This is today, at Read Me Deadly. It's a time for observing the badification of love in crime fiction. Let's look at some good books involving love that's unrequited, gone missing, gone awry, gone belly up . . . . In other words, love that's gone bad.
Unrequited or obsessional love has inspired many rock 'n' roll songs, and Eric Clapton's "Layla" is one of the best. You might want to play it while we think about books such as John Fowles's The Collector, in which a lonely young butterfly collector named Frederick Clegg kidnaps his beloved Miranda Grey and keeps her captive in the hopes that she will come to love him. Or Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov's disturbing 1955 masterpiece about Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged man who falls in love with 12-year-old Dolores Haze, and then marries her mother.
In 1962, Ben Wade was a Choctaw, Alabama, teenager secretly in love with a beautiful classmate, Kelli Troy, who had recently arrived from Maryland. It was the early days of desegregation, and Kelli was outspoken in her support of it. Then Kelli was murdered. In Breakheart Hill, by Thomas H. Cook, Wade, now a middle-aged physician, looks back at the days leading up to Kelli's death and its shattering aftermath. His halting narrative that dances around the facts reminds me of Ford Maddox Ford's John Dowell, who slowly teases out the surprising truth of his marriage in The Good Soldier.
Sometimes the death of a loved one creates a terrible void. So terrible for Frank Cairns, that he feels compelled to do something criminal about it. In Nicholas Blake's 1938 book, The Beast Must Die, Cairns begins with a vow: "I am going to kill a man. I don't know his name. I don't know where he lives, I have no idea what he looks like. But I am going to find him and kill him." This unknown man is the hit-and-run driver who killed his seven-year-old son. The police have run out of leads, so Cairns builds some information and logical leaps into a case against a man whom he befriends in order to better plot his revenge. The Beast Must Die is both serious and lighthearted, full of twists and turns, and the fourth Nigel Strangeways book written by Nicholas Blake, the pen name of Cecil Day-Lewis, England's Poet Laureate and father of actor Daniel Day-Lewis.
|Edward Elgar, British ecclesiastical composer|
Elizabeth Peters's Die for Love, third book in her entertaining Jacqueline Kirby series about a college librarian, is set at a New York City convention for historical romance writers and their fans. The enterprising Kirby wants an escape from Nebraska, so she travels to New York for this convention, where she poses as an author so she can write off the trip on her tax return. When a murder takes place, the always-curious Kirby feels compelled to investigate despite the warnings of a very attractive cop. D'oh!
Listening to the Righteous Brothers always makes me sing in the shower. I'd be curious to know if "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" inspires you in that way, too. Maybe you'll feel inspired to read one of these books about love that's wandered away.
Dick Lochte's hardboiled novel Sleeping Dog is teeming with lost love and the just plain lost. The narrative alternates between Serendipity Dahlquist, the teenage granddaughter of a Los Angeles soap star, who prides herself on her worldiness and intelligence, and a tired but dedicated ex-cop turned private detective named Leo Bloodworth, aka "The Bloodhound." Serendipity is referred to Bloodworth when her dog Groucho is stolen, but they have barely met before Bloodworth's smarmy office mate is murdered. The two mismatched sleuths set off on a complicated trail. (Note: there is some material in this book that is painful reading for animal lovers, but I read it with a hand over one eye and the other eye half closed, and I survived.)