Give Me the Simple Life*

As this is posted, it’s 164 years since the publication of Henry David Thoroeau’s Walden; or, Life in the Woods. As you’ll know, one of the important messages in this book is the value of simplicity. Thoreau advocated for living close to nature and rejecting consumerism and materialism. And there’s something to be said for that perspective. If you’ve ever moved house, then you know how having a lot of ‘stuff’ can make everything all the more complicated.

There are a lot of crime-fictional characters who like to live very simply. And it’s interesting to get their perspectives, especially as they contrast with what a lot of people value. It’s just as interesting to see how they’ve been viewed in different places and at different times.

In Agatha Christie’s Dumb Witness (AKA Poirot Loses a Client), for instance, we are introduced to Julia and Isabel Tripp. They live in the small town of Market Basing where they are friends with Wilhelmina ‘Minnie’ Lawson. When Miss Lawson’s wealthy employer, Miss Emily Arundell, suddenly dies, it’s put down to liver failure. But Hercule Poirot thinks differently. He had gotten a letter from Miss Lawson, asking him to investigate a ‘delicate matter’ that she didn’t detail. He and Captain Hastings didn’t follow up until Miss Arundell was already dead, but he still feels an obligation to his client. So, he begins to look into the matter to find out who would want to kill the victim. There’s no lack of suspects, as she had a large fortune and financially strapped relatives. Surprisingly, though, it’s Miss Lawson who inherits the bulk of the money. So, she also could have had a motive. Since the Tripps are friends of Miss Lawson’s, Poirot and Hastings naturally want to talk to them. They find that the Tripps are dedicated to living a very simple life, with few possessions and very much ‘back to nature’ food. After their conversation, they invite their guests for lunch:
 

‘…some shredded raw vegetables, brown bread and butter, fruit.’
 

Needless to say, Poirot quickly finds an excuse for the two men to leave. The Tripps’ lifestyle is not the reason for Miss Arundell’s murder. But it’s an interesting look at then-contemporary perspectives on the ‘back to nature’ lifestyle.

Ellery Queen’s The Origin of Evil begins as Queen is trying to get some writing done. He’s taken a house in the Hollywood Hills to do just that, and he’s hoping for some peace and quiet. Such is not to be, though. Laurel Hill finds out that he’s there and wants him to investigate the death of her father, Leander. It seems he died of a massive heart attack, which his daughter says was deliberately brought on by a series of macabre ‘gifts’ left for him. What’s more, his business partner, Roger Priam, has also been receiving bizarre ‘gifts.’ Against his better judgement, Queen finds himself intrigued, and starts to ask questions. Along the way, he meets Priam’s wife, Delia, and his stepson, Crowe ‘Mac’ McGowan. Mac is convinced that the world is on the brink of destruction from nuclear weapons, and he wants to be prepared to survive. So, he lives in a treehouse he’s built, and wears as little as possible – often nothing at all. His aim is to be able to make his way in a world where all of the things we take for granted are gone. Mac’s commitment to a ‘back to nature’ life isn’t the reason for the strange packages, nor Leander Hill’s death. But it adds leaven to the story and a layer to his character.

Tony Hillerman’s Jim Chee is a member of the Navajo Nation. He is also a member of the Navajo Tribal (now the Navajo Nation) Police. In many ways, Chee is a traditional Navajo. He’s very much attuned to nature. More to the point, he’s not particularly interested in material things like a big house or a new car. He has the things he needs, but they’re quite simple. For instance, he lives in a trailer, and he doesn’t have a large wardrobe or the latest in sound systems. His wants are few, and he’s basically content with that.

Fans of Åsa Larsson’s Rebecka Martinsson novels will know that, at the beginning of that series, she is a Stockholm lawyer. She’s not greedy, or even overly ambitious. But she wants to get ahead. Circumstances return her to her hometown of Kiruna, and she ends up staying there. As time goes on, she becomes more and more attuned to nature, and lives more and more simply. She does almost everything on her own, too, and isn’t really interested in the trappings of modern consumerism. In fact, as time goes on, her simple lifestyle brings her more contentment, in its way, than would a very high salary and a plush lifestyle.

John Burdett’s Sonchai Jitplecheep also lives a very simple life. He is a member of the Royal Thai Police, and mostly works in and near Bangkok. He is also an observant Buddhist. As such, he tries to live by the Buddhist tradition of putting aside cravings. That includes wanting things like a fine house, a good car, and so on. So, he has very little. He lives in one room and keeps only what he needs. He eats simply, too. For Sonchai, though, it’s not important to have a lot. In fact, one’s better off with less. So, he’s not, in general, discontent with his lifestyle.

Not everyone is content to live very simply. But, for those who are, it’s interesting to see how their choices and lifestyles contrast with the focus a lot of people have on consumerism. These are just a few examples. I know you’ll think of more.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Rube Bloom and Harry Ruby.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Åsa Larsson, Ellery Queen, Henry David Thoreau, John Burdett, Tony Hillerman

Jump*

One way authors invite readers to engage in a story is to begin that story at a climactic moment. In other words, authors invite the reader to ‘jump right in’ to the action. This climactic plot structure has the advantage of ‘hooking’ readers immediately. Then, as the story goes on, the author adds in details about the characters, about what led to the story’s climax, and so on. It’s got some disadvantages, too. Readers don’t really get to know the characters well before a major incident happens. So, it can be hard to identify (or choose not to identify) with a character. It can also be tricky to keep the story moving if it’s started with a major plot event. Still, it can work well.

There are lots of examples of crime novels in which this happens. For instance, Agatha Christie’s Sad Cypress begins with the trial of Elinor Carlisle for the murder of Mary Gerrard. We don’t know who those two people really are at first, nor what, exactly, led to the murder. Soon enough, Christie fills in the gaps, starting with an anonymous letter in which someone alleges that Mary Gerrard is unduly influencing Elinor’s wealthy Aunt Laura Welman. The inference is, of course, that Elinor may want to look into the matter if she’s to be assured of her considerable inheritance. So, she and her fiancé, Roderick ‘Roddy’ Welman do just that, and pay a visit to Aunt Laura. Unexpectedly, Roddy is smitten with Mary, to the point where he and Elinor break off their engagement. Not long afterwards, Mary is poisoned, and there is evidence that Elinor is responsible. But is she the killer? The local GP, Dr. Peter Lord, wants her name cleared, and asks Hercule Poirot to investigate. Then, the story leads up to the trial, and we learn the truth about what happened to Mary.

Kate Atkinson’s One Good Turn begins as Paul Bradley is driving his silver Peugeot in Edinburgh. He brakes suddenly to avoid hitting a pedestrian and is hit from behind by a blue Honda. The Honda driver gets out and the men begin an argument. Then, the Honda driver brandishes a bat and attacks Bradley. Mystery novelist Martin Canning happens to be nearby, and instinctively throws his computer case at the Honda driver, saving Bradley’s life. Out of a sense of obligation, Canning accompanies Bradley to a local hospital, and gets drawn into much more than he imagined. After detailing this climactic event, Atkinson begins to tell the different characters’ stories. We learn what they are like, how they happen to be at that place at that time, and what led to the crash. Then, we learn what happens after the crash, and how it impacts everyone involved.

There’s a sort of climactic plot structure in Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Mercy (AKA The Keeper of Lost Causes). It starts as an unnamed character is involved in a desperate situation. We don’t yet know who that person is, nor how that person got into that situation. But the reader is invited right away to engage in the story and learn more. And very soon, Adler-Olsen starts to tell the rest of the story. Copenhagen homicide detective Carl Mørck recently returned to work after a line-of-duty shooting incident in which he was badly injured. One of his colleagues was left with paralysis, and another was killed. So, he’s taken some time off for recovery. A lot of people think he’s not ready to come back, though. He’s even more difficult than usual to work with, to the point that his colleagues don’t want to work with him any more. So, he’s placed in charge of a new department, ‘Department Q,’ that’s dedicated to investigating cases of ‘special interest’ (unsolved cases). It’s a strategy to placate members of the press and public who think the police aren’t doing enough to solve difficult cases. The first case Mørck and his assistant, Hafez al-Assad, take on is the five-year-old disappearance of promising politician Merete Lynnggard. She disappeared during a ferry ride, and it was always believed she went overboard in a terrible accident. But there are hints that she may still be alive. If she is, she may not have much time left. So Mørck and Assad will have to work quickly. As the story goes on, Adler-Olsen shares more about the characters, and fills in the blanks, as the saying goes.

Finn Bell’s Dead Lemons also begins with a climactic event. The narrator, whose name is also Finn Bell, is precariously perched on a cliff, with every chance of going over it. He’s in a wheelchair, so there’s very little he can do. Then, Bell goes on to tell the story of how he got to where he is. He reached a crossroads in his life and needed some change. His marriage was over, and a car crash had left him in a wheelchair. Wanting to start all over again, he took a cottage in the small town of Riverton, on New Zealand’s South Island. When he happened to learn about a mystery concerning the cottage’s former occupants, he got curious. Two people, a father and daughter, disappeared a year apart. Neither was found, and the mystery’s never been solved. Slowly, Bell tells the story of his interest in the mystery, the questions he starts asking, and the danger it all means for him. As he does, we learn more about his character and those of the other people involved in the story.

And then there’s Jock Serong’s The Rules of Backyard Cricket. As that novel begins, Darren Keefe is trussed up in the boot/trunk of a car. He doesn’t know where he’s being taken, but he is utterly convinced he is going to be killed. We don’t know anything, really, about him other than his predicament. But, soon enough, Serong starts to tell the story. Darren and his brother, Wally, have both always loved cricket. They played backyard cricket as children in the Melbourne suburb where they grew up, and both showed talent for the game. As time went on, they developed in different ways, mostly because of their very different personalities. Wally is very driven and disciplined. He is determined to be the best and works very hard to achieve that. Darren, who is two years younger, has rare, once-in-generation talent. But he is far less disciplined. When he is at his best, he is absolutely superb. But he is inconsistent. As the two boys grow into men, they enter the world of professional cricket, and they find that that world isn’t what they imagined. It takes its toll on both, in different ways, and ends up with Darren being trussed up in the car. The reader is invited right away to engage in the story, because it ‘jumps right in’ to the action.

And that’s the thing about climactic plot structures. They involve the reader immediately. What are your thoughts about structures like that? If you’re a writer, do you use them?

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a Van Halen song.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Finn Bell, Jock Serong, Jussi Adler-Olsen, Kate Atkinson

She Had a Very Pretty Face*

In Agatha Christie’s Murder in Mesopotamia, Hercule Poirot solves the murder of Louise Leidner, who has accompanied her husband, noted archaeologist Eric Leidner, to a dig a few hours from Baghdad. When she is killed one afternoon, Poirot finds that several people on the excavation team might have had a reason to commit murder. This novel is told from the point of view of a nurse, Amy Leatheran, who was hired to look after Mrs. Leidner. Nurse Leatheran is described as,
 

‘…a woman of thirty-five, of erect, confident bearing…. a good-humoured face with slightly prominent blue eyes and glossy brown hair.’
 

In this case, Christie gives several details about Nurse Leatheran’s physical appearance. And it certainly makes sense to let readers know what a character looks like. Most want to have at least some sense of physical appearance. It’s part of how people get to know one another.

Plenty of other crime novels also include detailed physical descriptions. For instance, in Nicholas Blake’s The Beast Must Die, we are introduced to crime writer Frank Cairnes. He’s reeling from the loss of his son, Martin ‘Martie’ in a hit-and-run tragedy. Cairnes has determined to find the man responsible for Martie’s death and kill him. After a little digging, he learns that the driver was probably a man named George Rattery. He manages to wangle an introduction to the man, whom he describes this way:
 

‘…he’s so heavy: a big fleshy man, his head recedes upwards at the back, and the top of it slopes down to a low forehead. He has a pseudo-cavalry moustache, which does not succeed in hiding his arrogant…lips. I should say he was in the middle forties.’
 

As you can see, the description is hardly flattering. And it’s interesting to see how Blake uses it to make Cairnes’ feelings about Rattery clear. Cairnes plans to murder Rattery, but those plans don’t work out. When Rattery is later found murdered, Cairnes claims that he is innocent, and asks PI and poet Nigel Strangeways to help clear his name.

Elizabeth Daly’s Unexpected Night features the Cowden family. Amberley Cowden, his sister, Alma, his tutor, Hugh Sanderson, and his mother visit the Ocean House resort at Ford’s Beach, Maine. Amberley is in extremely bad health; in fact, he’s not expected to live past his twenty-first birthday, if he even gets that far. And that’s important, because he’s due to inherit a large fortune when he turns twenty-one. On the morning of his birthday, he is found dead at the bottom of a cliff. The easy explanation is that he died of heart failure (as was expected). But what was he doing out at the cliff late at night? And it is awfully interesting that he would die on that particular night. Rare book expert Henry Gamadge is staying at the resort, and he gets involved in the case. Here’s his impression of Alma when he meets her:
 

‘A dark girl brought up the rear of the procession…Gamadge thought that she seemed neglected, unhappy and forlorn. She was rather casually dressed in a dark-blue flannel skirt, a rose-colored blouse, and a leather coat. She wore no hat. Her dark hair, cut very short, lay as smoothly as a cap on her dark head.’
 

Alma has reason to be anxious, as it turns out, when an attempt is made on her life…

Lynda La Plante’s Above Suspicion introduces readers to Detective Sergeant Anna Travis, who has just joined the Murder Squad at Queen’ Park, London. The team is working to solve the murder of seventeen-year-old Melissa Stephens, whose death may or may not be linked to six other murders. Several leads in the case seem to point to a beloved television actor named Alan Daniels. Here’s the way Daniels is described when Travis first meets him in person:
 

‘He appeared taller and slimmer, and his hair was different: blond, silky, and what seemed to her a Victorian style. His features were more delicate and the high cheekbones rendered his face more gaunt than on the screen. But his eyes in real life retained the most extraordinary violet color, enhanced by his dark eyelashes.’
 

It’s not spoiling the story to say that Travis finds Daniels physically attractive. The question, though, is whether he is also a multiple murderer…

Not all authors choose to describe characters in quite that much detail. And that makes sense if you think about it. In some cases, characters are quite minor, and too much physical description could distract the reader. In other cases, a character’s physical appearance doesn’t really impact the plot in a major way. For example, Robert Rotenberg’s Old City Hall begins as a newspaper deliverer, Gurdial Singh, gets ready to distribute copies of the Toronto Globe and Mail to his customers who live in the exclusive Market Place Tower condominiums. When he gets to the home of noted radio personality Kevin Brace, he’s surprised to find the door slightly open. Matters get even stranger when Brace comes to the door and tells Singh,
 

‘‘I killed her, Mr. Singh…I killed her.’’
 

The ‘her’ refers to Brace’s common-law wife, Katherine Thorn, whose body is found in a bathtub in the condominium. Singh has no choice but to contact the police, who have no choice but to arrest Brace. But the case isn’t as clear-cut as that. Interestingly, we don’t really get a detailed physical description of Mr. Singh. We learn several things about him, but the focus is on his background and personality, not his appearance.

And that’s sometimes quite effective. What about you? Do you prefer to have a clear physical picture of the characters you ‘meet?’ Or is that not a priority? If you’re a writer, how much do you invest in what your characters look like?

ps. You’ll notice that I didn’t mention sleuths’ physical appearances. To me, that’s a different topic.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from SafetySuit’s Annie.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Elizabeth Daly, Lynda La Plante, Nicholas Blake, Robert Rotenberg

In The Spotlight: Jessica Mann’s Funeral Sites

Hello, All,

Welcome to another edition of In The Spotlight. It’s often a challenge for a crime writer to involve an amateur sleuth in a murder investigation. It’s got to be done credibly, and the sleuth has to have a believable way to get information. Let’s take a closer look today at how an amateur sleuth might work, and turn the spotlight on Jessica Mann’s Funeral Sites, the first of her Tamera Hoyland novels.

Architect Rosamund Sholto travels to Geneva to attend the funeral of her sister, Phoebe. It seems that Phoebe and her husband, Deputy Prime Minister Aidan Britton, were visiting their Swiss chalet when she died in what looks like a tragic fall from a mountain. It’s not long, though, before Rosamund becomes convinced that her sister was murdered. For one thing, Phoebe was a very experienced climber. If something had, say, startled her, she’d have instinctively stepped back from the edge of a cliff. For another thing, Rosamund dislikes and distrusts Aidan. And she is fairly sure he’s behind it all.

Aidan is an ambitious politician, who’s poised to become the UK’s next Prime Minister. He’s extremely popular and very well-connected. So, if he did have something to do with his wife’s death, it’ll be very hard to bring him to justice for it. But Rosamund is determined to get answers. Aidan and the people working for him put every roadblock they can in Rosamund’s way, and she ends up having to go on the run. She has friends and resources of her own, though, and slowly discovers the truth about why her brother-in-law would want to kill her sister.

In the meantime, Ian Barnes is on a special assignment for the UK government. Some powerful members of the government have learned that Aidan Britton is not just ambitious, he is very likely extremely dangerous. The fear is that if he is named Prime Minister, there will be terrible consequences for the country. Rosamund Sholto could be an important figure in bringing him down, provided she’s not involved in his ‘businesses.’ So,  Ian is tasked with finding Rosamund. His lover, archaeologist Tamera Hoyland, believes that, far from being in league with Aidan, Rosamund is running from him, and she determines to help the woman if she can.

With time running out, and some very dangerous people involved, Tamera and Rosamund will both have to work fast if they’re going to make the truth they find public. And that assumes they’ll both stay alive long enough to do that.

This novel has several elements of the thriller in it. There are narrow escapes, a fast pace, a few sudden deaths, and a race against time. There’s a lot at stake, too, and several real dangers for both Tamera and Rosamund.

There’s also an element of politics and of political machinations in the novel. As we learn what’s really at stake, we see how political leaders can sway ordinary voters, and how politics can be manipulated both domestically and internationally. We also see how public image and what we now call ‘optics’ plays a role in what people think of those who govern them.

The story is told from several points of view (third person, past tense). Each character’s perspective sheds a different sort of light on the what really happened to Phoebe Britton and why. Readers who like only one point of view in their stories will notice this. A similar thing might be said about the story’s timeline. As the various characters’ stories are shared, we learn about some past events that impact what happens. So, sometimes the story moves among different time periods. Readers who prefer linear stories will want to know this. That said, though, I had no trouble working out when the different events happen. And, by the end of the story, the different events fit together to explain how it all led to Phoebe’s death.

The two major characters whose perspectives are shared are Tamera and Rosamund, and we learn about both of them. Rosamund is a member of the wealthy and powerful Sholto family (a family into which Aidan was all too happy to marry). She is quick-thinking and resourceful, and quite independent in her way. For her part, Tamera is also independent and bright. Neither woman is perfect nor a superhero. And both have moments of fear and danger. But this is definitely not a book in which there are ‘helpless damsels in distress.’

The novel was published in 1981, so the various characters use telephones, letters, and so on to contact each other. This takes place well before today’s Internet Era and ‘smart phones,’ and shows how people kept track of one another in the days before that technology. The story also reflects the culture and, especially, politics of the era, too.

This story doesn’t have a ‘happily ever after’ sort of ending. That said, it’s not bleak all the way through, and there are several characters who, so most of us would say, do the right thing, and are on the side of the angels. Readers who dislike a lot of explicitness will also be glad to know that the violence in the novel is, for the most part, either ‘off stage,’ or not described in great detail. There’s also very little explicit language, and no explicit sex. In that sense, it’s very like contemporary traditional-style novels.

Funeral Sites is a traditional-style story with some thriller aspects and political intrigue. It takes place in a solidly-described Switzerland (with some scenes in London), and features an amateur sleuth who gets drawn into more than she bargained for at first. But what’s your view? Have you read Funeral Sites? If you have, what elements do you see in it?

 
 
 

Coming Up On In The Spotlight

 

Monday, 13 August/Tuesday, 14 August – Inside Dope – Paul Thomas

Monday, 20 August/Tuesday 21 August – In a Dark, Dark Wood – Ruth Ware

Monday, 27 August/Tuesday, 28 August – Faces of the Gone – Brad Parks

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Why All These Questions?*

An interesting post from crime writer and fellow blogger Sue Coletta has got me thinking about murder interrogations. This guest post, written by a former homicide detective, details an actual interrogation in connection with a murder. G’wan, read it. It’s quite potent. And as you’ll be at Sue’s excellent blog already, do check out her crime novels. They’re potent, too.

Back now? Thanks. Interrogations aren’t easy. For one thing, the police are, in most cases, limited in what they can do during an interrogation (e.g. they are not allowed to be violent, although there are cases where that has happened). They are allowed to lie to suspects, but they generally aren’t allowed to continue an interrogation if a suspect requests a lawyer. For another thing, most murder suspects don’t want to admit, at least at first, that they are guilty, or that they played a part in a murder. So, whoever does the interrogating often has to get past a tissue of lies, bluster, and so on.

It’s interesting to see how interrogations are done in crime fiction. When they’re done effectively, they can certainly add tension and suspense to a story. And, they can allow for the author to misdirect the reader if the sleuth is interrogating a suspect who later turns out not to be guilty. Whether or not that’s the case, interrogations are a part of real-life criminal investigation, so it makes sense that they’d be woven into the genre. Here are a few examples; I know you’ll think of many more.

Sometimes, the sleuth finds it very effective to appear understanding, even sympathetic, towards the suspect. Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot does this in more than one of the cases he investigates. In Murder in Mesopotamia, for instance, Poirot is in the Middle East when he is asked to investigate the murder of Louise Leidner. Her husband, noted archaeologist Dr. Eric Leidner, is leading an excavation team at a site a few hours from Baghdad, and she has joined the group. One afternoon, she is bludgeoned in her bedroom. Poirot discovers that more than one person could have wanted to kill her, but in the end, he finds out which person actually did. Here’s a little of what that person says in the course of admitting the killing:
 

‘‘…if you’d known Louise you’d have understood…No, I think you’d understand anyway…’’
 

Just because Poirot does not approve of murder doesn’t mean he can’t understand what motivates a killer.

We also see that sort of approach in Gail Bowen’s A Killing Spring. In that novel, Bowen’s sleuth, academician Joanne Kilbourn, gets involved in the investigation of the murder of a colleague, Reed Gallagher.  She knows the victim’s widow, so she’s asked to go along to break the news, and before long, starts asking questions about what really happened. In the end, she finds out who the killer is. In one scene, she finds herself alone with the killer, and in some danger, too:
 

‘All I had going for me was the possibility that…. would be unable to resist the chance to tell his tale.
I tried to keep my voice steady. ‘I’ve always told my kids there are two sides to every story,’ I said. ‘Maybe it’s time I got your perspective on everything that’s happened.’’
 

At first, the killer sees her comment as condescending. But soon, the whole story comes out, and that keeps Kilbourn alive until the situation’s resolved.

There’s a different approach to getting a murderer talking in Lynda La Plante’s Above Suspicion, which introduces Detective Sergeant (DS) Anna Travis. She joins the Murder Squad at Queen’s Park, London, which is under the supervision of Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) James Langton. That team is currently investigating the murder of seventeen-year-old Melissa Stephens, who was killed in the same way as a group of six other women. There are enough differences between those cases and this new one that there is a chance that two killers are involved. But the team doesn’t think so. Little by little, the members of the team slowly zero in on their prime suspect. But, of course, they could be wrong about the guilty person. Finally, the team finds out the truth. And when they do, they confront the guilty person.  At first, that person is confident. But, as Travis brings up the various pieces of evidence, things change. There’s bluster, even anger. And eventually, Travis’ firmness and the murderer’s own underlying fear get the better of that person. It’s hard on both people, and it’s a very suspenseful scene.

In Domingo Villar’s Death on a Galician Shore, Vigo Police Inspector Leo Caldas investigates the death of a fisher, Justo Castelo. At first, it looks as though it might be a suicide, and that wouldn’t be out of the question. The victim had been dealing with several issues, and it’s not too farfetched that he might have chosen that method of solving his problems. But a few little hints suggest to Caldas that this was a murder. The question, though, is who would have wanted to kill Castelo. By all accounts, the victim had, as the saying goes, kept himself to himself. He didn’t have a lot of money or obvious enemies. Then, Caldas learns about a tragedy that took place years earlier, when Castelo was out on a fishing boat under the command of Captain Antonio Sousa. A storm came up and Sousa went overboard. Castelo and the two other men on board the boat that night have never talked about what really happened, but there is a possibility that whatever it was, it might be related to Castelo’s death. Gradually, Caldas finds out the truth. And when he does, he confronts the killer. At first, the killer remains calm and confident. But, when Caldas confronts that person with the evidence, the confident exterior cracks, and the murderer tells the truth. It’s a suspenseful moment, since the killer,
 

‘…wasn’t used to losing.’
 

And it’s an interesting look at a police interrogation.

And then there’s Abir Mukherjee’s A Rising Man. This novel takes place in Kolkata/Calcutta in 1919, just after WW I. Captain Sam Wyndham has joined the Indian Police Service, and is working to investigate the murder of Alexander MacAuley, head of Indian Civil Service (ICS) finance for Bengal. There is a chance that his murder is connected to the Indian independence movement, and that’s what the Powers That Be want as the explanation. There is evidence to support that account, too, and Wyndham duly tracks down and arrests Benoy Sen, a hero of the independence movement. The interrogation scenes between them are full of tension and reveal things about both men’s characters.

Interrogation scenes need to be done carefully, or they run the risk of not being credible, or of being melodramatic. When they’re done well, though, they can add much to the story. These are a few examples. Your turn.

Thanks, Sue, for the inspiration!

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Steel Pulse’s Blame on Me.

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Filed under Abir Mukherjee, Agatha Christie, Domingo Villar, Gail Bowen, Lynda La Plante, Sue Coletta