Category Archives: Sinéad Crowley

Is That You, Baby, or Just a Brilliant Disguise?*

At first glance, this ‘photo might look like a bunch of mulch and earth, and some bushes. Look again, though, and you’ll see something else. Did you see the lizard? Like a lot of animals, lizards hide from both predators and prey by blending in with their environment, so that you don’t notice them.

If you read enough crime fiction, you see that a lot of characters do that, too. Being able to blend in is a very useful skill. There are far too many examples for just this one post, but even these few should show you what I mean.

In Agatha Christie’s After the Funeral, we are introduced to the members of the Abernethie family. When patriarch Richard Abernethie suddenly dies, the members of his family gather for his funeral and the reading of his will. At the gathering, Abernethie’s younger sister, Cora Lansquenet, blurts out that her brother was murdered. Everyone hushes her up, and she herself retracts what she said. But privately, everyone starts to wonder whether she was right. When Cora herself is murdered the next day, it seems clear that Abernethie was killed. Family attorney Mr. Entwhistle visits Hercule Poirot, and asks him to investigate, and Poirot agrees. He finds that every one of the family members benefited from Abernethie’s will, so there are several possibilities, if the man was really murdered. And being able to blend in plays an important role in this novel. I know, I know, fans of Cat Among the Pigeons.

Being able to blend in and camouflage oneself is a critical skill in espionage stories. The one thing that moles don’t want to do is call attention to themselves, after all. For instance, in Len Deighton’s Berlin Game, we are introduced to Bernard ‘Bernie’ Sansom. He’s a former MI6 field agent who’s now got a desk job at the agency’s London Central office. In one plot thread of this novel, the agency becomes aware that there’s a mole in a very high place. So Sansom starts investigating to find out who that person is. He’s good enough at his job, and experienced enough, to know that anyone could be the culprit. So, he has to consider colleagues, bosses, and other people he doesn’t want to believe are guilty. The outcome of this investigation plays a very important part in what happens in the other two books in this particular trilogy.

In Andrew Grant’s Death in the Kingdom, British agent Daniel ‘Danny’ Swann gets a new assignment. He’s to travel to Thailand and retrieve a lead-covered black box that ended up in the Andaman Sea when the ship it was on was sunk. Swann’s not told what’s in the box, nor why the British government wants it. All he’s told is that he needs to bring it back to the UK. For Swann, this assignment has an added danger. He’s made some powerful enemies as a result of a previous trip, and he’s going to have to work with those enemies if he’s going to get the resources he needs to do his job. But as it turns out, even Swann’s friends aren’t as trustworthy as he thinks they are. He’s got quite a dangerous enemy he’s not even aware of when he takes on this assignment.

Fans of Louise Penny’s Armand Gamache series will know that these novels include several story arcs. One of them concerns police politics, corruption, and some enemies that Gamach has made in the Sûreté du Québec. Gamache is savvy enough to know that these are people with enough power to influence others, including those he works with on a regular basis. And it turns out that he’s right to be wary. Some of the police characters we meet in the series turn out to be rather well-camouflaged.

William Ryan’s Captain Alexei Korolev series takes place mostly in Moscow, just before World War II. As a member of the Moscow CID, Korolev’s job is to catch criminals, preferably immediately. The Party, with Stalin firmly in charge, wants to prove that the Soviet Union is crime-free, so there’s a lot of pressure to succeed in all investigations – and severe consequences for not doing so. Korolev wants to solve crimes, too, but he has to move very carefully. When the trail leads to high places, especially to members of the Party, Korolev knows that he could be in bigger danger if he catches a murderer than if he doesn’t. What’s more, people are encouraged to denounce one another. Anyone, including a colleague, a friend, or the person next door, could be a well-disguised enemy. That mistrust adds a layer of tension to this series. You’re right, fans of Qiu Xiaolong’s Inspector Chen series. There’s a sort of similar atmosphere there, too.

And then there’s Sinéad Crowley’s Can Anybody Help Me?, in which we are introduced to Yvonne Mulhern. She, her husband, Gerry, and their newborn daughter, Róisín, have recently moved from London to Dublin, so that Gerry can take advantage of an important career opportunity. Yvonne is overwhelmed with the responsibilities of caring for a young infant. And Gerry isn’t much help, as he spends a lot of time at work. What’s more, Yvonne’s never lived in Dublin, so she doesn’t have a network of friends or family there. Then, she learns of Netmammy, an online support group for new mothers. She joins, and soon finds the friendship, support, and commiseration she so badly needs. When one of the members of the group seems to go ‘off the grid,’ Yvonne gets very concerned. But there’s really not much she can do about it. She contacts the police, but they can’t really do much, either, at this point. Then, the body of an unidentified woman is discovered in an abandoned apartment. Detective Sergeant (DS) Claire Boyle, also an expectant mother, is assigned to the case. The dead woman’s profile seems to be similar to that of Yvonne’s missing online friend. If it is the same person, then what might that mean for the members of Netmammy? After all, anyone can be anyone online… The case does turn out to be connected to the online forum, but not in the way you might think.

It takes skill to create a character who blends in in this way. It’s got to be done credibly, or the story loses authenticity. But when they’re done well, such characters can be interesting, and can certainly add to a story.


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Bruce Springsteen’s Brilliant Disguise.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Andrew Grant, Len Deighton, Louise Penny, Sinéad Crowley, William Ryan

It’s Not Supposed to Be This Hard*

Have you ever noticed that there are some myths out there about life? Bear with me and I’ll explain. All of the advertisements and popular-culture outlets present life in certain ways that just aren’t realistic. And because of that people believe that’s how things ‘should’ be. The problem with that, of course, is that it’s not true.

Many people buy into those myths, only to discover later that things don’t work out that way. And that can lead to tension, depression, and more. That’s certainly true in real life. You may even have had the experience of thinking, ‘Why am I struggling so hard with this? It ought to be a lot easier!’ We see it in crime fiction, too. Although it can be damaging in real life, it can also add to the tension and suspense of a novel.

For example, one of the most pervasive myths there is, is that parents of newborns immediately bond with their children in such a fierce way that the challenges of child rearing simply don’t matter. But that’s not true. Caring for a baby is very hard work. We see that, for instance, in Sinéad Crowley’s Can Anybody Help Me. That novel is the story of Yvonne and Gerry Mulhern, who move from London to Dublin with their newborn daughter, Róisín. They’ve made the move so that Gerry can take a new job that’s a real step up for him. This means that he’s gone a lot, so Yvonne does most of the child care. And it turns out to be nothing like the myths of newborns and their mothers. She loves her daughter, but she finds many things a challenge. And it doesn’t help that she really doesn’t know anyone in Dublin. So, she turns to an online forum called Netmammy, where she finds solace and good advice from other new mothers. Then, one of the members of the group drops off the proverbial grid. Yvonne gets concerned, but there’s not much she can do about it. Then, the body of an unknown woman is discovered in an empty apartment. Is it the missing member of Netmammy? If so, this has a lot of serious implications for the group. DS Claire Boyle and her team investigate, and find that the two cases are related, but not in the way you might think.

We also see this myth of the parent/child bond in Helen Fitzgerald’s The Cry. Joanna Lindsay and her partner, Alistair Robertson, make the move from Scotland to Alistair’s home town in Victoria, with their nine-week-old son, Noah. The first scenes in the novel take place during the flight. And we soon see just how challenging it is to travel with an infant, and how much harder those myths make it. The baby cries – a lot – and the parents are just as exhausted as any new parents are. Add to that the stress of travel, and it’s little wonder the flight is a nightmare. But there’s this myth that newborns are easy to care for, and that all new parents delight in the myriad tasks that are a part of raising children. And those myths don’t go away as children get older. Most parents do love their children very, very much, but that bond is a lot more complex than the myth would suggest.

So is the bond between partners. A permanent bond between two people requires hard work and commitment. That’s not to say there’s no fun and joy in it. There is. But it’s not easy. Just ask Gail Bowen’s Joanne Kilbourn Shreve and her husband, Zack. As of the most recent novel in this series, Joanne is a retired academic, political scientist, and mother/grandmother. Zack is the current mayor of Regina. The two of them have faced a number of challenges, and are both strong-willed. They love each other and are committed to each other. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy for them all the time. But then, neither was really expecting that the myth of the blissful, uncomplicated marriage could be real.

On the other hand, that’s exactly what Eva Wirenström-Berg, whom we meet in Karin Alvtegen’s Betrayal, was hoping to have. She and her husband Henrik have been married for fifteen years, and have a six-year-old son, Axel. From the beginning, Eva believed in the myth of the perfect, blissful marriage and the ‘white picket fence’ sort of home. But lately, things between her and Henrik have been strained. It isn’t supposed to be this hard, and Eva is hoping that it’s just work stress. But then, she discovers to her dismay that Henrik has been unfaithful. And, in one plot thread of this story, she determines to find out who the other woman is. When she finds out, she makes plans of her own, but things spiral far out of her control…

Another of those myths is the ‘golden life in a new place.’ After all, that’s the reason so many millions of immigrants have made the move from their homes to a new country. But, for many immigrants, no matter which country they choose, it’s rarely as easy is it seems that it ought to be. There’s the language, there’s finding work, there’s educating children, and more. In some cases, such as Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe, immigrants end up being highly successful; and in real life, that does happen.

But there are also cases where settling in to a new country and lifestyle is a lot harder than the myths say. For instance, in Robin Cook’s Vector, we are introduced to a taxi driver named Yuri Davydov. In the former Soviet Union, he was a technician working for the Soviet biological weapons program. After the breakup of the USSR, he emigrated to the US, lured (as he sees it) by promises of wealth and great success. But that hasn’t happened. He hasn’t found any sort of job in his area of expertise, so he’s had to take a job driving a cab. He’s completely disaffected, and so, is easy prey for an equally-disaffected group of skinheads who want to carry out a plan of ‘revenge’ – the release of anthrax in New York City. When medical examiners Jack Stapleton and Lori Montgomery become aware of the plot they have to work to find out who’s behind it, and stop the conspirators if they can.

There are many other crime novels that feature immigrants who find that life in their new home is a lot harder than they’d thought. Eva Dolan, Ruth Rendell, and Ausma Zehanat Khan, among others, have all written about this topic. And they’re far from the only ones.

Those myths of how easy it’s ‘supposed to be’ to have a child, sustain a marriage, become a professional lawyer (or doctor, or professor, etc.) are woven into many cultures. And those dreams can be motivating. But the reality is seldom much like the myth. And that can add tension, a plot thread, or a layer of character development to a crime novel.


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Spinfire’s Prove Me Wrong.


Filed under Ausma Zehanat Khan, Eva Dolan, Gail Bowen, Helen Fitzgerald, Karin Alvtegen, Rex Stout, Robin Cook, Ruth Rendell, Sinéad Crowley

I Would Go Most Anywhere to Feel Like I Belong*

Humans are by nature social animals. Of course, some of us enjoy the company of other people more than others do. But we all have a need to belong – to be a part of a group. For many people, that group is the family. Plenty of people also belong to other tightly-knit groups such as sports teams, religious groups, or perhaps community service groups.

What happens, though, when people don’t have such a group? I’m not a social psychologist, but from what I do know about the topic, people who don’t have a social group form one or find one. That, say many psychologists, is part of the reason people join gangs, religious cults, and other such groups. And there are plenty of crime novels that involve that sort of group.

There are other crime novels where we see that strong desire to belong, and that can add a solid layer of character development. And readers can connect with that feeling. That need can also add tension and suspense, even poignancy, to a story.

In Agatha Christie’s The Hollow, for instance, we are introduced to Gerda Christow. She’s not overly bright, or conventionally beautiful. But she is absolutely devoted to her husband, Harley Street specialist Dr. John Christow. She’s also the loving mother of their children. When the Christows are invited to spend the weekend with Sir Henry and Lady Lucy Angkatell, Gerda dreads the prospect. The Angkatells are clever, interesting, and just about everything Gerda is not. John fits right in with the family, and is eager to go. And it doesn’t hurt that his mistress, Henrietta Savernake, will be there. For Gerda, the visit is something to endure, and that’s clear right from the start. She doesn’t belong with the Angkatells, although she would like to feel comfortable with them. Then, on the Sunday, John Christow is shot. Hercule Poirot has been invited for lunch, and he arrives just in time to see the immediate aftermath of the shooting. Inspector Grange and his team are called in, and he and Poirot work to find out who the killer is.

Maureen Carter’s Working Girls introduces Birmingham Detective Sergeant (DS) Beverly ‘Bev’ Morriss. When fifteen-year-old Michelle Lucas is found dead, Morriss and her team investigate the murder. It soon comes out that Michelle was a commercial sex worker, so Morriss decides to focus on the victim’s friends and acquaintances who are ‘in the game.’ As she does, we get to know some of those characters. Some of them chose the life because of a bad situation at home. Others are in the business by choice. Either way, they’ve formed a group of their own, and all of ‘the girls’ belong. In fact, they’re protective of each other, and feel a responsibility towards each other. That belongingness isn’t the reason for Michelle’s murder. But it adds an interesting layer to the story.

Peter May’s The Blackhouse is the first of his Lewis trilogy, which features police detective Fionnlagh ‘Fin’ MacLeod. In the novel, MacLeod is seconded from Edinburgh to the Isle of Lewis when a murder occurs there that resembles one MacLeod is already investigating. For MacLeod, this is a homecoming, since he grew up on the island. But it’s not a joyful reunion; he had his own reasons for leaving. As the story goes on, we learn about his history on the island. And we learn about the island’s history. Part of that is an annual trip that a group of men make to An Segir, an outlying rock fifty miles from the Isle of Lewis. They go there to harvest guga, young gannet that nest on An Segir. It’s dangerous and difficult work, and those who do it belong to a special sort of informal club. To be invited to go along is a privilege, and every teen boy and young man wants his chance to belong. Harvesting the guga isn’t really the reason for the murder. But An Segir, and the sense of belonging among the men who go there, do play their role in the story.

In Sinéad Crowley’s Can Anybody Help Me?, we meet Yvonne Mulhern. She and her husband, Gerry, have recently moved with their newborn daughter, Róisín, from London to Dublin, so that Gerry can take advantage of a good job opportunity.  Yvonne is exhausted, as new parents are wont to be, and with Gerry at work most of the time, she does much of the child-minding work herself. What’s more, she doesn’t really know anyone in Dublin, and the baby keeps her so busy that there’s little time to meet people. Gerry’s mother and brother are there, but it’s soon clear that Yvonne doesn’t really belong, at least as far as Gerry’s mother is concerned. Then, Yvonne discovers Netmammy, an online forum for new mothers. Immediately she feels comfortable in the group – she belongs. And that’s a good part of Netmammy’s appeal. There’s a scene, for instance, where Yvonne goes with Gerry to a work function. She feels completely out of place there, and no-one makes much of an effort to help her fit in. So, in the middle of the party, she logs onto Netmammy. When Yvonne notices that one of the other members of Netmammy seems to have gone ‘off the grid,’ she gets concerned. She does end up going to the police, but there’s not much they can do. Then, the body of an unknown woman is found in an abandoned apartment. Her basic characteristics match what Yvonne knows about her missing Netmammy friend. If it is the same woman, that has all sorts of implications for the forum. And if it’s not, then Boyle and her team will have a lot of work to do to identify the victim and find out who killed her and why.

Belonging is really important in a lot of police forces. And it’s not hard to see why. The police face an awful lot of danger in what they do, and they’re not always exactly popular with the public. So that sense of belonging isn’t just an emotional bond; they depend on each other for their lives. We see that sense of belonging, and what happens when it’s not there, in several novels.

Among them is David Whish-Wilson’s Line of Sight, which introduces Perth Superintendent Frank Swann. As we learn in the novel, he became a police officer in large part because of his father-in-law, and because he needed a place to belong. But then, a friend named Ruby Devine is murdered. And all signs point to a connection between her death and a group of corrupt police known as ‘the purple circle.’ Swann’s already a ‘dead man walking’ because he’s called a Royal Commission hearing to investigate the corruption. So, as he investigates his friend’s murder, he has the experience of doing so with none of the belongingness and support that police often have from each other. Fans of Garry Disher’s Bitter Wash Road, and of Adrian McKinty’s Sean Duffy series can tell you that those stories, too, explore what it’s like when a police officer doesn’t feel that sense of belonging.

We all need to feel part of a group. Many of us, of course, belong to more than one social group. And that seems to be part of human nature. Little wonder it can be so interesting in crime fiction.


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Alan Menken and David Zippel’s Go the Distance.


Filed under Adrian McKinty, Agatha Christie, David Whish-Wiilson, Garry Disher, Maureen Carter, Peter May, Sinéad Crowley

In The Spotlight: Sinéad Crowley’s Can Anybody Help Me?

Hello, All,

Welcome to another edition of In The Spotlight. Today’s social media has allowed us to connect with each other as never before. But it’s not without its risks, as we all know. Several contemporary authors have explored the impact of social media on our lives, and it’s interesting to see how they’ve done it. Let’s take a look at one such novel today, and turn the spotlight on Sinéad Crowley’s Can Anybody Help Me?

Yvonne Mulhern has recently moved from London to Dublin with her husband, Gerry, and their newborn daughter, Róisín. Yvonne wasn’t sure about the move, but it represents a real career opportunity for Gerry, who will now have the chance to produce his own TV show. And that means more money and security for the whole family.

The move itself has gone well enough, but Yvonne is overwhelmed with the demands of new motherhood. Besides, she doesn’t really know anyone in Dublin, and getting used to a new place is hard. Gerry’s mother and brother are there, but that doesn’t make things any better, really. For one thing, Gerry’s mother makes it clear that she knows much more about parenting than Yvonne does. So, Yvonne often feels judged and found wanting. Gerry’s brother tries to help, but he’s not exactly a rock of support, so to speak.

Yvonne learns of an online community called Netmammy, a support group for new mothers, and joins it. She soon becomes friends with the other women in the group, even though she’s never met them. From them she gets some solace, some good ideas, and a sense of belonging. Then, one of the members of the group seems to disappear. Yvonne is concerned, but she knows that it may not mean anything. Still, she’s worried enough to contact the police. Nothing much can be done, though, at least at first.

Then, DS Claire Boyle, who’s expecting a baby herself, is assigned to investigate when the body of an unknown woman is discovered in an empty apartment. She and her team first have to establish the woman’s identity. They also have to work out why and how she would have been left in that particular place. The dead woman’s profile is quite similar to that of Yvonne’s missing friend, so it could be the same person. If it is, what might that mean for the other members of Netmammy?

Little by little, Boyle and her team investigate the death, while Yvonne tries, in her own way, to find out what’s happened to her online friend. Gradually, each in a different way, the two find out the truth. And it turns out to be connected, but not in the way you might think, with Netmammy. It’s also connected to the past.

Part of the story is told (third person, past tense) from the point of view of Yvonne Mulhern. So, readers get a real sense of what it’s like to be a brand-new mother. As you might expect, Yvonne is exhausted, anxious to do the best she can for Róisín, and unsure she can do anything right. That strains many of her relationships. Still, Yvonne is neither foolish nor stupid.  As she slowly learns the truth, she turns out to have her own resources. But she doesn’t always trust her own judgement, and her occasional doubting herself adds to the tension.

Other parts of the story are told from the point of view of Claire Boyle (also third person, past tense). She’s a smart, resourceful detective who’s trying to balance her impending new role in life with her dedication to the job. It’s not always easy, and she certainly makes her share of mistakes. But she’s determined to manage everything. There’s an interesting scene, for instance, where she’s on a visit to her doctor. During the visit, she gets a text that the jury has a returned a verdict in a case she’s been investigating. Her reaction gives an interesting perspective on what it’s like to try to fit it all in.

Boyle’s presence also adds an element of the police procedural to the novel. Readers follow along as she interviews witnesses, makes sense of evidence and so on. There are also some scenes at the police station, so readers get a sense of how the police do their jobs.

A very important element in the novel is the online world of Netmammy. Many of the chapters begin with Netmammy exchanges, and we see how important that community is to its members. They share all sorts of personal things with one another, and we see how close – and how vulnerable – it all makes them. Readers who are members of online fora will find that aspect of the novel to be quite familiar.

That forum also adds a layer of suspense – another important element – to the novel. On the one hand, the community is a source of solace and support to its members. On the other hand, people can be whoever they want to be when they’re online. There’s a sense of tension as Yvonne begins to wonder just who the members of Netmammy really are.

The suspense in this story is much more psychological than it is anything else. So, there isn’t a lot of emphasis on violence or brutality. Readers who dislike gore will appreciate that. In fact, many people consider this an example of the psychological thriller, although there are elements of the police procedural in it.

Like many thrillers, this one has an element of suspension of disbelief. Everyone’s different, of course, about how much of that suspension is too much. I can say without spoiling the story, though, that a few things and people are not what they seem.

Can Anybody Help Me? is a novel of psychological suspense that explores the relatively new and potentially very dangerous world of online communities. It features an overwhelmed young mother who’s trying to make sense of her new life, and begins to wonder whether anything makes sense. And it introduces a detective who’s determined to get to the truth. But what’s your view? Have you read Can Anybody Help Me? If you have, what elements do you see in it?


Coming Up On In The Spotlight

Monday, 8 May/Tuesday, 9 May – Lonesome Point – Ian Vasquez

Monday, 15 May/Tuesday, 16 May – Sisters of Mercy – Caroline Overington

Monday, 22 May/Tuesday, 23 May –  Fatal Enquiry – Will Thomas



Filed under Can Anybody Help Me?, Sinéad Crowley

How Can I Be Sure?*

suspicion-growingAuthors use a lot of different tools for building suspense. One of them is a slowly-growing sense that someone you thought you knew well could be a murderer. If you think about it, that’s an unsettling, even frightening, feeling. Even if you don’t think you’re an intended victim, it’s still a scary thought. And you can’t bring up the topic very easily, either. You may be wrong, in which case you’ve ruptured a relationship, possibly permanently. Or, you could be right, in which case voicing your suspicions could put you in danger.

That sort of suspense can add a lot to a crime story, and there are lots of examples of it. Space only permits me a few, but I know you’ll come up with lots more. Oh, and you’ll notice that there won’t be any domestic noir titles mentioned. Too easy.

Agatha Christie used that approach to building suspense in several of her stories. For instance, in Hickory, Dickory Dock (AKA Hickory, Dickory Death), Hercule Poirot’s normally unflappable secretary, Felicity Lemon, asks for his help. Her sister, Mrs. Hubbard, has gotten concerned about a spate of petty thefts and other strange occurrences at the student hostel she manages. Partly as a courtesy to Miss Lemon, Poirot agrees to look into the matter, and visits the hostel. On the night he goes there, one of the residents, Celia Austin, admits to several of the thefts. At first, that seems to settle the matter. But when Celia herself dies two nights later, it’s clear that there’s more going on than just some petty thefts. It’s soon proven that she was murdered, and Poirot works with Inspector Sharpe to find the killer. As the novel goes on, several of the residents are made very uneasy by the idea that one of them could be a murderer, and it impacts them. Then, there’s another murder. And another. That almost-claustrophobic feeling of being trapped with someone wo’s dangerous adds tension to this story. I see you, fans of And Then There Were None.

There’s also Hake Talbot’s Rim of the Pit, in which a group of people attend a very creepy séance. The purpose of it is to contact Grimaud Désanat, who died several years earlier. He left behind a successful wood processing business, but the land he owned has now been thoroughly logged. His widow, Irene, and his business partners, believe in spiritualism. So, they decide to use a séance to get his permission to develop a piece of land that he had said must be left unlogged for 20 years. The séance is eerie enough, but matters get far more frightening when Irene is killed later that night. If it wasn’t Désanat (and there are several people present who don’t believe in ghosts), then it had to have been someone in the group. That possibility is as frightening as a haunting, and adds to the suspense of the novel.

In Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza’s A Window in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro Inspector Espinosa faces a similar kind of growing suspicion. Three police officers are killed in quick succession. At first, it looks very much like the work of someone who’s got a vendetta against the police. But then, the mistress of one of the victims is killed. Then the mistress of another victim dies. And the third victim’s mistress goes into hiding to avoid the same fate. It’s now clear that this isn’t a case of a person who just wants to kill police officers. Something else ties these victims together, and that something could very well be corruption. Now, Espinosa and his hand-picked team have to be very careful. One or more of the cops with whom they work could be involved in the same corruption, or could be a killer. That feeling that one of their own might be a killer adds a solid layer of suspense to this novel.

Gail Bowen’s A Killing Spring finds her sleuth, academician and political scientist Joanne Kilbourn, investigating the murder of a university colleague. The body of Reed Gallagher is found in a seedy hotel, and at first it looks as though he was killed as a result of some sort of double life he was leading. But it’s not as simple as that. As the case goes on, Kilbourn learns that there are several possible leads. Unfortunately for her, one of them is her friend and temporary office-mate, Ed Mariani. On the one hand, Kilbourn knows that just about anyone is capable of murder, given the right circumstances. She’s not so naïve as to believe that Mariani couldn’t possibly be the killer. On the other hand, he is a friend. She’s been to his home, attended meetings with him, and currently shares an office teapot with him. It’s a really awkward and unsettling situation for her, and that adds to the suspense in the story.

And then there’s Sinéad Crowley’s Can Anybody Help Me?  Yvonne Mulhern has recently moved with her husband, Gerry, from London to Dublin. The move represents an excellent career opportunity for Gerry, but it’s all much more difficult for Yvonne, who is a brand-new first-time mum. With no friends or family in Dublin, she soon turns to Netmammy, an online forum of other mothers. In the group, Yvonne finds the solidarity and support she’s been missing, and all goes well at first. Then, one of the group’s members goes missing. Yvonne gets concerned; although she’s never meet the woman, she considers her a friend. In the meantime, Sergeant Claire Boyle, herself a mum-to-be, is faced with a difficult case. A woman’s body has been found in an abandoned apartment. When Yvonne hears about this, she begins to wonder whether the dead woman is her missing online friend. If so, that could mean that someone in the forum is not who she seems to be. And that possibility adds quite a lot of tension to this story.

And I don’t think I could discuss this topic without mentioning Alfred Hitchcock’s 1943 film, Shadow of Doubt. In that film, Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Newton is excited to learn that her uncle, Charlie Oakley, will be coming for a visit. All goes well at first. But everything changes as Charlie slowly comes to suspect that Uncle Charlie may in fact be a murderer.

When it’s done well, that slow building up of suspicion can be very suspenseful. It’s also realistic, if you think about it. I’ve only had space for a few examples. Your turn.



*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Alfred Hitchcock, Gail Bowen, Hake Talbot, Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza, Sinéad Crowley