Category Archives: Michael Crichton

Please Come to Boston*

If you’ve ever visited Boston, then you know that it’s a beautiful city, rich in history and culture. Greater Boston is home to some of the world’s finest educational institutions, museums, restaurants, and medical facilities. It’s little wonder, then, that the city is a popular tourist destination.

But Boston is by no means a perfect place. There’s plenty of crime there – at least if you read crime fiction. Whether it’s in an exclusive Boston hospital, or the seamy side of Dorchester, anything can happen…

As Michael Crichton’s A Case of Need (which he wrote as Jeffery Hudson) begins, Arthur Lee, an obstetrician at Boston’s Memorial Hospital, has been arrested for performing an abortion. It’s 1968, and that procedure is illegal in the United States, so this is a serious matter. Lee claims that he did not perform the abortion, and, in fact, counseled the patient against it. But the patient is Karen Randall, daughter of J.D. Randall, one of the most influential doctors at the hospital. What’s worse, Karen did undergo an abortion, and died because the procedure was botched. So, as you can imagine, Randall is determined that the police will pursue the case against Lee. Lee asks his friend, pathologist John Berry, to help him clear his name, and Berry agrees. He begins to look into what happened, and finds that some things are not consistent with a botched abortion and a doctor who lied about it. But it’s not long before Berry also learns that some very powerful people who want the case left alone. And the more he finds out about Karen Randall, the more he sees that her life was a lot more complicated than anyone knew.

Several of Robin Cook’s medical thrillers/mysteries take place in the Boston area, too. For instance, in Acceptable Risk, noted neuroscientist Edward Armstrong accepts an offer to work for a breakout biotechnology company called Genetrix. He’ll be working on a new psychotropic drug designed to combat depression. He and his research team have already been working in the area, and have some promising ideas, so it’s exciting that he’ll have a company to back his efforts. At the same time, Armstrong meets a Boston-area nurse, Kimberly Stewart. She’s renovating a home that’s been in her family for a few hundred years, and Armstrong takes an interest in the project (and in her). He’s even more interested when he learns that ergot has been found below the house’s basement. He persuades Genetrix to set up a lab for him and his team on the property, and they get to work. The end result is terrifying, and it shows just how much pressure there is on researchers to come up with ‘the big cure.’

In Aaron Elkins’ Loot, we meet Boston art expert Benjamin ‘Ben’ Revere. One day, he gets a call from his friend, pawn-shop owner Simeon Pawlovsky. He’s gotten a painting into his shop that he thinks might be valuable, and he wants Revere to authenticate it. Revere agrees and goes to the shop. To his shock, the painting seems to be a genuine Velázquez. Revere wants to do some research on the painting to help his friend establish its provenance and worth. Revere doesn’t want such a valuable piece of art to be left in the pawn shop, but Pawlovsky refuses to let it go. So, a reluctant Revere leaves it there, and goes to find out more information. When he returns two hours later, Pawlovsky is dead. It’s obvious that he was murdered for the painting, although it is still in the shop’s safe. Revere feels guilty for leaving his friend, and that’s part of what motivates him. He decides that if he can trace the painting from the time it was ‘taken by the Nazis for safekeeping’ until it ended up in the shop, he can find Pawlovsky’s murderer. The trip takes him to several different European places, but it all starts in Boston.

Much of Dennis Lehane’s Gone, Baby, Gone takes place in the working-class Dorchester section of Boston. In it, PIs Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro get a new case. Four-year-old Amanda McCready has gone missing, and a massive hunt hasn’t turned up any clues. Amanda’s Uncle Lionel and Aunt Beatrice McCready want Kenzie and Gennaro to investigate.  The PIs not sure what they can do that several police departments and a public alert haven’t done, but they decide to take the case. They  start with Amanda’s mother, Helene, but they don’t’ get much help there. She’s not exactly an attentive mother; in fact, she left the child alone on the night she was taken. As Kenzie and Gennaro piece together the truth about what happened to Amanda, the search takes them through several parts of Dorchester, and we see what life is like in this part of Boston.

And then there’s Donald Smith’s The Constable’s Tale, which takes place in 1758. When Edward and Anne Campbell and their son are found murdered, it looks on the surface as though they were killed by hostile Indians (which wouldn’t be surprising, given this is during the Seven Years/French and Indian War). But the Indians in the area (North Carolina) where the bodies where found are not enemies. What’s more, an unusual brooch with Masonic symbols on it was found at the scene. Local constable James Henry ‘Harry’ Woodyard decides to look into the matter more deeply. He thinks that, if he can trace the brooch to its origin, he can find out more about the murder.  So, he follows the brooch’s trail to Boston (and later, to Québec). The Boston that Woodyard finds is much more urban and sophisticated than his plantation is, and there’s resentment there against what is seen as British highhandedness. The American Revolution itself is twenty years off, but there’s already deep unhappiness at the status quo, and it’s quite the topic in Boston. It’s an interesting look at the Boston of that era.

Whatever era one’s in, Boston is an interesting city. It’s a world-class destination for education, medicine, and more. But that doesn’t mean it’s crime free…

 

Thanks to Bostonusa.com for the lovely ‘photo!

 
 
 

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

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Filed under Aaron Elkins, Dennis Lehane, Donald Smith, Jeffery Hudson, Michael Crichton, Robin Cook

Who Can You Trust?*

One of the ways authors build tension in their stories is to question a character’s trustworthiness. We all want to believe that the people we live and work with are who they seem to be. When that’s called into question, we sometimes start to question everything, and that’s very unsettling.

It is in crime fiction, too, and that unease can add much to a story. It’s got to be done carefully, or it can seem melodramatic. But if it’s done well, that unsettling feeling can build suspense.

In Agatha Christie’s Hickory, Dickory Dock, Hercule Poirot is asked to solve the mystery of a puzzling series of events that have been taking place at a hostel for students. On the surface, all of the people who live there seem to be decent, hard-working young people. But someone’s been stealing odd things, and there are other strange events, too. One evening, one of the students, Celia Austin, confesses that she is responsible for several of the thefts, and it’s believed that the matter is settled. But the next night, she dies of what turns out to be poisoning. Now, the hostel manager, Mrs. Hubbard, has to face the fact that one or more students may not be innocent at all. Here’s what she says about it:
 

‘‘…it would distress me very much to think that one of them is – well, not what I’d like to think he or she is.’’
 
And that turns out to be the case. As Poirot works with Inspector Sharpe to find out the truth, we see the tension building as various students’ real selves come out, and the question of who can be trusted comes up.

Michael Crichton’s A Case of Need, which he wrote in 1968 as Jeffery Hudson, features pathologist Dr. John Berry, who works at Boston’s Memorial Hospital. Berry gets drawn into a very difficult case when a friend, Dr. Arthur Lee, is accused of causing the death of a young woman named Karen Randall. It’s alleged that he performed a (then-illegal) abortion on the victim, and the operation went wrong. Lee says that he did not perform the abortion, and he wants Berry to help clear his name. But that’s not going to be easy. The victim’s father is the legendary Dr. J.D. Randall, one of the most powerful people at the hospital. Still, Berry wants to believe his friend, so he starts asking questions. But it’s soon clear that someone doesn’t want him to find answers. Now, he has to work out who can be trusted and who can’t, and that adds to the tension. There’s even the question of whether Lee is telling the truth. All of this builds suspense in the novel as Berry gets closer to finding out what really happened.

A great deal of the tension in Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives comes from this same question of who can be trusted. Joanna and Walter Eberhart and their children move from New York City to the small town of Stepford, Connecticut. All seems to go well when the Eberharts arrive. The family members settle in and make new friends. Then, Joanna’s friend, Bobbie Markowe, begins to suspect that something is wrong in Stepford. Joanna doesn’t believe her at first; and, in any case, Joanna has no desire to move right away after just having purchased a house. Then, some strange and eerie things begin to happen, and Joanna starts to wonder who, exactly, can be trusted. The tension builds as she tries to make sense of what might be doing on. And soon, she sees that she may not stay alive long enough to find out.

Sinéad Crowley’s Can Anybody Help Me? introduces readers to Yvonne Mulhern, who has just moved from London to Dublin with her husband, Gerry, and their newborn daughter. Yvonne doesn’t really know anyone in Dublin, and she’s not overly fond of Gerry’s family (with some good reason). What’s more, Gerry’s gone a lot, trying to make good in his new job, which means that Yvonne is left with the vast majority of the baby care. Exhausted and overwhelmed, she needs support. When she discovers an online forum called Netmammy, Yvone thinks she’s found that support. It’s a group for new mothers, and the members offer all of the commiseration, advice, and more that Yvonne wanted. Then, one of the members goes ‘off the grid.’ Yvonne contacts the police, but there’s not much they can do with what she’s told them. Not long after that, though, the body of an unknown woman is discovered in an abandoned apartment. Her description is close enough to Yvonne’s description of her missing friend that they could be the same person. Detective Sergeant (DS) Claire Boyle and her team work to find out who the woman is, and whether she was a member of Netmammy. And Yvonne faces the frightening thought that she no longer knows which members are who they say they are, and who in her life is trustworthy.

And then there’s Brad Parks’ Faces of the Gone, in which we meet Newark, New Jersey journalist Carter Ross. He’s a reporter for the Eagle-Examiner who gets his chance at a major story when the bodies of four people are found in an abandoned lot. At first, the police theory is that the owner of a nearby bar hired someone to kill the victims because one of them robbed his bar. The others, so it is claimed, were accomplices. But Ross doesn’t believe that explains everything, and he starts looking more deeply into the matter. He soon finds out that very little is what it seemed, and that some people in high places want this story – and Ross – killed. Part of the tension in the story comes from the fact that Ross doesn’t know who to believe, and who is trustworthy.

It’s a scary feeling, if you think about it, not to know who can be trusted and who can’t, even among people you count as friends. It builds tension in real life, and it does in crime fiction too. So, it’s little wonder we see that trope so often.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Imagine Dragons’ Gold.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Brad Parks, Ira Levin, Jeffery Hudson, Michael Crichton, Sinéad Crowley

I’m a Picker, I’m a Grinner, I’m a Lover, and I’m a Sinner*

The more the police know about a murder victim, the more likely it is that they’ll catch the person responsible for the killing. So, professional detectives try to build a portrait of the victim. Hopefully, something about that portrait will give them the information they need to solve the crime.

The challenge is that everyone remembers a person in a slightly different way. Partners and close friends may see the victim in one way, but the victim’s children would see that person in another way. Business associates would tell one story; business rivals might tell another. And then there are the secrets that most of us keep. Some people know them, and some don’t. Sifting through all of those stories can make it difficult to get a cohesive portrait of the victim. But, after all, most of us are complicated people with different layers to our personalities.

Plenty of crime novels (far too many for me to mention in this one post) focus on different perspectives of what the victim of a murder was like. For example, in Agatha Christie’s Murder in Mesopotamia, Hercule Poirot investigates the killing of Louise Leidner. Her husband, Eric Leidner, is a noted archaeologist who’s leading a dig a few hours from Baghdad. When her body is discovered one afternoon, Poirot works to build a picture of the sort of person she was, so as to get to the truth about her murder. He talks to her widower, of course, as well as to the other members of the dig team. And from them, he gets a variety of different responses. If these people are to be believed, the victim was at once gracious and rude, manipulative and kind, and several other things as well. So, it takes a little time for him to sort out these different perspectives. When he does, he’s able to work out the story behind her death. You’re right, fans of Evil Under the Sun and of Five Little Pigs.

Michael Crichton’s A Case of Need (which he wrote under the pen name of Jeffery Hudson) tells the story of Karen Randall. Dr. Albert Lee, an obstetrician at Boston’s Memorial Hospital, has been arrested in connection with Karen’s death. The story takes place in 1968, a time when abortion is illegal in the US. The allegation is that Lee performed an illegal abortion that had tragic complications and led to the victim’s death. Lee, though, says that he is innocent, and, in fact, refused to provide the abortion. He knows that he doesn’t have much chance of proving his case, though, since Karen’s father is Dr. J.D. Randall, one of the most influential surgeons at the hospital. Still, he asks his pathologist friend, Dr. John Berry, to help clear his name. Berry agrees, although it is possible that Lee is lying. If he’s going to get to the truth, he’s going to have to get to know the victim better, so he starts to ask questions about her. And he discovers that Karen was a complicated person, who was not the ‘innocent angel’ her parents describe. That complexity leads Berry to different aspects of Karen’s life, and, eventually, to the truth.

K.C. Constantine’s The Blank Page introduces Mario Balzic, Chief of Police in Rocksburg, Pennsylvania. He’s called to the scene of a baffling case when the body of Janet Pisula is discovered in her room near the campus of Conemaugh County Community College, where she was a student. Like any other detective, Balzic wants to find out more about the victim. That’s going to be a problem in this case, though, because Janet was a very shy, quiet student who didn’t really make friends. She didn’t have a partner, didn’t go to parties, and didn’t really mix socially. Still, someone had a reason to kill her. Little by little, Balzic talks to her instructors and acquaintances, and he gets a conflicting picture of her. Did she have a ‘bright and original mind,’ as one instructor put it? Or, was it the opposite, as another did? Was she really as shy and quiet as it seemed? It isn’t until Balzic talks to Janet’s uncle, and to her former best friend, that he begins to understand just how complex she was, and why. And, in the end, he learns the truth about her murder.

Gail Bowen’s Deadly Appearances is the story of Androu ‘Andy’ Boychuk. An up-and-coming politician, he’s scheduled to make an important speech at a community barbecue. He’s just begun his remarks when he suddenly collapses and dies of what turns out to be poison. His friend and political ally, Joanne Kilbourn (who is Bowen’s sleuth) is devastated by his loss and decides to cope with her grief by writing a biography of Boychuk. As she talks to the various people in his life, she gets a variety of different perspectives on him. And she learns some surprising things about her friend.

And then there’s Simon Wyatt’s The Student Body. Fifteen-year-old Natasha Johnson is found dead one morning at an Auckland school camp she’s attending. Detective Sergeant (DS) Nick Knight is assigned to head up the Suspects Team and focus on the people who might have had a motive for murder. At first, there doesn’t seem to be much motive at all. Natasha’s main priority was her schoolwork, and she did well at it. She didn’t have a boyfriend, and wasn’t involved in drugs or prostitution, so far as anyone can tell. But she was killed for a reason, so Knight and his team try to get to know her life a little better. And they find that there was more to it than it seems on the surface. As they talk to the various people in Natasha’s life, the team members get slightly different pictures of what she was like, and that adds layers to her character.

The fact is, all of us have different layers to our lives. So, it makes sense that different people might see us differently. When it’s done well, that complexity can add much to a crime novel. These are only a few examples. Your turn.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Steve Miller’s The Joker.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Gail Bowen, Jeffery Hudson, K.C. Constantine, Michael Crichton, Simon Wyatt

How to Succeed*

Internal PoliticsUnless you’re self-employed (and even, sometimes then!), you likely work with other people. And that nearly always means office politics. Political machinations take different forms, of course, depending on the kind of work you do. But they’re likely to be there in some way or another.

All of that tension and conflict can make for very effective plot lines in crime fiction. You’ll notice as this post goes on, by the way, that there won’t be mention of police politics. There are far too many examples out there, as the police figure a great deal in crime fiction. Even taking that form of politics out of the conversation, though, there’s plenty of office politics in the genre.

For example, any attorney can tell you that there’s often a great deal of politics involved in that profession. It certainly helps to have a law degree from a prestigious school. But in many law firms, moving ahead takes more than that. It means very long hours, especially at first, and showing everyone that you’re the first to arrive and the last to leave. We see that in Robert Rotenberg’s Old City Hall. The main plot thread of that novel is the murder of Katherine Thorn, common-law wife of Toronto radio personality Kevin Brace. Brace himself is the most likely suspect; in fact, he even admits to the first witness on the scene,
 

‘‘I did it.’’
 

Crown prosecutor Albert Fernandez knows that a quick conviction in such a high-profile case will mean a lot for his career. And though he’s not unprincipled, Fernandez also knows that getting ahead often means playing politics. So he makes sure to get to his office before anyone else, to be the last to leave at the end of the day, and to ‘dress the part.’ In this particular case, he also goes very hard for the win, as the saying goes. Fernandez’ bosses want him to take the case to trial, too, so he’s under a lot of political pressure to refuse a plea deal with Brace’s lawyer Nancy Parish. He doesn’t want to see an innocent person convicted, but at the same time, a loss in a case like this could spell trouble for him. I won’t give away spoilers, but there are other places in this novel where that kind of politics plays a role.

Fledgling attorneys also know that they may not get very far in their careers if they go against what a firm partner, especially a senior partner, wants. That’s the way law firm politics are. And sometimes that can mean real trouble for the beginning lawyer. That’s what Brad Miller discovers in Phillip Margolin’s Executive Privilege. In one plot thread of that novel, we learn that he’s a newly-minted attorney who works at Reed, Briggs, Stephens, Stottlemeyer and Compton, Oregon’s largest law firm. As do many new attorneys, Miller works an exhausting number of hours, and is otherwise taken advantage of by the partners. One day, the firm’s top attorney, Susan Tuchman, directs him to take on the pro bono case of Clarence Little, who’s been convicted of murdering Laurie Erickson, and is due to be executed. Little wants Reed, Briggs to handle his appeal. From the firm’s perspective, it’s just a matter of form, and Tuchman doesn’t want Miller spending any real time on it. But the more Miller gets to know about the case, the more he begins to suspect that Little is not guilty of the crime for which he’s about to be executed. Now Miller runs straight up against law firm politics. He knows that his career at Reed, Briggs depends on his pleasing the partners and doing what he’s told. On the other hand, this case is turning out to be quite different to what he’d been informed it would be. Among other things, this plot thread gives a really interesting perspective on the politics involved in working for some large and powerful law firms.

As anyone who’s ever worked in a hospital can tell you, politics play an important role there, too. Junior doctors, interns and other medical professionals who are on the ‘lower rungs’ of the hospital hierarchy know that it’s not enough to do one’s job well and establish a good rapport with patients. It’s also important to catch the attention of senior doctors, and get (and stay) in their good graces. Sometimes this means getting caught in ‘turf wars’ between conflicting senior doctors. It’s had a lot of other consequences, too, some of them serious. Authors of medical thrillers often use the reality of hospital politics as important plot points. I’m thinking, for instance, of some of Robin Cook’s thrillers, where we see a junior hospital doctor or pathologist who notices a pattern that senior doctors either want to cover up or don’t believe.

This sort of plot thread has shown up in medical mysteries for quite some time, actually. Michael Crichton’s A Case of Need (which he wrote as Jeffery Hudson), was published in 1968. This story features junior pathologist John Berry, who tries to clear the name of a colleague and friend who’s been accused of negligence and of performing a then-illegal abortion. Along the way, Berry runs up against the most powerful doctor in the hospital, J.D. Randall. That layer of politics adds much to the suspense in this novel.

There’s also plenty of politics in higher education (Oh, come on! You were just waiting for me to mention academia, right? 😉 ). It’s easy to see why, too. For one thing, tenure is highly coveted at institutions that grant it. So some people will go to great lengths to become tenured. And even when that’s not an issue, there are all kinds of promotion, funding, staffing and other decisions that are impacted by institutional politics. I’ve written about it myself (Publish or Perish, if you’re interested).

And I’m by no means at all the only one. Just ask Christine Poulson’s creation Cassandra James. Head of the English Literature Department at St. Ethelreda’s College, Cambridge, she is no stranger to the politics of academia. In one plot thread of Murder is Academic, for instance, she’s just taken the reins at the department, and one of her tasks is to prepare everyone for the upcoming Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). The department’s funding and security depend heavily on its success with the RAE, so everyone’s scholarship has to be as impressive as possible. That’s not going to be an easy task, considering that James is also mixed up in the murder of her predecessor (she discovered the body, for one thing). Among other things, this series (of which Murder is Academic is the first novel) gives readers a close look at the internal politics of university life. Still interested in academic politics? You can also check out Sarah R. Shaber’s Simon Shaw mysteries, of which Simon Said is the first. There are many more examples, too.

But you don’t need to be a lawyer, doctor or professor to understand internal politics. Just look around, and I’ll bet you’ll see plenty of examples. That colleague who toadies to all the ‘right people,’ that boss who’s more concerned with her own promotions than with supporting her department, that sales executive who angles for the corner office, well, you know what I mean. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I just got an email about a meeting I’ve been invited to attend. Never mind that it’s during the weekend, it could be my chance to really get ahead! 

 

 
 

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

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Filed under Christine Poulson, Jeffery Hudson, Michael Crichton, Phillip Margolin, Robert Rotenberg, Robin Cook, Sarah R. Shaber

Just Trying to Decide*

Difficult DecisionsThere are some decisions that involve real questions of conscience. Those decisions can be among the most difficult to make, because people have such different perspectives on them. Do you take that job with a company you know pollutes the atmosphere (because the money and chances for advancement are good, and maybe you can change it from within)? Do you defend the right of someone whose views you find repugnant to demonstrate? These are just two examples of the kinds of decision I have in mind. There are many, many others.

Such decisions can add an interesting layer of suspense to a crime novel. They’re sources of conflict, and they are realistic. There’s not very much space in just this one post for me to mention them all, so here are just a few. I know you’ll think of many more.

One of the most difficult and painful decisions a person ever makes is whether to have (or perform) an abortion. I won’t get into the moral and political issues involved here. This is a crime fiction blog, not a blog about politics, religion or morality. Suffice it to say that it’s a wrenching decision. We see that in Michael Crichton’s A Case of Need, which he wrote under the name of Jeffrey Hudson. The novel takes place in 1968 Boston, a time when abortion was not legal in the U.S.  Dr. Arthur Lee, an obstetrician at Boston’s Memorial Hospital, is arrested in connection with the death of Karen Randall. The charge is that he performed an illegal abortion which he botched, causing her death. Lee asks his good friend, pathologist Dr. John Berry, to help clear his name. Berry knows that Lee performs abortions, but Lee assures him that Karen Randall’s wasn’t one of them. Berry doesn’t want to see his friend wrongfully imprisoned, so he agrees to see what he can find out. This runs him directly up against the highest levels of authority at the hospital, since the victim was the daughter of a very wealthy and powerful doctor. Berry finds out the truth about Karen’s death; as he does, we see just how controversial the decision to have or perform abortions really is.

I touch on the same issue in my Joel Williams novel Past Tense. It’s out for submission right now (I could really use some happy thoughts, please!), so as you can imagine, elements of it may change. But as it is, a set of bones dating from the early-to-mid 1970s is discovered on the campus of Tilton University. Former police officer turned professor of criminal justice Joel Williams takes an interest in the case when he finds out about it from a colleague. He learns that one of the people who may be involved is another colleague who was a student at Tilton during that time. That’s when she faced the difficult question of what to do when she found she was pregnant. Abortion had recently become legal in the US, so she made the choice to have the procedure. As her story shows, it’s a wrenching decision.

So was the decision about whether to participate in the Vietnam War. There were many young people who took seriously what they saw as their duty to country to serve in that war. We see that in Derek B. Miller’s Norwegian by Night. The protagonist of that novel is octogenarian Sheldon Horowitz, who’s moved from his native New York City to Norway, so as to be nearer to his granddaughter Rhea and her Norwegian husband. One day he witnesses the murder of a young woman. She’s left a small son behind, so Horowitz takes the boy with him, since he’s sure the killers will be back for the child. The two of them go on the run, trying to outwit their pursuers. In the process, we learn Horowitz’ backstory. His son (and Rhea’s father) Saul served two tours of duty in Vietnam, and was killed during the second. Horowitz actually encouraged his son to enlist in the military, giving him the message that he should give back to the country that took care of him. Since his son’s death, Horowitz has had to deal with the guilt he feels about that encouragement.

Other people’s consciences didn’t allow them to fight in Vietnam. Instead, they left the country; many went to Canada. In Vicki Delany’s In the Shadow of the Glacier, we meet Andy Smith, and his wife Lucy ‘Lucky’ two ex-pat Americans who moved to Trafalgar, British Colombia so that Andy wouldn’t have to fight a war he thought was immoral. In one plot thread of that novel, a group of citizens wants to create a Peace Garden in memory of those who followed their consciences and refused to fight the war. They’ve got the financial backing they need, too. Others, though, feel that the garden would be too controversial, especially given that Trafalgar is a tourist destination that can use the money that comes from American visitors. Andy and Lucky’s daughter Moonlight ‘Molly’ is a constable caught in the middle of the debate. Her job is to help keep order, and that’s not going to be very easy with feelings running so high.

In Nicci French’s Blue Monday, London psychologist Frieda Klein faces another kind of conscience-based decision. She’s working with a new patient, Alan Dekker, who’s suffering from anxiety problems and other issues. Bit by bit, the two begin to address those issues, and Dekker tells her of a dream he’s had – a dream in which he has his own son. Dekker and his wife haven’t been able to have children, but Dekker resists adoption, so Klein sees a natural connection between Dekker’s personal situation and his dreams. Gradually, they begin working on events from his past that have impacted his current psychological situation. Then, Klein hears of a truly disturbing event: four-year-old Matthew Faraday has gone missing. Despite massive public appeals and police efforts, no trace of the boy has turned up. At first subconsciously, then actively, Klein begins to wonder if there is a link between her work with Alan Dekker and Matthew Faraday’s disappearance. She’s not supposed to reveal anything about her work with her clients, but this is different. So she makes the difficult decision to go to the police, in the form of DCI Malcolm Karlsson, with her concerns.

The decision of whether to give a child up for adoption is addressed in Angela Savage’s The Half Child. Bangkok-based PI Jayne Keeney travels to Pattaya to investigate the death of Maryanne Delbeck, who volunteered there at the New Life Children’s Centre. In order to find out the truth about Maryanne’s death, Keeney looks into what’s going on at New Life. She discovers that in part, its mission is to prepare children who are eligible for adoption for their new homes. As she learns how New Life really works, we learn about one toddler, Kob, who is matched with an American couple. Keeney gets involved with that process, and as she does, we see just what wrenching decisions are made when it comes to adoption.

These are only a few of the difficult choices we sometimes face. They may keep us awake at night, but they also form interesting story strands in crime fiction.

 

 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from The Babys’ Isn’t it Time. 

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Filed under Angela Savage, Derek B. Miller, Jeffery Hudson, Michael Crichton, Nicci French, Vicki Delany