Category Archives: Wendy James

We Were Just Young and Restless and Bored

Have you ever gotten so busy that you almost wish you could be bored? You might even think what a luxury it is to have enough time for boredom. But, before you get too envious of those who are bored, keep in mind that it has its own challenges.

If you look at crime fiction, you see all sorts of negative consequences that come from being bored. Boredom, especially among young people, can get one into serious trouble. Here are just a few examples to show you what I mean. I know you’ll think of lots more than I could.

In Karin Fossum’s When the Devil Holds the Candle, we are introduced to two young men, Andreas Winthur and Sivert ‘Zipp’ Skorpe. They are best friends; in fact, you could say that they’re each other’s only real friend. They are also bored with life, and without much purpose. Their search for something to do gets them into trouble more than once. And, on one fateful day, it has terrible consequences. Andreas and Zipp spend the day together. Later, Andreas disappears. His mother, Runi, is worried about him, so she goes to the police. At first, Inspector Konrad Sejer isn’t overly concerned. After all, Andreas isn’t a young child. But when more time goes by, and he hasn’t returned, Sejer and his assistant, Jacob Skarre, start investigating. Naturally, one of their first interviewees is Zipp. But he’s not much help. Zipp says he and Andreas parted company before Andreas disappeared. Sejer is sure that Zipp knows more than he’s telling, but it’s not going to be easy to find out the truth.

Wendy James’ The Lost Girls is the story of fourteen-year-old Angela Buchanan. In 1978, she gets permission to spend some of the summer at the home of her Aunt Barbara and Uncle Doug Griffin, near Sydney. Angela, her cousin, Mick, and Mick’s friends, are a little bored, with no school, no sport contests, and so on. So, they spend a lot of time playing pinball at a local drugstore. One day, the group goes to the drugstore as usual, but Angela doesn’t come back. She is later found dead, with a scarf over her head. The police investigate, and they focus their attention on Mick and his friends, but they can’t find any evidence of wrongdoing. Then, a few months later, another young girl is found dead, again with a scarf around her head. The theory now is that someone is targeting young girls, and people do worry. The press even dubs the killer, the ‘Sydney Strangler.’ No more killings are reported, though, and the murders are never solved. Years later, filmmaker Erin Fury decides to do a documentary on families who’ve lost a loved one to murder, and she approaches the Griffin family. They eventually agree to be interviewed, and we slowly learn what really happened to Angela.

In Pascal Garnier’s How’s the Pain?, we meet twenty-one-year-old Bernard Ferrand. There’s not much for him in the small town in which he lives, and he’s bored and restless. Then, he meets professional assassin Simon Marechall. And it turns out that he’s got something Marechall needs: a driver license. Marechall needs a driver to take him to Cap d’Agde, on the French coast, where he wants to do one more job before he retires. Bernard isn’t doing anything else with his life, and he is bored. So, he agrees to serve as driver, and the two plan their trip. But Bernard doesn’t know what his new boss does for a living. By the time he finds out, it’s too late, and things start to spin out of control.

Of course, it’s not just young people who get bored with their lives. In Ian Rankin’s Doors Open, for example, wealthy Mike Mackenzie has gotten bored with his life, and he’s looking for some excitement. He and his banker friend, Allan Cruikshank, share a love of art. So, together with art professor Gissing, and with help from local gangster Chib Calloway, Mackenzie and Cruikshank devise a plot. They want to rob the National Gallery of Scotland, and replace some of its valuable holdings with forged art. They choose the gallery’s Doors Open day, when the public gets to view the warehouses and other ‘behind the scenes’ places associated with the museum. The robbery goes off as planned, but the group soon learns that there’s more to benefiting from art then just stealing it…

Sometimes, of course, boredom has more positive consequences. For example, in Agatha Christie’s Hickory Dickory Dock, Poirot’s frighteningly efficient secretary, Miss Lemon, brings him an unusual problem. Her sister, Mrs. Hubbard, manages a hostel for students where some perplexing things have been happening. Odd things have been disappearing, and there seems no explanation for what’s going on. Here are Poirot’s thoughts on the matter:
 

‘Hercule Poirot was silent for a minute and a half.
Did he wish to embroil himself in the troubles of Miss Lemon’s sister and the passions and grievances of a polyglot Hostel? …
He did not admit to himself that he had been rather bored of late and that the very triviality of the business attracted him.’
 

Poirot agrees to look into the case, and it turns out that this is much more serious than someone stealing things for fun.

As you can see, boredom has all sorts of consequences. Some of them can be positive, as boredom can spur us on to find new ways to be productive. But other times, boredom can lead to disastrous consequences. There are all sorts of examples in crime fiction; which ones have stayed with you?

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Bob Seger’s Night Moves.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Ian Rankin, Karin Fossum, Pascal Garnier, Wendy James

And What a Time it Was*

The end of the Victorian Era didn’t, of course, mean the end of Victorian-Era beliefs, customs and so on. But there were some major changes just on the horizon, and, of course, World War I was only a little over a decade away.

It’s interesting to see how crime fiction from and about those first ten or so years of the 20th Century depicts that time. Just a few examples show what a time of transition it was. And that’s part of what makes it such a memorable time.

Arthur Conan Doyle’s later Sherlock Holmes stories highlight one important change, especially in the area of crime and its detection. As you’ll know, Holmes is a man of science. He brings that viewpoint to criminal investigation.  Fingerprint science was already being used by the time the 20th Century began. But the new century brought more developments in what came to be forensic science (more on that in a moment). In several ways, the later Holmes stories show the blend of more traditional Victorian views with emerging science.

The case of Hawley Harvey Crippen, who was executed for murder in 1910, shows the way in which forensic science was becoming more and more important in criminal cases. At the time that Crippen was arrested, tried and convicted of murdering his wife, Cora, forensic pathology was a new science. And Sir Bernard Spilsbury was one of the first pre-eminent forensic pathologists. Although he is associated most closely with the Crippen case (he gave evidence that showed the body found in Crippen’s home was Cora’s), Spilsbury was also connected with several other prominent cases of the time. So was Sir Sydney Smith, also a well-known medico-legal expert. His autobiography, Mostly Murder is, in my view, an interesting look at the times and at the developments in forensic science. Martin Edwards’ Dancing For the Hangman is a fictional account of the Crippen case, told from Crippen’s point of view. It, too, offers a fascinating look at the times.

Felicity Young’s Dr. Dorothy ‘Dody’ McCleland series begins in 1910 with The Anatomy of Death, as McCleland is returning from Edinburgh to London. She’s just qualified in forensic pathology, and now wants to work with Spilsbury in the Home Office. She settles into London, and soon becomes involved in the investigation of three deaths. All three of the victims were women who died during a suffrage march in Whitechapel. The march turned very ugly, and, along with the deaths, several women were wounded. McCleland finds that two of the victims’ deaths have straightforward explanations. But the third is more complicated, and McCleland soon suspects murder as a possibility. As she investigates, readers learn about the growing use of forensics during these pre-WW I years.

There’s also a close look at another major change of the time: the push for women’s suffrage and other women’s rights. Women already had the vote in New Zealand, but not yet in many other places. And there were several groups dedicated to changing that. There was also a push for women to be accepted as professionals. That’s one challenge, for instance, that McCleland faces in Young’s series.

Another novel that addresses some of these issues is Wendy James’ Out of the Silence: A Story of Love, Betrayal, Politics and Murder. This is the fictional retelling of the story of Maggie Heffernan, who was convicted of murdering her infant son in 1900 (she was nineteen at the time) and scheduled to be executed. As the story evolves, we learn that Maggie is from rural Victoria, where she meets Jack Hardy. They begin a secret romance, and end up becoming engaged, although Hardy insists on keeping the engagement secret until he can provide for a family. He then leaves to find work in New South Wales. Meanwhile, Maggie discovers she’s pregnant. She writes to Jack several times but gets no answer. She knows her own family will not accept her, so she moves to Melbourne and finds work in a Guest House. When baby Jacky is born, Maggie moves to a home for unwed mothers. Then, she learns that Jack is in Melbourne, so she goes to visit him. He rejects her utterly, calling her ‘crazy.’ With nowhere else to go, Maggie goes looking for lodging, but is turned away from six different places. That’s when the tragedy with Jacky occurs. Vera Goldstein (the first woman candidate for Parliament in the British Commonwealth) finds out about Maggie’s plight, and determines to free her. As she works towards that end, we learn about the fight in Australia for women’s suffrage (it was granted at the national level in 1902). We also see clearly the differences among social classes that still persisted after the end of the Victorian Era.

We also see that difference reflected in Marie Belloc Lowndes’ The Lodger. Ellen and Robert Bunting have recently retired from being ‘in service.’ Ellen was a lady’s maid, and her husband was a ‘gentleman’s gentleman.’ The Buntings are in real financial need, so they’ve had to open their home to lodgers. But Ellen Bunting, especially, is very particular about the sort of person she’ll have. She wants only the ‘right’ sort of people. One day, a man who calls himself Mr. Sleuth stops in, asking about rooms. He dresses well, and acts ‘like a gentleman.’ More to the point, he is well able to pay for his room. So, the Buntings welcome him. He’s eccentric and keeps very odd hours. But he’s a paying guest. And he’s not loud or otherwise ‘difficult.’ Little by little, though, the Buntings begin to be uneasy about him. There’s been a rash of murders committed by a killer who calls himself The Avenger, and the Buntings slowly come to wonder if their lodger has something to do with these deaths. Among other things, the story highlights social class distinctions. The Buntings are respectable ‘serving class’ people, who hold their ‘betters’ in high regard. This doesn’t mean they’re blind to the foibles of the people they’ve served. But they do respect those social barriers.

We also see social barriers in Rhys Bowen’s Molly Murphy series. Murphy, an immigrant from Ireland, lives and works in New York City at the very beginning of the 20th Century. She’s a private investigator who inherited her business from her mentor. As she looks into her cases, she encounters members of several different social classes, from ‘sweatshop’ workers and tenement dwellers to those who live on estates. Society is changing (Murphy, for instance, is a woman pursuing what is very much a man’s career). And in New York, there is now a generation of people who started with very little and have made quite a lot of money. But there are still certain views, customs, and so on, that are distinctly Victorian.

And that’s the thing about those first ten years or so of the 20th Century. The Victorian Era was over, and no-one was quite sure what was coming. That time of change can make for a fascinating context for a novel or series.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Simon and Garfunkel’s Bookends.

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Filed under Arthur Conan Doyle, Felicity Young, Marie Belloc Lowndes, Martin Edwards, Rhys Bowen, Sir Sydney Smith, Wendy James

You Can Rely on the Old Man’s Money*

If you’ve ever been concerned that you haven’t been able to give your children what you wish you could, you’re not alone. Most parents want the best for their children. I’m sure you’ve heard people say, ‘I don’t want them to struggle the way I had to.’

It’s only natural for parents to want their children to have everything. But there’s an old expression, ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ And it might very well apply here. If you’ve met children who’s always had everything they wanted, and never had to work for it, you know the effect that can have on their dispositions. And that’s to say nothing of how unprepared such children are to deal with life’s challenges.

There are plenty of examples of young people who’ve always had everything they wanted in crime fiction. They don’t always make for sympathetic characters, but they can add interest to a story, and they can add plot threads.

In Agatha Christie’s Lord Edgware Dies, for instance, we are introduced to Ronald Marsh. Having grown up in a ‘blueblood’ family, he hasn’t really wanted for anything. He’s never learned to manage his money, so he’s in quite a difficult financial situation. In fact, that makes him a suspect when his wealthy uncle, 4th Baron Edgware, is murdered. The victim’s wife, famous actress Jane Wilkinson, is the primary suspect. She wanted a divorce so that she could marry again. But she says she was at a dinner party in another part of London, and there are twelve people willing to swear that she was there. So Chief Inspector Japp has to look elsewhere for the murderer. Hercule Poirot is involved in the case, since he visited the victim on the day of the murder. Throughout the novel, it’s interesting to see how Ronald Marsh copes with the stress of being suspected of murder, of being in need of money, and so on. It’s clear that he was never prepared to work for goals and to deal with adversity.

Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep introduces us to the Sternwood family. General Guy Sternwood is upset because a book dealer named Arthur Geiger has sent him an extortion letter that mentions his daughter, Carmen. Sternwood hires Los Angeles PI Philip Marlowe to find Geiger and stop him from harassing the family. Marlowe doesn’t find the Sternwoods pleasant at all, but he agrees to take the case. By the time he tracks Geiger down, though, it’s too late: Geiger’s been murdered. Carmen Sternwood was in the room at the time of the killing, but she’s either too drugged or too dazed to say much or remember anything. Marlowe quickly gets her out of the way before the police suspect her, and thinks that this will be the end of his work with the Sternwoods. The next day, though, the Sternwoods’ chauffer dies in what looks like a suicide (but is it?). Now, Marlowe gets more and more deeply involved with the family as he helps to find out what’s behind that death. Throughout the novel, we see that Carmen Sternwood and her older sister, Vivian, have always had every material thing they wanted. They haven’t had love and affection from their parents, but they’ve always been indulged. And that has a profound impact on them.

Shadaab Amjad Khan’s Murder in Bollywood gives readers a look at the ultra-privileged lives of Bollywood superstars. In it, top film director Nikhil Kapoor is found dead in his writing studio, apparently of a freak electrical accident. His wife, superstar actress Mallika Kapoor, also dies of an apparent cocaine overdose. The Powers That Be want this case wrapped up quickly, and the deaths attributed to tragic accident; but Senior Inspector Hoshiyar Khan isn’t so sure. So, he begins to look into the matter. He learns that, not long before the deaths, Nikhil Kapoor had hosted a private party at which he said one of those present had killed before, and would kill again. With this information in hand, Khan begins to investigate the people who were at the party, and find out which one Kapoor might have had in mind. And in the end, he finds out the truth about those deaths, and one other murder. As the story evolves, we meet the Kapoors’ son, Rohan. He’s been very much indulged his whole life, and is thoroughly spoilt. He’s smart enough, but he’s never had to work for a living, or make a life for himself. That overindulged background has an important impact on him.

In Jill Edmondson’s Blood and Groom, Toronto PI Sasha Jackson gets a new client, Christine Arvisais. It seems that her former fiancé, ‘blueblood’ Gordon Hanes, was shot on the day that was supposed to be their wedding. Everyone thinks that Christine’s responsible, but she claims she is innocent. Sasha doesn’t care at all for this new client; Christine is spoiled, self-entitled, and rude. But a fee is a fee. So, she starts looking into the case. And it’s not long before she finds that there could definitely be other explanations for Hanes’ murder. Throughout the novel, we see that Christine has always had everything she wanted. And she’s actually quite hampered by not knowing how to work for herself or deal with life’s unexpected blows. And that life of indulgence has certainly had an impact on her personality.

Wendy James’ The Mistake is the story of the Garrow family.  Angus Garrow is a successful attorney who comes from a ‘blueblood’ family. He’s doing quite well, even being spoken of as the next mayor of Arding, New South Wales. He’s been indulged most of his life, and his mother still works to make sure he has whatever he wants. And on the surface, he does. His wife, Jodie, is smart and attractive, and he’s got two healthy children. Then, everything changes. His daughter, Hannah is involved in an accident and is rushed to the same Sydney hospital where, years earlier, Jodie gave birth to another child. Angus doesn’t know about this child, but a nurse at the hospital remembers Jodie and asks about her baby.  Jodie says she gave the baby up for adoption, but the overzealous nurse can’t find any formal records. Soon, the whispers start. Then there are some very public questions about what happened to Jodie’s baby. There’s even talk that Jodie may have had something to do with the baby’s disappearance. Now, Jodie is a social pariah, and Angus finds it very hard to cope with this challenge. He’s never really had to face adversity before, and he’s always had everything. It’s interesting to see what happens to him as the novel goes on.

There are plenty of other examples of fictional children who’ve never been refused anything (right, fans of James. M. Cain’s Mildred Pierce?). They’re almost never really pleasant, happy people. But they can add to a story.

 
 
 

*NOTE:  The title of this post is a line from Daryl Hall and John Oates’ Rich Girl.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, James M. Cain, Jill Edmondson, Raymond Chandler, Shadaab Amjad Khan, Wendy James

She Can Tell You ‘Bout the Plane Crash With a Gleam in Her Eye*

In Agatha Christie’s Evil Under the Sun, famous actress Arlena Stuart Marshall is murdered during a holiday at the Jolly Roger Hotel on Leathercombe Bay. Hercule Poirot is staying at the hotel, too, and he works with the police to find out who the killer is. At one point, they’re interviewing Mrs. Castle, who owns and manages the establishment. Here’s what she says about the murder:
 

‘‘But it does so reflect upon an establishment…When Ay think of the noisy gaping crowds…they will no doubt come and point from the shore.’ She shuddered.’
 

She’s got a point. In real life and in crime fiction, violent crime, especially murder, stirs up a lot of public interest. And that’s part of the odd dual nature of people’s reaction to crime. On the one hand, murder and other serious crime is horrible. If you’ve ever actually seen a violent crime, or been involved in one, you don’t need me to convince you of that. If you haven’t, then trust me. There is nothing entertaining about a serious crime.

And yet, many news sources (often, but not always, tabloids) make fortunes reporting on such stories. People want to read about crime. The more lurid the details, the better. We may want to keep serious crime at a distance, but many people still find it fascinating. It may be the same instinct that draws people to slow down and stare when they see a serious accident on the side of a road.

That duality (‘Keep it away from me! But I want all the details.’) shows up in plenty of crime fiction. There won’t be space in this one post to give more than a few examples. I know you’ll have plenty more than I could offer, anyway.

In Wendy James’ The Mistake, we are introduced to the Garrow family. Angus Garrow is a successful lawyer whose name is being brought up as the next mayor of Arding, New South Wales. His wife, Jodie, is intelligent, attractive, and involved in the community, and his children are healthy and doing well enough in school. Everything changes when his daughter, Hannah, is rushed to a Sydney hospital after an accident. It turns out to be the same hospital in which Jodie gave birth to another child years earlier – a child she’s never told anyone about, not even Angus. A nurse there remembers Jodie, and asks about the child. Jodie says she gave the baby up for adoption, but the overcurious nurse can’t find any official records of the adoption. Now, questions start to come up, first privately, and then quite publicly. Where is the child? If the child is dead, did Jodie have something to do with it? People all over become fascinated with the case, and everyone puts in an opinion. Before long, Jodie becomes a social pariah, but she’s still obsessed, too, with media stories about her. At the same time as people are horrified by the thought that she might have killed her baby, they’re utterly drawn into the case.

In Jørn Lier Horst’s Dregs, police detective William Wisting and his team are faced with a disturbing case. A left foot in a training shoe has washed ashore near the Norwegian town of Stavern. That’s news enough in itself, but then another foot appears. And another. Oddly enough, though, no bodies have been discovered. There’s all sorts of speculation about what might be going on, and some of the local residents are concerned that these murders, if that’s what they are, might be the work of a serial killer. The police know that some people are worried for their safety. And, of course, they don’t want wild and inaccurate speculation to get in the way of their investigation. At the same time, taking advantage of the media interest (of which there is a great deal) might reach someone who has valuable information to share. So, the police give a few press conferences. And it’s interesting to see how the public’s fascination with a strange set of crimes is mixed with shock and horror at such crimes striking so close to home.

The focus of Helen Fitzgerald’s The Cry is Joanna Lindsay and her partner, Alistair Robertson. When they travel from Scotland, where they’ve been living, to Alistair’s home in Victoria, they think that the long, miserable flight is the worst of their troubles. But during the drive from the airport at Melbourne to their destination, their worst nightmare comes true: the loss of their nine-week-old son, Noah. A massive search is launched, and there’s all sorts of ‘armchair detection’ about what might have happened to the baby. Then talk starts that perhaps the couple, especially Joanna, is involved. There’s an awful lot of public interest and speculation, which makes life miserable for Alistair and Joanna. And when the stories start circulating that they are responsible, matters get even worse. People are horrified by what’s happened, but at the same time, they are fascinated, and can’t get enough about the story.

We also see this fascination/repugnance in Peter James’s Not Dead Yet. In one plot thread, Brighton and Hove Superintendent Roy Grace and his team are investigating a bizarre murder. The torso of an unknown man has been discovered in a disused chicken coop. There’s not much to go on, and the victim had no identification with him. The police want to find out who the man was, so they take advantage of the public’s interest in a lurid crime like this. Grace sends two of his team members to appear on a true-crime TV show called Crimewatch. Neither really, truly, wants to do the show. But they both understand how important it is to identify a crime victim. So, they do the show. And it’s interesting to see how TV shows like that get large audiences and, sometimes, good results.

And that’s the case in a lot of investigations. The public is fascinated by lurid crimes. At the same time, we know how horrible murder is. It’s an interesting duality, and it can add to a crime novel.

 
 
 

*NOTE:  The title of this post is a line from Don Henley’s Dirty Laundry.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Helen Fitzgerald, Peter James, Wendy James

Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?*

Have you ever watched someone do something, and wished you could be like that person? It’s not really envy, but it is wanting what another person has or can do. And it’s a very human emotion, really.

It’s little wonder, then, that it shows up in crime fiction. That feeling of wanting to be like someone else can add an interesting layer of character development. And it can add suspense to a story, especially if it’s taken too far…

In Agatha Christie’s Death in the Clouds (AKA Death in the Air), we are introduced to London hairstylist’s assistant Jane Grey. She’s accustomed to dealing with upper-middle-class and upper-class clients, and listening to their stories. It’s not really that she’s envious of them, but she certainly wouldn’t mind a taste of that life. So, when she wins a sweepstakes, she decides on,
 

‘A week at Le Pinet. So many of her ladies had been going to Le Pinet, or just come back from Le Pinet. Jane…had thought to herself, “Why the devil can’t I go to Le Pinet?” Well, now she could.’
 

Jane finds herself drawn into a murder investigation when a fellow passenger on her flight back to London is poisoned. Hercule Poirot is on the same flight, and he works with Chief Inspector Japp to find out who the killer is. There’s more than one possibility, too, since the victim, Marie Morisot, was a well-known moneylender with some desperate clients.

In Charlotte Jay’s A Hank of Hair, we meet Gilbert Hand, junior partner in a small bookselling/publishing firm. After the death of his wife, Rachel, Hand takes his doctor’s advice, and moves to London for a fresh start. He takes a room in respectable hotel and settles in. One day, he discovers that the davenport in his room has a storage area with an unusual package in it. He opens the package to find that it contains a long coil of dark hair. Immediately, Hand is fascinated by the hair, and wonders how it came to be there and whose it was. Soon enough, he learns that the person who had the room before him was a man named Freddie Doyle. Now curious about Doyle, Hand starts to ask some questions. Over time, he becomes more and more obsessed with Doyle, and imagines that he’s in some sort of ‘chess match’ with him. At the same time as he sees Doyle as an opponent, Hand is also fascinated with his life. It’s not long before that obsession spins out of control.

There’s a similar sort of fascination/envy in Ruth Rendell’s 13 Steps Down. In one plot thread of the novel, Mix Cellini earns his living repairing exercise equipment. That’s how he meets supermodel Merissa Nash. Soon enough, Cellini becomes obsessed with her, and imagines a relationship that isn’t really there. At the same time, he learns about notorious serial killer Richard Christie. The murderer’s life fascinates the phobic, neurotic Christie. And, as his own life isn’t particularly interesting, his fantasies soon become more and more real to him. It’s not long before Cellini’s life comes closer and closer to Christie’s, with tragic results. I know, I know, fans of A Judgement in Stone.

Megan Abbott’s Die a Little is the story of Pasadena schoolteacher Lora King. Lora and her brother, Bill, are very close. So, when Bill falls in love with former Hollywood dressmaker’s assistant Alice Steele, Lora’s naturally concerned. But for Bill’s sake, she tries to get along with Alice. Then, Bill and Alice get married. Soon, Alice is the envy of their group of friends. She always hosts the perfect party, cooks the perfect meals, and manages to do it without looking frazzled. Still, Lora has questions about her new sister-in-law. Some things about Alice just don’t add up. As Lora slowly learns more and more about Alice’s secret life, she’s more and more repulsed by it. At the same time, though, she is irresistibly drawn to it. Alice seems to be sophisticated in a way that Lora isn’t. Then, there’s a murder, and Alice could very well be mixed up in it. Telling herself that she’s trying to protect her brother, Lora begins to ask questions about the death. And it turns out that she’s in far deeper than she thought…

And then there’s Wendy James’ The Lost Girls. Fourteen-year-old Angela Buchanan spends the summer of 1978 staying with her Aunt Barbara and Uncle Doug Griffin, and her cousins, Mick and Jane. Angela naturally bonds with Mick and his friends, since they are close in age. Jane is a little younger, and often ends up being a tagalong. She looks up to Angela, and very much wants to be like her, as Angela seems so mature and sophisticated. Then, one day, Angela goes missing. She’s later found dead, with a scarf around her head. At first, the members of her family, and the friends she spent time with, are of a lot of interest to the police. But then, there’s another, similar, death. Now, it looks as though there’s a multiple killer around – one the Sydney press has dubbed the Sydney Strangler. The murderer is never found, though. Some thirty-five years later, documentary maker Erin Fury is doing a piece on families of murder victims. She wants to interview the Griffin family, and finally gets permission. And as she speaks to the different members, we see how Angela’s life and death impacted everyone.

It’s only natural to look up to, or wish you were like, someone else. It’s human nature. Sometimes it can spin out of control, though. And even when it doesn’t, it’s an interesting plot thread and piece of character development.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Charlotte Jay, Megan Abbott, Ruth Rendell, Wendy James