Category Archives: Wilkie Collins

How Can I Leave a Buried Treasure Behind?

As this is posted, it’s 59 years since Richard ‘Dick’ Hickock and Perry Smith murdered the members of the Clutter family in their Kansas home. They’d heard that there was a lot of money hidden on the Clutter farm, and they were determined to get it. As you’ll know, their story was made famous in Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, which is a fictional account of what happened.

Hickock and Smith aren’t by any means the only ones to have been lured by the promise of treasure. The possibility of finding valuable jewels, money, etc. has fueled people’s imaginations for a very long time. And it’s a very common plot point in crime fiction, too. Greed, and what it can do to people, is a very effective theme in a novel.

Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone begins as Colonel John Hardcastle and some other soldiers storm India’s Palace of Seringaptam in 1799. There are stories of treasure, and, in fact, Hardcastle finds a valuable diamond called the Moonstone there. The stone is supposedly cursed, so that anyone who removes it is also cursed, as is anyone who comes into possession of it. That legend doesn’t bother Hardcastle, though, and he removes the jewel. Later, he bequeaths it to his niece, Rachel Verinder, to be given to her on her eighteenth birthday. She duly receives the gift, and it soon causes much more trouble than the Verinders had imagined. Throughout the story, it’s interesting to see how stories of this treasure, and the possibility of getting it, impact the characters.

In Agatha Christie’s short story Manx Gold, we meet Fenella Mylecharane and Juan Faraker, a recently-engaged couple who travel to the Isle of Man. They’re there to hear the reading of the will of Fenella’s eccentric Uncle Myles. Also present are two other potential heirs to his wealth. But it’s not going to be easy to get the money.  It seems that Uncle Myles found buried treasure on the island. According to the will, each potential heir will be given sets of clues to where Uncle Myles’ treasure is. The first to find that treasure gets to claim it. All of the heirs receive their clues, and the race is on. The question is, of course, whether all of the contestants will stay alive long enough to find the treasure…

Martha Grimes’ The Anodyne Necklace begins as a dog discovers the bone of a human finger in the village of Littlebourne. Inspector Richard Jury is called to the village to look into the matter. He soon discovers the rest of the body, which is identified as Cora Binns. It seems she had gone to Littlebourne to interview for a secretarial job, but never got to the appointment. Cora worked for a London secretarial agency, so Jury looks for London connections as well as for motives for murder among Littlebourne’s residents. In the meantime, Jury’s friend, Melrose Plant, has also gone to Littlebourne, as he is intrigued by the mystery. He and Jury find that this murder has its roots in a robbery that took place a year earlier, as well as stolen jewels and an attack on another resident of the village. And it shows that that desire for treasure can get to nearly anyone.

Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series begins with Crocodile in the Sandbank. In it, Miss Peabody has planned a trip to Egypt. At the time that this novel takes place (1884), ‘proper’ ladies do not travel alone, so she’s brought a companion. When her companion becomes ill and has to return to England, Miss Peabody is worried that she may have to cancel her trip. Then, by chance, she meets Evelyn Barton-Forbes, who’s just been abandoned by the man she’d hoped to marry. Her family had disapproved of him, so she turned her back on them. With no money and no options, she’s only too happy to serve as Miss Peabody’s companion, and the trip goes ahead as planned. In the course of their travels, the two women meet archaeologists Radcliffe and Walter Emerson, who are working on an excavation in Amarna. The two women visit the dig, and soon get caught up in a mystery involving tales of a mummy that walks at night, hidden treasure, and a possible curse on the dig site. As the novel goes on, it’s interesting to see how the promise of riches and treasure can impact people.

There’s also Edmund Bohan’s The Lost Taonga. In that novel, geologist Julian von Haast (who existed in real life) is duped into leading a group of thieves, including Countess Margarita Szechnyi and her partner in crime, Boyland (‘the Collector’) to a sacred burial cave on New Zealand’s South Island. The understanding was that the visitors would see the cave but remove nothing from it. The thieves, of course, have other plans, and, later that night, they return to the cave and plunder it. The local Māori, to whom the cave and its contents are sacred, are furious at this desecration. So, when there’s a murder, they are blamed for it. But this murder isn’t as simple as that. Inspector Patrick O’Rorke investigates the matter, and he finds that the trail leads from New Zealand, to Chile, and to Europe, and involves some rich and powerful people.

There’s just something about legends and stories of treasure. They’ve captured people’s imaginations for many years, and it’s easy to see why. And that impulse can make for a very effective element in a crime novel.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Green Day’s Ordinary World.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Edmund Bohan, Elizabeth Peters, Martha Grimes, Truman Capote, Wilkie Collins

Strut My Stuff, My Stuff is so Shiny*

An interesting review of Donald Henderson’s A Voice Like Velvet at FictionFan’s excellent review blog has got me thinking about the all-too-human wish for things. This novel’s focus is Ernest Bisham, a radio broadcaster who is also a burglar. I admit I haven’t read the novel (yet), but I intend to. You’ll want to read FictionFan’s fine review of it to get a sense of the story. And while you’re there, you’ll want to check out the rest of that top-notch blog. It’s one of my must-visits.

Batham doesn’t take things because he wants to be rich. He takes them for the thrill of doing so, and because he likes that sensation of ‘Ooh, shiny!’ And he’s not the only crime-fiction character who feels that way.

For instance, Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone begins as Colonel John Herncastle steals a diamond called the Moonstone from a palace in India. He doesn’t take it because he’s desperate for money; he takes because he is acquisitive. Legend has it that anyone who disturbs the temple by taking that diamond will be cursed, and so will anyone who ends up with the stone. As the story goes on, we see how that dire prediction plays out. Herncastle bequeaths the stone to his niece, Rachel Verinder, with the proviso that it be given to her on her eighteenth birthday. Herncastle and Rachel’s mother, Lady Julia Verinder, have had a rift for quite some time, so there is talk that his gift is actually a curse. And so it seems to be. First, the stone is stolen. Then, one of the housemaids disappears, and is later found dead. There are other incidents, too. Sergeant Cuff investigates, and slowly, over the course of two years, traces the stone and learns who stole it and why.

In Agatha Christie’s Cards on the Table, we are introduced to Anne Meredith. She is among eight people who are invited to a dinner party at the home of the eccentric Mr. Shaitana. This isn’t a ‘typical’ dinner party though. Shaitana has invited four people (of whom Anne is one) who he believes have gotten away with murder. He also has invited four sleuths, among whom are Hercule Poirot and detective novelist Ariadne Oliver. During the meal, Shaitana drops hints about the sorts of murders he suspects have been committed. After dinner, everyone settles down to play bridge. At some point in the evening, someone stabs Shaitana. The only possible suspects are the four people Shaitana believes are murderers. Poirot and the other sleuths investigate to find out who the killer is. And they find that each suspect was, indeed, mixed up in a possible murder. In Anne’s case, the victim was a woman to whom she was companion, and who died of poison. At the time, it was believed that this death was accidental: the woman ingested hat paint instead of her medication. But, was it an accident? It turns out that Anne Meredith has a habit of taking things, not because she is desperate for them, but because she wants to have them. Was that enough to drive her to kill – twice?

As Erle Stanley Gardner’s The Case of the Shoplifter’s Shoe opens, Perry Mason and Della Street duck into a department store to get out of a sudden rainstorm. There, they witness a store security officer arrest Sarah Breel for shoplifting. It seems that this is a regular habit of hers; she sees things that she wants, and she takes them because she wants them. Her niece, Virginia Trent, usually goes shopping with her to avoid any trouble, but this time, the two got separated for just long enough for Sarah to take advantage of the opportunity. Mason gets involved with the family when some valuable diamonds go missing, and then there’s a murder. Aunt Sarah is suspected of the theft and the possibly the murder, and Mason goes to work to find out the truth.

Adrian Hyland’s Gunshot Road features Aboriginal Community Police Officer (ACPO) Emily Tempest. In the novel, she investigates the death of a geologist named Albert ‘Doc’ Ozolins. On the surface, it looks as though he was killed as the result of a drunken quarrel. But Emily sees little pieces of evidence that suggest otherwise, and she decides to investigate. In one sub-plot of this novel, she happens to be in the small town of Bluebush, when a local electronics store owner rushes out of his shop, complaining that someone has stolen a valuable iPod. It’s not long before Emily identifies the thief as fifteen-year-old Danny Brambles. She is a friend of his family, and she knows that Danny is not a violent, dangerous person. He didn’t take the iPod out of greed, either; he saw it and wanted it, and couldn’t resist the urge to take it. And there’s the fact that this particular shop owner isn’t exactly a fan of Aboriginal people. Emily knows that if she arrests Danny, he could go to jail, which would do him much more harm than good. At the same time, he stole from the store. So, with a little tact and finesse, she gets the store owner to take the iPod back and not pursue the matter, in exchange for which Danny will do chores and work off his debt to the owner.

And then there’s Patricia Abbott’s Eve Moran, whom we meet in Concrete Angel. All her life, Eve has wanted to acquire. And she’s been willing to do whatever it takes, including murder, to get what she wants, whether it’s jewelry, men, clothes, or something else. Her daughter, Christine, has been raised in this toxic environment, and has a very dysfunctional relationship with her mother. Everything begins to change when Christine sees that her younger brother is getting drawn into the same toxic world.  Now, she’s going to have to find a way to free both her brother and herself from their mother, and it’s not going to be easy.

There is something about acquiring things that has an irresistible appeal for some people. That trait can have all sorts of terrible consequences. It can also lend layers to character development.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Lin-Manual Miranda’s Shiny.

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Filed under Adrian Hyland, Agatha Christie, Donald Henderson, Erle Stanley Gardner, Patricia Abbott, Wilkie Collins

I Can’t Face Another Day*

Even in today’s world of better understanding of mental health, many people still don’t feel comfortable talking about suicide. It can be incredibly difficult to talk about the depression and sadness that lead people to take that step. But, of course, we need to.

And suicide doesn’t just affect those who take their own lives. Those left behind are devastated, and often feel a deep sense of guilt and, often, shame. Because mental health issues such as depression often contribute to suicide, it’s not something people have tended to discuss openly, but we should.

Suicide is there. And it causes a great deal of pain. The recent deaths by suicide of Kate Spade and of Anthony Bourdain have brought suicide into the public conversation, but it’s a tragic reality for many families. And we see that in crime fiction, too. In fact, it’s interesting to note how often characters don’t want a death to have been suicide. They don’t want to bear the guilt that comes with suicide. Or, they don’t want to believe a loved one was depressed/upset/etc. enough to commit suicide. Or…

There’s a mention of suicide in Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone. In that novel, Rachel Verinder receives a valuable diamond called the Moonstone for her eighteenth birthday. It may not be the generous gift it seems to be, though, because it is said to be cursed. And misfortune soon befalls the Verinder family. On the very night Rachel receives the diamond, it’s stolen from her room. Then, second housemaid Roseanna Spearman disappears and is found to have committed suicide. This devastates her family, and, of course, saddens the members of the household where she works. Sergeant Cuff investigates the theft of the diamond, and, over the course of the next two years, traces its whereabouts and finds out who stole it. And we see how the theft and suicide are related.

Agatha Christie mentions suicide in more than one of her stories. In And Then There Were None, for instance, we are introduced to Miss Emily Brent. She is one of ten people who are invited to a house on Indian Island, off the Devon coast. On the night she and the others arrive, each one is accused of causing the death of at least one other person. In the case of Miss Brent, it’s the death of Beatrice Taylor, a former housemaid who threw herself into a river. Miss Brent insists that Beatrice’s death was not her fault; in fact, she’s quite smug about it on the surface. That night, one of the other guests dies of what turns out to be poison. Then, there’s another death later that night. Now, it’s clear that the guests have been lured to the island, and that their lives are in danger. Miss Brent is not immune, as we learn when she is killed by what looks like a bee sting. And it’s interesting to see that, as we get to know her a bit, we see that she is more haunted by Beatrice’s death than she lets on.  Suicide also impacts The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and The Hollow, among others.

There’s an Ellery Queen novel in which a suicide towards the end of the novel rocks Queen to the core. Without going into details, Queen feels that he bears some of the responsibility for this suicide, and he finds that very difficult. Among other things, this shows a bit of Queen’s human side, if I may put it that way. And it shows a bit of the impact a suicide can have on those left behind.

We also see that impact in Giorgio Scerbanenco’s A Private Venus. Davide Auseri happens to be in Milan one day, where he meets Alberta Radelli. On impulse, he invites her for a drive to Florence and a day there. She agrees, and the two find they enjoy each other’s company. At the end of the day, Alberta begs Davide to take her with him, and not back to Milan. He demurs, and she insists. Then, she threatens to commit suicide if he doesn’t take her. He refuses again. Not long afterwards, Alberta’s body is found in a field outside Milan, and it seems she’s carried out her threat. The thought that he is responsible for this suicide devastates Davide, leaving him inconsolable. He takes to heavy drinking, and even trips to rehabilitation facilities don’t help. Now, his father is deeply concerned about his son, and hires Dr. Duca Lamberti to help. Lamberti isn’t sure what he can do, but he agrees. As he gets to know Davide, he finally learns the truth about the young man’s depression. Lamberti finally concludes that the only way to solve this is to find out what really happened to Alberta Radelli, so as to relieve Davide of his guilt. It turns out that Alberta was murdered, but the novel has a very vivid depiction of a someone consumed by grief and guilt because of a suicide.

Nicolas Freeling’s Double-Barrel begins as Amsterdam police detective Piet Van der Valk is seconded to the small town of Zwinderen. Someone has been sending vicious anonymous letters to various residents, and they’ve had terrible consequences. In fact, two of the recipients have committed suicide. The local police haven’t been able to find out who wrote the letters, but whoever it is bears some responsibility for those deaths. As Van der Valk and his wife, Arlette, get to know the people in town, they learn that more than one person has secrets to hide…

In Arnaldur Indriðason’s Jar City, Reykjavík police inspector Erlendur and his team investigate the murder of a seemingly inoffensive elderly man named Holberg. At first, it looks like a robbery gone horribly wrong. But soon enough, the evidence suggests something different. So, Erlendur and the team look into the victim’s past. They learn that he’d been accused of rape more than once. The first to make that accusation was a woman named Kolbrún. When she went to the police, they didn’t take her seriously; in fact, they humiliated her. Her distress was so great that she committed suicide. Although this all happened years ago, Kolbrún’s sister, Elín, still grieves. She is also still bitter about the way the police handled the case, and blames the police, at least in part, for her sister’s suicide. Erlendur knows that Elín is suffering, but he also knows that she may be an important source of information. So, he takes the risk of talking to her about what happened. She is no friend of the police, but she ends up being helpful.

It doesn’t take a detective, or crime fiction, really, to know how awful suicide is, both for the person who takes that step, and for those who are left behind. It’s hard to remember at times, but we don’t have to go through life’s pain alone. For anyone who’s thinking about suicide, here are some people to talk to:

 

Australia – 1300 22 4636

Canada – 1-833-456-4566

India – 91-22-27546669

Ireland – 087 2 60 90 90

New Zealand – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Spain (Also serves some Latin American countries) – 717-003-717

UK –  08457 90 90 90

USA – 1-800-273-8255

 

If I didn’t list your country, that doesn’t mean there isn’t help. There is. Reach out.

 

We can all do our bit to help. If someone needs to talk, we can listen – without judgement. We can help find resources. We can take it seriously when someone is depressed and check in to be sure that person has support. We can’t make life’s sadness go away. But we can stand together to get through it.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Elton John’s Funeral For a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Arnaldur Indriðason, Ellery Queen, Giorgio Scerbanenco, Nicolas Freeling, Wilkie Collins

No Smoke Without Fire*

I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying, ‘There’s no smoke without fire.’ That belief – that a story doesn’t generally start unless there’s a kernel of truth to it – is part of the reason so many people believe gossip. It’s also why, if someone is a ‘person of interest’ in a criminal investigation, it can be so hard to get rid of that stigma, even after someone else is shown to be guilty.

It may not be the most appealing quality we humans have, but that old saying can make for a very interesting layer of character development, tension, and even plot points in crime fiction. There are many examples in the genre, of course. Here are just a few; I know you’ll think of lots more.

Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone begins at the Palace of Seringaptam in 1799. During the storming of the palace, Colonel John Herncastle takes a valuable yellow diamond called the Moonstone. The story has always been that anyone who steals the diamond is cursed, and so is anyone who comes into possession of it. And plenty of people believe that story, including Herncastle. When he dies, he bequeaths the diamond to his niece, Rachel Verinder, to be given to her on her eighteenth birthday. Herncastle and his sister (and Rachel’s mother), Lady Julia Verinder, were on very bad terms, and the gossip is that the stone was given to that family as a curse. And sure enough, bad things begin to happen to the Verinder family. First, the stone itself is stolen on the evening it’s given to Rachel. Then, one of the household maids disappears and later commits suicide. People’s willingness to believe the gossip about the curse is a helpful disguise for what’s really going on. In fact, it takes Sergeant Cuff two years to trace the diamond and solve the mystery. In the end, he’s successful, and it turns out this mystery has nothing to do with a curse.

In Agatha Christie’s Five Little Pigs, Hercule Poirot gets a new client, Carla Lemarchant. She’s become engaged to John Rattery, and on the surface, it seems that she’s got everything. She’s wealthy, intelligent, attractive, and in love. But Carla doesn’t feel she and her fiancé can marry until the mystery of her father’s death is solved. Sixteen years earlier, famous painter Amyas Crale (Carla’s father) was poisoned. At the time, his wife Caroline was believed guilty, and there was evidence against her. In fact, she was arrested, tried, and convicted. A year later, she died in prison. Carla believes that her mother was innocent and wants her named cleared. But it’s not just because she thinks someone else is the murder. It’s also because she doesn’t want the gossip about her mother’s guilt to get in the way of her marriage. Poirot agrees to look into the case and interviews the five people who were ‘on the scene’ at the time of the murder. He also gets written accounts from each one. And, in the end, he finds out who the killer is, and what the motive was. You’re absolutely right, fans of Crooked House.

Very often, the power of anonymous letters is partly that people think there must be some truth to them. That’s what we see, for instance, in Nicolas Freeling’s Double Barrel. Amsterdam police detective Piet Van Der Valk is seconded to the small town of Zwinderen to help with a strange case. Several people in town have been getting anonymous letters insinuating all sorts of things. It’s the sort of town where everyone knows everyone, so the letters have a real impact. In fact, they’ve led to two suicides and a mental breakdown. The local police haven’t made much headway. After all, if you admit you’ve had a letter, then you may be admitting that what’s in the letter is true. So, it’s hoped that Van Der Valk will be able to get some answers. He and his wife, Arlette, travel to Zwinderen, where the get to know the locals. And in the end, he finds out who’s been sending the letters and why.

In Elizabeth George’s Missing Joseph, Robin Sage, Vicar of Winslough, has dinner one evening with Juliet Spence and her thirteen-year-old daughter, Maggie.  Shortly afterwards, he dies of what turns out to have been water hemlock poisoning. At first, Sage’s death is put down to a tragic accident. But Juliet is an herbalist, and it doesn’t make sense that she would have mistakenly served water hemlock to her guest. Simon St. James is staying in the area with his wife, Deborah. When he learns what happened, he begins to have some suspicions, so he asks his friend, Inspector Thomas Lynley, to look into the case. Lynley and Sergeant Barbara Havers learn that there are several people in Winslough who might have wanted to kill Sage. That’s not enough, though, for those who believe Juliet Spence is guilty. That ‘no smoke without fire’ attitude makes life extremely difficult for both her and Maggie.

And then there’s Jonothan Cullinane’s Red Herring. It’s 1951 in Auckland, and the dock workers – the wharfies – are preparing to go on strike. It’s in the government’s interest to prevent that strike, and some people are prepared to do whatever it takes to stop the wharfies. For their part, the wharfies are not about to back off from their demands, so the situation is ugly. Against this backdrop, PI Johnny Molloy is hired to find Francis ‘Frank’ O’Phelan, AKA Frank O’Flynn, who is believed to have committed insurance fraud. It’s soon clear that some dangerous people do not want him to find O’Flynn; they even give Molloy a very unpleasant ‘suggestion’ to drop the case. He and reporter Caitlin O’Carolan persist, though, and they get to the truth. One of the threads that runs through this novel is the anti-communist hysteria of the times. In fact, that’s used against Molloy and O’Carolan to try to stop them from finding out the truth. At that time, if there was even a hint that someone might be a leftist, that was enough to sabotage a career or worse.

And that’s the thing about that belief that there’s no smoke without fire. In real life, it can sometimes have serious consequences. In fiction, though, it can add layers of interest to a novel.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by James Hunter.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Elizabeth George, Jonothan Cullinane, Nicolas Freeling, Wilkie Collins

Am I Too Late?*

sleuths-and-late-appearancesAn interesting post from Tracy at Bitter Tea and Mystery has got me thinking about timing. In her post (which you should read) about Ian Fleming’s From Russia With Love, Tracy points out that James Bond doesn’t make an appearance in that novel until later in the plot. And that’s not the only story in which we see that.

When the sleuth doesn’t come into the story until later, the author has to build interest and suspense in other ways. It might be through following other characters; or, the author may choose to focus on the buildup to the murder or other crime. There are other approaches, too. Whichever choice the author makes, the key to having the sleuth come into the story later is ensuring that there’s some way to engage the reader.

For example, Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone begins with the removal of a valuable diamond called the Moonstone from a palace in India. The thief, Colonel John Herncastle, later bequeaths the stone to his niece, Rachel Verinder, as a gift for her eighteenth birthday. However, it’s not the generous bequest it may seem to be. The story is that the stone curses anyone who takes it from its rightful place, and misfortune soon befalls the Verinder family. First, the stone is stolen from Rachel on the night she receives it. Then, second housemaid Rosanna Spearman, who has her own troubled history, disappears and is later found to have committed suicide. Sergeant Cuff investigates the robbery, and, after a two-year search, traces the stone. He doesn’t make an appearance, though, until later in the novel. Before we meet Cuff, we learn the story of the stone, of the Herncastle and Verinder families and staffs, and of the curse.

In Christianna Brand’s Green For Danger, Inspector Cockrill investigates the death of postman Joseph Higgins. It seems that Higgins was taken to Heron Park Hospital, where he was operated on for a broken femur. But he died on the table in what everyone thinks is a tragic accident. In fact, Cockrill himself thinks so at first. But one night at a party, Sister Marion Bates, who is a nurse at the hospital, has too much to drink, and says that she knows Higgins was murdered, and how it was done. She herself is then killed. And Higgins’ widow had already insisted he was murdered. So Cockrill starts to ask questions and investigate more thoroughly. This story doesn’t begin with the death or with Cockrill. It starts as Higgins is making his rounds, delivering letters to the people who are later mixed up in this murder case. Slowly, we learn who they are, what brought them to Heron Park, and a bit about their histories. Cockrill doesn’t come into the story until a bit later. Instead, Brand builds engagement by introducing the other characters and showing how they all know Higgins, and what their relationships are to one another.

Agatha Christie’s The Hollow begins as a group of people plan for a weekend at The Hollow, which is the country home of Sir Henry and Lady Lucy Angkatell. Slowly, we get to know a little about Sir Henry and Lady Lucy. We also meet the rest of the house party. The guests are to be well-known sculptor Henrietta Savernake, Harley Street specialist Dr. John Christow and his wife Gerda, and another relative, Midge Hardcastle. Also invited are relatives Edward Angkatell and David Angkatell. Christie gives background detail on all of these characters and their network of relationships (and those turn out to be very important in the story). Everyone arrives, and the weekend begins. Hercule Poirot, who’s taken a nearby cottage, is invited for lunch on the Sunday, so he doesn’t make an appearance until farther along in the story. When he does, though, he finds that Christow has been shot, and his killer is holding the weapon. At first, he thinks it’s a macabre tableau arranged for his ‘amusement.’ But it turns out to be quite real. The case seems very straightforward, and that’s how Inspector Grange looks at it. But Poirot isn’t sure. As he investigates, he finds that the case is quite different to what it seems at first glance.

And then there’s Karin Fossum’s Calling Out For You (AKA The Indian Bride). That novel begins as we meet Gunder Jormann, who’s lived a very quiet life in the Norwegian village of Elvestad. He’s no longer young, but he’s in reasonable physical shape and he’s a steady worker. In other words, he’s a solid prospect for marriage, and that’s what he wants to do. He becomes fascinated with the idea of choosing a bride from India, and makes his plans to travel to Mumbai. All of this shocks his sister, Marie, who finds many reasons he shouldn’t go ahead with his plan. But Gundar heads to Mumbai, anyway. Soon after his arrival, he meets Poona Bai and is soon smitten. It’s not long before he proposes marriage, and she accepts. She has to take care of the details of ending her time in India, and get the necessary papers to go to Norway. So Gundar returns to Elvestad with the agreement that Poona will join him as soon as possible. On the day of her return, though, Gundar isn’t able to meet her at the airport. Marie has been in a tragic accident, and he can’t leave her. So he delegates a friend to meet Poona. But that friend and Poona miss each other. The next morning, Poona’s body is found in a field not far from Gundar’s home. Oslo Inspector Konrad Sejer, and his assistant Jacob Skarre, investigate Poona’s death. But they don’t make an appearance until later in the novel. Instead, the novel’s focus at the beginning is Gundar, his trip to Mumbai, his meeting with Poona, and his relationship with Marie and with the other people of Elvestad. Fossum also gives background information on those other residents.

It can be tricky to have the sleuth make an appearance later in a crime novel, but it can be successful. Which examples of this have stayed with you?

Thanks, Tracy, for the inspiration! Folks, treat yourself and visit Tracy’s excellent blog. There you’ll find all sorts of fine reviews

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Tavares’ Too Late.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Christianna Brand, Ian Fleming, Karin Fossum, Wilkie Collins