New information on the next in the James Bond film series is now out. Thanks very much to Tipping My Fedora for the information. Do go pay that excellent blog a visit and see for yourself how great it is!
It’s all gotten me to thinking about nasty criminal groups like the fictional SPECTRE. Thrillers are full of such groups, and even crime fiction that we don’t normally think of as ‘thriller-like’ can have them. This kind of novel doesn’t always work well for readers who like to keep their disbelief securely by their sides. But for those who are content to leave it at the door, they can add a suspenseful plot point.
Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes goes up against a fairly nasty criminal group in several of the stories featuring him. Led by Professor Moriarty, Holmes’ nemesis, the group is responsible for a string of murders and robberies. Matters come to a head in The Adventure of the Final Problem, in which Holmes and Watson are in enough danger from the group that they have to flee London. They end up in Switzerland where Holmes has a very famous final confrontation with Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls. And Holmes fans will know that Holmes’ battle with this group doesn’t really end at the falls.
Agatha Christie toyed with such groups in a few of her stories. In Passenger to Frankfurt, for instance, we meet Stafford Nye, a low-level diplomat with a very ordinary sort of life. He’s at an airport one day when a strange young woman approaches him. She claims that her life is in peril and she needs to flee the country. Then she begs Nye for his boarding pass and diplomatic credentials. At first Nye’s unwilling, but the young woman persuades him to help her. That act draws Nye into a dangerous web of international intrigue and conspiracy, to say nothing of murder. In this case, the criminal group is dedicated to the principles of Nazi-ism and bent on world domination.
In Alex Scarrow’s Last Light, the world’s supply of oil is suddenly cut off through the work of a shadowy group of businessmen with its own agenda. Life as most people know it changes abruptly and dramatically, and it affects everyone. Most especially, the story depicts the effects on Andy Sutherland, a geologist working in Iraq; his wife Jenny, who’s stranded in Manchester at a job interview; his daughter Leona, who’s at university; and his son Jake, who’s at boarding school. As the four of them struggle to re-unite, we see how powerful this conspiracy has really been .
There’s also a very nasty conspiracy in Lindy Cameron’s Redback. Team Redback is a crack Australian team of retrieval specialists. Their job is to rescue people who are ‘caught in the crossfire’ of dangerous conflicts. For example, as the novel begins, the Pacific Tourism and Enviro-Trade Conference is taking place on the island of Laui when it’s disrupted by a group of rebels. The rebels abduct the delegates, and Team Redback, led by Bryn Gideon, is called in to rescue the hostages. Then, there’s a murder. And a train explosion in Europe. And a disaster at a U.S. Military base. And other murders. The members of Team Redback know now that some larger group is behind all of these various acts of terrorism and they work to find out about the group and stop it. A big part of the answer lies in information turned up by journalist Scott Dreher. By chance he gets his hands on a copy of a new video game called Global War Tek, which is being used to recruit and train new terrorists. With that information and what they learn on their own, Team Redback finds out who is responsible for the terrorism and what the group’s goal is.
Stefan Tegenfalk’s Anger Mode features, among other things, a bizarre series of ‘rage’ murders that don’t seem to have much in the way of motive. Walter Gröhn of the Stocholm County CID and his rookie assistant Jonna de Brugge take on the investigation, but it’s soon taken out of their hands by Säpo, the Swedish intelligence agency. And as fans of Swedish crime fiction will be able to guess, Säpo has its own agenda. But Gröhn and de Brugge persist, and discover why the murders have occurred and what they have to do with a kidnapping, anti-Muslim prejudice and greed.
There’s also a sinister society at work in K.B. Owen’s Unseemly Ambition. It’s 1898 at Hartford Women’s College, where Concordia Wells teaches English. She’s busy enough with her own classes and her duties as ‘housemother’ at Willow Cottage. But then she’s saddled with a lot of the work for the school’s upcoming production of Othello. She’s also trying to stay on the right side of Dean Maynard, who has his own ideas of what’s ‘seemly’ for ladies. Trouble arises when an unknown woman claims to be the real mother of Eli, a former ‘street child’ who’s about to be adopted by Concordia’s best friend Sophie and her soon-to-be-husband, Lieutenant Aaron Chapshaw of the police. Permission is very reluctantly given for Eli to spend time with his birth mother; but not long afterwards, she is found murdered. Then, Eli disappears. Concordia is torn about getting involved in this investigation. After all, it could mean real trouble for her. But she contacts her former mentor and the two of them begin to look into the matter. It’s soon clear that some powerful and dangerous people do not want this case solved. Their reach is far and they have no compunctions about killing, so it’s going to be very risky to solve the murder and find Eli before it’s too late.
Some fictional nasty criminal groups are more believable and more dangerous than others. But when it’s done well, that plot point can add a layer of suspense to a story. And for those who don’t mind sending their disbelief packing for a bit, stories featuring large, international, evil conspiracies can be a lot of fun.
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from John Barry, Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley’s Goldfinger.