Category Archives: Martin Edwards

The Highway is Long But We’ve Come so Far*

As this is posted, it’s 61 years since the publication of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. As you’ll know, the novel’s focus is a set of road trips. That context – a road trip – is an effective way to explore all sorts of characters, different places, and adventures.

For the crime writer, a road trip also offers plenty of opportunities for misadventure, danger, and tension. And that can add to the suspense of a novel. Here are just a few examples; I know you’ll think of many more.

In Martin Edwards’ short story, 24 Hours From Tulsa, we are introduced to a sales and marketing director named Lomas, who’s on a road trip. He’s under tremendous pressure, and a lot of it is because he finds it hard to get used to the way the world’s changed. He was always at the top of his game, as the saying goes, but people aren’t buying in brick-and-mortar stores the way they did. Companies need to come up with new ways to get sales, and Lomas is finding that difficult. He’s not much of a one for computers, anyway. Even the routes he takes on his road trips have changed, and that’s hard for him, as well. It doesn’t help matters that he’s also got personal problems. The pressure has been building up to the point where Lomas finds it impossible to tolerate it any more. With all of this going on, Lomas decides to stop for the night at a roadside motel. And there, he takes a drastic step.

Geoffrey McGeachin’s Fat, Fifty & F****d! introduces readers to bank manager Martin Carter, who lives and works in a small, dying Australian town. His marriage has fallen apart, and he is made redundant, so he’s really reached a crossroads in his life. On his last day at the bank, he can’t resist the chance to get his hands on a million-dollar payroll and just chuck it all in. So, he takes the money and makes his getaway in a police-issue 4WD. He doesn’t have a particular destination in mind at first, but he knows he wants to start over. He starts off on a road trip that will involve all sorts of eccentric characters and adventures he hadn’t imagined when it all started. This novel isn’t, strictly speaking, crime fiction (well, OK, Carter does take a million dollars and some other ‘crimey’ things happen). But it does tell the story of an unusual road trip.

There’s also quite a road trip in Anthony Bidulka’s Amuse Bouche. Russell Quant is a Saskatoon-based PI, who gets a new client in successful business executive Harold Chavell. He and his fiancé, Tom Osborn, had planned to marry and take a honeymoon trip to France, but Osborn disappeared, taking a copy of the honeymoon itinerary. Chavell wants Quant to go to France and find Osborn. So, Quant travels to France, and follows the itinerary the couple had planned to use. He makes progress, but Osborn seems to stay one step ahead. Then, Quant gets a note saying that Osborn doesn’t want to be found. When Chavell learns that, he asks Quant to return to Saskatoon. Not long afterwards, Osborn’s body is discovered in a lake near a home he and Chavell owned. Now, Chavell is a suspect in a murder investigation, and he asks Quant to stay on the job and clear his name. The road trip through France doesn’t really solve the mystery, but it adds a bit of adventure (and, of course, the setting) to the story.

France is also the setting for Fred Vargas’ Ghost Riders of Ordebec. In one plot thread of that novel, Paris police detective Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg and his team investigate a car fire that killed wealthy Antoine Clermont-Brasseur. It’s not long before it’s established that this was a case of arson. The most likely suspect is a known arsonist named Momo, who has a history of burning cars. He claims that he’s innocent, though, and there’s evidence to support him. Because the victim was very well-connected, there’s a lot of pressure for the police to make a quick arrest and for the case to be settled. But Adamsberg isn’t convinced that Momo’s guilty. And he doesn’t want an innocent man to be jailed. So, he takes a very unusual course of action to be sure that doesn’t happen. In the meantime, his teammates discover that more than one person might have wanted to kill this victim. In one part of this novel, there’s a very interesting road trip that a couple of characters take. And it adds to the plot to follow along with them.

And then there’s Spencer Quinn’s The Right Side. In that novel, US Army Sergeant LeAnn Hogan is in Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in Bethesda, Maryland. She was badly wounded in a bombing incident in Afghanistan and has been left with severe injuries and psychological damage. During her stay at the hospital, Hogan makes friends with her roommate, Marci Cummings. Then, unexpectedly, Cummings dies. Seeking some sort of solace, Hogan leaves Walter Reed and takes a road trip across the US, ending up in Bellevue, Washington, where Cummings lived. Along the way, she struggles with her injuries, and with deciding what she’s going to do and how she’ll fit in, now that she’s back in the US. Hogan arrives in Bellevue too late to attend her friend’s funeral. But she still wants to pay her respects to the family. That’s when she finds out that Cummings’ eight-year-old daughter, Mia, has gone missing. Search parties are out, the police are involved, and everyone is hoping that the child will be found safe. Hogan wants to help, too, and starts asking questions. But it’s soon very clear that her input is not welcome. Some people are downright hostile; others are evasive. But Hogan is not without resources. In the end, we learn the truth about Mia, and about the bombing incident that changed Hogan’s life.

There are lots of other crime novels that involve road trips. They can be effective plot tools, and they can add suspense and tension to a story. Which crime-fictional road trips have stayed with you?

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s Freeways.

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Filed under Anthony Bidulka, Fred Vargas, Geoffrey McGeachin, Martin Edwards, Spencer Quinn

They Both Met Movie Stars, Partied and Mingled*

Networking isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind when you think about being a writer. But it’s important. If people don’t know who you are, and don’t know the kind of things you write, they’re not likely to read your work. Many writers I know aren’t especially fond of networking, but it does matter.

People I know who are musicians and visual artists tell me it’s similar for them. The ability to network can get you more readers, more people listening to your music, and more people looking at your art. Of course, with today’s social media, it’s much easier to network than it ever was. But there’s still an important role in real life for meeting people face to face, handing out a card, and talking about your work.

Networking matters in crime fiction, too. And it can have all sorts of consequences, depending on what the author plans. For instance, in Agatha Christie’s Five Little Pigs, Hercule Poirot is hired to find out who killed famous painter Amyas Crale. Everyone assumed his wife, Caroline, was responsible, and she had motive. There was evidence against her, too. In fact, she was convicted of the crime, and died in prison a year later. Now, the Crales’ daughter, Carla, wants her mother’s name cleared. Poirot takes the case and interviews the five people who were on hand on the day of the murder. He also gets written accounts of the murder from each of his interviewees. That’s how he learns the background of the affair that Crale was having with one of those people, Elsa Greer. It seems that Crale was at a studio party, where he was networking. Elsa attended the same event and asked to meet him. For her, one meeting was all it took, and it wasn’t long before they were involved. That (plus the fact that Crale was doing a painting of her) is the reason she was at the Crale home on the day he died. It’s also the reason, so said the prosecution, that Caroline Crale was motivated to kill her husband.

Networking causes an awful lot of trouble in Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley Under Ground. In that novel, Tom Ripley and three of his friends, Jeff Constant, Ed Banbury, and Bernard Tufts, have convinced the Buckmaster Gallery in London to carry the work of a relatively unknown painter named Philip Derwatt. The artist died a few years earlier, but Tufts has created some new ‘Derwatt paintings,’ and the business is going well. Then, things start to fall apart. An American Derwatt enthusiast named Thomas Murchison goes to London for a special Derwatt show at the gallery. He asks a few questions about some subtle but real differences between the genuine Derwatt paintings he knows, and those the Buckminster is showing. Ripley and his group conclude that the best way to head off disaster is for Ripley to go to London disguised as Derwatt and authenticate the work. The arrangements are made, and Ripley carries off the sham at a networking event. But Murchison isn’t convinced. Now, the team will have to think of another solution. Ripley deals with ‘the Murchison problem’ in his own way, but he soon finds he’s got even bigger problems…

Riley Adams’ (AKA Elizabeth Spann Craig) Hickory Smoked Homicide introduces readers to wealthy beauty pageant coach and judge Tristan Pembroke. She is malicious and competitive, so she hasn’t exactly won a lot of fans. But she is wealthy and influential. One night, she hosts a benefit art auction at her home. Local artist Sara Taylor has already had her share of run-ins with Tristan, but this art auction is a chance for her to get the word out about her work. So, she attends, and contributes some of her art. Tristan is murdered during the event, and Sara’s mother-in-law, Lulu Taylor, discovers the body. Sara is a likely suspect, but Lulu is convinced she is innocent. So, she starts to ask questions. And it’s not long before she discovers that plenty of people wanted Tristan Pembroke out of the way.

There’s an interesting networking event in Martin Edwards’ The Hanging Wood. In that novel, Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Hannah Scarlett and her Cold Case Review Team look into the twenty-year-old disappearance of Callum Payne. At the same time, they’re investigating whether it might be related to the recent suicide (or was it?) of his sister, Orla. In one sub-plot of the novel, Scarlett’s boss, Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) Lauren Self, insists that she attend a ‘command performance’ Awards Dinner. It’s absolutely not Scarlett’s sort of thing. But a lot of business and community leaders will be there, and their funding is important to the constabulary. It’s important that the police network there, and leave as good an impression as they can, to secure that money. So, Scarlett attends. And it’s as well she does, too, because it helps her investigation.

Athletes have to do their share of networking, too. We see that, for instance, in Alison Gordon’s Kate Henry novels. Henry is a sportswriter for the Toronto Planet. Her specialty is baseball, so she follows the Toronto Titans to their away games, attends all of the home games, and is there for all of the team’s press events. And there are plenty of them, too. The Titans know that they need to network and get the word out if they’re going to keep their fan base, and hopefully get more fans. Members of the press know that networking allows them exclusive stories and other ‘ins’ that make them more competitive. That relationship is also explored a bit in Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar series. Bolitar is a sports agent, so part of his job is to network with owners and managers to get his clients on teams.

And then there’s Louise Penny’s Ruth Zardo. She is a gifted poet who live in the small Québec town of Three Pines. She’s not exactly a social person; in fact, she can be quite acerbic. But she knows that, as a poet, she has to get the word out about her work. So, in A Fatal Grace (AKA Dead Cold), she goes to a Montréal bookshop to do a reading and some networking. The event isn’t the main focus of the novel, but it does add to the plot, and it shows how difficult it can be for people to network and get others to pay attention. Trust me. It is. But networking has to be done. If you’re a writer, how do you network?

ps. The ‘photo is of a custom-printed tote that I use. It’s got the same logo as my business card, as you see. It’s one of the hopefully-not-annoying ways I have to ‘sell myself’ when the opportunity arises.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Tom Petty’s Into the Great Wide Open.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Alison Gordon, Elizabeth Spann Craig, Harlan Coben, Louise Penny, Martin Edwards, Patricia Highsmith, Riley Adams

Politics – the Art of the Possible*

Whenever groups of people work together, there’s the issue of what I’ll call politics (I don’t mean government politics here. That’s the subject for another post at some point). Who’s in charge? Who gets ahead? Who’s allied with whom? Most people say that they get sick of office politics. On the other hand, it’s wise to be able to get along with colleagues. It’s a delicate balance to strike.

Some people, though, learn to be masters of workplace politics. They’re the ones who move along quickly in their careers. We may resent them, and even decide not to trust them. But it’s hard not to notice their ability to manage their careers. And we certainly see those characters in crime fiction.

For example, James Ellroy’s LA Confidential introduces readers to Los Angeles police detective Edmund ‘Ed’ Exley. He is the son of the much-revered Preston Exley, whose dream it is for his son to get to the top of the LAPD. He gives Ed all sorts of advice, pulls the right proverbial strings, and so on. And Ed certainly learns to play the ‘politics game.’ The real action in the story begins on Christmas Day, 1951, when seven civilians are brutally attacked by the police. Two years later, there’s another tragedy. This time, it’s a late-night shooting at the Nite Owl Diner. Exley is involved in both of these situations, and he uses his political skills (and the prodding from his father) to manipulate matters so that he can move ahead in his career.

Fans of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch novels will know that Bosch runs up against Irvin Irving more than once in his career. Irving is a very politically astute member of the LAPD, who’s quite skilled at protecting himself and those in high positions on the force. He isn’t above squashing investigations if they might impact his image, or the images of those above him in the pecking order. And, more than once, he works to impede investigations that Bosch is conducting. As any Bosch fan can tell you, Harry Bosch follows the trail wherever it leads, and that doesn’t always sit well with Irving’s political ambitions. The two butt heads more than once in the course of the series.

Martin Edwards’ Lake District mysteries feature Hannah Scarlett, who heads up the Cumbria Constabulary’s Cold Case Review Team. Her Assistant Chief Constable (ACC), Lauren Self, is extremely politically conscious and astute. She takes every opportunity she can to advance her career; and, while she’s not deliberately malicious, she has no intentions of letting anything get in the way of her success. On the one hand, Scarlett has much less interest in ‘office politics.’ She wants to get the job done. Sometimes that putts her at odds with her boss. On the other hand, she can’t help but notice, and, in a way, respect the way Self manages the political realities of the job.

Donna Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti works at the Venice questura. He wants to see crimes solved, and justice done. But he’s often hampered by his boss, vice-questore Giuseppe Patta. Patta’s main focus is his own career. So, he toadies to those with money and power. If an investigation happens to lead to someone with influence, or someone who could help Patta’s career, he’s not above squashing the investigation. He’s been known to remove Brunetti from cases, too. Fortunately, Patta’s assistant, Signorina Elettra Zorzi, likes Brunetti and generally supports what he’s doing. She’s quite good at manipulating her boss, too, so she and Brunetti find ways to get things done.

It’s not just police forces where we see these politically astute characters. Many other groups and businesses include them. For example, in Robert Rotenberg’s Old City Hall, we are introduced to Albert Fernandez. He’s a Crown Prosecutor who lives and works in Toronto. Frenandez wants to move ahead in his career, and he does a lot to make that happen. He’s the first in the office in the morning, and the last to leave. He calculates the political risks of what he does, who he spends time with, and so on. It’s not that he’s soulless, but he’s intent on career success, and he has a sense of what that takes. He gets a chance at a real ‘feather in the cap’ when famous broadcaster Kevin Brace is arrested for killing his common-law wife, Katherine Thorn. It ought to be an easy case. Brace told a witness that he killed her. And he hasn’t said anything since to defend himself (actually, he hasn’t spoken since. He communicates with his own lawyer, Nancy Parish via handwritten notes). Fernandez isn’t going to find this case as easy a win as he thinks, though. Parish is no slouch, and there’s more to this case than it seems on the surface.

And then there’s Megan Abbott’s Dare Me. That novel takes place mostly within the context of a high school cheerleading team. Addy Hanlon and Beth Cassidy are members of their high school’s cheerleading squad, and undisputed ‘queen bees’ of their school’s social order. They know all about the politics of ‘making it’ in high school, and they’ve done well. Beth, in particular, is at the top of the high school social ladder. Then, Collette French is hired to coach the cheerleading squad. Right from the beginning, French changes the social order. The cheerleading squad becomes an elite social group, and Addy is welcomed into the ‘inner circle.’ Beth, though, is not. Then, there’s a suicide (or was it?). It’s interesting to see how the politics of high school, and those who play that game well, are important in this novel.

There are plenty of other fictional examples of people who are astute at ‘office politics.’ Such characters have important social survival skills; even as we may resent them, it’s hard to deny their ability to negotiate some dangerous waters, as the saying goes. Which ones have stayed with you?

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s The Art of the Possible.

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Filed under Donna Leon, James Ellroy, Martin Edwards, Megan Abbott, Michael Connelly, Robert Rotenberg

To the Backroom, the Alley, or the Trusty Woods*

In Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders, Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings are discussing what they would want for ‘the perfect crime.’ Poirot asks:
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‘‘If you could order a crime as one orders a dinner, what would you choose.’’
 
He and Hastings discuss the sort of crime (murder, of course!). Then, Hastings says,
 

‘‘Scene of the crime – well, what’s wrong with the good old library? Nothing like it for atmosphere.’’ 
 

Hastings has a point. Libraries can be very atmospheric places for scenes of crime or for discovering a body. And Christie uses the library to that effect, too, right, fans of The Body in the Library? When Colonel Arthur Bantry and his wife, Dolly, learn that the body of a young woman has been found in their library, they’re drawn into a strange case of multiple murder.

Of course, the library is by no means the only atmospheric place for a murder scene, or for leaving a body. The place the author chooses depends a lot on the story, the characters, and so on. And that place can add quite a lot of atmosphere, even creepiness, to a story.

For instance, if you’ve ever walked down a street at night, and happened to peek down an alley, you know how eerie that sort of place can be. And, in Martin Edwards’ All the Lonely People, that’s where the body of Liverpool attorney Harry Devlin’s ex-wife, Liz, is found. A few days before her death, she unexpectedly visits Devlin, and he hopes this means she might want to reconcile with him. That’s not her purpose, though. She says that she’s escaping her current lover, Mick Coghlin, and needs a place to stay for a few days. Devlin agrees, but the next night, she is stabbed. Devlin knows he isn’t guilty, but of course, he’s an obvious ‘person of interest.’ Along with wanting to clear his name, he wants to find out who killed Liz. So, he starts to ask questions. He finds that Liz’ life was a lot more complicated than he’d thought, and there are several possible suspects for her murder. There are plenty of other novels, too, in which bodies are found in alleys behind buildings, or between two buildings.

Woods can also be eerie, atmospheric places to find a body. For instance, in Martha Grimes’ The Anodyne Necklace, the body of Dora Binns is found in a wood near the village of Littlebourne. Inspector Richard Jury has to cancel his holiday plans and travel to Littlebourne to investigate. He and his friend, Melrose Plant, discover that the victim’s death is connected to a robbery, some missing jewels, and an attack on another resident of LIttlebourne. Fans of Ruth Rendell’s Simisola will know that the body of a young woman is found in wood near the town of Kingsmarkham. At first, Inspector Reg Wexford thinks it’s the body of Melanie Akande, who’s been missing for several days. It’s a different young woman, though, so now, Wexford and his team have two major cases on their hands.

Moors are also wild, often desolate places that can be very atmospheric places for murders and bodies. And Belinda Bauer makes use of that setting in Blacklands. That’s the story of twelve-year-old Steven Lamb, who lives with his working-class family in the Exmoor town of Shipcott. The family is haunted by the nineteen-year-old disappearance of Steven’s uncle, Billy Peters. It was always suspected that he was abducted and killed by a man named Arnold Avery, who’s currently in prison for other child murders. Steven has been searching for Billy’s body on the moor, hoping that finding it will help his family. But he has no idea exactly where the body is. Then, he gets the idea of contacting Avery to find out from him where Uncle Billy’s body is. He takes the chance and writes, and he and Avery start a correspondence that turns into a very dangerous game of cat-and-mouse.

Minette Walters’ The Ice House makes use of another very atmospheric sort of place for a body. In the novel, Chief Inspector George Walsh is assigned an eerie case. A gardener has discovered the decomposed body of a man in the ice house of remote Streech Grange. That’s the property of Phoebe Maybury, who lives there with two friends, Anne Cattrell and Diana Goode. Ten years ago, Phoebe’s husband, David, went missing, and never returned. Walsh investigated at the time, but there were no clues as to where the man might have gone. Now, it appears Maybury’s body might have been found. But there’s a question as to whether the body is Maybury’s. If it is, then one of the three women living at Streech Grange is very possibly guilty of murdering him. If it’s not, then who is the man? And is one of the women guilty?

There are plenty of other atmospheric, even creepy, places authors use as murder scenes or as places to ‘dump’ a body. And when those places are chosen well, they can add quite a lot of tension to a story. Which ones have stayed with you?

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Bob Seger’s Night Moves.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Belinda Bauer, Martha Grimes, Martin Edwards, Minette Walters, Ruth Rendell

And What a Time it Was*

The end of the Victorian Era didn’t, of course, mean the end of Victorian-Era beliefs, customs and so on. But there were some major changes just on the horizon, and, of course, World War I was only a little over a decade away.

It’s interesting to see how crime fiction from and about those first ten or so years of the 20th Century depicts that time. Just a few examples show what a time of transition it was. And that’s part of what makes it such a memorable time.

Arthur Conan Doyle’s later Sherlock Holmes stories highlight one important change, especially in the area of crime and its detection. As you’ll know, Holmes is a man of science. He brings that viewpoint to criminal investigation.  Fingerprint science was already being used by the time the 20th Century began. But the new century brought more developments in what came to be forensic science (more on that in a moment). In several ways, the later Holmes stories show the blend of more traditional Victorian views with emerging science.

The case of Hawley Harvey Crippen, who was executed for murder in 1910, shows the way in which forensic science was becoming more and more important in criminal cases. At the time that Crippen was arrested, tried and convicted of murdering his wife, Cora, forensic pathology was a new science. And Sir Bernard Spilsbury was one of the first pre-eminent forensic pathologists. Although he is associated most closely with the Crippen case (he gave evidence that showed the body found in Crippen’s home was Cora’s), Spilsbury was also connected with several other prominent cases of the time. So was Sir Sydney Smith, also a well-known medico-legal expert. His autobiography, Mostly Murder is, in my view, an interesting look at the times and at the developments in forensic science. Martin Edwards’ Dancing For the Hangman is a fictional account of the Crippen case, told from Crippen’s point of view. It, too, offers a fascinating look at the times.

Felicity Young’s Dr. Dorothy ‘Dody’ McCleland series begins in 1910 with The Anatomy of Death, as McCleland is returning from Edinburgh to London. She’s just qualified in forensic pathology, and now wants to work with Spilsbury in the Home Office. She settles into London, and soon becomes involved in the investigation of three deaths. All three of the victims were women who died during a suffrage march in Whitechapel. The march turned very ugly, and, along with the deaths, several women were wounded. McCleland finds that two of the victims’ deaths have straightforward explanations. But the third is more complicated, and McCleland soon suspects murder as a possibility. As she investigates, readers learn about the growing use of forensics during these pre-WW I years.

There’s also a close look at another major change of the time: the push for women’s suffrage and other women’s rights. Women already had the vote in New Zealand, but not yet in many other places. And there were several groups dedicated to changing that. There was also a push for women to be accepted as professionals. That’s one challenge, for instance, that McCleland faces in Young’s series.

Another novel that addresses some of these issues is Wendy James’ Out of the Silence: A Story of Love, Betrayal, Politics and Murder. This is the fictional retelling of the story of Maggie Heffernan, who was convicted of murdering her infant son in 1900 (she was nineteen at the time) and scheduled to be executed. As the story evolves, we learn that Maggie is from rural Victoria, where she meets Jack Hardy. They begin a secret romance, and end up becoming engaged, although Hardy insists on keeping the engagement secret until he can provide for a family. He then leaves to find work in New South Wales. Meanwhile, Maggie discovers she’s pregnant. She writes to Jack several times but gets no answer. She knows her own family will not accept her, so she moves to Melbourne and finds work in a Guest House. When baby Jacky is born, Maggie moves to a home for unwed mothers. Then, she learns that Jack is in Melbourne, so she goes to visit him. He rejects her utterly, calling her ‘crazy.’ With nowhere else to go, Maggie goes looking for lodging, but is turned away from six different places. That’s when the tragedy with Jacky occurs. Vera Goldstein (the first woman candidate for Parliament in the British Commonwealth) finds out about Maggie’s plight, and determines to free her. As she works towards that end, we learn about the fight in Australia for women’s suffrage (it was granted at the national level in 1902). We also see clearly the differences among social classes that still persisted after the end of the Victorian Era.

We also see that difference reflected in Marie Belloc Lowndes’ The Lodger. Ellen and Robert Bunting have recently retired from being ‘in service.’ Ellen was a lady’s maid, and her husband was a ‘gentleman’s gentleman.’ The Buntings are in real financial need, so they’ve had to open their home to lodgers. But Ellen Bunting, especially, is very particular about the sort of person she’ll have. She wants only the ‘right’ sort of people. One day, a man who calls himself Mr. Sleuth stops in, asking about rooms. He dresses well, and acts ‘like a gentleman.’ More to the point, he is well able to pay for his room. So, the Buntings welcome him. He’s eccentric and keeps very odd hours. But he’s a paying guest. And he’s not loud or otherwise ‘difficult.’ Little by little, though, the Buntings begin to be uneasy about him. There’s been a rash of murders committed by a killer who calls himself The Avenger, and the Buntings slowly come to wonder if their lodger has something to do with these deaths. Among other things, the story highlights social class distinctions. The Buntings are respectable ‘serving class’ people, who hold their ‘betters’ in high regard. This doesn’t mean they’re blind to the foibles of the people they’ve served. But they do respect those social barriers.

We also see social barriers in Rhys Bowen’s Molly Murphy series. Murphy, an immigrant from Ireland, lives and works in New York City at the very beginning of the 20th Century. She’s a private investigator who inherited her business from her mentor. As she looks into her cases, she encounters members of several different social classes, from ‘sweatshop’ workers and tenement dwellers to those who live on estates. Society is changing (Murphy, for instance, is a woman pursuing what is very much a man’s career). And in New York, there is now a generation of people who started with very little and have made quite a lot of money. But there are still certain views, customs, and so on, that are distinctly Victorian.

And that’s the thing about those first ten years or so of the 20th Century. The Victorian Era was over, and no-one was quite sure what was coming. That time of change can make for a fascinating context for a novel or series.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Simon and Garfunkel’s Bookends.

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Filed under Arthur Conan Doyle, Felicity Young, Marie Belloc Lowndes, Martin Edwards, Rhys Bowen, Sir Sydney Smith, Wendy James