Category Archives: Patricia Melo

With a Little Bit of Luck*

If you’ve ever had a very lucky thing happen to you, then you know that sometimes, luck really does happen. And lots of people believe in luck, too. They carry ‘lucky’ charms, wear ‘lucky’ clothes, and so on. And there are many people who are just waiting for that one lucky break that will make all the difference to them.

In reality, of course, luck doesn’t really work that way. Sometimes, lucky things happen; sometimes they don’t. And it can be extremely frustrating – and limiting – for people who are just waiting for their break. The way people feel about luck can add to a story. It can provide interesting layers to a character, and it can increase the tension in a plot. We can see how this works, just from a quick look at crime fiction.

In Agatha Christie’s Death in the Clouds, we are introduced to Lady Cecily Horbury. She’s a former chorus girl who’s married Lord Stephen Horbury, and now lives a life of luxury. The problem is, though, that she is fond of gambling – very fond of it – and has run up a great deal of debt. It doesn’t help matters that she is also a cocaine user. She’s convinced that all she needs is one lucky break, perhaps a huge win at the tables, to set things right. Still, her husband has made it clear that he will no longer be responsible for her debts, so she is desperate for money. She borrowed from a French moneylender who does business as Madame Giselle; and, at first, that worked out well. But everything went wrong when she couldn’t pay what she owed. Madame Giselle’s form of ‘collateral’ is to collect compromising information on each of her clients, and reveal it only if the client doesn’t pay. And she’s got evidence that Cecily Horbury has been unfaithful – evidence that she’s planning to send to Lord Horbury. One day, Madame Giselle happens to be on a flight from Paris to London. At the end of the flight, she suddenly dies of what looks like a heart attack, but turns out to be poison. Since she is on the same flight, Lady Horbury becomes a suspect, and a ‘person of interest’ to Chief Inspector Japp and Hercule Poirot.

Gene Kerrigan’s The Rage is, in part, the story of Vincent Naylor. He’s recently been released from prison, but he’s been in and out of trouble with the law for some time. Now, he’s determined that he’s not going to take a big risk any more unless the payoff is worth it. But he and his girlfriend, Michelle Flood, want to get out and start over. And for that, all Naylor needs is a bit of luck – a payoff that will set them up. So, he, his brother Noel, and a few friends, plan an armed robbery. Their target will be Protectica, a security company that transfers cash among banks. The robbery goes off as planned, but then, things start going very, very wrong, and the whole thing ends in real tragedy.

There’s a different sort of luck needed in Belinda Bauer’s Blacklands. Twelve-year-old Steven Lamb lives with his mother, his brother, and his grandmother in a small Exmoor town. But it’s not a happy family. The family hasn’t really been whole since Steven’s Uncle Billy Peters went missing nineteen years earlier. He was never found, and the family is suffering. Steven wants to help his family heal, so he decides to at least try to find Uncle Billy’s body. All he needs, he thinks, is a shovel and some luck. But, of course, it’s a large area, and he finds nothing. Then, he gets another idea. The man long suspected of killing Uncle Billy is Arnold Avery, who’s in prison on other child murder charges. Steven decides to try to get Avery to tell him where Uncle Billy’s body is. So, he writes to Avery. Avery responds. Thus starts an increasingly dangerous game of cat and mouse between the two.

In Patricia Melo’s The Body Snatcher, we are introduced to the unnamed narrator, who is a former telephone salesman. He’s recently moved from São Paulo to the town of Corumbá, not far from the Bolivian border, where he’s settled down. What he and his girlfriend, Sulamita, would really like is a chance to move away, get their own land, and start their lives together. But neither has the money to do that. All that’s needed is some luck, but neither has had much of that. Then, one day, the narrator happens to witness a small plane crash. He rushes to the site, and discovers that the pilot has been killed. But, he’s left behind a backpack and a watch. The narrator takes those things, and returns home, where he discovers to his shock that the backpack contains cocaine. He decides to sell the cocaine – just this once – to get the money he and Sulamita will need to start over. And that’s where the trouble starts. Before long, everything spirals very badly out of control.

That’s also what happens to Gary Braswell in Blair Denholm’s Sold. He’s a car salesman who lives and works on the Gold Coast. He’s gotten himself into some debt to a dangerous (and illegal) bookmaker, and now needs money desperately. All he needs is some luck – some big sales – and he’ll be all right. It seems that al will be well when a Russian land developer arranges for some expensive cars for himself, his wife, and his daughters. And, in fact, Braswell gets the money he needs to pay off his debt. But then, things start to go very, very wrong. He gets drawn into an illegal drug deal, a money laundering scheme, and more. And now, he will need an awful lot more than luck if he’s going to survive and get out of the mess he’s in.

Sometimes, all you need is a little luck. And there are plenty of people, both real and fiction, who are just waiting for that lucky break. But, as crime fiction shows, it doesn’t always work out that way…

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Belinda Bauer, Blair Denholm, Gene Kerrigan, Patricia Melo

Unintended Consequences*

Not many years ago (true story!), I went to the doctor because I had a slight ear infection. Nothing serious, but it needed treatment. The doctor prescribed an antibiotic, I took it, and the ear infection healed. But there was a major unintended consequence: it turns out I’m allergic to the medication I was given. And that led to some real unpleasantness for me. I didn’t blame the doctor: neither she nor I had any idea of my allergy. But it goes to show how the solution to one problem can cause all sorts of others.

And there are many other examples of how this can work. For instance, in the US, many people thought that Prohibition would stop people drinking and solve problems such as alcoholism. But, as we now know, it didn’t. People drank anyway. There’s a mention of that in Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, in which Hercule Poirot solves the murder of a businessman named Samuel Ratchett. He is stabbed on the second night of a train journey across Europe, and the only possible suspects are the other people in the same car. One of the ‘people of interest’ is a salesman called Cyrus Hardman, who is carrying a quantity of alcohol in his luggage. When his bags are searched, the comment is made:
 

‘‘You are not a believer in Prohibition, Monsieur Hardman.’….
‘Well,’ said Hardman, ‘I can’t say Prohibition has ever worried me any.’’
 

Because so many people were determined to drink despite the law, there was illegal alcohol manufacture, and that meant it was unregulated, and sometimes poisonous. And several criminals and criminal groups flourished because it was suddenly lucrative to supply alcohol. None of these were consequences that people had planned for when the law was passed.

There are a lot of other examples in crime fiction of this sort of unexpected consequence. And that plot point can add suspense, tension, and more to a plot. In Patricia Melo’s The Body Snatcher, for instance, we are introduced to a former telemarketer who has moved from São Paulo to the town of Corumbá, which is not far from the Bolivian border. One day, the narrator witnesses a small plane crash near a river. When he gets to the site of the crash, the narrator finds that it’s too late to save the pilot. But a backpack and an expensive watch have been left behind. The pilot won’t need those things any more, so the narrator takes them. When he opens the backpack, he finds that it’s full of cocaine. The narrator decides to sell the cocaine – just this once – to solve some financial trouble he has, and start a new life with his girlfriend, Sulamita. He gets help from his friend, Moacir, and the drugs are sold. That solves the money problem but unleashes all sorts of other consequences. There’s the dangerous drugs ring whose cocaine the narrator found, there’s the inquisitive parents of the dead pilot, and other major problems, too.

Kazuhiro Kiyuki’s Shield of Straw introduces readers to Takaoki Ninagawa, one of Japan’s wealthiest and most influential people. He is devastated when his granddaughter, Chika, goes missing and is found raped and killed. DNA found on the girl’s body establishes Kunihide Kiyomaru as the guilty person. Ninagawa isn’t convinced that the Japanese justice system will adequately punish Kiyumaru. So, he comes up with a solution. He offers a one- billion-yen reward for anyone who kills Kiyomaru and can prove it. That solution promises to be successful: tens of thousands of people are now going to be targeting Kiyomaru. But it unleashes several unexpected consequences. For one thing, the police still have to bring Kiyomaru from where he’s been hiding back to Tokyo to face trial. With so many people looking to kill the man, there’s real danger of innocent people being hurt or killed. And there’s the safety of the police team to consider. It turns out that Ninagawa has set in motion a very risky venture as the police try to get Kiyomaru back to Tokyo alive, while plenty of other people try to prevent that.

Geoffrey Roberts’ The Alo Release features a company called Vestco, which has created a new seed covering that it claims will greatly increase food production and reduce hunger all over the world. A Los Angeles-based watchdog group called the Millbrook Foundation has been keeping tabs on Vestco and has serious doubts about its claims. Millbrook believes that the seed coating will have far more disastrous than positive outcomes and has been trying to stop the release. The group is unsuccessful, though. With nine days to go until the release of this new seed coating, one of Vestco’s employees is murdered. And before they know it, three of Millbrook’s people are on the run as fugitives – accused of the murder. If they’re to warn the world about the seed coating, they’re going to have to find out who’s really behind the murders and try to stay alive themselves.

And then there’s Blair Denholm’s Sold. As the story begins, Gary Braswell is a Gold Coast car sales representative. He’s made the mistake of getting into some debt to the wrong person, Duncan ‘Jocko’ Mackenzie. He knows what the consequences are likely to be if he doesn’t pay promptly, but he thinks he solves the problem when he sells cars to wealthy Ivan Romashkin and his family members. That solution turns out to have all sorts of unexpected consequences, though. First, Mackenzie punishes Braswell for making him wait to get his money back. He demands that Braswell fly to Bali and do a drugs deal there. Otherwise, Braswell’s wife will be at grave risk. Then, it turns out that the Romashkins have their own agendas. The end result is that Braswell gets drawn deeper and deeper into a web of illegal activity, danger, and more. What he thought would be a straightforward solution to one problem ends up causing many more.

And that’s the way it is sometimes, both in real life and in crime fiction. Very little comes without consequences, and sometimes those consequences are much worse than people imagine. These are just a few examples of how this works in crime fiction. Your turn.

 

ps. Oh, the ‘photo? The development in the area where I live has been good for local businesses, but the consequences for local plant and animal life haven’t been as positive…

 
 
 

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

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Blair Denholm, Geoffrey Robert, Kazuhiro Kiuchi, Patricia Melo

If I Were a Rich Man*

There’s plenty of excitement in a lot of US states this week. The Mega Millions lottery is now up to over US$450 million, and likely to grow before Tuesday’s drawing. Even people who don’t usually play the lottery are risking money on tickets, and there are office pools and other group efforts. Everybody wants to win.

And that’s not surprising. Many of us imagine what it might be like to be rich. Some even dream of it. It can be fun to think about what you’d do with all of that money. We all know in our logical minds that the chances of getting really rich aren’t great. And we all know in our logical minds that being very rich doesn’t mean a person has no challenges, problems, sorrows, or even tragedies. But that doesn’t stop us dreaming of that kind of wealth, at least a little.

There are plenty of crime-fictional characters who dream of it, too. And sometimes, that can get them into a lot of trouble. And even when it doesn’t, it can certainly complicate their lives. Like a lot of real-life people, though, that doesn’t stop their dreaming.

In Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile, for instance, we are introduced to Simon Doyle. When we first meet him, he’s engaged to Jacqueline ‘Jackie’ de Bellefort. Neither has money, but they are in love. Then, Simon loses his job and needs another, so that he and Jackie can marry. Fortunately, Jackie’s good friend, Linnet Ridgeway, is extremely wealthy, and in need of a land agent to manage her property. Jackie convinces Linnet to give Simon a try as land agent, and Linnet agrees. Then, the unexpected happens: Linnet falls in love with Simon. He’s attracted to her, too, and especially to the life of luxury and money that she lives. In fact, he’s always wanted the ‘rich life.’ They marry and plan a honeymoon trip to the Middle East. Jackie follows them everywhere, which greatly unsettles the couple. So, they try to evade her by taking a sudden trip up the Nile. Hercule Poirot is on the same cruise, so he is present when Jackie unexpectedly turns up on the boat. He is also present the second night of the cruise, when Linnet is shot and killed. At first, Jackie is the most logical suspect. But she has a proven alibi, so she cannot be the murderer. Simon, too, has a corroborated alibi. This means that Poirot has to look elsewhere for the killer.

Lawrence Sanders’ The Anderson Tapes is the story of John ‘Duke’ Anderson. He’s been recently released from prison, and is now on the ‘straight and narrow,’ working at a print company. One night, though, he gets the chance to visit a very posh Manhattan apartment building. When he sees the wealth and luxury there, he gets the idea of having a lot of that money for his own. So, he creates a plan to rob the entire building. He won’t be able to do the job on his own, so he makes arrangements with people he knows to get weapons, assistance, materials, and so on. The only thing is, the FBI and other authorities have been recording those people for reasons of their own. This means they have access to all of Anderson’s plans. The question becomes: will the authorities see this, and stop the heist before it happens, and people get hurt?

In Patricia Melo’s The Body Snatcher, a São Paulo salesman and former telemarketer moves to Corumbá when a tragedy ends his job. He settles in and forms a relationship with Sulamita, who is an administrative assistant to the police. One day, he happens to witness a small plane crash into a nearby river. By the time he arrives, it’s too late to save the pilot. But he sees that the pilot has left behind a backpack and a watch.  The narrator takes those things, and later discovers that the backpack is filled with cocaine. Instead of reporting it all to the police, the narrator dreams of what it would be like to have all of the money that would come from selling the cocaine. It would be just a one-time thing – just enough to set him and Sulamita up for life. His friend Moacir lives nearby, and seems to know the right people, so the two go into business. Moacir makes the connections, and the arrangements are made. But that turns out to be only the start of real trouble for both men, and for Sulamita. They get drawn into a mess involving ruthless drugs smugglers and end up in much more trouble than they imagined.

Carl Hiaasen’s Lucky You is the story of Joylayne Lucks. She’s an avid environmentalist who dreams of having a lot of money so that she can use it to protect the land. She gets her chance when she buys a winning lottery ticket. The prize is US$14 million, and she plans to use it to buy a piece of land and keep it out of developers’ hands. Then, the ticket is stolen by a Nazi group that wants to use the money to fund a militia. Features writer Tom Krone has been assigned by the Register to do a piece on Lucks and her big win. Instead, he finds himself drawn into a plot to get the ticket back.

And then there’s Vincent Naylor, whom we meet in Gene Kerrigan’s The Rage. He’s recently been released from prison, where he learned one important lesson: don’t take any more risks unless the payoff is worth it. Naylor meets up with his girlfriend, Michelle Flood, his brother, Noel, and a few other people, and they concoct a plan. They’re all dreaming of big money – money that will let them get out of their humdrum lives. So, they decide to pull of a heist. The target is an armored car company called Protectica, that transfers cash among local banks. The details are planned, and the heist goes off. Then, things take a tragic turn, and everything changes for the group.

Lots of us dream, however idly, of what it’d be like to be extremely wealthy. It does have appeal, doesn’t it? That’s why I have my lottery ticket. On Tuesday, I’m going to win that pot. And when I do, I’ll need a lot of support. I’ll certainly need legal counsel – from several different countries, too, since I plan international philanthropy as well as careful investments. Some of my plans also include academic bursaries and endowments, so I’d be glad of help from people in academia, too. I’ll need an IT person who can help set up safe communication and file transfer among the people who work for me. I’m going to also need people with NGO and other philanthropy backgrounds to help me set up the groups I want to set up. And of course, all of this has to be released to the public in the right way. So, I’ll need someone with a background in journalism, and in fashion and public image, to help me make the right impression. I know I’ll need other support, too. And, of course, if these people also had an interest in books and reading, well, that would be all to the good. Do you happen to know anyone??

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Carl Hiaasen, Gene Kerrigan, Lawrence Sanders, Patricia Melo

You Thought You Were Clever*

If there’s anything that crime fiction should teach us, it’s that very few people are as clever as they think they are. Whether a character tries to double-cross a partner in crime, evade detection, or something else, there aren’t that many characters who get away with it.

Of course, there are exceptions (right, fans of Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Scandal in Bohemia?). But, in the main, it’s just not safe to try to be overly clever. And we see that all through the genre.

For instance, at the beginning of Agatha Christie’s The Man in the Brown Suit, we are introduced to a dancer who calls herself Nadina. From the beginning, we learn that she is planning to double-cross a man called the Colonel, for whom she’s worked. It’s not spoiling the story to say that, not long afterwards, Nadina is found dead in an empty house. Her death is soon connected with the mysterious death of a man at an underground station. And both deaths turn out to be related to jewel thefts and international intrigue. Anne Bedingfield gets caught up in this web when she witnesses the tragedy at the station. She happens to find a piece of paper that fell out of the dead man’s pocket, and works out that the message on it refers to the upcoming sailing of the Kilmorden Castle for Cape Town. Impulsively, Anne books passage on the ship, and gets more adventure than she’d planned. It turns out that the two victims weren’t nearly as clever as they thought they were.

Neither is Lewis Winter, whom we meet in Malcolm Mackay’s The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter. He’s a small-time drug dealer who’s trying to make a name for himself in the Glasgow underworld. And he’s caught the attention of Peter Jamieson and his right-hand man, John Young. That’s going to be a big problem, because Jamieson is a ‘rising star’ in the criminal world, and has a lot more power than Winter thinks. And Winter isn’t nearly as clever as he thinks he is. Still, Jamieson and Young don’t want an upstart like Winter getting any credibility, so they hire Callum MacLean to take care of their problem. He’s got the skills and the reputation to do the job, and soon puts things into motion. Things don’t go exactly according to plan. Still, I can say that Winter’s belief that he’s cleverer than Jamieson and Young turns out to have disastrous consequences.

Qiu Xiaolong’s Enigma of China concerns the death of Zhou Keng, Head of Shanghai’s Housing Development Committee. The real action starts when an online watchdog group targets him. They’ve been working to expose corruption at all levels of government, and they’ve found evidence that he may be guilty. On the one hand, the Party leaders distrust this group and the members of it distrust the Party. On the other hand, the Party needs the information that the group provides in order to monitor its highly placed members. In this case, Zhou isn’t as clever as he thinks he is, because the government finds out the information that the watchdog group has. Zhou is promptly arrested, and held over for trial. One morning, he’s discovered dead in his hotel room, apparently of a suicide. At least that’s what the government wants on the police report. Chief Inspector Chen Cao, who is well aware of the government’s power, is at first prepared to ‘rubber-stamp’ the official explanation for Zhou’s death. But he notices a few things that aren’t consistent with suicide. So, very carefully and very quietly, he and his assistant, Yu Guangming, look into the matter. And they find that this death was very much a murder.

In Patricia Melo’s The Body Snatcher, we are introduced to an unnamed narrator who makes a startling discovery one day. He witnesses a small plane crash into a river near the Brazilian town of Corumbá, not far from the Bolivian border. He rushes to the scene, but he’s too late to save the pilot. But he’s not too late to find and take a backpack and a watch from the dead man. When he gets home, he’s startled to find that the backpack is full of cocaine. Instead of reporting the matter to the police, the narrator decides to sell the cocaine, just this one time, and make some money so that he and his girlfriend, Sulamita, can start a new life together. So, he partners with his friend, Moacir, who lives nearby and who seems to know all the right people for this sort of transaction. Soon enough, the two have made the connection they need. And that’s when the trouble really starts. It turns out that the dead pilot was involved with the drug dealers Moacir’s met; and they are none too happy at what they see as a double-cross. After all, that was their cocaine. Now, the narrator and Moacir, who aren’t nearly as clever as they thought they were, will have to come up with a large amount of money, very quickly, if they’re going to stay alive. The narrator comes up with a plan, but it just gets them deeper and deeper into trouble. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to try to be too clever…

And then there’s Ray Berard’s Inside the Black Horse, which takes place in a small New Zealand town on the North Island. The real action in the story begins when Pio Morgan decides he’s going to rob the Black Horse Bar and Casino. Morgan’s in debt to a vicious local pot grower who’s duped him. He’s been given a ‘friendly warning’ to pay up. Quickly. He feels completely trapped, and decides that the best way to get a lot of money very quickly is to commit a robbery. The Black Horse offers off-course betting services, so there’s sometimes quite a lot of money in the place, and that’s why Pio has targeted it. But he’s chosen a bad day. Local drugs courier Rangi Wells happens to be in the pub at the time, and his drugs deal is interrupted; that’s going to have serious consequences. The robbery goes badly wrong and there’s a murder. What’s more, the pub’s owner, Toni Bourke, is out a great deal of money, and the off-track betting authorities and police are very interested in what happened. So is Toni’s insurance company, Now, Pio is on the run from the drugs dealer he owes, the police, and the insurance company. And it’s all because he thought he might be able to outwit them.

As these quick examples show, it’s never a good idea to try to be too clever. Sooner or later, it’s bound to catch up. Which examples have stayed with you?

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from the Long Blondes’ Too Clever by Half.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Malcolm Mackay, Patricia Melo, Qiu Xiaolong, Ray Berard

You’re Just a Two-Bit Grifter*

griftersAs this is posted, it’s 43 years since the first release of George Roy Hill’s The Sting. It’s become a classic film – the story of a couple of professional grifters and their plot to take down a mob boss. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it highly.

If you look at crime fiction, there are plenty of other examples of criminals who are taken down, not by the police, but by one of their own, or one of their victims. It’s an interesting premise, and when it’s done well, it can be very effective. That’s especially true if, as is the case with The Sting, the protagonist is depicted sympathetically.

Of course, it’s easy to paint protagonists in a sympathetic light when they’re sleuths. That’s what happens in Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton. Lady Eva Brackwell is being blackmailed by Milverton, who makes his living that way. It seems that she had written letters – the type that used to be called ‘indiscreet’ – and Milverton got his hands on them. Now, he’s threatening to reveal them to Lady Eva’s fiancé, the Earl of Dovercourt, unless she pays a huge sum of money. She asks Sherlock Holmes for help, and he agrees to take the case. When Milverton refuses to return the letters, Holmes decides to break into his home (with Dr. Watson’s help) and take the letters. Things don’t turn out exactly the way he’d planned, though. It seems that another of Milverton’s ‘clients’ has her own way of dealing with the situation…

Bill Pronzini’s The Snatch is the first of his novels featuring his Nameless detective. In this story, Nameless gets a commission from wealthy Louis Martinetti. It seems that Martinetti’s son, Gary, has been kidnapped. The ransom is to be delivered to a certain place, and by one and only one person. Martinetti wants Nameless to be that person. At first, Nameless demurs, saying that the Martinetti would be better off going to the police. But he finally agrees. For one thing, Martinetti says that Gary will be killed if the police are involved. And a fee is a fee. The next day, Nameless picks up the ransom money and takes it to the appointed place. His role is supposed to be limited to handing over the cash. But everything changes when, as the saying goes, all hell breaks loose at the drop-off point. Someone else apparently had other plans. Now, Nameless has decide what he’s going to do. In the end, we find out what happened to Gary, and what’s behind it all. I can say without spoiling the story that it’s an interesting case of manipulating people who don’t really know they’re being manipulated.

Fans of Donald Westlake’s John Dortmunder series will know that, although Dortmunder isn’t exactly law-abiding, he is a sympathetic protagonist. In The Hot Rock, Dortmunder has just been released from prison. He’s planning to ‘go straight,’ but his friend, Andy Kelp, has other ideas. He tells Dortmunder that Major Patrick Iko, the U.N. Ambassador from the small country of Talabwo, wants to hire Dortmunder and Kelp for a heist. The target is a valuable emerald that is claimed by Talabwo, but is currently the property of another country, Akinsi. Iko wants that emerald, and is willing to pay well for it. Dortmunder assembles a team, and they plan the job. It doesn’t go as intended, though, and now, the team has to go up against several obstacles, including some people who don’t exactly ‘play nice’ themselves…

There’s an interesting example of ‘small-timers’ trying to get the best of a bigger player in Patricia Melo’s The Body Snatcher. A former telemarketer and sales representative from São Paulo has settled in the small town of Corumbá. He settles in, and begins a relationship with Sulamita, an administrative assistant to the local police. One day, the (unnamed) narrator happens to see a small plane crash into a nearby river. He rushes to the scene, and discovers that the pilot is beyond any help. He takes the pilot’s backpack and watch and leaves the scene. Later, he discovers that the backpack is filled with cocaine. The drugs are worth plenty of money, so the narrator decides to partner up with a friend and sell them as a one-time opportunity to make some cash. Things go well until the partners discover that the drug dealers they’ve gone into business with were also working with the dead pilot. The gangsters believe that the narrator and his partner have stolen their drugs, and they want their money back. Now, the narrator has to come up with a plan to get the money and get the better of these drug dealers. It’s a strange plan, but it just might work. At least, that’s what the narrator thinks.

Sophie Littlefield’s A Bad Day For Sorry introduces readers to Stella Hardesty. She’s the owner of a sewing supply store in small-town Prosper, Missouri. At least, that’s her legitimate business. But she also runs another sort of enterprise. Women who’ve been abused know through word of mouth that they can depend on Stella to help even the score. Stella isn’t a killer-for-hire. But she pays visits to men who’ve abused their wives, and reminds them, in very unpleasant ways, of how they’re supposed to behave. Most of the time, Stella’s clients have no more problems after one of her ‘social calls.’ One day, though, Stella finds out from one her clients, Chrissy Shaw, that Chrissy’s ex-husband, Roy Dean, has disappeared, and probably has her son, Tucker, with him. Chrissy wants her boy back, so, even though Stella works alone as a rule, Chrissy insists on joining in. Together, the two women find out where the boy is, and go up against a much bigger criminal operation. But they have their own resources. And, even though this isn’t a case of conning people, it does involve a couple of small-time people taking down much bigger fish, as the saying goes.

 There are plenty of other examples, too, of fictional grifters, con artists, and other criminal who have their own reasons and use their own resources to go up against their own. Sometimes even sleuths take part in the action. These are just a few examples. Over to you.  

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Randy Newman’s You Can’t Fool the Fat Man.

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Filed under Arthur Conan Doyle, Bill Pronzini, Donald Westlake, Patricia Melo, Sophie Littlefield