Category Archives: Thomas Harris

Many a Thing She Ought to Understand*

Many people begin their careers as trainees. They’re supposed to watch and learn, and they’re supposed to do as they’re asked. Of course, each situation is a little different; but, for instance, student teachers are limited in the amount of autonomy they have for much of their student teaching experience. Medical students are supposed to work only under the close eye of their supervising doctor. There are, of course, lots of other examples.

It’s not easy to be a trainee, if you think about it. You may have brilliant ideas, but you still have to learn how things are done, you still have to work with others, and you still have to be open to doing an awful lot of learning. It can be awkward, uncomfortable, and even disheartening at times, especially when you make a big mistake. But it’s a really important time in professional development. And it’s interesting how often this context shows up in crime fiction.

For instance, Robin Cook’s first major novel, Coma, is the story of a third-year medical student, Susan Wheeler, who is in training at Boson Memorial Hospital. When she discovers some patients went into comas during their surgeries, she begins to ask questions. She soon learns that this was the result of tampering with the patients’ oxygen lines and looks into the matter further. As she does, she finds herself in grave danger, as there are some ugly truths she uncovers. This is a thriller, but it also depicts the lives of medical students and their supervisors. Admittedly, the book was published in 1977, and there have been many changes in medicine in the last 40 years or so. But the essential roles the characters play, and the uncertainties and challenges of being a trainee, haven’t changed that much.

In Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs, we are introduced to FBI trainee Clarice Starling. The FBI is looking for a serial killer they’ve dubbed ‘Buffalo Bill,’ and they think they have a way to find him. He is a former patient of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a noted, gifted psychiatrist. But Lecter is currently imprisoned in Baltimore’s State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. So, anyone who interacts with him may be at risk. Starling is chosen for the job, which does not exactly thrill some people who think that a trainee is not the right choice for this assignment. Still, she takes up her duties, and goes to visit Lecter. The two begin a dialogue, and Lecter agrees to help the FBI with the search for ‘Buffalo Bill.’ But he imposes a condition. For everything he tells Starling, she will have to share a personal secret. It’s a risky psychological game as the two pursue their agendas, and it doesn’t help matters that there’s still a killer on the loose.

Pablo De Santis’ Enigma of Paris introduces us to Sigmundo Salvatrio, son of a Buenos Aires shoemaker. He wants more than anything to be a detective, so he is thrilled to learn that he’s been accepted at the Academy for Detectives, run by world-famous detective Renato Craig. Craig is the co-founder of an international group of detectives known as The Twelve, and this group is scheduled to make a presentation at the upcoming Paris World’s Fair of 1889. Illness forces Craig to cancel his plans to attend the event, so he sends Salvatrio in his place. Salvatrio meets the other members of The Twelve, including the group’s other founder, Viktor Arkazy. Then, another member, Louis Dargon, is murdered, and Salvatrio works with Arkazy to find the killer. Throughout the novel, we see the roles that Salvatrio and the other detectives’ apprentices play, and how those roles are impacted by their trainee status.

We first meet Tony Hillerman’s Bernadette ‘Bernie’ Manuelito in The Fallen Man. In that novel, she is a rookie trainee in the Navajo Tribal Police’s Special Investigations Unit. In one plot thread of this story, the unit is tasked with getting to the truth about a series of cattle thefts. On the one hand, Manuelito knows very well that she is ‘the new kid,’ and has a lot to learn. On other, she learns some important things about the case, and decides to take some initiative. And, in the end, the unit learns who is responsible for the thefts. Manuelito’s need to balance her role as a trainee with her desire to solve the case reflects the dilemmas that many trainees may have. On the one hand, they’re supposed to watch, learn, take advice, and so on. On the other, they also need to learn to take initiative and make choices.

Katherine Howell’s Violent Exposure begins as paramedic Carly Martens and her teammate for the day, Aidan Simpson, are called to the scene of what looks like a domestic dispute between Connor Crawford and his wife, Suzanne. They reassure the paramedics that all is well, although Suzanne has an injury. She insists that it’s minor, and that she’ll be fine, so the paramedics have little choice but to leave. The next day, Suzanne is brutally murdered, and Connor goes missing. New South Wales Police detectives Ella Marconi and Dennis Orchard investigate, and they find what the paramedics have to say is very useful. In one plot thread of this novel, we learn more about Aidan Simpson. He is a trainee, so he’s been assigned to work with different partners on a rotating basis to complete his training. But it’s not working out well. He is smug, arrogant, and unwilling to listen to what anyone says. What’s worse, he is inept. Both Martens and her regular partner, Mick Schultz, have tried to help Simpson fit in and learn his job. But he isn’t willing to try to learn. And that forms a thread in this novel.

And then there’s Y.A. Erskine’s The Brotherhood. Lucy Howard is a probationer with the Tasmania Police. She’s smart, and willing to do the work that it takes to learn the job. She’s lucky, too. Her boss is Sergeant John White, who wants her to do well. In fact, one afternoon, the police get called to the scene of a home invasion, and White taps Howard to go with him. For her, the prospect is nerve-wracking, but she is also flattered, and she wants very much to do the job well. Tragically, White is murdered at the crime scene, while he is at the back of the home, and Howard at the front. As the police deal with this death, and with the investigation, Lucy has to face her own feelings of guilt at not being able to save her boss.

It’s never easy to be a trainee. There’s so much to learn, there’s the social fitting-in, and there’s anxiety about doing the job well. That context can be challenging in real life, but it makes for a solid context for a crime novel.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s Maria.

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Filed under Katherine Howell, Pablo De Santis, Robin Cook, Thomas Harris, Tony Hillerman, Y.A. Erskine

I’m Shackled and Sentenced to the Ball and Chain*

There’s a good reason most people don’t want to go to prison. A prison record damages one’s job prospects (as well as other life prospects). And prison is not a pleasant place, even if it’s got decent living conditions, food, and so on. In fact, some prisons can be downright eerie.

Whatever you think of prisons and prison systems in real life, fictional prisons can be effective settings for novels, or for scenes in novels. For one thing, it’s realistic that a crime novel would have prison scenes. After all, crime and prison go together, if I may put it that way. For another, prison scenes allow for tension and suspense, as well as interesting interactions among characters.

Prison scenes play a major role in John Grisham’s The Chamber. The State of Mississippi is about to execute Sam Cayhall for the 1968 murder of Marvin Kramer. His case is taken pro bono by a Chicago law firm that sends one of their attorneys, Adam Hall, to handle the matter. Hall is actually Cayhall’s grandson, and he works as hard as he can to get a stay of execution. For him, Cayhall is a living link to the family history that Hall doesn’t know. As Hall visits his grandfather in prison, we get a look at what life on death row is like. And we also learn, bit by bit, the Cayhall family history.

There are some very eerie prison scenes in Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs. Dr. Hannibal Lecter is a noted, gifted psychiatrist who is also a dangerous serial killer. He’s imprisoned in Baltimore’s State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, which is a prison in its own way. When another killer, whom the FBI has dubbed ‘Buffalo Bill,’ starts claiming victims, trainee agent Clarice Starling is sent to the hospital to interview Lecter. It turns out that ‘Buffalo Bill’ was once a patient of Lecter’s so it’s believed that he might be able to shed some light on this killer. There are some very eerie scenes as Starling goes into the prison and starts to talk to Lecter. He agrees to help in the search for this murderer, but he imposes a condition. For everything he tells Starling, she will have to share a personal secret. It becomes a dangerous psychological game, and adds to the stress of hunting for ‘Buffalo Bill.’

In Angela Makholwa’s Red Ink, we are introduced to Lucy Khambule, a Johannesburg publicist. She’s at a sort of crossroads in her job, and is trying to decide what her next steps will be when she gets a call from Napoleon Dingiswayo. He’s in a maximum-security prison after being convicted of a series of horrific murders. At first, Lucy is surprised to get this call. But then, she is reminded that she had written to Napoleon when he was first imprisoned (at the time, she was in journalism and wanted a story). Now, Napoleon wants to meet her, and asks her to consider writing a book about him. The opportunity to do a book proves irresistible, and Lucy agrees to the meeting. Things don’t go as planned, though, First, it’s soon clear that Napoleon is falling for her, which makes Lucy extremely uncomfortable, although she can see how he would be attractive to women. Then, soon after they start working together, some horrible, violent things start to happen. Napoleon is behind bars in a maximum-security facility, so there’s no way he could be responsible for what’s happening. But if he’s not, then who is? And what might he know that he’s not telling? There are several prison scenes as Lucy slowly starts to get to the truth. And some of them are eerie.

In Alison Joseph’s Line of Sight, Sister Agnes Bourdillon has been seconded to Silworth, a London women’s prison, where she’ll work in its Roman Catholic chaplaincy. She’s gotten settled in, and is getting to know several of the inmates and work with them. Then, one of her charges, Cally Fisher, gets the news that her father, Cliff, has been shot. The most likely suspect is her boyfriend, Mel, and there’s evidence against him. But Cally believes that he’s innocent, and asks Sister Agnes to help her clear his name. Sister Agnes agrees, and starts to ask some questions. She soon learns that there are several people who might have had a good reason to want to kill the victim. Throughout the novel, readers get a look at what a modern UK women’s prison is like. There’s the inevitable paperwork and bureaucracy, including the process for gaining access to the prison as a visitor. There are alliances and conflicts (some of them serious) among the women, and so on. It’s not a nice place to be, and Joseph makes that clear.

There’s also John Burdett’s Bangkok 8, the first of his Sonchai Jitpleecheep novels. Sonchai is a member of the Royal Thai Police, and a devout Buddhist. In the main plot thread of the novel, he and FBI agent Kimberly Jones search for the killer of a former US Marine named William Bradley. It all starts when Sonchai and his police partner, Pichai Apiradee, tail a Mercedes. When they catch up to it, Bradley is already dead, most likely from the bite of poisonous snakes locked in the car with him. When one of the snakes also kills Pinchai, Sonchai is determined to find Bradley’s (and his friend’s) killer. At one point, Sonchai goes to visit the man who comes closest to a father figure to him. This man, Fritz von Staffen, is in Bang Kwan prison, which is,
 

‘A fortress with a watchtower and guards armed with machine guns, surrounded by double perimeter walls, the stench of rotten sewage as we passed through the first gate, and the spiritual stench of violence, sadism, and rotten souls as we passed into the inhabited part of the prison.’
 

And the prisoners, including Fritz, are deeply impacted by the environment.

David Whish-Wilson has experience teaching in prisons, and that comes through in Line of Sight. In that novel, Perth Superintendent Frank Swann searches for the murderer of an old friend, Ruby Devine. He finds the job difficult, though, because he’s called a Royal Commission hearing into corruption on the police force. So, he’s a ‘dead man walking’ as far as the police are concerned. And plenty of civilians don’t want to help, either. Still, bit by bit, Swann gets answers. At one point, he pays a visit to a prisoner named Ray Hergenhan, who he hopes will give him some ‘inside information. The prison Ray’s in is a very grim, hopeless sort of place. But Ray’s survived so far. He provides some useful information to Swann, too.

Prisons can be eerie and grim, but they are a part of the justice system. So, it makes sense that they would be a part of crime fiction, too. These are only a few examples. Over to you.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from the Dropkick Murphys’ Prisoner’s Song.

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Filed under Alison Joseph, Angela Makholwa, David Whish-Wilson, John Burdett, John Grisham, Thomas Harris

Is My Timing Right?*

TimingAn interesting post from FictionFan, at FictionFan’s Book Reviews, and the comments we exchanged, have got me thinking about timing. Many different sorts of things can affect what we think of a book we’re reading. There’s the obvious things such as plot, characters and so on. There’s also the matter of personal taste. We’re all different in the sorts of stories we enjoy.

But another, subtler, factor in how we feel about a book is arguably the timing of when we read that book. For the reader, timing can have an impact in several ways. For instance (and this is the sort of thing FictionFan and I were ‘talking’ about), if you read a book when it first comes out, it may feel fresh and new. That can add to your enjoyment of a novel. That’s especially true if the novel adds an innovation to the genre, or in some other way digresses from it. But if you read it later, after other, similar books have been released, you may feel quite different about it.

One example that comes to my mind is Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs. At the time the novel came out (1988), the psychotic-serial-killer motif wasn’t a major factor in mainstream crime fiction. That novel arguably made room in the genre for that sort of story. Since then, as I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, there’ve been many, many novels with crazed serial killers. Some are better than others. But it’s not a new and innovative theme any more. I wonder how that’s impacted readers who hadn’t previously read The Silence of the Lambs. Would they regard that novel as the trend-setter that it arguably is? Would they see it in a different way?

There’s also the sub-genre that’s recently (in the last few years) been called domestic noir. Of course, there’ve been many novels in which marriages fell apart, and people weren’t what they seemed. But novels such as Julia Crouch’s Cuckoo, S.J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep, and Elizabeth Haynes’ Into the Darkest Corner have brought the domestic noir novel to the forefront of current crime fiction. And that raises (at least for me) the question of what today’s readers might think of books such as Margaret Yorke’s Speak For the Dead, which was published in 1988. In that novel, Gordon Matthews marries Carrie Foster, and on the surface, all starts well. But each one has a dark past. Matthews was recently released from prison for killing his first wife, Anne. The way he and his lawyers tell the story, it was a case of manslaughter, and Anne was a promiscuous, alcoholic shrew who pushed her husband too far during an argument. But is that the truth? For her part, Carrie is a former prostitute who gets back on the game a few years after they marry. As the story of their marriage, and the tragedy that follows, goes on, we see a real example of domestic noir. Would readers who’ve experienced plenty of domestic noir see this as a taut, fresh look at a marriage? Would they see it as stale?

There are other ways to look at timing, too, of course. If you’ve just finished reading a series of bleak, ‘hardboiled’ crime novels, you might be ready for something lighter. So work such as Carl Hiaasen’s or Chris Grabenstein’s might appeal. Neither author writes ‘sugar coated’ crime fiction, but there is plenty of wit in it. At another time, though, you might think those very same novels too comic, and perhaps too absurd. The same is true for cosy mysteries. If you’ve just been reading a lot of light crime fiction, you might find work like Julie Hyzy’s White House Chef series too light. On the other hand, if you’ve been reading a lot of dark crime fiction, that same series might really appeal.

Timing matters for authors, too. For instance, after the commercial success of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, many other novels with a similar domestic noir theme were released. I’m sure you could list more than I could. On the one hand, the success of Gone Girl allowed those other novels more exposure than they otherwise might have had. Publishers were more willing to take a chance on them, and people were more interested in the themes. On the other hand, do readers think of those other novels as ‘me, too?’ Do they look at them with fresh eyes? This raises questions for the author. Is it a good idea to pick up on a theme that’s had some success, so as to hopefully get more exposure?  Is it a matter of ‘me, too,’ or is it a matter of ‘there’s a market for this sort of book?’ Or is it something else?

And then there’s the element of when in one’s life one reads something. Perhaps you started your crime-fictional journey with classic and Golden-Age crime fiction such as Ngaio Marsh, Agatha Christie, or Anthony Berkeley. Since then, let’s say, you’ve branched out and gotten very interested in the modern hardboiled PI novel (Timothy Hallinan, for instance). Would you still see the work of, say, Arthur Conan Doyle in the same way if you re-read it?

There’s a strong argument that timing has an effect on what we think of what we read. Do you see that with your own reading? Do you ever go back and re-read a novel at another time, just to see if your first impression was lasting? If you’re a writer, do you think about timing when you choose your themes, contexts and so on?

Thanks, FictionFan, for the inspiration. Now, may I strongly suggest that the next stop on your blog round be FictionFan’s excellent blog. There, you’ll find fine reviews, interesting observations, and real wit. And Mr. Darcy.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Foreigner’s Hot Blooded.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Anthony Berkeley, Arthur Conan Doyle, Carl Hiaasen, Chris Grabenstein, Elizabeth Haynes, Gillian Flynn, Julia Crouch, Julie Hyzy, Margaret Yorke, Ngaio Marsh, S.J. Watson, Thomas Harris, Timothy Hallinan

It Could Make a Million For You Overnight*

BestSellersI’m sure you’ve seen them. There are plenty of mentions of them in bookshops, online and in other places too. That’s right; I’m talking about ‘blockbuster’ best-sellers. You know, those books that seem to catch on instantly and become really successful (and lucrative for the publisher and the author).

In a way, those best-sellers are very much a mixed blessing, as the saying goes. On the one hand, it can be very frustrating to be bombarded with hype about a best-seller that’s really only mediocre in quality. I know you don’t need any input from me to come up with a list of novels like that. I’ve got friends who refuse to buy anything billed as a ‘best-seller’ for just that reason.

Matters are not made any better by the fact that publishers want to cash in on best-sellers’ popularity, so they link other novels with the best-seller. You know the kind of thing: ‘If you loved __________, you’ll love______;’ or ‘_______ meets_________.’ Sometimes there are similarities between novels, but more often than not, it’s just hype. And that means it doesn’t really tell the reader much about the book.

Publishers cash in on best-sellers in another way too. Once a novel becomes extremely popular, there’s a lot of pressure for other authors to use the same formula. For example, I wonder how many authors were (or at least felt) pressured to write about serial killers after the incredible success of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs? What this can mean is that it’s harder for an author to write something different – something that’s not like the books at the top of best-seller lists.

It’s also harder for authors who aren’t – ahem – household words to get their names ‘out there.’ Publishers know they can bank on a best-seller, so for very logical reasons, they look for manuscripts from those authors or manuscripts that are similar to the work of those authors. In other words, ‘blockbuster’ best-sellers can ‘drown out’ the work of other authors.

So this means that best-sellers aren’t at all good for the genre, right? Wrong. Best-sellers can offer good things for the genre, too, at least as I see it. For one thing, a best-seller can encourage people who normally wouldn’t read crime fiction to try the genre. Just as one example, the work of Michael Connelly is just about always successful in terms of sales. There are other crime writers too whose work sells very well, and whose novels could potentially get more readers to try other crime fiction. And that’s a good thing for crime writers whose work might not otherwise be read.

There’s another interesting effect of the ‘blockbuster’ best seller too. It can call attention to a certain kind of novel, or novels from a certain country or region. This in turn can help other authors who write that sort of novel, or who are from that area. Here’s one concrete example. As you know, Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy caught on worldwide. All debates about the merit of those novels aside, something about them caught people’s attention. The film adaptations of these novels have gotten them even more attention. And that’s arguably meant that people who might not otherwise have tried Scandinavian crime fiction have chosen to do so.

There’ve been, of course, highly talented Scandinavian crime novelists for a long time – since long before the Larsson trilogy. I wonder how many readers might not have discovered the work of those novelists if it hadn’t been for best-seller authors such as Larsson and Jo Nesbø. Whether or not you’re fan of those particular authors’ work, It’s an interesting example of how a few best-sellers can build interest in crime fiction from a particular region.

A best-seller can also increase interest in a certain kind of novel. Just as one example, consider Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. That was published in 2012, and has since gone on to be an international best-seller. A film adaptation of it has come out, and, well, you know the rest. Since the release of that novel, there’s been a lot of interest in S.J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep, published the year before Gone Girl. And a lot of people argue that A.S.A. Harrison’s The Silent Wife, published a year later, has also benefited in terms of sales from the popularity of Gone Girl. If that’s true, then it’s possible that the ‘bandwagon’ effect can be positive for crime writers, at least in terms of interest in their work.

So is the ‘blockbuster’ effect a good one or not? It’s definitely frustrating at times. I get as tired as you do of inappropriate comparisons of books and authors. And I get as tired as you do of million-sellers that turn out to be mediocre at best, and sometimes not even that good.

On the other hand, if a major best-seller gets more people to try crime fiction, I say that can be good for the genre. If a major best-seller gets readers trying books from new-to-them countries or about new-to-them themes, that can be good for the genre too.

What do you think? Do you specifically avoid best-sellers? Does it depend on the author? If you’re a writer, do you pay attention to what’s selling well and think of it in terms of your own work?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to prepare for my appearance on all the major television shows to announce that next million-seller release. It could happen… 😉

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from The Beatles’ Paperback Writer.

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Filed under A.S.A. Harrison, Gillian Flynn, Jo Nesbø, Michael Connelly, S.J. Watson, Stieg Larsson, Thomas Harris

There’s a Moon Out Tonight*

MoonScientists have known for a very long time that the moon plays an important role in Earth’s rhythms. But the moon has more of a hold on people than that. Many cultures mark the passing of time by the moon’s phases, and the moon seems to play a role in a lot of people’s psychological state of being. The moon holds a real fascination for people and it’s not hard to see why. There are examples of the moon’s influence all through crime fiction, and this one post won’t give me nearly enough space to discuss them all. So let me just mention a few.

In Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile, Linnet Ridgeway Doyle is on a honeymoon cruise of the Nile (See? A moon reference already) with her new husband Simon. On the second night she is shot. Hercule Poirot and Colonel Race, who are on the same cruise, investigate the murder. At first, Linnet’s former best friend Jacqueline ‘Jackie’ de Bellefort is the most likely suspect. Simon was her fiancé before he met Linnet and Jackie was overheard to threaten Linnet. Besides, she’s followed the newlyweds throughout their honeymoon trip. But as it turns out, Jackie couldn’t have killed Linnet. So Poirot and Race have to look elsewhere for the killer. At one point, Jackie explains how Simon ended up marrying Linnet:

 

‘Look at the moon up there. You see her very plainly don’t you? She’s very real. But if the sun were to shine you wouldn’t be able to see her at all. It was rather like that. I was the moon…when the sun came out, Simon couldn’t see me any more…he was dazzled. He couldn’t see anything but the sun – Linnet.’

 

There are actually a few important scenes that play out under the moonlight in this novel.

Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon features a series of murders committed by a killer nicknamed the Tooth Fairy. The Tooth Fairy’s been targeting families and murdering them each time the moon is full. Former FBI agent Will Graham has always had a knack for being able to catch killers. In fact, he caught the infamous Dr. Hannibal Lecter and is the reason Lecter is now in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. But he’s left the FBI and wants to put that life behind him. He’s persuaded though to come out of retirement and help catch the Tooth Fairy. As he begins to learn about the case, he realises he’s going to need some help. The person in the best position to know how the Tooth Fairy thinks and how to catch him is Lecter. So Graham has to undertake the very dangerous task of working with Lecter while at the same time going after a serial killer.

A full moon provides the backdrop for a fatal night in Karin Fossum’s Bad Intentions. Axel Frimann, Philip Reilly and Jon Moreno decide to spend a weekend in a cabin on Dead Water Lake. Jon has recently been released from a mental hospital after suffering from severe anxiety issues, and the idea is to cheer him up a bit. One night, Axel notices how beautiful the lake looks in the light of the full moon:

 

‘There was something magical about it all. At any moment, Axel imagined, a water sprite might rise from the depths.’

 

The three young men decide to go out on the lake but while they’re there, a terrible tragedy occurs and only two of them come back. Inspector Konrad Sejer and his assistant Jacob Skarre investigate, and one of their goals is to get the two survivors to tell everything they know. But they’re not willing to do that. It’s soon clear that they’ve decided what they will and will not say and Sejer can’t seem to get them to budge. Then, another body is discovered at Glitter Lake and the investigators have another case on their hands. They’ll have to either find conclusive evidence of what happened, or get the young men to tell them everything if they’re going to learn the truth about these cases.

In Kerry Greenwood’s Trick or Treat, Melbourne baker Corinna Chapman is up against new competition when a branch of Best Fresh, a large chain of bakeries, opens nearby. Then, a young man dies after jumping from a rooftop. There are other incidents too of apparent mad behaviour. At the same time, Chapman’s friend Meroe is facing a problem of her own. Meroe is Wiccan and is an expert in the art of healing. She’s concerned because a new group of witches has come to the area under the leadership of a dubious man named Barnabas. Meroe doesn’t trust them and asks Chapman to come to a ceremony and give an uninvolved opinion. The moon plays a role in that and in another ceremony Chapman observes. It also plays a role in a long-ago story of stolen treasure that figures into this mystery. And each of those threads is related to the apparent outbreak of madness in the neighbourhood. But the connection isn’t the one you’d think. In this novel the full moon isn’t the reason for the mysteries Chapman investigates. But it does add a layer of atmosphere and it does play a role in the story’s events.

And then there’s Gail Bowen’s The Endless Knot. Journalist Kathryn Morrisey has written a tell-all book about Canadian celebrities and their not-so-perfect relationships with their children. The book’s gotten a lot of people upset. In fact, Sam Parker is so infuriated by the book that he shoots Morrisey, wounding but not killing her. Parker’s attorney is Zack Shreve, and the trial puts Shreve and his lover, political scientist and academician Joanne Kilbourn in the middle of a controversy. In fact, at one point early in the novel, the client area outside Shreve’s office is bombed, although no-one is hurt. Shreve himself takes it in stride, saying it’s probably

 

‘Some guy a few fries short of a Happy Meal…’ 

 

At first Kilbourn sees the logic of what Shreve is saying. She and her first husband Ian were both involved in politics, and she knows from experience that

 

‘…an increased volume of mad-dog phone calls and letters written in crayon was always a tipoff that a full moon was rising.’

 

But when Morissey is later murdered, the case becomes more complex, and ends up having connections to Kilbourn’s family.

The moon really does seem to have some strange effects on people at times. Whether it’s the moon’s physical effects on Earth or something else, it certainly holds fascination for us. As I mentioned, these are only a few examples of where you see this phenomenon in crime fiction.  Your turn.

ps. For a different sort of take on what happens to certain people when the full moon comes out, check out Paul D. Brazill’s short story collection featuring his PI Roman Dalton

 

 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Joseph Luccisano, Alfonso Gentile and Alfred Striano and made popular by the Capris.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Gail Bowen, Karin Fossum, Kerry Greenwood, Paul D. Brazill, Thomas Harris