Category Archives: Maj Sjöwall

This is Not a War, No Winners No Losers*

Some professional relationships are, by their nature, adversarial. For instance, in the context of a trial, opposing counsel have to be adversaries if there’s to be a fair trial. The two sides might respect, and even like, one another off duty. But in the courtroom, they have to oppose each other. Some people think of trials as zero-sum situations: if one side wins, the other has to lose.

But there are plenty of relationships that don’t have to be adversarial, although they sometimes turn out that way. For instance, if a person commits crimes in more than one jurisdiction, it helps everyone if the police in those different places cooperate. In other words, it’s not a zero-sum situation. If the police in one place catch the criminal, the police in the other place haven’t ‘lost.’ And the citizens in both places are now safer.

In real life, police in different units and different places know this, and they’re often willing to exchange information and cooperate. It’s not that there’s never friction. In most cases, though, everyone knows that working with different police departments isn’t a zero-sum situation.

We see that cooperation in plenty of crime fiction, too. And that makes sense, since police departments do have to interact. When it’s written well, that sort of interaction can add to a story. It can also introduce different characters.

For instance, in Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders, a series of murders occurs in different jurisdictions. The victims don’t have much of anything in common, and the murders are committed in different ways. The only things linking the deaths are that, before each one, Hercule Poirot receives a cryptic warning letter; and, an ABC railway guide is found near each body. At first, it seems as though a serial killer might be at work. But Poirot isn’t convinced. He and Captain Hastings work with Chief Inspector Japp and police from the different towns involved to find out who the killer is. Admittedly, one of the people they work with, Inspector Crome, has a bit of an annoyingly superior attitude. But by and large, the different police groups share information and cooperate. And in the end, we learn who the killer is and what the motive is.

In Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s Roseanna, the body of a young woman is pulled from Lake Vättern. Stockholm homicide detective Martin Beck and his team travel to Motala, where the investigation is taking place, to work with the local police. The going is slow at first, since the victim doesn’t match the description of any person listed as missing. But eventually, the police learn that the woman’s name was Roseanna McGraw, and that she was an American who was on a tour of Sweden when she was killed. In the meantime, Elmer Kafka of the Lincoln, Nebraska Police is searching for Roseanna, since a missing person report was filed there. Eventually, he and Martin Beck communicate and begin to share information. That information proves to be helpful in finding the killer, and it’s an interesting example of the way police can work together without one group or another having to ‘win.’

Sharon Bolton’s A Dark and Twisted Tide sees Bolton’s protagonist, Lacey Flint, now working with the Met’s Marine Unit. In that capacity, her job is mostly to check boating licenses, warn people about unsafe conditions, and so on. One morning, she discovers the body of a young woman in the water. The victim is probably Middle Eastern or South Asian, and the likelihood is that she was drowned. What’s more disturbing, it looks as though the body might have been left where it was for Flint to find. If so, someone’s taking a bizarre sort of interest in her. The death is looking more and more like a homicide, so Flint works with Detective Inspector (DI) Dana Tulloch and her team in the Met’s Homicide group, to find out who the victim is, and who the killer is. As the two teams work to solve this case, we see solid cooperation between the Homicide Unit and the Marine Unit. There’s some good-natured back-and-forth about whose budget will be tapped for different things, but in the main, these people work together. They all know that everyone wins if the murderer is found, no matter who actually makes the arrest.

We see a similar sort of cooperation among police departments in Martin Edwards’ The Serpent Pool. Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Hannah Scarlett and her Cold Case Review Team is investigating the six-year-old drowning death of Bethany Friend. They’re trying to trace the victim’s last months and weeks to find out who would want her dead. At the same time, Scarlett’s friend and colleague Fern Larter and her team are investigating two more recent deaths: book collector George Saffell and attorney Stuart Wagg. Scarlett and Larter are friends; but even if they weren’t, they both know that policing isn’t a zero-sum situation. Competing with one another wouldn’t solve crimes successfully, and working together does. When a connection between the two investigations is found, the teams share information and cooperate to find the killer.

In Michael Redhill/Inger Ash Wolfe’s The Calling, Detective Inspector (DI) Hazel Micallef and her team at Port Dundas, Ontario, are faced with a disturbing series of deaths that look on the surface to be assisted suicides. But Micallef’s not sure of that. As time goes on, and the case is no closer to being solved, she comes to believe that it’s possible a serial killer is striking. If so, this killer has likely struck before, and will likely strike again. So, in one plot thread, Micellef’s team communicates with other police teams to get whatever background information they may have on similar killings. That cooperation turns out to be very useful, as it helps the Port Dundas team home in on the murderer.

There are plenty of crime novels, of course, in which ‘patch wars’ and worse happen between fictional police departments, or between different units in the same department. And that kind of conflict does happen in real life. But the reality is, the more cooperation there is among different police teams, the more crime is solved. And it’s easier than ever with today’s technology. Little wonder there’s an argument that police work isn’t a zero-sum situation – well, except for the criminal…

 
 
 

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

9 Comments

Filed under Agatha Christie, Inger Ash Wolfe, Maj Sjöwall, Martin Edwards, Michael Redhill, Per Wahlöö, Sharon Bolton

Any Fish Bite if You Got Good Bait*

Criminals don’t always leave a lot of evidence behind. So, in order to collar them, the police have to catch them in the act, so to speak. And that sometimes means that the police have to use ‘bait.’

This can be a tricky plot point in a crime novel. For one thing, real-life police aren’t eager to risk the safety of one of their own, so they don’t plan such operations without a lot of thought and care. For another, such operations can be legally chancy, and must avoid entrapment. When they’re not done carefully, these plot points can also become almost melodramatic, and that can take away from a story. But, when it’s done effectively, using a character as ‘bait’ can add suspense to a story, and can be a legitimate way for a fictional sleuth to catch a criminal.

You might say that Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes uses himself as ‘bait’ in The Adventure of the Dancing Men. He and Dr. Watson get a visit from Hilton Cubitt, who’s very concerned about his American-born wife, Elsie. When they married, she assured him that she had nothing disgraceful in her own past. But, she’d had some dangerous associations. She made him promise not to ask her about her life in America, and he kept that promise. Now, though, she’s getting cryptic letters that have upset her. The letters take the form of sets of coded characters, so Cubitt doesn’t know what they say. And Elsie won’t tell him. Then, the drawings start appearing on the window ledge of the Cubitt home. Holmes gets to work trying to decrypt the messages, but before he can, Cubitt is shot one night, and his wife is wounded. Holmes sets a trap for the killer with himself as ‘bait;’ he sends a coded message asking the murderer to meet him. Holmes is able to catch the criminal, and we learn what really happened at the Cubitt residence.

Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s Martin Beck series begins with Roseanna. In that novel, the body of an unknown woman is pulled from Lake Vättern. It takes time, but she is eventually identified as twenty-seven-year-old Roseanna McGraw, an American who was on a tour of Sweden when she was killed. Once the victim has a name, Martin Beck and his team get to work tracing her last days and weeks, and trying to find out who would have wanted to kill her. Finally, after several months, some false starts, and a lot of work, the team learns who the murderer is. But there isn’t much evidence, and the culprit isn’t likely to admit any guilt. So, Martin Beck and his teammates set a trap, if you will, using one of their own, Sonja Hansson. She’s made fully aware of the risks, and decides she wants to help. So, everything’s prepared. In the end, that trap is successful in catching Roseanna McGraw’s killer, but it’s risky and it’s scary for all concerned.

The first of Jane Casey’s Maeve Kerrigan novels, The Burning, sees Met Detective Constable (DC) Kerrigan tracking a murderer the press has called the Burning Man, because he incinerates his victims. The police haven’t gotten very far in finding out who the murderer is, because there’s not much evidence. So, the public and the press are losing patience. Then, there’s a new victim, Rebecca Haworth. On the surface, it looks very much as though the Burning Man has struck again. But there are little differences between this case and the others. Kerrigan wants to stay with the Burning Man team, but she’s assigned to follow up on the Haworth case. After all, the police don’t want to be seen as ignoring a murder. And, if this was, in fact, a Burning Man case, Kerrigan’s helping the team. In the end, we find out who the Burning Man is, and how the Haworth murder fits in, and it’s more complex than it seems at first. In one scene, Kerrigan joins the team as they plan to try to catch the Burning Man. An undercover officer, Katy Mayford, will serve as the ‘bait.’ It’s not spoiling the story to say that this operation turns out to be dangerous.

Lynda La Plante’s Above Suspicion is the first in her Anna Travis series. In it, Travis has just joined the Murder Squad at Queen’s Park, London. At the time she comes aboard, the team is working on a case of six older prostitutes who were all killed in the same way. Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) James Langton is sure the murders were committed by the same person, but the culprit doesn’t leave much at all in the way of evidence. Then, seventeen-year-old Melissa Stephens is found dead. Her murder was committed exactly the same way as the others, but she was quite young, and not a prostitute. So, it’s not certain that she’s a victim of the same killer. Langton thinks she is, though, and the team gathers evidence. One possible suspect is a TV actor named Alan Daniels. There is some evidence that he could be guilty, but it’s not conclusive. Besides, he’s beloved, charming, and just about to make it big in films. If he’s not guilty, being dragged into a murder case like this will ruin his career. It could also harm Travis’ career, since she’s found some of the evidence against him. So, the team has to tread lightly.  At one point in the novel, Langton and the team set up an operation with Travis as ‘bait.’ It’s a suspenseful scene, since it’s not clear whether or not Daniels is the killer. There is another solid suspect, and things aren’t always as they seem in such cases. It’s very hard on Travis to serve as ‘bait,’ although she acquits herself well. And it shows just how stressful this sort of operation can be.

And it can. Still, sometimes the best way to catch a criminal is to set and ‘bait’ a trap. When that plot point is well-drawn, it can add a solid dose of suspense, tension and surprise to a novel.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Henry Thomas’ Fishing Blues.

11 Comments

Filed under Arthur Conan Doyle, Jane Casey, Lynda La Plante, Maj Sjöwall, Per Wahlöö

I Dial It In And Tune the Station*

With today’s technology, it’s very easy to contact people in other countries. So, we often take that ability for granted. But that hasn’t always been the case. It wasn’t until 1905, for instance, that wireless transmission between Europe and North America was commercially available. The advent of international wireless communication meant that it was far easier and less costly to broadcast, and to send messages.

Police in different countries have, since then, used wireless transmission (and, today, of course, email and other electronic communication) to do their jobs, even when a suspect crosses international borders. We certainly see that in cases of true crime.

For example, Dr. Harvey Hawley Crippen was arrested, convicted, and executed for the murder of his wife. There are arguments that he was innocent, and some people believe that a grave miscarriage of justice happened in this case. What isn’t in dispute, though, is the way in which Crippen was caught. He saw that the police suspected him, at least for a time, and decided it would be best to flee the UK. So, Crippen and his mistress, Ethel ‘Le Neave’ Neave, made plans for a transatlantic journey to Canada. They were on board the Montrose when its captain identified them, although Le Neve was disguised as a boy. The captain used wireless communication to contact Scotland Yard. Inspector Drew, who’d been investigating this murder, boarded another ship, which followed after the one which carried Crippen and Le Neve. The papers got wireless updates on how close the two ships were, and reported the news when Drew boarded the Montrose, and arrested Crippen. For a fascinating perspective on the Crippen case, you’ll want to read Martin Edwards’ Dancing For the Hangman, which is a fictional account of the murder and its investigation, told mostly from Crippen’s point of view.

In Agatha Christie’s Lord Edgware Dies, Hercule Poirot uses wireless communication to help solve the murder of the 4th Baron Edgware, who was stabbed in his study. The most likely suspect is the victim’s wife, famous actress Jane Wilkinson. But she says she was at a party in another part of London at the time of the murder, and there are twelve people who are ready to swear in court that she was there. So, Poirot and Chief Inspector Japp have to look elsewhere for the killer. At one point, Poirot learns of a letter that may be relevant to the case. The author of the letter lives in America, but Poirot uses wireless communication to get in contact, and to arrange to see the letter. It turns out to be very important to solving the case.

Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s Martin Beck series begins with Roseanna. In that novel, a young woman’s body is dredged up from Lake Vättern. There’s no identification, and no-one has reported a missing person who matches that description. Eventually, though, she is identified as twenty-seven-year-old Roseanna McGraw, an American who was touring Sweden at the time she was murdered. At the same time, Lieutenant Elmer Kafka of the Lincoln, Nebraska police is working on Roseanna McGraw’s case from another angle. She’s been reported missing, and he’s trying to locate her. When he and Martin Beck get in contact, they’re able to pool resources and, in the end, get answers to their questions. And it’s all made possible through wireless communication.

Carolina Garcia-Aguilera’s series features Miami-based PI Guadalupe ‘Lupe’ Solano. Her parents moved their family from Cuba to Florida after Fidel Castro’s rise to power. Since that time, the family’s settled into South Florida. But they’ve held on to their Cuban culture. They speak Cuban Spanish, retain their Cuban cultural ways, and so on. And Solano’s father dreams of the time when he and his family can, as he sees it, go home. Because of the relations between the US and Cuba, it’s very difficult to get a lot of reliable information about what’s happening in Cuba. But there are commercial and private radio transmissions, and Solano’s father listens to them constantly. He wants to be completely ready if word comes (as he hopes it will) that Castro is out of power and it’s safe to return to Cuba.

Wireless radio transmission is an essential for communication in areas such as Canada’s Far North, where many places are inaccessible, and where telephones and Internet connections aren’t always possible. We see that use of radio to solve crimes in several books that take place in that part of the world. One of them is M.J. McGrath’s White Heat. In it, we are introduced to Ellesmere Island hunting guide Edie Kiglatuk. She’s a champion guide, so it’s a real shock when one of her clients, Felix Wagner, is fatally shot. His companion, Andy Taylor, claims he’s innocent, and there’s evidence to support him. So, the incident is put down to a tragic accident. Edie isn’t so sure it was an accident, but she knows that if she causes trouble, the local council will revoke her guide license. So, she goes along with this explanation on the surface. But she still has concerns. She contacts Sergeant Derek Palliser, the senior of Ellesmere Island’s native police officers, and shares her misgivings. There’s not much he can do at first, but then, there’s a disappearance. And a suicide that very well could be murder. Now, it’s clear that something very big is going on. Each in a different way, the two sleuths look for answers, and in the end, we learn the truth about these three incidents and how they’re connected. Throughout the novel, we see how wireless radio is used to connect with others and get information.

We may not think about it very often, especially with the prevalence of the Internet and other forms of communication. But international wireless radio has played a really important part in crimes and their solution, but real and fictional. And it still does.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Wall of Voodoo’s Mexican Radio.

18 Comments

Filed under Agatha Christie, Carolina Garcia-Aguilera, M.J. McGrath, Maj Sjöwall, Martin Edwards, Per Wahlöö

Gotta Get Down To It*

One of the more challenging jobs that police do is manage crowds of people. On the one hand, safety is the most important consideration. So, the police have to ensure that people aren’t looting, hurting each other, or worse. On the other hand, most of us agree that people have the right to go about their business, even in large crowds, without being stopped by the police. In many countries, too, it’s been determined that people have the right to protest peacefully, and protests and marches can draw large crowds.

The balance between protecting people’s rights, and ensuring public order and safety isn’t an easy one. And the vast majority of police strike that balance. If you think about it, a large number of crowd events, whether for fun, for protest, or something else, go off quite smoothly. But even so, they can be tense, and some spill over into conflict, or worse.

That’s certainly true in real life, and it’s true in crime fiction, too. For instance, in Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders, Hercule Poirot, Chief Inspector Japp, and several local police officers, are looking for an elusive killer. Their target has already killed three people, and has warned that there’ll be more deaths. Before each murder, the killer sends a cryptic warning to Poirot, so he’s told in advance that this next murder will take place at Doncaster. At first, preventing that murder seems straightforward. But, the police haven’t considered the fact that the St. Leger is to be run in Doncaster on the day the killer has specified. Now, the police have to manage the crowds, look for a killer, and try to keep potential victims safe. In the end, we learn who the murderer is, and what the motive is. But the large crowds on St. Leger day don’t make things any easier.

There’s a very tense set of scenes featuring large crowds and police in Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s The Laughing Policeman. In one plot thread of that novel, the Swedish government is preparing for a visit from a US senator. Many, many people are upset at the US’ involvement in Vietnam, and a large protest is staged outside the US Embassy in Stockholm. The police are already stretched rather thin, as the saying goes, and the demonstrators are determined. With the police force pushed to its limit, a gunman boards a bus, killing eight passengers, including Åke Stenström, a police officer. And it turns out that this murderer ‘hid’ that death among the others on the bus.

In Peter Robinson’s A Necessary End, the town of Eastvale gears up for an anti-nuclear demonstration. Several groups have come into town for the occasion, and DCI Alan Banks and his team know that things could turn ugly. So, they prepare as best they can for the crowds. The day of the demonstration arrives, and the police do their best to manage everything. Then, tragedy strikes. Someone takes advantage of the large crowd to murder P.C. Edwin Gill. Banks’ superior officer, Superintendent Richard ‘Dirty Dick’ Burgess, is convinced that one of the demonstrators is responsible for Gill’s murder, and wants Banks to make a quick arrest. But Banks isn’t so sure that the demonstrators had anything to do with the killing. And, as he digs more deeply into the case, he finds that Gill had a reputation as a thug, who abused his authority more than once. So, there are plenty of people in town who could have a very good motive for murder.

Ian Rankin’s Mortal Causes takes place during the Edinburgh Festival, which is always a very difficult time for police. It’s a major tourist draw, there are parties, plenty of drinking, and big events. So, it’s very hard to keep the peace and ensure that everyone is safe. That background is tense enough. Matters get worse when the body of Billy Cunningham is discovered at Mary King’s Close, one of Edinburgh’s busiest streets. It turns out that Cunningham may have had ties to the IRA and to some Scottish ultra-nationalist groups. What’s worse, it turns out that he was the son of Morris Gerald ‘Big Ger’ Cafferty, a local crime boss, and Inspector John Rebus’ nemesis. Cafferty, as you can imagine, is all for dealing with his son’s killers in his own way. But Rebus knows that this could lead to a bloodbath. So, he’ll have to find Cunningham’s killer, find a way to manage Cafferty, and deal with the festival crowds.

And then there’s Felicity Young’s The Anatomy of Death (AKA A Dissection of Murder).  In that novel, which takes place in 1910, Dr. Dorothy ‘Dody’ McCleland returns to London from Edinburgh. She’s just finished qualifying in forensic pathology, and is hoping to work with the noted Dr. Bernard Spilsbury in the Home Office. As she’s waiting for that opportunity, she takes a job at a women’s hospital. She’s no sooner arrived and gotten settled when she learns that a women’s suffrage march in Whitechapel turned very ugly. Several of the protesters were beaten, and many were arrested. There were three deaths, too, and McCleland performs the autopsies. It turns out that one of the deaths, that of Lady Catherine Cartwright, might not have been accidental. And it turns out that this killer used the large crowd as a ‘cover’ for a very deliberate murder.

That happens, too, in Brian Stoddart’s A Madras Miasma, which takes place in 1920 Madras (today’s Chennai). This story takes place during the last years of the British Raj, and there’s a lot of talk of social and political reform. In fact, in one plot thread of the novel, there’s a demonstration against the entrenched British establishment. Stoddart’s protagonist, Superintendent Christian ‘Chris’ Le Fanu, understands both the need to keep order and the benefits of some sort of power-sharing. He’d like the ‘powers that be’ to at least hear out the other side’s arguments. There are plenty of people in the upper levels who don’t want to give up power, though, so the protest takes place.  Le Fanu is sympathetic to the protesters’ cause, but, he is a police officer, and is sworn to uphold the law. The demonstration turns ugly, and Madras Commissioner of Police Arthur Jepson insists that his men use their weapons. At the end of it all, there are twenty-three deaths, and eighty-five people with injuries. One of the dead is a key source of information for another case that Le Fanu is investigating, and he learns that that person was killed by someone who used the large crowd and the unrest to ‘cover up’ the murder.

It’s not easy to be a police officer under the best of circumstances. Add in a large crowd, no matter how peaceful, and things can get very dangerous, very quickly. That’s part of what makes such scenes so suspenseful, and potentially so effective in a crime novel.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Neil Young’s Ohio.

23 Comments

Filed under Agatha Christie, Brian Stoddart, Felicity Young, Ian Rankin, Maj Sjöwall, Per Wahlöö, Peter Robinson

Must Have Been the Right Month*

januaryA lot of people see January as the time to start anew. It’s the beginning of the year, it’s a chance to ‘do it right this time,’ and it’s a time when many people set positive goals for themselves. You’d think it’d be an optimistic time of year, right?

Not exactly. For one thing, there’s the weather. In some places, it’s the dead of winter, with freezing temperatures, bad weather and little light. In others, it’s mid-summer, with intolerable heat and the onset of wildfire season. And there are plenty of crime novels that take place in January, too.

For example, Agatha Christie’s The Mystery of the Blue Train begins in January. In one plot thread, we are introduced to Katherine Grey, who has served as paid companion to wealthy Mrs. Harfield for ten years. When Mrs. Harfield dies, Katherine unexpectedly inherits a large fortune. One of her decisions, now that she has money, is to do what many other people with money do at that time of year: escape the January winter weather and head for a warmer climate. She decides to accept an invitation from a distant relative, Lady Rose Tamplin, to stay with her in Nice for a while. Katherine arranges to take the famous Blue Train to Nice, and that turns out to be a fateful decision. On the way, she gets drawn into a case of theft and murder. Hercule Poirot is also on the train, and Katherine works with him to help find out who the murderer is.

One focus of Sarah Ward’s In Bitter Chill is a case from 1978. One January day, Sophie Jenkins and Rachel Jones walked to school together. Only Rachel returned. A massive search was undertaken, but no trace of Sophie was ever found. Now, years later, there’s another death, this time of Yvonne Jenkins. At first it looks like a tragic, but straightforward case of suicide. But DI Francis Sadler suspects it might be more than that when a discovery is made that links this death to the 1978 case. With help from Superintendent Llewellyn, who investigated the original case, Sadler and his team look into the 1978 disappearance again, and discover how it is related to the present death.

Bitter January weather sets the scene for the end of a difficult case for Martin Beck and his team in Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s Roseanna. One summer day, the body of a young woman is dredged from Lake Vättern. At first, the police find it hard to identify her, since she wasn’t Swedish. But in time, they learn that she was twenty-seven-year-old Roseanna McGraw, an American who was on a cruise tour of Sweden when she was killed. Little by little, and after several false starts, Beck and his team trace the victim’s last days and weeks, and they find out who was on board the cruise ship when she died. It takes months of hard work, and some lucky breaks, but they finally narrow down the list of suspects, and discover who was responsible for the murder. Then, they set up a ‘sting’ operation to catch that person. The operation takes place during bitterly cold January weather, which adds to the atmosphere. In the end, the team solves the crime, but it takes a lot of time and effort.

In some places in the world, January is the middle of summer. But that doesn’t make things any safer. For instance, Y.A. Erskine’s The Brotherhood takes place in January. In that novel, Tasmania Police Sergeant John White goes to the scene of a home invasion. With him is Probationer Lucy Howard. She’s at the front of the house, and White goes to the back, where he’s stabbed to death. The suspect is seventeen-year-old Darren Rowley, who’s been in trouble with the law before. The police are more than eager to avenge the murder of one of their own, but they’ll have to tread lightly. For one thing, the suspect is a juvenile. For another, he may be able to claim Aboriginal identity. If he and his lawyer choose to do that, then the media will put everything the police do under very close scrutiny. It isn’t usually particularly hot in Hobart in January, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of tension in this novel…

There is in Geoffrey McGeachin’s St. Kilda Blues, too. That novel takes place in January, 1967 – the ‘Summer of Love.’ Melbourne police detective Charlie Berlin has been shunted aside, so to speak, in the police hierarchy because he doesn’t ‘play politics.’ But he’s pulled into action when fifteen-year-old Gudrun Scheiner goes missing. Her father is a wealthy and well-connected developer, and is desperate to get his daughter back if possible. So, the police are motivated to get to a solution quickly. As Berlin soon comes to believe, this isn’t an isolated case. Gudrun is one of nine girls who’ve disappeared, and it could be that Melbourne is up against a serial killer. With summer in full swing, and young people not in school, it’s even more difficult to track people’s whereabouts, but Berlin and his partner/former protégé Rob Roberts search for the truth. And the truth turns out to be very unexpected…

And then there’s Wendy James The Lost Girls. This story’s focus is in part the murder of fourteen-year-old Angela Buchanan. It’s January, 1978, and Angela’s been given (reluctant) permission to spend the summer with her aunt and uncle, Barbara and Doug Griffin. There isn’t much to do, so Angela, her cousin Mick, and Mick’s friends spend plenty of time at the local drugstore, playing pinball. Then, one horrible day, Angela goes missing. She’s later found dead, with a scarf around her head. At first, the police concentrate on family and friends, as is only logical. But they don’t have enough evidence to charge anyone. Then, a few months later, sixteen-year-old Kelly McIvor is also found dead, also with a scarf around her head. Now, it looks as though the same person committed both crimes, and the press begin to dub this killer, ‘The Sydney Strangler.’ The case is never solved, and it leaves the family with lasting scars. Years later, documentary filmmaker Erin Fury decides to do a film on families who’ve survived the murder of one of their members. She wants to include the Griffin family, and interviews the various members. Little by little, and partly through these interviews, we learn the truth about Angela’s fate, and about Kelly’s.

See what I mean? January is not really a safe month. Perhaps it’d be best to follow the lead of Kerry Greenwood’s Corinna Chapman and shut up shop for the month, as she does in Cooking the Books

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Elton John’s January.

33 Comments

Filed under Agatha Christie, Geoffrey McGeachin, Kerry Greenwood, Maj Sjöwall, Per Wahlöö, Wendy James, Y.A. Erskine