A lot of people are very much looking forward to the upcoming holidays. Whether it’s the time off from work, visiting with loved ones and friends, the food, the presents….whatever, many people get excited at this time of year. In fact, one of the best things about the season is that eager anticipation.
We all like to have something to look forward to, if you think about it. It might be a big upcoming event, or the arrival of something you’ve ordered, or your top author’s new book, or something else. Whatever it is, that anticipation is, as they say, half the fun.
Anticipation plays a role in crime fiction, too, and that makes sense if you think about it. It’s a very human reaction to life. And it’s interesting the way authors can use that as part of the plot, or as character development.
For example, in Agatha Christie’s Death in the Clouds (AKA Death in the Air), we meet Jane Grey, a London hairdresser’s assistant. She’s won a sweepstakes lottery, and decides to take a trip to Le Pinet, as a lot of her clients do. The trip itself isn’t a bad one, although she spends
‘…the last two (rather disappointing) days in Paris.’
But it certainly doesn’t live up to the fantasy. Then on the plane trip back from Paris to London, Jane gets caught up in a murder mystery when a fellow passenger, Marie Morisot, suddenly dies of what turns out to be poison. The only possible suspects are the other people in the cabin, one of whom is Hercule Poirot. He works with Chief Inspector Japp to find out who the killer is, and it turns out that more than one of the suspects could have had a motive.
Cathy Ace’s The Corpse With the Silver Tongue begins as Vancouver professor and criminologist Cait Morgan plans a trip to Nice. A colleague had been scheduled to deliver a lecture at a conference there, but has been sidelined by an accident. So, Morgan has been tapped to deliver the paper instead. She goes to Nice, and the presentation goes as planned. Now, she’s looking forward to a few days enjoying the good food, fine wine, and pleasant climate – some ‘me’ time. That’s not how it works out, though. Instead, she gets involved in a murder case when she happens to meet up with a former employer who insists that she attend his wife’s birthday party. Morgan isn’t too thrilled about it, but finds herself going. At the party, her host suddenly collapses and dies of what turns out to be poison, and Morgan becomes ‘a person of interest.’ It certainly isn’t the peaceful, relaxing visit she’d planned.
In Linwood Barclay’s Bad Move, science fiction author Zack Walker is very much looking forward to a big move his family is planning from the city to a new suburban development called Valley Forest Estates. He’s been worried about his family’s safety in the city, and the new development boasts nice houses, safe streets, and so on. And when the family first moves in, all starts off well enough. But very quickly, things start to unravel. For one thing, Walker’s children aren’t nearly as excited as he is. They don’t like their new school, they don’t like where they live, and so on. For another, the new house isn’t all it was promised to be. Then, Walker discovers the body of a local environmentalist near a local creek. He ends up getting mixed up in a case of fraud, murder, and more. It’s not at all the lovely new home he anticipated.
Thea Farmer, whom we meet in Virginia Duigan’s The Precipice, also has a dream home in mind. She’s recently retired from her position as a school principal, and has had a home built in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales. It’s her perfect home, and she’s looking forward to living there. But bad luck and some poor financial decision-making have meant that she has to sell that dream home, and settle for the house next door – a house she refers to as ‘the hovel.’ As if that’s not bad enough, Thea’s perfect home is bought by Frank Campbell and Ellice Carrington. They duly move in to the home Thea still considers hers. Then, Frank’s niece, Kim, comes to live with him and Ellice. Against all odds, Thea finds herself forming an awkward sort of friendship with the girl. So, she’s especially upset when she learns that Frank may not be providing an appropriate home for Kim. Thea tries to get the police involved, but there’s not much they can do. So, she decides to take her own action…
Hannah Dennison’s Murder at Honeychurch Hall introduces readers to TV presenter Katherine ‘Kat’ Stanford. She’s had enough of public life and media scrutiny of everything she does. So, she and her mother, Iris, have decided to go into the antique business together. Kat’s looking forward to this next part of her life, and already thinking of plans. Everything changes, though, when she gets a call from her mother. It seems that Iris has moved to the Devon village of Little Dipperton, and has bought the old carriage house on the estate of Honeychurch Hall. Shocked at this change of plans, Kat goes immediately to Little Dipperton, where she finds that her mother has broken one of her hands in a car accident. So, she decides to stay and help out until Iris can manage on her own again. That decision draws Kat into the mystery of a disappearance and a murder.
And then there’s Elizabeth Spann Craig’s Quilt or Innocence, in which we meet Beatrice Coleman. She’s retired from her position at an Atlanta art gallery, and has decided to move closer to her daughter, Piper. So, she moves to Dappled Hills, North Carolina. She’s eagerly anticipating catching up on her reading, taking time to pace herself, and stepping back from the stress of working life. But that’s not what happens. No sooner does she settle in to Dappled Hills than she gets drawn into the local life. It soon seems that every time she thinks she’ll have a few hours to herself, she gets a call, or a visitor, or… And then one day, there’s a murder. A member of the quilting group Beatrice has joined is killed, and it’s not long before she’s drawn into the case.
And that’s how it is when a big event, or an anticipated package (or visitor), or something else is on the horizon. It’s so much fun to anticipate it, which is probably a good thing. You never know what will actually happen…
ps. Oh, the ‘photo? Why, yes, that is a receipt for tickets to see Paul McCartney. Talk about eager anticipation…
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from the Who’s Christmas.