Category Archives: Nevada Barr

I’m Just Beginning to Live*

When something tragic or traumatic happens, it can be hard to start over again. There are, of course, people who react to life’s blows by looking for comfort at the bottom of a bottle. But a lot of people find other ways to come back to life, so to speak, when something terrible happens. People’s ways of starting to feel alive again can vary quite a lot, depending on the person.

Those different ways of starting to heal can add an interesting layer of character development in a story. They’re realistic, too. People do try to start over again – and not always in self-destructive ways – when terrible things happen. And they’re a natural fit for a crime novel, since there’s often tragedy in those stories.

In Agatha Christie’s Sad Cypress, for instance, Elinor Carlisle is arrested and tried for the poisoning murder of Mary Gerrard. And there’s plenty of evidence against her, too. For one thing, Elinor’s former fiancé, Roderick ‘Roddy’ Welman, had fallen in love with the victim (hence, the end of the engagement). For another, Elinor’s wealthy Aunt Laura had become very fond of Mary, and there was a real possibility that Mary might inherit the old woman’s fortune instead of Elinor. But local GP Dr. Peter Lord has fallen in love with Elinor and wants her acquitted. He asks Hercule Poirot to investigate, and Poirot agrees. As you can imagine, it’s a horrible and traumatic experience to be tried for murder, and it’s not spoiling the story to say that at the end of it, Elinor needs desperately to start over. So, she decides to spend some time in a sanatorium, where she can have peace and quiet. The implication is, too, that she and Peter Lord will stay connected.

James Lee Burke’s police detective Dave Robicheaux sometimes wants peace and quiet, too, when he needs to heal – which is often. In A Morning For Flamingos, for instance, he and his police partner, Lester Benoit, are transferring two prisoners to Louisiana’s state prison at Angola, where they are slated to be executed. During the trip, the prisoners escape, and one of them kills Benoit and leaves Robicheaux for dead. Not only is Robicheaux badly injured, but he’s grieving the loss of his partner. He needs to heal, so he decides to take some time to go fishing, spend extra time with his daughter, Alafair, and do routine tasks at the police department when he’s physically ready for that.
 

‘My life became as bland and unremarkable as the season was soft and warm and transitory.’
 

Connecting with the outdoors, with his daughter, and with an almost humdrum routine helps Robicheaux start to put some pieces together. His healing time doesn’t last, though, as he’s recruited to help bring down a New Orleans crime boss named Tony Cardo.

Tony Hillerman’s Jim Chee is a member of the Navajo Nation, and of the Navajo Tribal Police (now the Navajo Nation Police). Although he negotiates the dominant-culture world when he has to, Chee is, in many ways, traditional. In fact, at the beginning of the series, he is studying to be a yata’ali – a singer/healer. Even later in the series, when that study is less of priority, Chee follows many of the traditional Navajo ways, and that helps him heal when life hurts him. More than once, readers follow as he uses Navajo rituals to regain focus, heal, and reconnect with nature. They help him to feel the peace and harmony with the world’s rhythms that he needs to come back to life.

In a similar way, Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon feels the need to reconnect with nature. In Track of the Cat, the first in the Anna Pigeon series, we learn some of her backstory. She and her beloved husband lived in New York City, where she lived a socialite’s sort of life. Then, her husband was tragically killed. Devastated by her loss, she needed to find something to help her put herself back together. So, she connected with animals and the rest of nature, and became a US Park Ranger. As the series goes on, she starts to come back to life, and develops a real feel for nature’s rhythms. That focus helps her to feel alive again.

And then there’s Finn Bell’s Dead Lemons. In it, we are introduced to thirty-seven-year-old Finn Bell, who has come to a crossroads in his life. His marriage has ended, and he admits that a lot of the reason for that is his own fault. He’s also lost the use of his legs as the result of a car crash. He needs to start over, so he buys a cottage in the small town of Riverton, on New Zealand’s South Island. He soon gets drawn into a murder mystery when he learns about the history of his cottage, and how it’s related to a missing child and her father. One of the ways in which he starts to put the pieces together again is through a game called Murderball (wheelchair rugby). Through it, he meets others, gets some exercise, enjoys the competition, and finds a healthy outlet for his bitterness and anger. Playing Murderball doesn’t solve all of his problems. And it doesn’t solve the murder mystery. But it does help him start to heal.

And that’s the thing about gardening, or a sport, or nature, or….  When tragedy strikes, we all need to start over and find something to connect us again. And it’s interesting to see how that process happens in crime fiction.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Billy Joel’s Until the Night.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Finn Bell, James Lee Burke, Nevada Barr, Tony Hillerman

I Went Out For a Ride, and I Never Went Back*

Ever had the urge to just drop it all, pack a few things, and go? If so, you’re not alone. It can happen to all of us, especially when life gets stressful, or when the ordinary rhythms of life get too ‘same-y.’

People do just pick up and go in real life, and they do in crime fiction, too. That plot point gives the writer some interesting possibilities for action, for character development, and more. It’s flexible, too. Stories of people wanting to just go somewhere else and try something else can be very dark, or comic, or somewhere in between. There are plenty of such stories in the genre; here are just a few.

In Agatha Christie’s The Man in the Brown Suit, we meet Anne Bedingfield. As the story begins, her father has recently died, leaving her with very little money. At first, her father’s attorney takes Anne in, and she knows it’s out of kindness. But life in London doesn’t really appeal to Anne. Neither does the prospect of a job such as a typist, or the desperate scramble for a husband. So, Anne opts for adventure. She happens to be at a train station one day when she witnesses a terrible accident: a man has fallen under an oncoming train. Anne happens to find a piece of paper that was in the dead man’s pocket, and finds herself intrigued. The note on the paper is cryptic, but Anne works out that it refers to the upcoming sailing of the Kilmorden Castle for Cape Town. On impulse, she books passage on the ship, and soon finds herself drawn into a web of international intrigue, jewel smuggling, and murder.

Geoffrey McGeachin’s Fat, Fifty and F***ed! is the story of bank manager Martin Carter. His marriage has ended, which is stress enough in itself. Then, he’s made redundant at the bank where he works. On his last day there, Carter gives in to the temptation to help himself to a million-dollar payroll. Then, he takes off in a stolen police-issue 4WD. Among other things, it’s all a chance for him to break free and start something new and different. And ‘different’ is certainly what he finds. He has encounters with all sorts of people, including a new-age bikie gang, a librarian on the run from her own problems, and more. The story has comic overtones, but it also depicts the feeling of just wanting to drop everything and go.

In Nevada Barr’s Track of the Cat, we are first introduced to Anna Pigeon. She had a solid life in New York, with her beloved husband, Zach. But Zach was killed when a taxi ran him down. With nothing much but grief tying her to New York, Pigeon decided to leave. She became a U.S. National Park Service Ranger, which means that she has experience in several different parks as the series goes on. It’s a far cry from the ‘social life’ she led in her earlier life, but it suits her. And we see how she evolves as a character during the course of the series.

One of the cases in Alexander McCall Smith’s Tears of the Giraffe is the disappearance of Michael Curtin. Years earlier, he and his parents came from the US to Botswana for a few years in connection with his father’s business. When it was time to return, Michael decided not to go along with his parents. Instead, he chose to pack up and join an eco-commune, and stay in Botswana. Then, he went missing. There was a search, but there was no real resolution to the case. Now, ten years later, Michael’s mother, Andrea, wants answers. So, she visits Mma Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s only female private detective. She wants Mma  Ramotswe to find out what really happened to Michael. At first, Mma Ramotswe isn’t sure how helpful she can be, but she agrees to look into the matter. The official police report is that a wild animal probably found and killed Michael. That isn’t unheard of in Botswana, and it is a good possibility. But Mma Ramotswe isn’t sure that’s what really happened. So, she investigates, and finds out the truth.

And then there’s Seán Haldane’s The Devil’s Making. In that novel, it’s 1868, and Chad Hobbes has recently completed his degree in Jurisprudence at Oxford. He expects that he’ll settle somewhere in England and work in a law firm. But right now, he wants to get away from ‘it all’ and see the world. So, armed with a letter of introduction to the Governor, he travels to the-then frontier town of Vancouver. That letter is enough to get him a job as constable, under the supervision of Augustus Pemberton. At first, the job doesn’t amount to much beyond breaking up the occasional drunken quarrel and clearing out local prostitutes. Then, a group of Tsimshian Indians arrives in town, claiming that they’ve found a body. The dead man is Richard McCrory, an American who billed himself as an alienist, as well as a mesmerist and phrenologist. The case looks clear enough. It turns out that McCrory had been involved with a Tsimshian woman named Lukswaas, and that her partner, Wiladzap, knew about it. Wiladzap is immediately arrested, and Hobbes is expected to ‘rubber stamp’ that account of the murder. But he also has to ask some perfunctory questions, to prove that the police are fair. Those questions stop being perfunctory when they turn up some other very likely possible killers.

The urge to just drop everything and go can be strong. And it can lead to some interesting, even exciting adventures. But it can also lead to real danger. These are just a few examples. Over to you.

 
 
 

NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Bruce Springsteen’s Hungry Heart.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Alexander McCall Smith, Geoffrey McGeachin, Nevada Barr, Seán Haldane

I Wish You Could See This Great Mystery*

naturalistsThere are some people who are thoroughly at home in nature and with other animals. They understand nature’s rhythms, and can tell you all sorts of the things about the flora and fauna of a given place. In fact, there’s been a proposal that that sort of knowledge is an important intelligence, just as linguistic, mathematical and visual/spatial intelligence are.

Such people can make for very interesting characters in crime fiction. For one thing, they have a perspective on the world that the rest of us don’t always have. For another, their knowledge of nature can be very useful. And such a trait can add a measure of character development.

Any fan of Arthur Upfield’s work can tell you that his sleuth, Queensland Inspector Napoleon ‘Bony’ Bonaparte, is like that. He is well able, as he puts it, to read ‘the book of the bush.’ He’s as much at home outdoors as he is in a drawing room, and very often gets information others wouldn’t because of that. In novels such as The Bone is Pointed and The Bushman Who Came Back, he uses his naturalist intelligence to find clues, track people, and so on.

And Bony isn’t the only sleuth with a lot of naturalist intelligence. For instance, in Nevada Barr’s Track of the Cat, we first meet US National Park Service Ranger Anna Pigeon. She gave up life in New York City after the tragic death of her husband, and has joined the National Park Service. In that novel, she uses her developing understanding of how nature works to track down the killer of a fellow ranger. And, as the series goes on, she uses other naturalist skills to investigate. One of Pigeon’s major interests is protecting endangered species, and preserving the balance in nature. We see that woven through several of the stories.

Alexander McCall Smith’s Tears of the Giraffe introduces readers to Andrea Curtin. An ex-pat American, she’s moved to Botswana to look for closure. Ten years earlier, she, her husband, and their son, Michael, lived in Botswana for a few years. When it was time to return to the US, Michael decided not to join his parents. He’d fallen in love with the land and wildlife of Botswana, and decided to join an eco-commune there. When he died, police said that a wild animal had likely killed him. But his body has never been found, and now his mother wants to find out the truth so she can move on. She asks Mma Precious Ramotswe to investigate, and Mma Ramotswe agrees to see what she can do. As the novel goes on, we learn how attuned to nature Michael Curtin was. He was certainly more comfortable in the natural world than he would have been, say, in a city. Finding out what became of Michael isn’t easy, but Mma Ramotswe discovers where he lived, tracks down some of the other people who lived there, and finds out the truth.

You might not expect a lawyer who lives and works in a major city to be particularly attuned to nature. But that’s exactly the case with Åsa Larsson’s Rebecka Martinsson. As this series begins, Martinsson is working for a successful Stockholm law firm. She has a promising career ahead of her, too. Then, she gets word that an old friend from her home town of Kiruna is in trouble and needs her help. Martinsson travels to Kiruna, where she works to find out the truth about a murder and clear her friend’s name. Her return to Kiruna ends up being permanent; and, as the series goes on, we see how comfortable Martinsson is in nature. She understands its rhythms well, and is often more at ease on her own outdoors than she is with other people.

Adrian Hyland’s Emily Tempest is an Aboriginal Community Police Officer (ACPO). As such, she spends her share of time in nature, and is comfortable there. Even more comfortable in nature is Tempest’s lover, JoJo Kelly, who works for the Park and Wildlife Commission. He has a home, but he spends most of his life outdoors, in different parts of the land he tries to protect. And he is very much at home among the plants and animals he finds there. He can just about always find a place to rest, something to eat, and some shelter.

So can Jay Duggan, whom we meet in Geoffrey Robert’s The Alo Release. He’s a naturalist/environmental activist who’s been working with the Los Angeles-based Millbrook Foundation. That group has been monitoring a company called Vestco, which is about to release a new seed coating. Vestco claims that the seed coating will greatly increase food production and, therefore, drastically reduce world hunger. But the Millbrook Foundation is deeply suspicious of the company and its claims. Still, they can’t seem to do anything to prevent the release. When it becomes clear that the seed coating will be made available, Duggan decides to retire and return to his native New Zealand. He invites two of his Millbrook colleagues to join him for a visit to New Zealand, and the three make the trip. What they don’t know is that they’re about to be framed for the murder of a Vestco employee. When they land in Auckland, they quickly learn that they’re now considered fugitives. So, they go on the run as they try to find out who the real killer is, and try to stop the release of the seed coating if they can. As the novel goes on, we see how well Duggan understands nature. He’s thoroughly attuned to wildlife, and more than once, that knowledge keeps him and his colleagues safe.

Naturalists have a fascinating perspective, and a deep awareness of the rhythms of life. They often see things that the rest of us might no notice. And they can make interesting fictional characters.

 

In Memoriam…

 

steve-irwin-768

This post is dedicated to the memory of Steve Irwin, who would have turned 55 as this is posted. His passion for wildlife, his effervescence, and his interest in preserving nature are sorely missed.
 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Midnight Oil’s Earth and Sun and Moon.

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Filed under Adrian Hyland, Alexander McCall Smith, Arthur Upfield, Åsa Larsson, Geoffrey Robert, Nevada Barr

Let Me Make My Final Stand*

good-guy-bad-guyEven if you’re not thoroughly familiar with the story, you may very well have heard of the famous gunfight at the OK Corral, in Tombstone, Arizona. It’s a classic story of the famous 1881 showdown between Sheriff Wyatt Earp and his friend, Doc Holliday on one side, and Ike Clanton and his gang on the other. And it’s a legendary story of ‘good guys’ versus ‘bad guys.’

Of course, that particular gunfight isn’t the only showdown between the ‘hero’ and the ‘villain,’ either in fiction or in real life. But it highlights the tension that builds up with that sort of confrontation. That suspense can add a great deal to a crime novel, too, so it’s little wonder we see so many examples of this plot point in the genre. There are far too many for me to mention here; I’m sure you could think of more than I could, anyway. But here are just a few.

One of the most famous crime-fictional confrontations comes in Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of the Final Problem. In that story, Sherlock Holmes is up against his nemesis, Professor Moriarty. Holmes is, of course, formidable, but Moriarty has plenty of his own resources. In fact, things get so dangerous for Holmes that he and Watson temporarily leave their London lodgings and end up in Switzerland. As Holmes fans can tell you, he and Moriarty have a dramatic confrontation at the Reichenbach Falls. Conan Doyle had intended this to be his last Holmes story; but fans wouldn’t hear of it. Still, it’s a ‘power-packed’ story with plenty of buildup.

There are a few tense final showdowns in Agatha Christie’s stories and novels. We see one of them in The Murder on the Links. Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings travel to France at the request of Canadian émigré Paul Renauld. He wrote to Poirot, claiming that his life was in danger because of a secret that he possessed. Poirot doesn’t usually take kindly to being summoned, but somehow, this letter is different. By the time he and Hastings get to France, though, it’s too late. Renauld has been murdered. Poirot and Hastings slowly find out the truth about who the murderer is, and it all comes to a head one night in a dramatic way. It’s one of those times when Poirot doesn’t announce the solution to a drawing room full of suspects. I know, Christie fans, there are lots of other great examples of this sort of drama in her work.

In Tony Hillerman’s The Blessing Way, readers are introduced to Joe Leaphorn of the Navajo Tribal Police. In the story, Leaphorn works with ethnologist Bergen McKee, who’s worried about the disappearance of his friend, Luis Horseman. It seems that Horseman went missing after getting into a drunken quarrel, and hasn’t returned. Later, his body is found in Many Ruins Canyon; and at first, it looks as though his death is the result of Navajo witchcraft. But Leaphorn isn’t superstitious, nor does he follow Navajo spiritual traditions. So he looks for a more prosaic solution, and that’s what he finds. In the novel, there’s a dramatic scene as Leaphorn and the killer face off in a place that’s very much ‘in the middle of nowhere.’ That geographical setting adds to the suspense of the confrontation, too, as it’s got its own very real dangers.

You could say the same thing about the confrontation between National Park Service ranger Anna Pigeon and a killer in Nevada Bar’s Track of the Cat. Pigeon has been assigned to Guadalupe Mountains National Park, in the Chihuahuan Desert of western Texas. One day, she comes upon the body of another ranger, Sheila Drury. At first, it looks as though Drury was killed by a mountain lion, and that’s the explanation the authorities want. But Pigeon isn’t sure it’s true. Besides, she’s afraid that, if word gets out that a mountain lion killed a person, then all of the park’s mountain lions could be in danger. So Pigeon starts looking into the matter more closely. As she does, she finds that there are other possibilities, and several people who could have had a motive to murder Drury. Finally, Pigeon finds out who the killer is, and one night, she has a final confrontation with that person. It’s very dramatic, and not least because of the physical setting.

A final confrontation doesn’t have to take place in a remote area to be dramatic, though. For instance, in Gail Bowen’s A Killing Spring, academician and political scientist Joanne Kilbourn gets involved in investigating the murder of a colleague, Reed Gallagher. His body is discovered in a cheap rooming house, and it looks as though he was living some sort of double life that got him killed. But it’s not as simple, or as complex, as that. As Kilbourne starts looking into the matter a little more, she finds that more than one person might have had a motive for murder. And when she finally discovers who the real killer is, she confronts that person. Then, there’s a very tense final scene between them in an elevator. It’s a small, enclosed space, and that adds to the suspense.

Some dramatic fictional final showdowns take place in lonely, outdoors spots. Others can be as close as the sleuth’s front door (I’m thinking, for instance, of Christine Poulson’s Murder is Academic). There are many other settings, too, including some very famous film scenes. Whichever way it’s done, that ‘good guy’-against-‘bad guy’ final scene can add a strong layer of tension to a story. Little wonder the story of the gunfight at the OK Corral has become iconic. These are just a few examples. Your turn.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Jon Bon Jovi’s Blaze of Glory.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Christine Poulson, Gail Bowen, Nevada Barr, Tony Hillerman

But You Just Keep Me Hanging on Again*

Building Tension Without GoreI think most of us would agree that a high-quality crime novel builds tension and suspense without resorting to a lot of gore and gratuitous violence. Everyone’s idea of what ‘counts’ as ‘too much’ or ‘gratuitous’ violence is likely to be a little different. But all of us have our limit. And there are ways to keep people turning and swiping pages without a bloodbath.

How, exactly, does a crime writer go about that, though? How can an author keep the tension strong in other ways? Here are just a few of my ideas. I’m sure you’ll have your own, too, and I’d love to learn from them.

 

Creepy Settings
 

Eerie settings can take on a life of their own, as the saying goes. When they’re depicted well, they can add quite a lot of suspense to a story. For instance, Arthur Conan Doyle uses Baskerville Hall to good effect in The Hound of the Baskervilles. In that novel, Sherlock Holmes sends Dr. Watson to Baskerville Hall on Dartmoor to help investigate the recent death of Sir Charles Baskerville. Legend has it that the Baskerville family is cursed by a phantom hound, and that’s the reason for his death. Holmes isn’t sure that’s true, though. In any case, family friend Dr. Mortimer wants to prevent a similar fate for the new heir, Sir Henry Baskerville. As you can imagine, Sir Charles’ death has a much more prosaic explanation than a curse. One interesting thing about this story is that there isn’t a lot of violence in it. The tension and suspense aren’t built that way. The setting, though, is eerie. First, there’s the bleak moor, which at night is not exactly a warm, welcoming place. There’s the house itself, too, which
 

‘…was a heavy block of building from which a porch projected. The whole front was draped in ivy, with a patch clipped bare here and there where a window or coat-of-arms broke through the dark veil. From this central block rose the twin towers, ancient, crenelated, and pierced with many loopholes.’
 

It’s certainly not a cheerful, bright place.

Neither is the eponymous lodging that features in Daphne’s du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn. Also located on Dartmoor (hmm……), it’s owned by Joss Merlyn and his wife Patience. Their niece, Mary Yellan, goes to stay with them when her mother dies. Before she even arrives, she’s warned about the place; and when she arrives, she finds that the warnings have been more than justified:
 

‘She [Mary] went out of the room and into the dark passage, bumping against the settle in the hall, and so upstairs, feeling her way with her hands, judging her whereabouts by turning round and facing the stairs again. Her uncle had told her the room over the porch, and she crept across the dark landing, which was unlit, past two doors on either side – guest rooms, she imagined, waiting for those travelers who never came nowadays, nor sought shelter beneath the roof of Jamaica Inn – and then stumbled against another door and turned the handle, and saw by the flickering flame of her candle that this was her room, for her trunk lay on the floor.
 

Not the sort of place that suggests a happy, warm story. Like The Hound of the Baskervilles, the violence is more implied than depicted in detail (although there is more of it in this story). The setting builds the tension as much as anything else does.

 

The Elements

 

Along with physical setting, authors can also use the elements to build tension without getting gory. In Nevada Barr’s Firestorm, for instance, US National Park Service Ranger Anna Pigeon has been sent to Northern California’s Lassen Volcanic National Park. She’s to serve as a medic for those fighting a wildfire – the Jackson fire – in the area. Weather predictions are for colder air and snow to move in, so the hope is that the firefighters will soon be able to leave the area. Pigeon and a small group remain behind, though, to help an injured comrade. That’s when a freak thunderstorm forms and changes everything. A firestorm is whipped up, and all of the team dives for cover in individual shelters. When the storm passes, the firefighters check on each other only to find that one of them has been murdered. Now, Pigeon has to help the other exhausted firefighters, and at the same time find out who the killer is. This novel uses the quickly-changing and dangerous elements to add suspense to the story, rather than a very high ‘body count,’ or a lot of brutal gore.

That’s also true of Craig Johnson’s The Cold Dish, which introduces his sleuth, Sheriff Walt Longmire. In this novel, Longmire and his deputy, Victoria ‘Vic’ Moretti investigate two murders, both of young men who were involved in a previous rape. There are a number of possibilities, including that the family of the rape victim has exacted vengeance. Although the story has some dark elements, it’s not a really gory novel. And the violence that there is, is not extended. Part of what builds the tension here is a snowstorm that moves in during a trek that Longmire and his friend Henry Standing Bear make to try to prevent a third murder. The weather is brutal, and the two men are at serious risk. That’s what adds to the suspense, rather than a lot of violence.

 

Psychological Tension

 

Authors can also use the buildup of psychological tension to invite readers to stay engaged in a story. That’s what Agatha Christie does in And Then There Were None. In that novel, ten people visit Indian Island, off the Devon Coast. They’re all there for different reasons, but as we learn early on, they’ve all been deliberately brought to the island. After dinner on the first night, each is accused of having caused the death of at least one other person. Shortly afterwards, one of them suddenly dies of what turns out to be poison. Later that night, another dies. Soon enough, it’s clear that someone is trying to kill all of them. The survivors have to find out who that person is, and stay alive themselves. Admittedly, there’s a higher ‘body count’ here than there is in some of Christie’s other work. But the deaths are not described in ugly, gory detail. The real tension lies in the growing paranoia and the knowledge that someone in the same house is a killer.

Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train also uses a solid buildup of psychological tension. The real action in that novel begins when Guy Haines travels across country by train to visit his estranged wife Miriam, from whom he’s hoping to get a divorce. While he’s en route, he meets Charles Anthony Bruno. The two men get to talking, and before very long, Bruno proposes that each man commit the other man’s murder. He will kill Haines’ wife if Haines kills his father. At first, Haines doesn’t take Bruno seriously. But then, Bruno actually kills Miriam, and demands that Haines fulfil his side of the bargain. Now Haines has a terrible dilemma. In this novel, the violence isn’t the main part of the story, really. It’s the buildup of psychological tension as we slowly see the kind of person Bruno really is, and as Haines tries desperately to get out of his situation.

There are a lot of other ways, too, to ramp up the suspense in a story without a bloodletting. Which keep your interest the most? If you’re a writer, how do you build suspense without gore?

 

 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from The Hooters’ Hanging on a Heartbeat.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Craig Johnson, Daphne du Maurier, Nevada Barr, Patricia Highsmith