Category Archives: Kate Atkinson

Somehow I Got Stuck*

Part of investigating a crime is talking to anyone who might have any knowledge about it. That sometimes means that a lot of innocent people, who didn’t have anything to do with the crime, get mixed up in it, at least to some extent. That can lead to annoyance and drains on time (e.g. if one is deposed or summoned as a witness at a trial). It can also lead to embarrassment (e.g. the person who is in a hotel with a lover and happens to witness something related to a crime that takes place there). And, although there are some people who feel a certain amount of excitement about being deposed or summoned to court, the process can be nerve-wracking, too.

People’s differing reactions to getting mixed up in an investigation can add some interesting layers to a crime novel. They can also add character development. It’s also realistic that innocent people get mixed up in criminal investigations. So, it’s no wonder that we see this sort of plot thread in a lot of crime fiction.

Agatha Christie used such reactions in many of her stories. For instance, The ABC Murders begins with the murder of a shop owner, Alice Ascher. She’s killed in her shop late one afternoon, and, of course, the police want to talk to anyone who might have been there at the approximate time of her death. So does Hercule Poirot, who actually received a warning note about this murder. Two of the customers they speak to are James Partridge and Bert Riddell, and it’s interesting to see how they react to being drawn into the case. Partridge made a purchase just before Mrs. Ascher was killed, and he goes to the police of his own accord with his story once he learns of the murder. He’s not at all ghoulish, but he does enjoy being able to provide evidence. Riddell, on the other hand, doesn’t come forward. When he is interviewed, he blusters a bit as he tells his story, and wonders out loud (and rather angrily) whether the police suspect him. Soon enough, it’s established that neither man is likely to be the killer, but it’s interesting to see how they respond to giving their stories. I see you, fans of Death in the Clouds.

Nicolas Freeling’s Double Barrel has his sleuth, Amsterdam police detective Piet Van der Valk, seconded to the small town of Swinderen. Someone has been sending vicious anonymous letters accusing the different residents of all sorts of things. It’s the sort of town where everyone knows everyone’s business, so no-one is comfortable talking about the letters. But they’ve wreaked havoc. In fact, they’ve caused two suicides and a complete mental breakdown. The local police haven’t been able to find out who’s responsible, so Van der Valk’s been sent in to see what he can learn. Slowly, he gets to know the people of the town, and begins to talk to some of them. Most are terrified to reveal they got letters, because they don’t want anyone suspecting that what’s in the letters is true. And, although everyone wants the letters to stop, no-one really appreciates being drawn into the case and interviewed. It’s a challenge for Van der Valk, but in the end, he gets to the truth.

In Kate Atkinson’s One Good Turn, mystery novelist Martin Canning is among a group of people who are in Edinburgh, waiting to buy tickets for a lunchtime radio comedy show. As they’re waiting, they see a blue Honda crash into a silver Peugeot. The two drivers get out of their cars and begin to argue. Then, the Honda driver brandishes a bat, and starts to attack the Peugeot driver. Canning sees this, and instinctively throws his computer case at the Honda driver to stop the attack. Out of concern, Canning accompanies the Peugeot driver to the nearest hospital, and ends up getting drawn into a case of fraud and multiple murder. All of the other people who were waiting for tickets get drawn into the case, too, to some extent or other, simply because they were witnesses to the accident.

In Gianrico Carofiglio’s Involuntary Witness, attorney Guido Guerrieri gets a new client. It seems that Abdou Thiam, who emigrated to Bari from Senegal, has been arrested for the abduction and murder of nine-year-old Francesco Rubino. He claims that he is not guilty, but he’s not very hopeful of getting a fair trial. Still, Guerrieri promises to do everything he can, and goes to work on the case. One of the witnesses he speaks to, and later questions in court, is a bar owner named Antonio Renna. It seems that Renna saw Thiam pass by his bar shortly before the abduction and murder, although Thiam has said that he was in another town at the time. Naturally, Guerrieri wants to know everything he can about that incident. For his part, Renna never really wanted to be involved in the investigation in the first place. He’s drawn into it, and it turns out that what he has to say figures into the real truth about the murder.

And then there’s William Deverell’s Trial of Passion, which introduces retired Vancouver attorney Arthur Beauchamp. He’s hoping to enjoy retirement in his new home on Garibaldi Island, but he is drawn back into the courtroom when some of his former colleagues persuade him to take the case of Professor Jonathan O’Donnell. He’s been charged with the rape of a law student named Kimberly Martin. O’Donnell isn’t satisfied with the representation he’s gotten, and he wants Beauchamp to defend him. Of course, O’Donnell and Martin tell different stories about the night of the alleged rape, but there are some facts that are not in dispute. On that night, the Law Students Association (of which Martin is a member) held a dance, to which O’Donnell and some other faculty members were invited. After the dance, a group of several people went on to another party, and then back to O’Donnell’s house. A great deal of alcohol was consumed, and not just by the two parties to the case. As Beauchamp and his opponent prepare their cases, they speak to several of the other students who were present at the dance, the party, and at O’Donnell’s house. In the end, we find out what really happened that night, and it’s interesting to see how those young people, who were simply out to have a good time, get drawn into this investigation.

And it’s like that with many witnesses. They may be entirely innocent, even in the wrong place at the wrong time, as the saying goes. But they can be drawn into murder cases just the same.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Warren Zevon’s Lawyers, Guns and Money.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Gianrico Carofiglio, Kate Atkinson, Nicolas Freeling, William Deverell

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

The Loner*

Not everyone is comfortable being around others. For a variety of reasons, some people are reclusive. Recluses are often regarded as eccentric, to say the least. And some recluses are. Even when they’re not, though, they’re often interesting people with their own unique way of looking at life.

And that can make them appealing characters in novels. Authors can use such characters to add leaven to a story, to create plot points, and more. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that we see reclusive characters in crime fiction. There are a number of them in the genre; one post won’t do justice to them. But here are a few examples.

In Kate Atkinson’s One Good Turn, we are introduced to Martin Canning. He is a mystery novelist who’s, in his way, much more comfortable in the imaginary world he’s created for his sleuth than in the everyday, real-life world. In that sense, he is reclusive. But he is also wise enough to know that readers want to make connections with authors. So, he allows his literary agent to persuade him to participate in a panel at the Edinburgh Arts Festival. One afternoon while he’s in Edinburgh, Canning is waiting to get tickets for a lunchtime radio comedy show. That’s when he witnesses a car accident. A blue Honda hits a silver Peugeot from behind, and the two drivers get out of their cars. During the ensuing argument, the Honda driver brandishes a bat, attacking the Peugeot driver. By instinct, Canning throws his computer case at the Honda driver, saving the other man’s life. Out of a sense of obligation, Canning accompanies the Peugeot driver, whose name is Paul Bradley, to a local hospital. That act draws the ordinarily reclusive Canning into a web of fraud and murder.

Janice MacDonald’s Another Margaret features her sleuth, Miranda ‘Randy’ Craig. As this novel begins, Craig is a sessional lecturer who’s working at Grant McEwan University in Edmonton. When her friend, Denise Wolff, asks Craig to help put together an alumni reunion event for the University of Alberta (where Craig got her M.A.), Craig agrees. Then, she learns that a new novel, Seven Bird Saga, is about to be released. The author is the extremely reclusive and enigmatic Margaret Ahlers. And that’s when Craig starts to get concerned. She did her thesis on Ahlers and knows that the author died years earlier. So, is this new book a recently-discovered manuscript (unlikely, but possible)? Or did someone else write the book? If so, who? As the story goes on, we learn more about Craig’s thesis and her search for the truth about Ahlers. As the time for the alumni even gets closer, Craig becomes more and more convinced that someone who will be attending knows more than it seems about Ahlers and the new book and could pose a real threat to her. In the end, Craig learns the truth about the new book, but not before there’s a murder.

Carl Hiaasen’s Skinny Dip introduces readers to Mick Stranahan, former investigator for Florida’s Attorney General. He’s quite reclusive now, living on a deserted island. His life of solitude is interrupted when he happens to be out in his boat, and sees a young woman in the water, struggling with exhaustion. She is Joey Perrone, whose husband, Chaz, threw her overboard during a cruise of the Everglades. What Chaz forgot, though, is that Joey is a former champion swimmer. She’s survived in the water because of her skills, but she’s near the end of her strength. Stranahan rescues her, and Joey soon recovers. When she does, she wants to find out why her husband tried to kill her. So, she and Stranahan concoct a plan to unsettle Chaz. It works, and Chaz soon comes to the attention of police detective Karl Rolvaag, who’s trying to solve Joey’s disappearance. If he’s going to avoid arrest, Chaz is going to have to stay one step ahead of his wife and of Rolvaag.

In Deborah Johnson’s The Secret of Magic, idealistic young attorney Regina Robichard is working for the NAACP in New York City. One day, the NAACP gets a letter from a reclusive author, M.P. Calhoun. The letter alleges that a black veteran named Joe Howard Wilson was murdered, and it’s clear that Calhoun wants this death investigated. Robichard’s interest is piqued, especially since Calhoun wrote one of her best-loved books from childhood. So, she makes the trip to Revere, Mississippi, where Calhoun lives, and where the murder took place. When Robichard arrives, and starts asking questions, she learns that things aren’t as they seem. To find the answers, she’s going to have to navigate the complicated social ‘rules’ of this small town, and that isn’t going to be easy. Among other things, it’s interesting to see Calhoun’s role in the novel, considering how reclusive this author is.

And then there’s Virginia Duigan’s The Precipice. Former school principal Thea Farmer has decided to retire and have a dream home built in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales. She’s purposely chosen the location to be away from everything, as she doesn’t like to be around people very much. Everything changes when bad luck and poor decision-making force her to give up that dream property and settle for the house next door, a place she calls ‘the hovel.’ To make matters worse, Frank Campbell and Ellice Carrington buy the home that Farmer still thinks of as hers, and they move in. The reclusive Farmer doesn’t want anyone living that close, especially not in that home, so she’s inclined to do everything she can to avoid these new people. That proves impossible when Campbell’s niece, Kim, comes to live with him. Against all odds, Farmer forms an awkward sort of friendship with the girl and becomes concerned when she begins to think that she’s not being given an appropriate home. When the police won’t do anything about it, Farmer makes her own plans.

There may be any number of reasons for which someone might not want to be around others. And, in a story, those reasons can make for interesting character development. They can add plot points, too. Which have stayed with you?

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Neil Young.

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Filed under Carl Hiaasen, Deborah Johnson, Janice MacDonald, Kate Atkinson, Virginia Duigan

You’re Almost Real*

A brilliant post from Brad at ahsweetmysteryblog has got me thinking about fictional writers’ fictional characters. If you think about it, t’s really not easy for an author to create a fictional character who creates a fictional character. It can be a challenge to keep the plot in focus, and to keep the cast of characters clear. But when it’s done well, it can add an interesting ‘picture within a picture’ effect to a story.

Brad’s post was about Agatha Christie’s fictional detective novelist Ariadne Oliver, whose sleuth is Sven Hjerson. And before I go on, let me strongly encourage you to read that post. You’ll be very, very glad that you did. Fans can tell you that Hjerson is Finnish. He’s a vegetarian, and a bit eccentric. In fact, Oliver gets thoroughly fed up with him. But, as she says, people like him. So, she continues to write about him. It’s true, of course, that Hjerson doesn’t solve any of Christie’s mysteries. But he’s an interesting fictional creation of one of her recurring characters.

And he’s not the only protagonist to play that sort of role. Martha Grimes’ series features Inspector Richard Jury and his friend, Melrose Plant. They’re the ones who do the investigating in the novels. But there’s another, even more fictional, character who makes an appearance in a few of the stories. In The Anodyne Necklace, we are introduced to mystery novelist Polly Praed, who lives in the village of Littlebourne. When a disappearance, a vicious attack, and a murder find their way into the village, Polly finds herself enmeshed in a real-life mystery. Her own creation is Detective Plod, who isn’t exactly the most scintillating of characters. In fact, Polly’s novels aren’t exactly compelling, either. But Melrose Plant pretends that he reads and enjoys them all. In The Old Wine Shades, he and Jury are working on the disappearance of a woman and her autistic son. At one point, Plant mentions that he hasn’t had much sleep. Jury says sarcastically,
 

‘‘I’ll bet. The coffee, the fire, the Times, the chair.’’
‘You sound like Polly’s Detective Plod. He lists things endlessly.’’ [Plant]
 

Plod may not be a fascinating character, but he exists to Polly Praed.

In Kate Atkinson’s One Good Turn, we are introduced to mystery novelist Martin Canning. His series isn’t a thriller-like set of novels with lots of violence and so on. Instead, he’s created a ‘50s world featuring private investigator Nina Riley, who lives in an old Victorian house in Edinburgh. In part, he writes the series in the way he does, because he would like the world to be safer and well-ordered, as he perceives it was during those years. Canning’s novels are, perhaps, quite tame, as the saying goes. But they are popular, and his agent wants him to be a part of a panel at the Edinburgh Arts Festival. Canning doesn’t want to go, but his agent insists. What neither knows at the time is that this trip to Edinburgh will draw Canning into a web of fraud and murder, and push him farther out of his safe, comfortable world than he could have imagined.

And it’s not just fictional mystery novelists who create fictional characters. Janice MacDonald’s Another Margaret, for instance, features Edmonton academic Miranda ‘Randy’ Craig. She works as a sessional lecturer, so she doesn’t have much in the way of job security. But she loves what she does, and she’s been in the field (English literature) for twenty years, since she got her M.A. As the story opens, she’s at Grant McEwan University. Then, her friend, Denise Wolff, asks her help putting together a major alumni reunion event at the University of Alberta, where Craig got her degree. Craig agrees, and the two begin to work together. That’s when she learns a piece of disturbing news. A new novel, Seven Bird Saga, is about to be published. The author is the very reclusive Margaret Ahlers, who was the subject of Craig’s M.A. thesis. And that’s how she knows that Ahlers died years ago. So, who is the author of this new novel? As the preparations for the event get underway, Craig starts looking into the mystery, and, in one major plot thread, we learn what happened twenty years earlier, when she was doing her thesis. We also learn about Ahlers’ novels, which were considered true literary achievements. Those novels feature a major character named Isabel, and as Craig follows Isabel’s story, she also learns the truth about Ahlers.

Of course, it never does to take a fictional protagonist too seriously. Just ask novelist Paul Sheldon, whom we meet in Stephen King’s Misery. He is driving through a heavy snowstorm when he has an accident in which he’s injured. He is rescued by Annie Wilkes, who happens to be a devoted fan of his work. Grateful for her help, he decides to get back to work on his latest Victorian romance manuscript, which features his main character, Misery Chastain.  At first, it seems that all will be well. But then, Annie decides she doesn’t like the way in which the story is going. She has her own ideas for how this novel should develop, and she has her own ways of wanting to ensure that it goes her way. Her devotion to Misery ends up having disastrous consequences.

And that’s the thing about fictional creations of fictional characters. When they’re done well, even they can seem entirely real. Thanks, Brad, for the inspiration! Now, please, folks, give yourselves a treat and go visit Brad’s excellent blog. Thoughtful, well-written, interesting discussions of crime fiction await you.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from the Hassles’ Every Step I Take (Every Move I Make). Yes, that’s Billy Joel doing lead vocals. He was a member of the Hassles before he started his solo career.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Janice MacDonald, Kate Atkinson, Martha Grimes, Stephen King

I Knew I Needed Representation*

When you think of famous film stars, athletes, authors, and so on, you probably don’t think of their agents. But the fact is, an agent can be a very powerful person. Many of the best-known publishers won’t even consider an author who doesn’t have an agent (trust me). And if a sports team wants a certain player, that team has to work the details out with the player’s agent. The same thing goes for a producer or director who wants a certain star in a film or stage performance.

Agents are an important part of life for certain professions, so it’s little wonder we see them in crime fiction, too. And, since there are all sorts of agents, and they play different roles, there’s a lot of flexibility when it comes to plots, character types, and so on. They can make effective sleuths, suspects, sources of information, and even murderers.

In Agatha Christie’s The Murder on the Links, Hercule Poirot gets a letter from Paul Renauld, a Canadian émigré to France. Renauld’s letter says that his life is in danger, and pleads with Poirot to go to France and help. Poirot and Captain Hastings travel to the small town of Merlinville sur Mer, where the Renaulds live, but by the time they get there, it’s too late: Renuald has been murdered. Poirot works with the police to find out who killed the victim and why. One line of questioning leads to an acrobat act that was playing in Paris. Poirot wants to find the acrobats, so he visits a theatrical agent, Joseph Aarons. Aarons quickly gives Poirot the information he needs about the act and its members, which proves very helpful. Christie fans will also know that Aarons makes appearances elsewhere in Christie’s work, including The Mystery of the Blue Train.

One of Harlan Coben’s most popular series features Myron Bolitar. He’s a former basketball star whose career ended after an injury. He wanted to stay in the world of sport, though, and became an agent (later in the series, he becomes an investigator). In the early novels, Bolitar often gets drawn into cases through his clients. For example, in Drop Shot, one of Bolitar’s clients, Duane Richwood, is competing in a tennis tournament. During the event, former tennis great Valerie Simpson is found dead. Richwood could have known her, and could have a motive for murder. What’s more, Bolitar had been getting calls from Simpson, who wanted to resurrect her career. With those personal connections to the case, Bolitar starts asking questions, and we find out who killed Simpson and why.

There’s another look at a sports agent in Alison Gordon’s The Dead Pull Hitter, the first of her Kate Henry series. Henry is a sportswriter for the Toronto Planet. Her specialty is baseball, so she follows the Toronto Titans team to all of their games. When one of their members, Pedro Jorge ‘Sultan’ Sanchez, is murdered in his home, it looks like a home invasion gone wrong. But then, another player, Steve Thorson, is murdered at the team’s clubhouse. Staff Sergeant Lloyd ‘Andy’ Munro works both cases, and he finds that Henry has useful information. For her part, Henry wants to find out who the killer is, and not just because it’ll be a big story for her. She’s gotten to know the players, and she wants to know the truth about what happened. One of the ‘people of interest’ is Sam Craven, who represented Thorson. It turns out that Thorson wanted to end their contract, and Craven had refused. In fact, they had a major argument about it. Throughout the novel, it’s interesting to see how he and what he does are portrayed.

In Kate Atkinson’s One Good Turn, we are introduced to literary agent Melanie Lenehan. Part of her job is to keep her clients’ names ‘out there,’ so she encourages them to attend literary events, signings, and so on. That’s a tall order for one of her clients, mystery novelist Martin Canning. He’s a basically shy, introverted writer who’d much prefer, in many ways, to live in the 1950s world he’s created for his sleuth. It’s a bit of a struggle for her, but Lenehan finally convinces Canning to appear at the Edinburgh Arts Festival, join a panel, and answer some reader questions. During his trip, Canning gets ready to attend a lunchtime radio comedy broadcast, for which he’s gotten complimentary tickets. He’s waiting to pick up those tickets when he witnesses a blue Honda crash into the silver Peugeot in front of it. The two drivers get out of their cars and begin to argue. When the Honda driver starts to attack Paul Bradley (who’s driving the Peugeot), Canning acts out of instinct, and throws his computer case at the Honda driver. Out of a sense of obligation, he accompanies Bradley to a local hospital, and gets drawn into a strange case of fraud and murder. Certainly not what Melanie Lenehan had in mind when she booked Canning for the event!

In one plot thread of J.K. Rowling/Robert Galbraith’s The Silkworm, private investigator Coromoran Strike gets a new client. Leonora Quine wants him to find her husband, famous – well, notorious, really – author Owen Quine, who’s gone missing. He’s always been a ‘fringe’ sort of writer; his last novel, Bombyx Mori, is considered unpublishable because of some of its unpleasant themes and scenes. The manuscript for the novel was leaked at about the same time as Quine went missing, so there’s a good possibility that his disappearance has something to do with what’s in the novel. One of the people Strike meets as he searches for his client’s husband is literary agent Elizabeth Tassel, who handles Quine’s work. She’s an unsuccessful writer who deeply resents the London literary community that wouldn’t accept her and won’t accept her client. As you can imagine, she has a rather pessimistic attitude about writing success. In the end, and with information he gets from Tassel and the other people in Quine’s life, Strike finds out who the killer is and what the motive is.

Whether their specialty is films, sport, music, books, or something else, agents are an important part of many professions. And they can have a lot of power. Little wonder they make so many appearances in the genre…

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Jimmy Buffett’s You’ll Never Work in Dis Bidness Again.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Alison Gordon, Harlan Coben, J.K. Rowling, Kate Atkinson, Robert Galbraith