Category Archives: Riley Adams

Maybe This Time I’ll Win*

As this is posted, it’s 123 years since Alfred Nobel’s will established what we now know as the Nobel Prizes. Today, there are six Nobel categories: Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Economic Sciences, Literature, and of course, the Peace Prize. To be a Nobel laureate is the achievement of a lifetime.

Few prizes are as valuable as a Nobel Prize, but there are, of course, lots of prizes and awards out there. And winning can be very important. So, it’s little wonder that there’s sometimes quite a lot of competition for a prize and for the recognition that goes with it. And even when there’s not a lot of obvious competition, there can be a lot of tension and suspense as people wait and wonder whether their efforts will give them the win. That tension can add a lot both to the plot of a crime novel and to the layers of character development in a novel.

The Nobel Prize for Literature figures into Karin Alvtegen’s Shadow. That novel features several generations of the Ragnerfeldt family, including Nobel laureate Axel Ragnerfeldt. An exploration of the family’s dark past and deep secrets is triggered when Gerda Persson is found dead. She had no family, so social worker Marianne Folkesson goes through her things. Marianne discovers that the dead woman’s freezer is full of copies of Regnerfeldt’s books, all dedicated to her. As the story goes on, we see how this story is tied in with the story of a man named Kristoffer, who was abandoned as a boy, and still isn’t sure who he is or why he was left alone. And we see the impact of the desire for a prize like the Nobel, and not just on the person who wants the prize.

There’s a different literary prize at stake in Teresa Solana’s A Shortcut to Paradise. That novel begins on the night that celebrated Catalán writer Marina Dolç wins the coveted Golden Apple Prize for Literature. After the awards banquet, she goes up to her hotel room, where she is later found dead. The police investigate, and soon settle on a suspect. He is fellow writer Amadeu Cabestany, who was the victim’s strongest competition for the prize, and who wanted badly to win. It doesn’t help matters that he and the victim were at odds. Nor does it help his case that, although he claims he was elsewhere at the time of the murder, he can’t prove that, and no-one at the party paid any attention to whether he was there or not. Cabestany’s literary agent hires Barcelona PIs Josep ‘Pep’ Martínez and his brother Eduard to look into the matter and try to clear Cabestany’s name if they can.

Even when a prize isn’t as prestigious as the Nobel, it can still mean high stakes (at least for the people involved). For instance, in one plot line of Douglas Lindsay’s We Are the Hanged Man, Met Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Robert Jericho is ‘volunteered’ to serve on a panel for the television show Britain’s Got Justice. It’s the last thing he wants to do, but his boss hasn’t made this optional. In the show, contestants compete as apprentice police officers. Being the winner of a reality show doesn’t, of course, have the cachet that a Nobel Prize does. But these contestants want to win. And they definitely want the fame that comes with being on TV. So, when one of them is killed, the remaining contestants are all possible suspects. Among other things this novel offers an interesting look at what it’s like to compete for a television prize.

Riley Adams (AKA Elizabeth Spann Craig) shows readers how coveted a beauty pageant prize can be in Hickory Smoked Homicide. In the novel, we meet Tristan Pembroke, wealthy and well-known beauty pageant judge and coach. She’s made her share of enemies, so when she is murdered one evening, there are several suspects. Chief among them is local artist Sara Taylor, who was involved in a dispute with the victim over one of her paintings. Sara’s mother-in-law, Lulu Taylor, knows that she is innocent. So, she decides to ask some questions to find out who the real killer is. And in the process, we learn just how important a beauty-queen prize can be, especially sometimes to the parents of the competitors.

Susan Wittig Albert’s Chili Death is, in part, the story of a hotly contested cook-off. In that plot line, Pecan Springs, Texas police officer Mike McQuaid is persuaded to serve as a judge for an up-coming chili cook-off. There’s a lot riding on this competition, so there’s tension. On the day of the event, one of the other judges, Jerry Jeff Cody, suddenly dies of what turns out to be chili that was laced with crushed peanuts, to which he was violently allergic. McQuaid’s wife (and Wittig Albert’s sleuth) China Bayles is at the cook-off and gets drawn into the investigation. And one very strong possibility is that one of the cook-off contestants was responsible for the murder. As it turns out, that murder is connected with a case of some disturbing events taking place at a local nursing home.

A prize may be as simple as a blue ribbon at a science fair contest, or as noteworthy as a Nobel Prize for Chemistry – or anything in between. Whatever the case, when a group of people all want the same thing, and that thing has value to them, there’s bound to be tension. And it’s bound to show up at some time in crime fiction.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from John Kander & Fred Ebbs‘s Maybe This Time.

 

24 Comments

Filed under Douglas Lindsay, Elizabeth Spann Craig, Karin Alvtegen, Riley Adams, Susan Wittig Albert, Teresa Solana

His Painting’s On the Wall*

We’ve all heard of world-famous paintings such as Picasso’s Guernica. Beyond their monetary value, there’s just something about certain pieces of artwork that capture the imagination – or at least, people’s attention. If you’ve ever stood looking at a piece of artwork, drawn to it, you know what I mean.

And artwork certainly plays its role in crime fiction. And we don’t just see it in ‘heist’ stories, either. Sometimes, a particular piece of art is central to a plot; sometimes it’s not. Either way, it can add an interesting layer to a story.

For instance, in Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of the Six Napoleons, Inspector Lestrade brings Sherlock Holmes an unusual case of vandalism. It seems that two busts of Napoleon, sold by the same shop, have been smashed. Then another is found smashed, and this time, there’s also a murder. Lestrade wonders whether the culprit is some sort of madman with a fanatical hatred of Napoleon, but Holmes guesses that’s not the case. He traces the smashed busts to their origin, and, in the end, finds out why someone would want to destroy them.

In Agatha Christie’s short story Within a Wall, famous artist Alan Everard and his wife, Isobel, host a tea party to unveil his latest work: a portrait of her. It’s technically flawless, but Everard knows it doesn’t have the passion of his earlier works. Then, one of the guests discovers a painting of Everard’s daughter’s godmother (and his muse) Jane Haworth. The contrast between the two paintings shows just how much influence Jane has had on his work, and that influence has had its consequences. Admittedly, this story isn’t really as much a crime story as it is a psychological study. But it shows how one painting can play an important role in a story. I see you, fans of Five Little Pigs

Aaron Elkins’ Loot begins as Boston art expert Benjamin ‘Ben’ Revere gets a call from his friend, pawn shop owner Simeon Pawlovsky. It seems that Pawlovsky has gotten in a new painting, and he wants Revere to tell him whether it’s valuable. Revere goes to the shop, expecting that the painting won’t be worth much. To his shock, though, it appears to be a priceless Velázquez. Revere wants to do some research on the painting, but he’s concerned for Pawlovsky’s safety if the painting is left in the shop. He asks for permission to take the painting with him while he does the research, but Pawlovsky refuses. Reluctantly, Revere leaves the painting behind. By the time he returns, Pawlovsky’s been murdered. Guilty about leaving his friend in such a dangerous situation, Revere wants to know who’s responsible for the killing. He knows that he’s not a professional detective. But he reasons that, if he can trace the painting from its last known owner to the pawn shop, he might be able to find out who the killer is. And that’s what he proceeds to do. It gets him into plenty of danger, but Revere finds out the truth.

As Bartholomew Gill’s McGarr and the PM of Belgrave Square begins, Chief Superintendent Peter McGarr of the Garda Síochána is at the scene of a murder. Antiques and art dealer William Craig has been shot, and his body has been discovered behind the building that houses his home and his shop. McGarr and his assistant, O’Shaughnessy, have just gotten started on the case when it’s discovered that one of the paintings in the shop is missing. This adds a possible motive, and McGarr wants to find out more about the painting. His wife, Noreen, works at her family’s picture gallery, and has a background in art history. So, he taps her expertise. It turns out that the research she does, and the background of that painting, prove to be important clues in this case.

An argument over a painting is an important plot point in Riley Adams’ (AKA Elizabeth Spann Craig’s) Hickory Smoked Homicide. Tristan Pembroke is a wealthy beauty pageant coach, who’s as malicious and mean-spirited as she is influential. She commissions a portrait from local artist Sara Taylor. Tristan isn’t happy at all with the result, as she feels that it doesn’t do her justice. So, she refuses to pay Sara. As you can imagine, that prompts a dispute between the two. When Tristan holds a charity art auction at her home, Sara includes the painting among the pieces that will be sold. After all, she reasons, who’s going to want to buy a portrait of someone else who isn’t world-famous? At the auction, the painting prompts another argument. Later, Tristan is found murdered, and Sara becomes the prime suspect. Her mother-in-law, Lulu Taylor (the sleuth in this series) knows that Sara’s innocent, and she sets out to find out who the real killer is.

And then there’s Gail Bowen’s The Gifted. Political scientist and academician Joanne Kilbourn Shreve, and her husband, Zack, are excited when their daughter, Taylor, is invited to include some of her work in an upcoming charity art auction. Taylor is a talented, passionate artist, and this is a real chance for her. She’s already shown her parents one of the two pieces that she will contribute. The other, which she’s called BlueBoy21, is a portrait of her muse and love interest, Julian Zentner. No-one sees that painting until it’s revealed on the night of the auction. And it turns out that that piece of artwork will have tragic consequences for more than one person.

Some pieces of art are like that. Beyond any monetary value, they have influence, appeal, or influence on their own. These are just a few examples of how plot point can play out in crime fiction. I know you’ll think of others.

 

The ‘photo is of a beautiful Joan Miró sculpture that’s displayed at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, in Madrid.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Paul McCartney’s Picasso’s Last Words (Drink to Me).  

15 Comments

Filed under Aaron Elkins, Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Bartholomew Gill, Elizabeth Spann Craig, Gail Bowen, Riley Adams

They Both Met Movie Stars, Partied and Mingled*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
 
 

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

19 Comments

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

His Family Business Thrives*

One of the staples of a lot of economies is the family-owned business. Some of them are large, many are smaller. Either way, they are part of the backbone of a lot of communities.

Family businesses can be very interesting contexts for a crime novel, too. They can be sources of conflict, they can add character development, and they can give interesting insight into a community. Here are just a few examples to show you what I mean.

Agatha Christie’s After the Funeral (AKA Funerals Are Fatal) begins directly after the funeral of wealthy family patriarch Richard Abernethie. In this case, the family built its fortune in the making of corn plasters and other, similar remedies. The business was very successful, and Abernethie has quite a lot of money to leave. His will distributes his money evenly amongst his nephew, two nieces, brother, sister-in-law, and younger sister. On the one hand, it seems on the surface like an equitable distribution. On the other, it also suggests that he didn’t have enough faith in any one member of his family to leave everything to that person. At the funeral gathering, Abernethie’s younger sister, Cora Lansquenet, blurts out that her brother was murdered. At first, everyone hushes her up, and even she tells the others to pay no attention. But privately, everyone begins to wonder if Cora was right. And, when she herself is murdered the next day, everyone is convinced that she was. Family attorney Mr. Entwhistle asks Hercule Poirot to look into the matter, and he agrees. He finds out that more than one person could have wanted to kill both people.

Ellery Queen’s The French Powder Mystery features family-owned French’s Department Store. The store does well, and store owner Cyrus French and his family are well off. Then, one tragic day, French’s wife, Winifred, is found dead in one of the store’s display windows. Inspector Richard Queen is called in to investigate, and of course, his son, Ellery, takes part. The Queens soon discover an interesting thing about family businesses: sometimes it’s hard to separate ‘family’ from business. Was Winifred killed by a family member? A business associate? It’s not an easy case to solve.

Riley Adams’ (AKA Elizabeth Spann Craig)’s Memphis Barbecue series features Lulu Taylor. She is the current owner of Aunt Pat’s Barbecue, one of Memphis’ popular eateries. It’s a family-owned business in which she takes great pride. She inherited the restaurant, and is planning that her son, Ben, will take over as owner when she is ready to step aside. As it is, he does plenty of work in the restaurant, and even Lulu’s two granddaughters help out at times. Part of what makes Aunt Pat’s special is that it isn’t an impersonal chain restaurant.

We also see several family-owned businesses in Lilian Jackson Braun’s Cat Who… series featuring James ‘Qwill’ Qwilleran. He is a journalist who’s moved to the small town of Pickax, Moose County – ‘400 miles north of nowhere.’ Most of the local businesses are owned by families, rather than by large companies. For example, the local department store is owned by the Lanspeak family, the local newspaper is owned by the Goodwinter family, and so on. Some of those families have been in the area for generations, too. It’s that sort of place. And that plays its roles in the mysteries that Qwill encounters.

Apostolos Doxiadis’ Three Little Pigs tells the story of the Franco family, who emigrate from Italy to New York at the turn of the 20th Century. Benvenuto ‘Ben’ Franco brings his wife and children to the US in hopes of a successful ‘American Dream’ sort of life. He gets a job in a shoe repair shop, works hard, and in a few years, has been able to open his own shoe repair and sales shop. The business does well, and he is hoping to pass it along to his three sons. He changes the family name to Frank, and everyone prospers at first. Unfortunately, it doesn’t last. Ben gets into a bar fight one night, and kills a man named Luigi Lupo. It turns out that his father is notorious gangster Tonio Lupo, and that Lupo has every intention of getting revenge. He visits Ben in prison and curses his family, promising that all three of his sons will die at the age of forty-two, the same age Luigi was at his death. The story goes on to follow the lives of Alessandro ‘Al,’ Niccola ‘Nick,’ and Leonardo ‘Leo’ Frank, and it’s interesting to see how the family business shapes them. Al Frank takes over the business and oversees real success for it. Nick Frank wants to be an actor, and he has a little talent. For a while, he does well enough in Hollywood, which suits him, because he doesn’t want to be in the family business. Leo takes several wrong turns and has his own issues. But after a number of years, he also chooses the family business. As the book goes on, we see what happens to each son, and how the curse plays out in their lives.

And then there’s Rajiv Patel, whom we meet in Angela Savage’s The Half-Child. Originally from India, he wanted a chance to see more of the world. His family wanted him to stay nearby, find a local woman to marry, and settle down. But that wasn’t in his plans. As a way of keeping the peace, and still doing what he wanted to do, Patel went to Bangkok’s Little India, where his uncle’s family keeps a bookshop. The agreement was that he would live with the family and help in the bookshop. And that’s where he meets PI Jayne Keeney, who loves to read. The two get to talking, find that they like each other, and begin to date. And Patel gets involved in the case Keeney’s working on, which involves the mysterious death of a young volunteer at an orphanage/children’s home. Later, they become business partners as well as partners in life.

Family businesses have been with us for a very long time. Perhaps you even have a business in your own family. They add much to the economy, and a lot to crime fiction, too.

 
 
 

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

8 Comments

Filed under Agatha Christie, Angela Savage, Apostolos Doxiadis, Ellery Queen, Elzabeth Spann Craig, Lilian Jackson Braun, Riley Adams

People Livin’ in Competition*

A recent post from Bill Selnes, who blogs at Mysteries and More From Saskatchewan, has got me thinking about competitiveness. Bill’s post, which you really should read, discusses competitiveness in attorneys. His point, which is very well-taken, is that trial lawyers have to be competitive. Otherwise, they don’t keep the ‘fire’ they need to do all of the work that’s involved in preparing for a trial and seeing it through.

There are many, many legal mysteries that bear him out, too. In John Grisham’s A Time To Kill, William Deverell’s Trial of Passion, and Robert Rotenberg’s Old City Hall, to name just three, we see examples of attorneys who take on difficult cases – and want to win. There are far too many more examples of such novels for me to mention in this one post, so I won’t.

There’s plenty of competitiveness in other crime fiction, too, and it can add a healthy dose of character development, suspense, and plot to a novel. And, since there’s competitiveness in many different professions, the author has a lot of flexibility when it comes to integrating it into a story.

Competitiveness is certainly important in the world of athletics. That’s a major part of the plot in Megan Abbott’s You Will Know Me. Devon Knox has rare gymnastic talent, and her parents, Katie and Eric, want to nurture it. So, when gymnastics coach Teddy Balfour approaches them with a proposition, they’re happy to listen:
 

‘‘Bring her to BelStars [a program he’s started up]  and she’ll find the extent of her power.’’
 

Then, a tragic hit-and-run accident (which might not have been an accident) occurs, and changes everything. Devon is gifted, but the question becomes: how far are she and her family willing to go to get to the Olympics? After all, there are only a limited number of young people who can join the US team. So, when one person earns a place, it often means others lose.

Alison Gordon’s Kate Henry series also explores athletic competitiveness (and for the matter of that, journalistic competitiveness as well). Like her creator, Henry is a sportswriter. She works for the Toronto Planet. Henry especially follows the doings of the Toronto Titans baseball team, so she goes along with them on ‘away’ tours, attends the home games, and gets locker-room interviews with players, coaching staff and the like. When the team is in a slump, it’s devastating. When the team does well, it’s euphoric. These players work hard and train intensively to go as far as they can in the World Series competition. Gordon doesn’t lose sight of the fact that this is a mystery series, and the murder plots dominate the books. But the books also give readers a look at what it’s like to be Major League Baseball athlete. It’s not a life for those who aren’t competitive. Neither is the life of those who write and publish stories about sports.

Business can be very competitive, too. In most industries, there’s a finite pool of customers. So, companies vie to get as much of their business as possible. And sometimes, that competitiveness can be deadly. In Robin Cook’s medical thriller, Contagion, for instance, we learn about a major competition between two insurance giants: AmeriCare and National Health. That competition becomes important when a virulent strain of influenza seems to be the cause of a series of deaths at Manhattan General Hospital. Medical examiners Dr. Jack Stapleton and Dr. Laurie Montgomery try to find out what’s causing the virus. The hospital’s authorities are interested in keeping the whole matter as quiet as possible, mostly to protect the institution’s image. But Stapleton in particular wants to whatever it takes, regardless of unpleasant publicity, to prevent more deaths. When it comes out that Manhattan General is affiliated with AmeriCares, the question becomes: did someone at National Health have something to do with these deaths, with the aim of discrediting the competition?

Riley Adams’ (AKA Elizabeth Spann Craig) Hickory Smoked Homicide deals with the competitive world of the beauty pageant circuit. In it, wealthy pageant coach and judge Tristan Pembroke is murdered during a charity art auction being held at her home. The most likely suspect is local artist Sara Taylor, who had a public argument with the victim shortly before the murder. But Sara’s mother-in-law, Lulu, is sure that she’s not guilty. So, she sets out to clear Sara’s name and find out who the real killer is. There are plenty of suspects, too, as Tristan was both malicious and vindictive. And, for the contestants in the pageant, and their families, there’s an awful lot at stake. The beauty pageant life is demanding, expensive, stressful and time-consuming. You don’t stay in it long if you have no sense of competitiveness.

I’m sure I don’t have to convince you that there’s a lot of competitiveness in the academic world, too. Many academic mysteries have plots that involve competition for scholarships/bursaries, prizes, academic jobs, funding and so on. It’s a demanding life that takes a lot of time and effort. Just to give one example, Christine Poulson’s Cassandra James novels take place in the context of St. Etheldreda’s College, Cambridge, where James heads the English Literature Department. One of the sub-plots in the first of this series, Murder is Academic, concerns funding for the program. Each department’s funding is based on its performance in the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). There’s a lot of competition for finite funding, and James knows that she will have to ensure that all of the faculty’s scholarship (including her own) is as impressive as possible. That in itself is stressful. At the same time, she’s caught up in the investigation of the murder of her predecessor, Margaret Joplin. Admittedly, getting funding isn’t the reason for the murder. But it does add to the tension in the novel. And it’s a realistic look at one way in which competition works in academia.

Bill is right that being competitive is important if you’re going to win your case in a trial. It’s also an important personality trait in other fields, too. So it’s little wonder it figures so much in crime fiction. Thanks, Bill, for the inspiration. Now, folks, give yourselves a treat and go visit Bill’s blog. Thoughtful reviews and commentary await you there!

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Boston’s Peace of Mind.

14 Comments

Filed under Alison Gordon, Christine Poulson, Elizabeth Spann Craig, John Grisham, Megan Abbott, Riley Adams, Robert Rotenberg, Robin Cook, William Deverell