Category Archives: Tarquin Hall

Give ‘Em the Old Razzle Dazzle*

As this is posted, it would have been Phineas Taylor (P.T.) Barnum’s 208th birthday. As you’ll know, he was a master showman and entrepreneur. His circus was one of the most famous in the world, and he was highly skilled at ‘smoke and mirrors.’

Barnum hasn’t been the only one who was skilled at separating people from their money and dazzling them with illusions. There’ve been plenty of people who were masters of those skills.  And it’s interesting to see them in crime fiction. It’s just as interesting to see how other characters are willing to believe what they see.

For instance, in Caroline Graham’s A Ghost in the Machine, we meet self-styled medium Ava Garrett. She’s very good at creating the illusion that she can actually communicate with those who’ve passed away. So, when financial advisor Dennis Brinkley is killed in what looks like a terrible accident, his friend, Benny Frayle, attends one of Garrett’s séance events. Oddly enough, she says things about Brinkley’s death that she couldn’t have known. Frayle is convinced of Garrett’s authenticity, and tries to get the police to investigate Brinkley’s death as a murder. At first, Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Tom Barnaby is reluctant to do much. He does go back through the various reports about the event, but it seems to him that the police on the scene did their jobs professionally. And they found no evidence of murder. Then, Garrett dies of what turns out to be poison. Now it looks as though there is more to this than an accident. So, Barnaby and Sergeant Gavin Troy look at both deaths more closely and find the connection between them.

One of the characters in William Hjortsberg’s Falling Angel is an enigmatic showman/magician named Louis Cyphre. Using his law firm as the ‘middle man,’ Cyphre contacts New York PI Harry Angel to offer him a missing person case. It seems that Cyphre is looking for a former musician nicknamed Johnny Favorite, who disappeared after returning from World War II. He was suffering from what we would now call PTSD, and was in a mental institution, but he’s gone. According to Cyphre, he’d provided support to Favorite to get his career going, in exchange for ‘collateral’ that he says he wants. Angel takes the case and starts trying to find the missing man. It’s not an ordinary missing person case, though, and it’s not long before Angel is drawn into a web of horror, murder, and more. Throughout the novel, Cyphre remains rather elusive and mysterious, and it’s interesting to see the effect he has on his audience.

Teresa Solana’s Josep ‘Pip’ Martínez (he prefers to be called Borja), is another sort of showman. Together with his twin brother, Eduard, he owns a Barcelona-based PI agency. Borja knows that if the agency is to attract well-paying clients who will refer other well-paying clients, it has to look like an exclusive, very successful place. Showman that he is, Borja has all sorts of tricks to make the agency look the way he wants. For instance, there’s a door that doesn’t actually lead anywhere; it’s designed to make the office look much bigger than it is. The brothers can’t afford a secretary/receptionist, but Borja uses props like a bottle of nail lacquer, an empty coffee mug, and so on to make it look as though there is a secretary, but she’s doing errands/at lunch/indisposed for the day/etc.  These little tricks are quite successful at convincing people that the agency is much more profitable than it is.

Tarquin Hall’s The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing introduces readers to Dr. Suresh Jha. His mission is to show the superiority of science and reason over what he sees as superstition and false spiritualism. In fact, he’s founded the Delhi Institute For Research and Education (D.I.R.E.) for just that purpose. One morning, he’s participating in a meeting of the Rajpath Laughing Club. Suddenly, so say witnesses, the goddess Kali appears and stabs Jha. Believers say that she killed him as punishment for his infidelity and for leading others astray. Jha is a former client of Delhi PI Vishwas ‘Vish’ Puri, so when Puri finds out what happens, he starts to ask questions. It’s not that Puri doesn’t have religious beliefs; he does. But he doesn’t really believe that Kali killed Jha. As he searches for the answers he wants, Puri and his team meet up with more than one master showman…

And then there’s Seán Haldane’s The Devil’s Making, which takes place mostly in Victorian-Era Vancouver. At the time, it’s a frontier Empire outpost with very little in the way of police service. Chad Hobbes, who’s recently completed his degree in Jurisprudence at Oxford, wants to see some of the world before he settles down with the requisite law firm, wife, and home. Armed with a litter of introduction, he is given a job as a police constable, which mostly means settling drunken quarrels and occasionally clearing out houses where prostitutes work. Then, a group of Tsmishian Indians reports that they’ve found the mutilated body of Richard McCrory. At first, it looks very much like the Tsimshian leader is responsible for the murder. But Hobbes’ instructions are to go through the motions of asking questions, so that the police are seen to be doing their jobs. As he looks into the matter, though, Hobbes begins to have doubts about what really happened. It sees that McCrory was an alienist, a psychiatrist before the development of modern psychiatric and psychological science. He was also a mesmerist and a phrenologist. He gave lectures and also saw private patients, most of whom had what we would now call depression. His ‘treatment sessions’ involved what we’d now call sexual abuse of his patients. McCrory has a certain charisma, and he was a showman. As Hobbes keeps searching for answers, though, he finds more and more possible suspects. In the end, he finds out who really killed McCrory and why.

Some people are gifted at dazzling others and getting them to part with their money. Whatever their other qualities, these people have the charisma and the ‘razzle dazzle’ to make it work. Which ones have stayed with you?


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse’s Razzle Dazzle.


Filed under Caroline Graham, Seán Haldane, Tarquin Hall, Teresa Solana, William Hjortsberg

There’s One Law For the Rich, One For the Poor*

It’s no secret that money, social status, celebrity, or whatever gets one power in a given culture, also usually gives one a tremendous advantage in the justice system. For instance, money lets you hire the best attorneys there are. And there’s sometimes quite a lot of hesitation before prosecuting someone in a high, powerful position.

Crime fiction reflects the way this works, as you might imagine. And that can make for an interesting layer in a story. It can also add tension. Here are just a few examples to show you what I mean.

In several of Agatha Christie’s novels, rich and powerful people are mixed up in murders. It certainly happens in Murder on the Orient Express, when American businessman Samuel Ratchett is stabbed during a three-day train journey. Hercule Poirot is on the same train, and he works with M. Bouc, who’s a company director for the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits, that owns the train. The only possible suspects are the other passengers in the same car, and several of them are in the highest social circles. For example, one such passenger is Princess Natalia Dragomiroff. From the very beginning of the novel, it’s obvious that she moves in the top international circles and is accustomed to deference. She’s in such an unassailable social position that M. Bouc even hesitates to ask her to come to him and Poirot to answer questions. Here’s what he says to the conductor about it:

‘‘Tell he we can wait on her in her compartment if she does not wish to put herself to the trouble of coming here.’’

Princess Dragomiroff decides to go to the dining car, where the interviews are being conducted. And she proves a very formidable personality. As you can guess, the second-class passengers are not offered the option of ‘being waited on’ in their compartments…

Anne Perry’s Face of a Stranger concerns the murder of Joscelin Grey, a ‘blueblood’ who is found dead in his home. Inspector William Monk, and his assistant, John Evan, investigate the death. As you might expect, one of their avenues of exploration is the victim’s family. But looking at that angle of the case isn’t going to be easy. This is Victorian London, and the Grey family is prominent and powerful, with impeccable social credentials. There are different rules, if you will, for dealing with these people, and that’s made clear to Monk by his boss. And, more than once, various family members remind him that he is a ‘mere’ policeman, and they don’t really need to talk to him at all (i.e. ‘A family like ours could have had nothing to do with such a sordid matter. Do your job and go after the riffraff who did it!’). It takes time, and Monk steps on a few toes, as the saying goes, but he does get some valuable information from some of the family members.

Bill Pronzini’s The Snatch features wealthy Louis Martinetti and his wife, Karyn. When their son, Gary, is kidnapped, Marinetti contacts San Francisco PI Nameless (he is named later in the series, but not here). At first, Nameless thinks Martinetti wants him to find the boy, and he urges his new client to work with the police. But that’s not what Martinetti wants. He wants Nameless to take the money to the drop site identified by Gary’s kidnappers. Then, he, tells Nameless, he’ll be informed where the boy is. Nameless agrees to do the job and goes to the appropriate place at the set time. But when he does, everything goes wrong all at once. Now, the case takes a whole new direction, and Nameless will have to decide what to do. Throughout this novel, we see how there’s a different set of rules for those who are wealthy and powerful. Nameless sees it, too, and it’s not to his liking. Readers who enjoy Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer stories, and Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe stories, will be familiar with this theme.

Tarquin Hall’s The Case of the Missing Servant introduces readers to Delhi PI Vishwas ‘Vish’ Puri. His firm usually concerns itself with ‘vetting’ potential spouses for families who want to arrange the best marriages for their children and grandchildren. But one day, he gets a very different sort of case. Wealthy and privileged lawyer Ajay Kasliwal has been accused of raping and killing a household servant, Mary Murmu. He claims that he’s innocent, but it can’t be denied that Mary went missing, and hasn’t been found. Kasliwal asks Puri to find out the truth and clear his name. Puri agrees and starts asking questions. He soon finds that the Kasliwals are the sort of family that can do what they want, send their children to the best schools, and live in upmarket places. They’re used to privilege. And that just adds to Puri’s trouble. The police are determined to show that they are not the tools of the rich and powerful, and that no-one is above the law. So, they arrest Kasliwal and imprison him. And they are completely unwilling to work with Puri to find out the truth. In the end, he and his team do find out what happened to Mary. And it’s interesting to see how those ‘two sets of rules – one for the rich and one for the rest of us’ works in this novel.

We also see that in Kalpana Swaminatham’s Greenlight. In that novel, several children from a small Mumbai slum called Kandewadi disappear and are later murdered. At first, not much attention is paid to the killings. But finally, there’s enough public outcry that the police assign Inspector Savio to the case. He consults regularly with retired police detective Lalli, and she works with him on these murders. One of the elements in the story is the gulf between the rich and powerful, and the poor. Those with money and power are convinced that they can do as they wish, at any time. And more than once, we see how they react when anyone questions them.

Whether we like it or not, there’s an argument that wealthy, powerful people live by one set of standards, and there’s another set for the rest of us. Certainly, there are examples of that in real life. And there are in crime fiction, too.


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Ian Axel, Chad Vaccarino and Teddy Geiger’s Ordinary Man.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Anne Perry, Bill Pronzini, Kalpana Swaminathan, Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald, Tarquin Hall

These Days There’s a Million Ways to be Pulled and Torn, to be Misdirected*

Real life illusionists such as Penn and Teller (yes, that’s the duo in the ‘photo), and fictional ones such as Elly Griffiths’ Max Mephisto know something very important. People find it hard to pay attention to a lot of things at the same time. So, if you focus your audience’s attention on one thing, they’re less likely to notice something else you may be doing. It’s called misdirection, and these people are experts at it.

Misdirection is an important part of crime fiction, too. Authors use it all the time. In fact, there’s probably a book’s worth of commentary on the way crime writers manipulate readers’ attention. So do fictional characters. After all, if you’re a fictional murderer, it suits you very well if everyone’s paying attention to something else, so that you can get away with your crime.

Misdirection is a part of many of Agatha Christie’s novels and stories. I’ll just give one example. Christie fans will know there are plenty of others. In Death in the Clouds, a group of people boards a plane for a flight from Paris to London. Among them is Marie Morisot, a French moneylender who goes by the name of Madame Giselle. Just before the flight lands, one of the stewards goes around to the different passengers to give them their meal bills. That’s when he discovers that Madame Giselle is dead. At first, it looks as though she’s had a serious allergic reaction to a wasp sting (and there is a wasp on the plane). But Hercule Poirot, who’s on the same flight, notices some things that suggest she was deliberately poisoned. And so it proves to be. The only possible suspects are the other passengers, so Poirot works with Chief Inspector Japp to find out which passenger is the killer. And it turns out that the murderer used misdirection quite effectively to carry out the crime.

In Nicholas Blake’s The Beast Must Die, we are introduced to Frank Cairnes, a detective novelist who writes under the name of Felix Lane. As the story begins, he is distraught over the death of his son, Martin ‘Martie’, who was killed six months earlier in a hit-and-run incident. Cairnes decides to find and kill the man who murdered his son and sets out to learn who that person was. After a time, he establishes that the driver of the car is a man named George Rattery. So, he contrives an introduction by starting a romance with Rattery’s sister, and soon gets to know Rattery. He’s decided to kill Rattery by drowning him during a sailing trip. The only problem is that Rattery has found Cairnes’ diary, so he knows Cairnes’ plan. He tells Cairnes that if anything happens to him, the police will know who is responsible. Cairnes counters with the threat that if the police read the diary, they will also know that Rattery killed Martie. With the two men at a stalemate, they return to the Rattery home. Later that day, Rattery dies of what turns out to be poison. Cairnes contacts PI and poet Nigel Strangeways to ask for his help. He knows he’ll be suspected of murder, but he says he’s innocent. After all, he claims, why would he plan to poison a victim after already having planned to drown him? What’s more, there turn out to be several other possibilities when it comes to suspects. In the end, Strangeways finds that the killer has used misdirection to keep from being caught.

Elizabeth Peters’ Crocodile on the Sandbank introduces her sleuth, Amelia Peabody. In the novel, Miss Peabody decides to take a tour of the Middle East. When her companion falls ill and can’t join her, she fears she’ll have to cancel her trip (this story takes place in the days before it was considered appropriate for ‘proper ladies’ to travel alone). Her problems seem to be solved when she meets Evelyn Barton-Forbes. It turns out that Miss Barton-Forbes has been abandoned by her lover, and now has to make her way in the world as best she can. She’s delighted and grateful at the chance to serve as Miss Peabody’s companion, and the two set out for Egypt. That’s where they meet archaeologist brothers Radcliffe and Walter Emerson, who are working on an excavation in Amarna. Miss Peabody has an interest in ancient ruins, and is well-informed on them, so when the two women stop at the excavation site, they decide to stay on for a bit. That’s how they get drawn into a bizarre case. First, a mummy that the team has found seems to disappear. Then, villagers and other locals report that a mummy has been seen at night. Other strange and disturbing things begin to happen, and it’s now clear that someone wants the Emerson excavation to stop. If the team is to stay alive, and continue the work, they’re going to have to find out the truth. And it turns out that someone has used misdirection to get everyone frightened about the mummy, so that the real motive for what’s going on will stay hidden.

In Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man, Nick and Nora Charles, who live in San Francisco are on a visit to New York City. By chance, Nick, who is a former PI, is spotted by Dorothy Wynant, the daughter of a former client. She’s worried because her father, Clyde Wynant, seems to have gone missing. Later, Nick gets a visit from Wynant’s lawyer, who thinks he’s in New York to track Wynant down. That’s not the case, but Nick seems to be getting more and more drawn in to the matter. The next day, Wynant’s secretary, Julia Wolf, is found dead. Now, Nick’s even more deeply drawn into the case. As it happens, there are several suspects in the murder, any one of whom might be guilty. Misdirection plays an important part in this story as we find out the truth about Wynant’s disappearance and his secretary’s murder.

And then there’s Tarquin Hall’s The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing. Delhi PI Vishwas ‘Vish’ Puri is saddened when he finds out that a former client, Dr. Suresh Jha, has been killed. Jha was at a meeting of the Rajpath Laughing Club when something extraordinary happened. Witnesses say that the goddess Kali appeared, and stabbed Jha. To Kali’s devotees, this makes sense, since Jha was dedicated to science and to debunking people who used religion and spiritualism to deceive people. But Puri doesn’t think Kali really appeared and committed murder. So, he starts to ask questions. And he discovers quite a lot of misdirection as he finds out what really happened.

See what I mean? Misdirection is critical to crime fiction and crime writers. Wait a second – what was that? Look over there!


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Billy Joel’s Blonde Over Blue.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett, Elizabeth Peters, Elly Griffiths, Nicholas Blake, Tarquin Hall

Double Helix DNA*

As this is posted, it’s 65 years since James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the structure of the DNA molecule. In the intervening years, DNA and DNA testing have become important parts of criminal investigation. Of course, DNA analysis is more complicated and takes longer than what you might see on TV shows and film. It can take weeks or even months to get results, depending on the situation. And DNA analysis can be costly. So, many smaller police departments don’t have access to convenient laboratory testing.

All that said, though, DNA testing and analysis are woven into a lot of modern crime fiction. Sometimes it’s used to look into ‘cold cases.’ Other times, it’s used to exonerate or implicate someone. There are other uses, too. And it’s interesting to see how different authors integrate this technology.

In Lynda La Plante’s Above Suspicion, we are introduced to Detective Sergeant (DS) Anna Travis, who’s just joined the Murder Squad at Queen’s Park, London. As it happens, it’s a critical time for the team. The body of seventeen-year-old Melissa Stephens has been discovered, and it looks on the surface as though this murder fits the profile of six other murders of women, all killed in exactly the same way. But there are differences. For example, the other victims were all older prostitutes. Melissa was young and not a prostitute. Still, the Murder Squad’s leader, Detective Chief Inspector James Langton, suspects that the same person killed all seven victims. This case isn’t going to be easy. The killer’s been careful and hasn’t left obvious evidence. And some of the murders took place before the use of contemporary DNA testing. Still, the squad persists, and, in the end, it turns out to be DNA that links Melissa and her killer – and connects the other murders, too.

Kazuhiro Kiuchi’s Shield of Straw has an interesting use of DNA evidence. Wealthy Japanese magnate Takaoki Ninagawa is devastated when his granddaughter, Chika, goes missing. Her body is later discovered, and it’s established that she was raped before being murdered. Now, Ninagawa is determined to do something about it. DNA evidence has identified the killer as thirty-four-year-old Kunihide Kiyomaru. So, Ninagawa offers a one-billion yet reward to anyone who kills Kiyomaru and can prove it. He then arranges for a very public announcement and website that explain the matter and outline how a person can claim the reward. When Kiyomaru hears of the reward, he comes out of hiding and turns himself in to the police at Fukuoka. His thinking is that he’ll be safer in prison than he would be with hundreds of thousands of potential assassins after him. In order for him to face trial, he’ll have to be returned to Tokyo, a matter of some 1100 km/685 mi. Special Police(SP) officer Kazuki Mekari of the Tokyo Municipal Police Department (MPD) is tapped to escort Kiyomaru, and he’s given a team of people with whom to do the job. But, with so many people interested in the bounty, it’s going to be difficult to keep their prisoner alive. Even the police aren’t immune to the temptation of so much money. The question becomes: will Kiyumaru be brought back alive to Tokyo? And at what cost?

As useful as DNA evidence is, it can sometimes confuse cases, too. For instance, in one plot thread of Michael Connelly’s The Drop, L.A.P.D. detective Harry Bosch is investigating a decades-old case: the rape and murder of nineteen-year-old Lily Price. The DNA evidence linked Clayton Pell, now twenty-nine and in prison for other sexual crimes, to this crime. The strange thing is, he was eight years old at the time of the murder. So, at least on the surface, either Pell was an unusual child, or something went very wrong at the Regional Crime Lab that processed the DNA evidence. Among other things, the novel shows how DNA evidence can complicate an investigation.

Now that DNA analysis is more common than it was, most people know at least a little about it. Even people with no background at all in medicine or other science are aware of it. We see that, for instance, in Tarquin Hall’s The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing, the second of his novels to feature Delhi-based PI Vishwas ‘Vish’ Puri. In one plot thread of the story, Puri’s mother, Mummy-ji, attends a kitty party with Puri’s wife, Rumpi. Everyone at a kitty party contributes a certain amount of money to the kitty. Then, one person’s name is drawn, and that person wins all the money. This particular party, though, is interrupted when someone breaks in and steals the money. Mummy-ji scratches the thief, and later goes with Rumpi to the local forensics laboratory, demanding that her nails be tested to get the thief’s DNA. Here’s what the lab attendant (the son of one of her oldest friends) says:

‘‘Auntie-ji, I think you’ve been watching too much of CSI on Star TV, isn’t it?”

But Mummy-ji isn’t dismissed so easily as that…

DNA testing is also, of course, used to determine biological relationships. And that, too, can play a role in crime novels. For example, in Peter May’s The Blackhouse, Edinburgh police detective Fionnlagh ‘Fin’ Macleod returns to his home on the Isle of Lewis to help in a murder investigation. Angel Macritchie has been killed, and his murder looks very similar to an Edinburgh case that Macleod is investigating. The hope is that, if it’s the same killer, pooling resources will help catch that person more quickly. This isn’t a happy homecoming for Macleod, though, as he had his own good reasons for leaving in the first place. But, he does his job the best he can, and in the end, finds out the truth about Macritchie’s death. The Isle of Lewis is a small community, the kind where everyone knows everyone. And everyone knows (or knows of) Fin Macleod. So, as the searches for answers, he also has to face his own past, which is connected with those of several other people on the island. And I can say without spoiling the story that sorting out some of those connections involves a DNA test.

People speak almost casually now of DNA testing and analysis. But it’s really only been a straightforward part of criminal investigation for a few decades. And it’s had some profound effects on evidence gathering, criminal procedures, court cases, and a lot more.


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Prism’s Just Like Me.


Filed under Kazuhiro Kiuchi, Lynda La Plante, Michael Connelly, Peter May, Tarquin Hall

Join Our Club*

Humans are social by our very nature. Of course, some of us are much more socially inclined than others, and some of us aren’t really ‘joiners’ at all. But to an extent, we all need social connections.

That may be part of the reason for which there are so many interest clubs. There are book clubs, travel clubs, wine clubs, and sport clubs, to name just a very few. And people join these groups as much for the social interaction as for anything else. After all, you don’t need to belong to a book club to read and enjoy a novel. But many people enjoy the exchange of ideas and different perspectives. There’s also the fact that someone else may notice something about a story that you didn’t. The opportunity to interact with and learn from other people who share an interest is really appealing.

It’s little wonder, then, that we see so many examples of this sort of shared-interest club in crime fiction. In fact, Agatha Christie’s The Thirteen Problems (AKA The Tuesday Club Murders) combines an interest club with murder. It’s a collection of short stories, each detailing a murder. Each story is told by one member of what’s called the Tuesday Club (the group meets each Tuesday). Then, the club discusses the murder and its solution. Miss Marple is a member of this club, so, as you can imagine, her insights prove quite helpful. You’re right, fans of Anthony Berkeley’s The Poisoned Chocolates Case

In Rex Stout’s Gambit, we are introduced to the exclusive Gambit Chess Club. Matthew Blount is a member of the club, so he’s always interested in new opponents. He’s played a few times against magician and party-trickster Paul Jerrin, and decides to have Jerrin match wits against the rest of the club. The plan is that Jerrin will sit in one room, blindfolded, and play twelve simultaneous matches against different club members, who are in other rooms. Moves will be communicated by messenger. All goes well enough at first. But then, Jerrin suddenly collapses and dies of what turns out to be poisoned hot chocolate. Blount’s immediately suspected, since he was the one who brought Jerrin the chocolate. But Blount’s daughter, Sally, is sure that he’s innocent. She hires Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin to find out who’s really guilty.

Tarquin Hall’s The Man Who Died Laughing begins as Dr. Suresh Jha attends a session of the Delhi-based Rajpath Laughing Club. The group meets to use laughter and silliness to relieve the stress of daily life. This morning, though, everything is different. During the group’s meeting, so say witnesses, the goddess Kali appears and stabs Jha. Believers say that she killed him as punishment for his lack of belief, and the story makes a lot of the news headlines. Jha was the founder of the Delhi Institute for Research and Education (D.I.R.E.), which is devoted to debunking superstition, and he’d made his share of enemies. So, when PI Vishwas ‘Vish’ Puri hears about his death, he suspects that this murderer isn’t a goddess at all, but a human. And, since Jha was once a client, Puri decides to find out who’s responsible.

In Jill Edmonson’s The Lies Have It, Toronto PI Sasha Jackson agrees to help her friend, Jessica, tend bar at the Stealth Lounge, which is a private party room in the Pilot Tavern. A fetish club called Bound For Glory has booked the Stealth Lounge for a big party, and some of the staff members aren’t willing to work that event. So, the Stealth needs some extra ‘fill-in’ help. Soon after the party, Ian Dooley, head of the club, is found murdered near Cherry Beach. At first, it looks as though some of the ‘party games’ went too far. But soon enough, it’s clear that Dooley was deliberately murdered. Now, Jackson adds to her case load as she works to find out who the murderer is.

With today’s online capability, there are also plenty of online clubs. And they, too, pose danger – well, at least fictionally. In Cat Connor’s Killerbyte, for instance, we are introduced to FBI special agent Gabrielle ‘Ellie’ Conway. She’s an ex-pat New Zealander who has a special love of poetry. In fact, she co-moderates an online chat room/poetry club called Cobwebs. When one of the members, Carter McClaren, behaves inappropriately, Conway sees no choice but to ban him from the club. He then shows up at her home to ‘pay her back.’  He’s arrested, but is able to pay bail. Then, later, he’s murdered, and his body is found in Conway’s car. With it is a Post-It note with a cryptic piece of poetry written on it. Then, there’s another murder, also of a club/chat room member. Again, a piece of poetry is left near the body. Now, Conway and her fellow moderator/lover Cormac ‘Mac’ Connelly have to find out which of the other club members is the murderer.

Interest clubs can be really enjoyable. And they’re often excellent ways to get new ideas and have some social interaction. But peaceful? Not always…


*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Saint Etienne.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Anthony Berkeley, Cat Connor, Jill Edmondson, Rex Stout, Tarquin Hall