Category Archives: Megan Abbott

Silk Pyjamas*

An interesting post from Moira at Clothes in Books has got me thinking about sleepwear. That’s right, robes, pyjamas, oversized tees, and other nightwear. One of the really interesting things about sleepwear is the way it’s changed over time, at least for a lot of people. It’s true in real life, and we can see it in crime fiction, too.

For example, in my novel Past Tense, I mention that my sleuth’s wife, Laura, wears an oversized tee to sleep. And she’s not alone; lots of people do that. Others sleep in shorts and a tee, or something else comfortable.

One of the points that Moira makes (you really want to read that post if you haven’t) is that, with so many hotels and other such places having en suite facilities, there’s not a need these days for things like robes and dressing gowns. People don’t need to be concerned about who sees what they wear to bed. But it wasn’t always that way.

For instance, Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express takes place mostly on board the famous Orient Express train as it makes its way across Europe. On the second night of the journey, one of the passengers, Samuel Ratchett, is stabbed in his compartment. Hercule Poirot is on the same train, and he works to find out who is responsible. As he questions the passengers, several mention a lady wearing a scarlet dressing gown with dragons embroidered on it. So, he asks every female passenger what her dressing gown looks like. For many, it’s at the very least an odd question. One of them even says,
 

‘‘I must suppose you have a reason for such a question.’’
 

All of the women answer the question, so we learn about their nightwear. And Christie matches nightwear to what you might call station in life, as well as temperament. So, Poirot also learns something about the women as he asks that question.

Ed McBain’s Cop Hater introduces his 87th Precinct team, in particular, Steve Carella. In the novel, two police officers are murdered; and, at first, it looks as though someone has some sort of vendetta against the police. Carella follows up on that possibility and traces the whereabouts of several former convicts who might resent the cops. One of them is staying at a brothel, so Carella visits the place. It’s owned by someone he knows, Mama Luz. When Mama Luz opens the door to Carella, she’s wearing a silk kimono that, you could argue, befits her status as the madam. She and Carella have known each other for a while, and they have an understanding. He basically leaves her business alone; she sees that things at the brothel stay under control.

Megan Abbott’s Die a Little is the story of Lora King, a teacher in 1950s Padadena, California. She’s very close to her brother, Bill, so she takes interest when he starts dating a former Hollywood dressmaker’s assistant named Alice Steele. She tries to be happy for Bill when he and Alice marry, but Alice makes her uneasy. And, little by little, she starts learning some things about her new sister-in-law that make her even more uncomfortable. At the same time as she is repulsed by Alice’s life, though, Lora also finds herself drawn to it.  A note from Alice (that actually mentions a nightgown) perhaps expresses this best:
 

‘You liked the voile nightgown you saw in my closet, touched it with your milky fingers and asked me where I’d gotten it. When I bought you one of your own, your face steamed baby pink, but you wore it. I knew you’d wear it.’ 
 

Then, there’s a murder. And Alice might be mixed up in it. Telling herself she’s doing it to protect Bill, Lora starts asking questions. And she finds herself drawn in in ways she wouldn’t have imagined.

In John Burdett’s Bangkok 8, Royal Thai Police detective Sonchai Jitplecheep investigates the murder of a US Marine named William Bradley. Sonchai’s police partner, Pichai Apiradee, was killed as a result of this case, so Sonchai is especially motivated to find out who is responsible. The trail leads at one point to the home of a Russian pimp named Iamskoy. Here’s part of the description we get when Sonchai gets to the place (just about lunchtime, when Iamskoy’s employees are still asleep, or just getting up):
 

‘…a woman answers the door. She is wearing a black dress…and reveals a lot of cleavage…
‘Andy,’ she calls without anxiety. Instead of Iamskoy, another woman appears in shorts and T-shirt. Then another. A fourth is dressed in a long nightgown, done up firmly at the neck.’
 

All of these women are in the same business, and it’s interesting to see how their different personalities are expressed in their sleepwear.

Of course, sleuths have sleepwear, too. In Frankie Y. Bailey’s The Red Queen Dies, for instance, Albany, New York police detective Hannah McCabe and her police partner investigate three murders. They all have the same murder method, but nothing else really links the victims. So, one important part of solving these murders is looking into the victims’ pasts to see if they have ever met, or ever would have had contact with each other. That involves background research done on the computer, and McCabe chooses to work at home,
 

‘…on the sofa in the living room, in her cotton nightgown and robe.’
 

And she’s not the only sleuth who sometimes works that way.

Of course, no discussion of sleepwear in crime fiction would be complete without a mention of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe. As any fan can tell you, his preferred nightwear is a large pair of yellow silk pyjamas. He wears them in several novels and stories. In fact, Gail Bowen pays tribute to them in The Gifted. In one scene in that novel, her sleuth Joanne Kilbourn Shreve, goes to a costume party with her husband, Zack. She goes as Archie Goodwin; he goes as Wolfe. And he is dressed in…. yellow silk pyjamas.

See what I mean? Sleepwear is an important part of crime fiction.  Thanks, Moira, for the inspiration. Now, folks, please give yourselves a treat and go visit Moira’s excellent blog. Lots of interesting reviews and commentary on clothes and culture in fiction, and what it all says about us.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Thomas Dolby.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Ed McBain, Frankie Y. Bailey, Gail Bowen, John Burdett, Megan Abbott, Rex Stout

And Everybody, Yeah, Tries to Put My Sloopy Down*

As this is posted, it’s 82 years since King Edward VIII announced his abdication of the British throne to marry Wallis Simpson. As you’ll know, their relationship was considered scandalous, and the couple took a great deal of criticism.

It’s a very famous scandalous marriage, but it’s hardly the only one. For a long time, people have disapproved of certain marriages, and that topic comes up in crime fiction, too. It’s no surprise, either, considering that that plot point can add an interesting layer of tension to a story.

For instance, in Agatha Christie’s Lord Edgware Dies, famous actress Jane Wilkinson wants a divorce from her husband, the 4th Baron Edgware, so that she can marry the Duke of Merton, with whom she’s fallen in love. She asks Hercule Poirot to convince her husband to agree to the divorce, and he pays a visit to Edgware. During the visit, Edgware says that he has already withdrawn his objection, and is willing for the divorce to go ahead. That’s odd enough, but when Edgware is stabbed that night, the case gets even more complicated. In the midst of it all, Poirot gets a visit from the Dowager Duchess of Merton. Now that Edgware is dead, Jane Wilkinson is free to marry her son, and she’s upset about that. To her, the actress is absolutely not a suitable wife, and she wants Poirot to stop the marriage. He can’t agree to that, which infuriates her. That visit doesn’t solve the crime. But it’s interesting to see how it sheds light on the characters involved.

Colin Dexter’s Death is Now My Neighbour begins as Sir Clixby Bream prepares to step down as Master of Lonsdale College, Oxford. The matter of who will succeed him is not a trivial one, and he considers the question carefully. The two most likely candidates are Julian Storrs and Denis Cornford. They’re equally qualified, and each has behaved ‘properly.’ Both are married to women who’ve learned how to make their husbands look good, and both men have their supporters. Then, a dubious journalist named Geoffrey Owens starts digging around, and discovers that someone has a shady past – something that Bream would likely find unacceptable. When Owens is shot, Inspector Morse and Sergeant Lewis investigate. They find out that more than one person involved has a secret.

Megan Abbott’s historical novel (1950s) Die a Little introduces Lora King, a Pasadena, California teacher. She’s especially close to her brother, Bill, so when he meets and falls in love with Alice Steele, Lora wants to be happy for him. But it’s not long before she begins to have her doubts. Alice has a murky background, and some things about her make Lora uneasy. Still, the relationship continues, and Bill and Alice marry. Lora tries to be nice to her new sister-in-law for Bill’s sake. But the more she learns about her, the more concerned she is. At the same time as she is repulsed by Alice’s life, though, she is also drawn to it. Then, there’s a death. And Alice could very well be mixed up in it. Telling herself she’s trying to help her brother, Lora starts asking questions. And she finds herself more caught up in the events than she’d thought possible.

In Surender Mohan Pathak’s The Colaba Conspiracy, locksmith Jeet Singh has been trying to ‘go straight’ since he spent time in prison. Now, he runs a legitimate key-making business from a Mumbai kiosk, and wants to stay out of trouble. But trouble finds him. He gets an opportunity to do a safecracking job, and at first, he rejects. Everything changes, though, when he gets a visit from a former lover, Sushmita. She tells him that her wealthy husband, Pursumal Changulani, has been murdered. He was killed in what looked like a carjacking gone horribly wrong. But evidence has turned up which shows that this was likely a planned assassination. Changulani’s children have never approved of his marriage to Sushmita, and are now saying that she was never officially his wife. If that is true, she can’t inherit any of his fortune. What’s worse, these same children believe that she hired the person who killed their father. Sushmita tells Singh that she is innocent, but can’t pay for a good lawyer. He agrees to help her if he can, and takes on that job he originally rejected. It’s not long before Singh finds himself drawn in much deeper than he had thought.

And then there’s M.C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth. He’s constable for the Highlands village of Lochdubh, and is quite content to stay there. He’s not professionally ambitious, and he likes the town he serves. Fans will tell you, though, that he’s not lucky in love. One of the regular characters in this series is Priscilla Halburton-Smythe, whose ‘blueblood’ parents have a fine local manor. Macbeth loves Patricia, and she cares very much for him, too. But their relationship is not exactly smooth sailing. One of the reasons for that is that her parents don’t think a ‘mere constable’ is a suitable match for her. Priscilla’s father, in particular, is determined that she will meet and marry ‘one of her own kind.’ And it’s interesting to see how those ideas of what is and isn’t a suitable match play a role in the series.

There are a lot of other examples of fictional marriages where there’s a lot of disapproval. It’s difficult to maintain a relationship under those circumstances, and it’s hard on everyone. But it can make for an interesting plot point.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Wes Farrell and Bert Berns’s Hang on Sloopy.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Colin Dexter, M.C. Beaton, Megan Abbott, Surender Mohan Pathak

Oh, OK, I’ll Leave*

Most of us respect and admire someone who doesn’t back down from challenges. I know I do. At the same time, it’s important to use resources carefully and choose our battles wisely. And sometimes, doing so means a carefully chosen, wise retreat.

Backing off when it’s the wisest thing to do has several advantages. It allows one to conserve (or gather) resources for a more important challenge. Sometimes it even prevents more challenges. And, it can put someone in a position to reach a larger, more important goal. That’s true in real life (as when, say, the police let a minor drug dealer off with a light ‘slap on the wrist’ in hopes of getting the ‘bigger fish.’). It’s also true in crime fiction.

In Agatha Christie’s Lord Edgware Dies, for instance, famous actress Jane Wilkinson asks Hercule Poirot to persuade her husband, Baron Edgware, to agree to a divorce (she’s fallen in love with the Duke of Merton and wants to marry him). Poirot and Hastings pay a visit to Edgware and are treated icily. In fact, the only thing he will tell them is that he already withdrew his objection to the divorce. When Poirot tries to ask their host a few questions, he and Hastings are unceremoniously dismissed. Poirot knows that he isn’t going to get any more information during that visit. So, instead of continuing to ask questions, he and Hastings leave quickly. Hastings sees it as a defeat; and, in a way, it is. But it also allows Poirot slightly easier access to the house to investigate when Edgware is stabbed that night. At first, the victim’s wife is the most likely suspect. But she says that she was in another part of London at a dinner party, and there are twelve other people who are willing to swear that she was there. So, Poirot and Chief Inspector Japp have to look elsewhere for a suspect.

In Megan Abbott’s historical (1950s) Die a Little, we are introduced to Pasadena, California schoolteacher Lora King. She and her brother Bill are especially close, so he wants her to be happy for him when he meets and falls in love with Alice Steele. Lora want that, too, but something about Alice makes her uneasy. Still, she tries to be nice to Alice. And, when Bill and Alice marry, it seems even more important that Lora get along with her new sister-in-law. Little by little, though, she learns things about Alice that unsettle her even more. Still, she doesn’t want to rupture her relationship with Bill; it’s not a hill she wants to die on, as the saying goes. Then, there’s a murder. And Alice might be mixed up in it. Telling herself she’s protecting her brother, Lora starts to ask questions about the death, and finds herself drawn into Alice’s life, even as she is repulsed by it.

Ernesto Mallo’s Needle in a Haystack takes place in late-1970s Buenos Aires, at a time when the military government is firmly in control. No dissension of any kind is permitted, and everyone knows that the penalty for seeming disloyal is ‘disappearing,’ or worse. Against this background, Venancio ‘Perro’ Lescano works as a police detective. He has to be very careful, but he does try to do his job the best he can. One morning, he’s alerted to the discovery of two dead bodies. When he arrives on the scene, he sees that they bear the hallmarks of an army ‘hit.’ He’s not willing to go up against the army – at least not at that moment. So, he simply ‘rubber stamps’ those deaths as he is supposed to do. There is, though, a third body. And this one seems a little different. Suspecting that this victim might have been murdered by someone in a separate case, Lescano begins to very carefully and very quietly ask some questions. Little by little, and one step at a time, he gets to the truth. And the outcome of this case is that more than one character has to escape the country and be willing to lose that proverbial battle in order to stay alive and, perhaps, do some good for the country elsewhere.

Alan Carter’s Nick Chester has made a similar choice. In Marlborough Man, where we meet him, he and his wife, Vanessa, and their son, Paulie, have been relocated from Sunderland, in the UK, to the Marlborough area of New Zealand’s South Island. Chester is a police detective who was involved in an undercover operation that went wrong. Rather than staying in the UK and testifying (and, possibly, losing his family and his own life in the process), Chester decided it was better to leave, at least for a time. Now, he works with the local police. In this novel, he investigates a series of murders. He also has an ongoing conflict with his UK nemesis, Sammy Pritchard. In both that conflict, and a rough patch he has in his marriage, Chester learns that there are hills not worth dying on, and that, sometimes, the bigger picture is more important.

John Mortimer’s Horace Rumpole has always known that. He’s a barrister who does his job very well, in part because he knows when to pick fights. He sometimes does so in court when conventional wisdom might suggest otherwise. But he never does so at home. Any fan of this series can tell you that Rumpole knows better than to go against his wife, Hilda, ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed.’ It’s not worth the consequences…

There are certainly times when it’s worth seeing something through to the finish. But sometimes, it’s wiser to retreat strategically, regroup, and focus on larger challenges more worth the effort. And it’s interesting to see how that plays out in crime fiction.

 
 
 

NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone’s Tomorrow is a Latter Day.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Alan Carter, Ernesto Mallo, John Mortimer, Megan Abbott

Set That Baggage Down*

All of us have a past that we bring into relationships. And once in a while, that ‘baggage’ impacts those relationships. Even when a partner knows the truth about a person’s past, it can still come back to haunt, so to speak. And having a partner who has a lot of past ‘baggage’ can be a challenge.

There many examples of this dynamic in crime fiction, and it’s not hard to see why. It can make for interesting tension and suspense in a story. And there are plenty of opportunities for adding character layers. Sometimes, that past ‘baggage’ can even be a plot point.

It is in Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of the Dancing Men. Hilton Cubitt is worried about his wife, Elsie. Before they married, she told him that she had had some ‘unpleasant associations’ in her past, although she reassured him that she had done nothing shameful herself. She also told him that she didn’t want to discuss her past; that was a condition of marriage for her. Cubitt agreed, and all was well at first. But lately, Elsie’s been getting some cryptic letters that are frightening her. She won’t say what they’re about; and, since they’re written in a sort of hieroglyphic code, her husband can’t work that out for himself. So, he takes the problem to Sherlock Holmes. Holmes is working on the code when matters get more urgent. Whoever’s writing the letters has written more messages, this time on the windowsills of the Cubitt home. One night, a tragedy occurs and Cubitt is shot. Holmes uses the code to lure the killer and find out the truth about what happened.

Lady Elsa Dittisham, whom we meet in Agatha Christie’s Five Little Pigs, also has a past. Years ago, she had an affair with a famous painter named Amyas Crale. One afternoon, he was poisoned. His wife, Caroline, was arrested, tried, and convicted in the matter, and died in prison a year later. Elsa was a witness in the investigation, so she gave evidence in court, and took quite a lot of nasty criticism for breaking up the Crale home. Now, she is married to Lord Dittisham, who knows about the case. While he doesn’t deny what happened, he wants to leave it all in the past. So, he’s none too pleased when Hercule Poirot wants to interview Elsa about Crale’s murder. Poirot’s been hired by the Crales’ daughter, Carla Lemarchant, to re-open the case, because Carla believes that her mother was innocent. Although Lord Dittisham is opposed to the idea, Elsa is eager to tell her story. She and the other people who were present at the time of the murder write out their accounts of what happened. They also speak to Poirot. From those recollections, Poirot pieces together the truth about the matter.

Megan Abbott’s Die a Little introduces readers to Bill King. He and his sister, Lora, have always been close, so he hopes she’ll be happy for him when he falls in love with a former Hollywood dressmaker’s assistant named Alice Steele. Right from the start, Lora has concerns about Alice, but she tells herself it’s because she’s too protective of her brother. Then, Bill and Alice get married. Lora tries to be nice to her new sister-in-law, mostly for Bill’s sake. But, she soon learns some things about Alice that make her uneasy. Bill doesn’t seem to be badly bothered by his wife’s past, and she is, as he sees it, good to him. The more Lora finds out, though, the more repulsed she is. At the same time, though, she’s drawn to Alice’s life. Then, there’s a murder, and Alice could be mixed up in it. Lora tells herself she wants to look after her brother, so she starts asking questions about the murder. And she finds herself pulled even deeper into Alice’s story.

In Håkan Östlundh’s The Intruder, we are introduced to Malin Andersson, her husband, Henrik Kjellander, and their two children, Ellen and Axel. They return from a two-month trip only to find that their Fårö Island home has been left in a mess, with some things missing, trash everywhere, and more. At first, it looks as though it’s a case of terrible temporary tenants. But then, Malin finds a photograph that’s been deliberately defaced. Now, it looks as though this could be a very personal violation of their home. So, they call in the police. Gotland police detectives Fredrik Broman and Sara Oskarsson begin to look into the case. They’re following up on some leads when Ellen goes missing. Now, the stakes are a lot higher, and everyone searches frantically for the girl. And it turns out that it all has to do with ‘baggage’ from the past that quite probably should have been shared – but wasn’t.

And then there’s Stella Duffy’s The Hidden Room. Laurie and Martha have been married for a long time, and have raised three children, Hope, Ana, and Jack. They’ve had their differences, as couples do, but they a strong bond. Martha knows that Laurie comes from an unusual background. Adopted from China, she was raised in a cult in the American desert. The group was led by a charismatic man named Abraham, and it had a strict code for dress, activities, and more. Laurie left the cult as a young woman, and Martha knows that her years there still have an impact on her. But she doesn’t know everything about Laurie’s experiences. And that means trouble when the past catches up with Laurie, and someone she hasn’t seen for years turns up again. This could spell disaster for the family, and Laurie is determined to protect the ones she loves.

And that’s the thing about having a partner with ‘baggage.’ You never know when it can come up again or impact the relationship. And it’s interesting to see how that dynamic adds to a crime novel.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by David Crosby.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Håkan Östlundh, Megan Abbott, Stella Duffy

It’s Just Those Ordinary Moments We Adore*

One of the ways authors can amplify tension in their novels is to include simple domestic scenes (e.g. setting the table, folding laundry, etc.). Those very ordinary scenes can serve as a contrast to the tension the author’s building, and make it even stronger. If you’ve ever been through a time of real tension, but still sat down to eat, or washed dishes, you know how that contrast works in real life. It does in crime fiction, too.

Agatha Christie used that contrast in several of her stories. For instance, in And Then There Were None, ten people are invited for a stay on Indian Island, off the Devon coast. They’re all invited for different reasons, and they all have their personal reasons for accepting the invitation. Their host isn’t present when they arrive, but everyone settles in. After dinner on the first night, they’re all shocked when each person is accused of having caused the death of at least one other person. Not long afterwards, one of the guests suddenly dies of what turns out to be poison. Later that night, another guest dies. Now, it’s clear that someone has lured these people to the island, and is killing them. The survivors will have to stay alive if they’re going to find out who the killer is. As you can imagine, a great deal of suspense is built up as the characters suspect each other of being the killer. At one point, a few of them are in the kitchen, getting a meal ready. The preparations are, on the surface, normal enough. And that throws the underlying tension into stark relief. You’re absolutely right, fans of Murder in Mesopotamia.

In Nicholas Blake’s The Beast Must Die, mystery novelist Frank Cairnes decides that he is going to commit murder. Six months earlier, his beloved son Martin ‘Martie’ was killed in a hit-and-run tragedy. Cairnes is devastated, and wants to find the person responsible, and kill that person. He moves back to the town where the tragedy occurred, and starts to ask a few questions. It doesn’t take long before he learns that a man named George Rattery was probably driving the car that killed Martie. He manages to get an ‘in’ to meet Rattery and his wife, and, soon enough, he’s invited to stay with them. Then, he works out his plan. He decides he’ll go sailing with Rattery, and, when they’re out alone on the water, he’ll drown his enemy. But, of course, he’ll have to get Rattery to agree to go sailing. One afternoon at lunch, he brings up the topic. It’s a regular lunch, where everyone’s eating, talking, and so on. But, for Cairnes, it’s an important part of putting his plan in motion. And there’s a lot of tension as that underlying suspense contrasts with the ordinariness of the meal.

Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives is the story of Walter and Joanna Eberhart. They and their two children have just moved from New York City to the small town of Stepford, Connecticut. They settle in a bit, and at first, everything goes well enough. Then, Joanna’s new friend, Bobbie Markowe, begins to suspect that something is wrong in the town. Joanna doesn’t agree, and she’s unwilling anyway to make a move so soon after having moved to town. But as time goes by, she comes to believe that Bobbie was right, and that something dark is going on. Now, she herself is in very real danger. At one point, Walter invites a few of his friends over to the house, and Joanna agrees to play hostess. There’s a very tense scene in which she’s in the kitchen, and one of the guests joins her there. On the surface, it’s an everyday situation, where someone’s doing something in the kitchen, and chatting with another person. But there’s a lot of underlying tension, as Joanna’s trying to work out what’s going on in Stepford.

There’s another kitchen scene in Megan Abbott’s Die a Little, which takes place in 1950s California. Lora King has always been close to her brother, Bill. So, when he begins to date a former Hollywood seamstress’ assistant named Alice Steele, she’s naturally concerned that he might get hurt. Then, he marries Alice. Lora has her doubts, but she tries to be nice to her new sister-in-law, mostly for Bill’s sake. And Alice does seem to be fitting in among Bill’s friends. In fact, she’s quite the hostess. Slowly, though, Lora begins to learn little things that make her very uneasy. The more she discovers about Alice’s life, the more repulsed she is. At the same time, she’s drawn to it. Then, there’s a death, and Alice might be mixed up in it. Telling herself she’s protecting her brother, Lora starts to ask questions to find out what really happened. At one point in the novel, Alice is preparing for a get-together will some friends, and Lora’s in the kitchen, helping her. It’s a very ordinary-looking scene on the surface. Underneath, though, there’s a great deal of tension as Lora has become convinced that something is badly wrong.

And then there’s Wendy James’ The Mistake. In that novel, we meet Jodie Evans Garrow and her family. Her husband, Angus, is a successful attorney whose name has been brought up as the next mayor of Arding, New South Wales. She’s attractive, smart, and has two healthy children and a comfortable life. Everything’s going well for this family. Then, her daughter, Hannah, is involved in an accident, and is rushed to a Sydney hospital. It turns out to be the same hospital where, several years earlier, Jodie gave birth to another child, one she’s never mentioned to anyone. A nurse at the hospital remembers Jodie, and asks about the child. Jodie says she gave the baby up for adoption, but when the nurse checks into it, she finds no formal record of the adoption. Now, whispers start, and soon turn very ugly and very public. What happened to the baby? If she’s alive, where is she? If she’s dead, did Jodie have something to do with it? Before she knows it, Jodie becomes a social pariah. In the midst of all of this, she is invited to visit a local book club. Pleased at this sign of acceptance, Jodie accepts the invitation, and attends the book club meeting. On the surface, it’s an ordinary book club discussion. But the tension soon rises when Jodie discovers the reason she was invited. The group is discussing a book about the famous Lindy Chamberlain case, and they’ve drawn a parallel to Jodie’s situation. That underlying suspense contrasts with the surface-level peace of the book club.

And that’s the power that those ordinary scenes can have in crime fiction. They can contrast very effectively with underlying tension, and bring that tension into sharp focus. And that can add much to a novel.

 
 
 

*NOTE:  The title of this post is a line from Marc Robillard’s Blown Away.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Ira Levin, Megan Abbott, Nicholas Blake, Wendy James