Category Archives: Paddy Richardson

Let’s Throw a Twilight Cookout*

Community parties, picnics, and barbecues can be a lot of fun. They’re especially popular when the weather is warm, and people can get outdoors. Sometimes they’re sponsored by a school, and sometimes by a religious or political group. They can even be spontaneous. Lots of times they’re very enjoyable, and they give people a chance to connect. But they’re not always safe – well, at least not in crime fiction.

Barbecues and other community social gatherings bring together a lot of different people. They may live or work together, but that doesn’t mean they like one another. And it’s hard to keep track of what everyone’s doing. That makes the context tailor-made for the crime writer. Little wonder we see community events like that in crime fiction.

In Agatha Christie’s Dead Man’s Folly, for instance, there’s a community fête planned at Nasse House, the home of Sir George and Lady Hattie Stubbs. One of the events planned for the fête is Murder Hunt, a bit like a Scavenger Hunt, where participants find clues and try to find out who murdered the ‘victim.’ The hunt itself is designed by detective story novelist Ariadne Oliver. Tragedy strikes on the day of the fête, when Marlene Tucker, who’s playing the part of the victim, is actually killed. Mrs. Oliver has invited Hercule Poirot to Nasse House to give the prizes for the Murder Hunt, so he is on hand when the body is discovered. And it turns out that more than one person might have had a reason for wanting to kill Marlene. She had a way of finding out much more about people’s secrets than it was safe for her to know.

Ruth Rendell’s To Fear a Painted Devil is the story of Tamsin and Patrick Selby, who live in a sort of cliquish, suburban community called Linchester. They decide to celebrate Tamsin’s twenty-seventh birthday by hosting an outdoor party. They invite several of their friends, and other people who live in the community. Everything goes well enough, until some wasps start annoying the guests. Patrick climbs a ladder to get rid of the wasps’ nest, but he is badly stung in the process. He becomes very ill and unexpectedly dies a few days later. On the surface of it, it seems that he succumbed to an allergy to the wasps. But Dr. Max Greenleaf, who’s been taking care of him, begins to suspect otherwise. He doesn’t want to think that someone he may know is a murderer, but he finally starts asking questions. And it turns out that there are several secrets that the people in Linchester are keeping.

Gail Bowen’s Deadly Appearances begins at a community barbecue/picnic. The event is going to give up-and-coming politician Androu ‘Andy’ Boychuk an opportunity to make a very important speech. He’s got a promising future, and people want to hear what he has to say. Just after he begins speaking, he collapses and dies of what turns out to be poison. His friend, academician and political scientist Joanne Kilbourn, is grief-stricken at his loss. So, she decides to cope by writing Boychuk’s biography. As she does so, she gets closer and closer to the truth about why and how he died. In the end, we learn that Boychuk’s death is related to his past.

In Robert Crais’ L.A. Requiem, Joe Pike’s former lover, Karen Garcia, goes missing, and he wants his partner, Elvis Cole, to help find her. Then, tragically, she turns up dead. Now, her father, who is both wealthy and well-connected, wants to be sure that the police catch the person responsible. So, he hires Pike and Cole to follow along with the LAPD police to be sure they’re not glossing over anything. But Pike has a history with the department. He used to be a cop, and there are still plenty of police officers in the department who don’t like him. In the novel, there’s a telling ‘flashback’ scene that takes place at the (LAPD) Rampart Division’s Family Day picnic. Pike and Karen attend the picnic, but it doesn’t turn out to be the lovely ‘introduce the girlfriend to the workmates’ event it’s supposed to be.

In one of the sub-plots of M.C. Beaton’s Love, Lies and Liquor, private investigator Agatha Raisin’s ex-husband, James Lacey, takes the house next door to hers. On the one hand, she does think of getting back together with him. On the other, she had very good reasons for leaving, and she feels herself well rid of him. One day, he invites her to a barbecue being hosted by friends of his. It turns out that the whole event is a disaster. James treats her horribly, and her hosts and several of the other guests are rude, too. As a gesture to try to make it up to her, James decides to invite her for a getaway weekend at the Paradise Hotel at Snoth-on-Sea. He has fond memories of the place from childhood, but the place has become dilapidated and the town is no longer popular. As if that’s not enough, Agatha gets involved in an argument with another guest – and is later accused of murder when that guest is found dead.

And then there’s Paddy Richardson’s Hunting Blind, which begins with a school picnic on Lake Wanaka. The members of the Anderson family attend, and all starts out well enough. Then, tragedy strikes. Four-year-old Gemma Anderson goes missing. There’s a massive search for her, but no trace of her is found – not even a body. The police don’t even have any leads as to who, exactly, might have abducted her, since there were so many people there. The family is devastated and left permanently scarred by Gemma’s loss. Seventeen years later, Gemma’s older sister, Stephanie, is finishing up her psychiatry program in Dunedin. When she hears about a similar abduction from a patient, she decides to lay her ghosts to rest, and find out who wrought so much havoc on both families. So, she returns to her home town to get some answers.

See what I mean? Community events like picnics and barbecues can be a lot of fun. But, if you get an invitation to one, please do be careful. You never know what can happen…

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Chuck Berry’s You Two.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Gail Bowen, M.C. Beaton, Paddy Richardson, Robert Crais, Ruth Rendell

After All This Time You’re Still Asking Questions*

Even after a jury renders its verdict, that doesn’t mean a case goes away. The real truth about some cases doesn’t always come out, which means there are lingering questions about its outcome. We’ve certainly seen that in real life. For example, in 1892, Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’ Borden was acquitted of murdering her father and stepmother. And there are several theories as to who was really responsible. But at the same time, plenty of people continued to believe she was guilty. And there are historians who think the same thing.

The same questions come up in crime fiction, and it’s interesting to see the roles they can play in the genre. Those lingering questions can be the basis for a legal appeal. Or, they can prompt Cold Case teams to look into the case again. Sleuths, too, can be drawn into cases because of those questions.

For instance, in Agatha Christie’s Five Little Pigs, famous painter Amyas Crale is poisoned one afternoon. His wife, Caroline, is the main suspect, and she certainly has motive. She is tried for the crime, and is defended by a very skilled lawyer. But she’s found guilty and sent to prison, where she dies a year later. Most people don’t question the jury’s verdict, either. But years later, the Crales’ daughter, Carla, does. She believes that her mother was innocent, and she questions the outcome of the trial. She hires Hercule Poirot to take the case and find out who the real killer is. Slowly, he learns that there were a few questions at the time, but even those who thought Caroline Crale might be innocent faced one major challenge: if it wasn’t Caroline, then who else had a motive? Poirot gets written accounts of the murder from the people who were there at the time; he interviews them, too. That information leads him to the truth about the murder.

In Reginald Hill’s Recalled to Life, Superintendent Andy Dalziel returns to a 1963 case – the murder of Pamela Westrup. At the time, Cissy Kohler was arrested, tried, and convicted in connection with the crime. But there were always some questions about whether she was guilty. Now, she’s been released from prison, and the questions continue to mount. There’s talk that she was innocent, but that the investigator in charge of the case, Wally Tallentire, hid evidence that would have supported her case. Dalziel is sure that’s not true, though, and it’s no small matter that Tallentire was his mentor, so he has a personal stake in the case. Dalziel goes back over the events in questions, and slowly gets to the truth about the Westrup murder.

Michael Robotham’s Lost features the case of seven-year-old Mickey Carlyle. Three years earlier, Mickey went missing. Everyone thinks that she was abducted and killed by a paedophile named Harold Wavell. In fact, Wavell was arrested, tried and imprisoned for the crime. But there are still questions about the case. Was Wavell really guilty? If not, what happened to the child?  Detective Inspector (DI) Vincent Ruiz is looking into the case, when he is badly injured. After the injury, he has little memory of what happened. But, with help from psychologist Joe O’Loughlin, Ruiz slowly begins to recover his memories of the case. Once he does, he is able to find out the truth about Mickey.

Paddy Richardson’s Wellington-based journalist Rebecca Thorne learns of lingering questions about a case in Traces of Red. Connor Bligh has been in prison for years for murdering his sister, Angela Dickson, her husband, Rowan, and their son, Sam. Only their daughter, Katy, survived, because she wasn’t home at the time of the murders. There are lingering questions about the case, though. Was Bligh really guilty? There is some evidence that suggests he might be innocent. If he is, then this could be the story to ensure Thorne’s place at the top of New Zealand journalism. She starts looking into the case again and finds herself getting much closer to it than even she thinks is wise. In the end, she learns the truth, but it’s definitely at a cost.

In Sue Younger’s Days Are Like Grass, pediatric surgeon Claire Bowerman returns from London to her native Auckland with her partner, Yossi Shalev, and her daughter, Roimata ‘Roi.’ She’s not particularly eager to make the trip, but it’s important to Yossi, so she goes along with the plan. There’s a good reason, too, for which Claire doesn’t want to go back to Auckland. In 1970, her father, Patrick, was arrested and imprisoned in connection with the disappearance of seventeen-year-old Kathryn Phillips. There was never enough evidence to make a conviction stick, so he didn’t remain in prison. But there are still plenty of people who think he’s guilty. And there are a lot of questions about the trial and about the disappearance. Still, Claire goes back to Auckland with her family. Then, she gets involved in a very high-profile case. A two-year-old in her care is diagnosed with a tumour. His parents object to any surgery on religious grounds, and this puts them squarely up against the hospital. It’s a difficult matter, and it puts Claire in exactly the situation she didn’t want: under the proverbial microscope. Her father’s case is made much of in the media, and all of the questions surrounding it are dragged out again.

There are certain cases like that, though – cases where there’s been an arrest, and possibly a trial and conviction, but there are still questions. Such situations can make for interesting plot lines in a crime novel. And in real life, those cases can make for much speculation.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Goldfinger’s Anything.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Michael Robotham, Paddy Richardson, Reginald Hill, Sue Younger

Big News!*

As this is posted, it’s 44 years since the publication of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s All the President’s Men. As you’ll know, these journalists were instrumental in uncovering the Watergate scandal that ended up bringing down Richard Nixon’s presidency.

Woodward and Bernstein’s exposé was one of the more famous in journalism, but it’s hardly been the only one. Journalists and other writers have been doing exposés for a long time, both before and since All the President’s Men was published. Fictional characters have done that sort of writing, too. Whether such characters are sleuths, victims, or play another role, they’re woven into the crime fiction. And it’s interesting to see how those exposés and the people who work on them are depicted in the genre.

In Gail Bowen’s The Endless Knot, we are introduced to Canadian journalist Kathryn Morrissey. She has written a controversial exposé on the way that several wealthy and celebrated Canadians treat their children. In doing so, she strips away the ‘nice, perfect’ lives these people seem to have. And, she upsets a lot of people. In fact, one of them, Sam Parker, is so incensed by the book that he shoots at, and wounds, Morrissey. He’s arrested, and hires prominent attorney Zack Shreve to defend him. It’s not going to be an easy case; after all, there’s no question that Parker shot Morrissey. But Shreve is a gifted lawyer. Among other things, the novel raises interesting questions about journalism, exposés, and the limits of what’s published.

Kel Robertson’s Smoke and Mirrors begins as Australian Federal Police (AFP) detective Bradman ‘Brad’ Chen is lured back to police work after some time away. Alec Dennet, a member of Gough Whitlam’s 1972-1975 government, has been found murdered. He was visiting a writer’s retreat, Uriarra, located near Canberra, to work on his memoirs. Also there was his editor, Lorraine Starke, who’s also been killed. The police soon discover that Dennet’s manuscript is missing. This leads Chen and his team to suspect that something in the manuscript triggered the murders, and that’s not out of the question. It was said that Dennet’s book was to be, among other things, an exposé that might very well embarrass some highly-placed people. It was also said that the manuscript was going to reveal the truth about the alleged conspiracy that brought down the Whitlam government. Chen and his team reason that, if they can find out who took the manuscript, they might find out who the killer is. As it turns out, the case is more complicated than that. As the AFP team look into the matter, we get an interesting look at the impact that exposés can have.

Paddy Richardson’s Cross Fingers features Wellington journalist Rebecca Thorne. She’s been working very hard on an exposé of dubious land developer Denny Graham. He’s got both money and influence, so it’s not easy to find people who are willing to talk to her about him. Even people who aren’t intimidated by Graham’s status don’t exactly want it to be public knowledge that they’ve been swindled. Thorne has finally gotten a few people who are willing to be interviewed when her boss sends her on a different course. It’s soon to be the 30th anniversary of the 1981 Springboks (South Africa’s rugby team) tour of New Zealand. Often simply called ‘The Tour,’ this event was controversial. At the time, South Africa still had a strict policy of apartheid, and plenty of New Zealanders didn’t want the team to visit for that reason. Others wanted to watch the rugby. And the police simply wanted to keep order. There were clashes and confrontations, and Thorne’s boss wants her to do a piece on the tour. Thorne isn’t interested, mostly because she doesn’t see any new angle on the story. She also doesn’t want to lose her tenuous hold on the people willing to talk about Denny Graham. Then, she finds a unique angle on the tour story, and ends up looking into a 30-year-old murder.

Christopher Brookmyre’s Quite Ugly One Morning introduces his protagonist, Jack Parlabane. As the novel begins, Parlabane’s just returned to his native Edinburgh from Los Angeles. He wakes up one morning to the sound of a loud commotion. Wondering what’s going on, he leaves his flat and goes down the stairs to the one below. Then, he remembers that he’s closed his door, locking himself out of his home. His plan is to go into the downstairs flat, go through a window there, and re-enter his own flat through the corresponding window in it. When he goes into the downstairs flat, though, he finds the body of a man who’s obviously been murdered. Parlabane’s an investigative journalist, so he is curious. But he’s also smart enough to know that he doesn’t want to be caught at the scene of a crime. He’s making his way towards the window when the police, in the form of Detective Constable (DC) Jenny Dalziel find him. Partly to clear himself, and partly because of his curiosity, Parlabane gets involved in the investigation – and ends up doing an exposé that involves health care, politics, and government.

And then there’s Claire McGowan’s The Lost, which introduces her protagonist, forensic psychologist Paula Maguire. In the novel, Maguire travels from London back to her hometown of Ballyterrin, Northern Ireland. She’s to be part of a new Cold Case team that’s finally been funded. Their first case involves some girls who have gone missing, and the team gets right to work. The trail leads to some secrets that some well-respected people would much rather keep quiet. Along the way, Maguire meets up again with her old flame, Aidan O’Hara, who edits the local paper. He’s used to doing very safe ‘fluff’ stories, but he gets his chance at an exposé with this case.

Exposés can be interesting. When they’re accurately done, they can shed important light on things that are happening, too – things people should know. And writers who do exposés can make for interesting fictional characters.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Jason Robert Brown.

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Filed under Christopher Brookmyre, Claire McGowan, Gail Bowen, Kel Robertson, Paddy Richardson

Let Me Have My Privacy*

The balance between the right to personal privacy and the public good is a very delicate one. On the one hand, many countries have determined that there is a reasonable expectation of privacy in the home, in one’s personal conversations, and so on. On the other hand, when there’s a criminal investigation, courts have determined that searches can be conducted of one’s car, one’s most personal things, one’s telephone logs, one’s private papers, and one’s banking records, among many other things.

That balance plays out in real life every time the police conduct a search or get a warrant. It plays out in crime fiction, too, and it’s interesting to see how it’s handled. It’s especially interesting to see how the concept has been seen differently in different places and at different times.

Warrants have been a part of police procedure for a long time. We see them, for instance, in more than one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. In The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter, for instance, Holmes’ brother, Mycroft, wants his help in a strange case. A man named Melas, who makes his living as an interpreter, is abducted, taken to a private house some two hours from London, and forced to act as interpreter for another man who speaks only Greek. Then, Melas is taken away from the house, and left just close enough to a train station to catch the last train back to London. As part of their investigation, Holmes, Watson, and Inspector Tobias Gregson go to the house itself. They’ve had to wait for an official warrant to enter it, though, so by the time they get there, Melas’ abductors have disappeared. He’s there, though, albeit barely alive. It seems the abductors captured him again when they learned that the police know what happened. It turns out that this case is based in greed and a dispute over property.

By the time Agatha Christie was writing, most people knew that the police can’t go through their private possessions, papers, and so on without a warrant. And in several of her stories, there are scenes where a character asks about a warrant. One of the more memorable ‘personal search’ scenes appears in Hickory Dickory Dock. In that novel, Hercule Poirot works with Inspector Sharpe to find out who killed Celia Austin, a resident in a hostel for students. It turns out that her death is connected to an odd series of petty thefts and other strange events that have been making everyone uneasy. At one point, Inspector Sharpe and his team come to the hostel armed with search warrants, and they go through the students’ belongings. Then, they want to search the private rooms of Mrs. Nicoletis, who owns the place. When they ask her to unlock a certain cupboard, she outright refuses, insisting that it’s her private property, and they have no right to look inside. In fact, she becomes belligerent. Sharpe then tells her that she can unlock the cupboard, or they’ll break it. She refuses again, and the cupboard door is broken. Its contents turn out to be most surprising.

One of the big issues around privacy has to do with communication with certain people such as lawyers, clerics, medical doctors, and psychologists/psychiatrists. Those sorts of conversations/contacts are confidential, and all of those professionals know that they may not release any information regarding that kind of communication except under certain very specific circumstances. In Nicci French’s Blue Monday, that presents a real dilemma for London psychologist Frieda Klein. She’s working with a new patient, Alan Dekker. One of the things he tells her is a vivid dream he’s had about a son – a boy who looks like him. In point of fact, he and his wife have no children, and he’s working through the issues around that. Then, four-year-old Matthew Faraday goes missing. Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Malcolm Karlsson and his team are investigating, but so far, they haven’t found any substantive leads. When Klein hears of this, she begins to wonder whether there’s a connection between Dekker and the Faraday case. She has no real proof, but still, if her information can help find the boy, shouldn’t she give it to the police? On the other hand, what about her patient’s privacy? It’s a serious dilemma. In the end, she does contact Karlsson, and the two begin to work, each in a different way, on the case. It turns out that the boy’s disappearance is related to another disappearance twenty-two years earlier.

Paddy Richardson’s Swimming in the Dark features Gerda Klein and her daughter, Ilse. Years ago, during the ‘Cold War’ between the UK, US, and their allies, and the then-Soviet Union and its allies, the Klein family lived in Leipzig, in what was East Germany. At that time, and in that place, the Stasi (the East German secret police) had agents everywhere. What’s more, people were encouraged to denounce others to the authorities, no matter how close the relationship. People learned that conversations, even in the privacy of one’s own home, were not really private, and more than one person was taken into custody on the basis of private telephone calls and other communication. Gerda and her husband wanted to escape this environment, so they made careful plans. With help, and some luck, they and Ilse managed to leave the country, and ended up in Alexandria, on New Zealand’s South Island. There, they settled in, and Ilse became a secondary school teacher. As the novel begins, she faces a real challenge when Serena Freeman, one of her most promising students, stops coming to class. Then, she disappears. Ilse soon finds that her interest in, and concern for, the girl leads her to places she hadn’t imagined.

With today’s CCTV cameras, it’s harder than ever for people to go places privately. It’s been determined that, so long as it’s made clear that the cameras are recording, then people don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy in public places. But it still can make for awkward moments. For instance, what if a CCTV camera in a hotel lobby catches someone with a lover? It’s a violation of privacy, but, is it really? And, is the number of crimes that CCTV can help solve worth the fact that your presence at a bank, a hotel, or someplace else public is a matter of record?

The issues around personal privacy aren’t easy to resolve. And cases involving privacy have sometimes been controversial. It’s going to continue to be an issue as police procedure includes online activity more and more. And it certainly shows up in crime fiction.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Parliament’s Let Me Be.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Nicci French, Paddy Richardson

Do You Still Feel the Pain of the Scars That Won’t Heal*

Whenever someone dies, whether it’s murder or not, those left behind are affected permanently. That may be especially the case when the death is untimely. All sorts of raw emotions and hidden feelings come out, and such a death often alters the relationships among the loved ones left behind.

It’s only natural that this would be woven into crime fiction, especially crime fiction where there’s a murder. And it is. There are plenty of examples of what happens to family relationships after a sudden death. Here are just a few; I know you’ll think of plenty of others.

In James Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential, we are introduced to Edmund ‘Ed’ Exley. He’s a Los Angeles police officer whose father, Preston Exley, is beloved and revered among the police. Preston had his hopes set on his son, Thomas, rising to the very top of the LAPD as a detective. Thomas, though, was killed during World War II (the novel takes place in the early-to-mid 1950s). Now that Thomas is no longer alive, Ed Exley has the dual burden of being the surviving brother, and of living up to his father’s expectations. And it’s a difficult challenge, too, as Preston Exley is determined that a son of his will rise to the proverbial top of the tree. All of this impacts Ed when, on Christmas Day of 1951, seven civilians are brutally beaten by police officers. There’s a lot of public outrage, which has consequences for the police. Then, two years later, there’s a late-night shooting at a diner called the Nite Owl. The two incidents turn out to be related, and we see how the Exley family dynamics play a role in what happens.

Anne Perry’s Face of a Stranger is the story of the murder of Joscelin Grey, a ‘blueblood’ who was bludgeoned in his own home. London police detective William Monk is put in charge of the investigation, but he is facing a real difficulty. He was involved in a terrible accident and has lost his memory. He doesn’t even know, at first, who he is or why he is in a hospital. He does know that he wants to pick up his life again, and he can’t reveal his memory difficulty if he’s going to do that. Still, bit by bit, he and his assistant, John Evan, start asking questions. And, naturally, they want to talk to Grey’s family. This is Victorian London, where the ‘better classes’ are not accustomed to having their word questioned. And they see no reason to cooperate with a ‘mere’ policeman. But, eventually, Monk and Evan start to learn about the family dynamic. The dead man was the apple of his mother’s eye, and she won’t hear anything against him. None of her other children can quite measure up. Those children, though, don’t see things that way. And they’ve all been impacted by their mother’s bias. As the story goes on, we learn more about the complicated network of relationships in the Grey family. We also learn that more than one person had a good reason to want to kill Joscelin Grey – and not all of them are family members.

Belinda Bauer’s Blacklands introduces us to the working-class Lamb family. Nettie Lamb lives with her mother, Gloria, and her children, Steven and Davey, in the small Exmoor town of Shipcott. This isn’t an ordinary family, though. Nineteen years earlier, Nettie’s brother, Billy Peters, disappeared and never returned. The belief is that he was abducted and killed by a man named Arnold Avery, who’s currently in prison for other murders. Billy’s body was never found, though, so the family has had no real closure. Then, Steven decides to write to Avery in prison, and find out where his Uncle Billy’s body is buried. Thus begins a psychological game of cat and mouse between him and Avery, which turns very dangerous. But it also brings up real family issues. Gloria always preferred Billy over Nettie; yet, Nettie’s the one who survived. That plays its own role in the story. Among other things, it’s meant Nettie has conflicted feelings about Billy.

Paddy Richardson’s Hunting Blind begins in 1988, at a school picnic at Lake Wanaka, on New Zealand’s South Island. The Anderson family goes to the picnic, and the members soon scatter among the rest of the people there. When it’s time to go, Stephanie’s mother, Minna, sends her to get four-year-old Gemma, the youngest. But Stephanie can’t find her sister. And no-one’s seen the child since earlier. Now panicked, the entire family searches for Gemma, but can’t find her. The police are called in, and a thorough, official, search begins. But no trace of Gemma is ever found – not even a body. Gemma’s loss devastates her family, and I can say without spoiling the story that none of the family members are really the same again afterwards. Stephanie, especially, feels the loss. She feels responsible, in her way, and she feels a sense of guilt. Seventeen years later, she’s finishing up her psychiatry studies in Dunedin, when she starts to work with a new patient, Elisabeth Clark. At first, Elisabeth won’t work with Stephanie. But gradually, Stephanie learns that Elisabeth lost her sister, Gracie, in a way that’s eerily similar to the way Gemma disappeared. Stephanie decides to lay her family’s ghosts to rest and find out who wreaked so much havoc on these families. As she searches for the truth, we see how the loss of one sister has impacted the other, and their brothers (and that’s to say nothing of the parents).

And then there’s Donna Morrisey’s The Fortunate Brother. That novel features Sylvanus Now, his wife, Addie, and their children, Sylvie and Kyle. The family is suffering deeply from the loss of Sylvanus and Addie’s other son, Chris, who died three years earlier in a terrible oil rig accident in Alberta. They’re doing their best to go on with life, but they haven’t started to heal, and they’re all hurting in their own ways. Kyle, for instance, carries a great deal of guilt and grief, although he’s not responsible for Chris’ death. The Nows are jolted out of their own suffering when a local bully named Clar Gillard is killed. He was, to say the very least, unpopular, so no-one will miss him. This makes investigating the murder difficult for the police, since few people are interested in finding out who the killer is. But some of the evidence suggests that one of the Now family might be responsible. As they’re coping with this suspicion, they start drawing together just a little. That, plus a health scare, bring the members of the family a little closer, so that they can start to face their pain. Among other things, this novel offers a close look at how families are impacted when members die suddenly.

Whenever there’s a murder or other untimely death (e.g. an accident), family dynamics are permanently changed. And all sorts of things can come to the surface that might have been hidden before. That reality can add to the suspense of a crime novel and can bring in layers of character development.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s Daniel.

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Filed under Anne Perry, Belinda Bauer, Donna Morrissey, James Ellroy, Paddy Richardson