beach, strangled with Agatha’s own scarf. Agatha’s name is cleared soon enough, but now, she’s intrigued. So, she stays on at Snoth-on-Sea to investigate. And she soon finds that more than one person had a very good motive to want to kill the victim. Two possible suspects are the victim’s friend and childhood sweetheart Cyril Hammond, and his wife, Dawn. As Agatha gets to know them, she learns that Dawn may have been subjected to domestic abuse. In fact, Dawn actually leaves her husband at one point in the story. But, he has quite a lot of money – money she’s never really had before. So, in the end, it’s not spoiling the story to say that Dawn trades her newfound freedom for what she sees as the safety of a fine home and the other trappings of wealth.
And then there’s A.S.A. Harrison’s The Silent Wife. Jodi Brett and Todd Gilbert are a successful Chicago couple. She’s a psychotherapist; he’s a developer. They’ve been together twenty years, although they never legally married. Jodi sees herself as having a secure, safe life. Then, Todd begins an affair with Natasha Kovacs, the daughter of his business partner. He’s strayed before, but this time, it’s different: Natasha discovers that she’s pregnant. She wants to marry and have a family, and Todd tells himself, and her, that he wants those things, too. But Todd misses Jodi, also, and their life together. So, in an odd way, she is hoping he’ll come back to her. Instead of starting over, Jodi clings to the home they’ve had together, and depends on it as a refuge and a haven. But then, she gets a letter from Todd’s attorney, stating that the home isn’t legally hers, and she will have to vacate it. The lawyer Jodi contacts gives her the bad news that there is no common law marriage in Illinois, so she has no grounds to claim the house. Now, with her options dwindling, Jodi gets desperate…
Everyone seeks safety and refuge. We need to feel safe before almost everything else. So, it’s no wonder that people will sometimes choose what they see as safety – as a refuge – over anything else. Even if it has serious consequences for them.
Thanks, Kathy, for the inspiration!
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from the Eagles’ Lyin’ Eyes.