Wednesday 17 June 2009

Original Sinners

I’ve started work on the paper that I will be delivering at the St Hilda’s Crime and Mystery Weekend in August. It’s an event I’m really looking forward to – a chance to revisit old haunts in Oxford and to meet up with old (all right, yet fairly young!) friends. It’s a few years since I last spoke at St Hilda’s, and the last time I attended the week-end I had the delightful experience of meeting up with John Prest, who was a history don at Balliol when I was a student. John has given me help during the intervening years with the character and work of Daniel Kind, the historian in my Lake District Mysteries.

The theme of the weekend is The Wages of Sin. I’ve received a flyer telling me that speakers have been chosen to match the topic, which says something not entirely flattering about my reputation, but I’m in sinfully good company, with such marvellous writers as Robert Barnard, Kate Charles, Christine Poulson, and Andrew Taylor. I’m proud to count them all as friends. Cilla Masters, another good mate, is one of the after-dinner speakers.

I’ve decided that my paper will focus on sinful victims. I can think of quite a few characters who meet that description – for instance in Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. But any suggestions from more modern books or authors will be gratefully received!


Philip Amos said...

Just a thought sparked by your mention of Christie, Martin. Best not to say too much, but I suspect you know Curtain: Poirot's Last Case. Quite the twist on the 'sinful victim' theme in that one, yes?

Martin Edwards said...

Absolutely. One of her most under-rated books.

Lauren said...

On Christie, Cards on the Table also deals with this (and has sinful suspects as well.) Plus Murder on the Orient Express, of course.

And I'm also a great fan of Curtain!

I've just read an extraordinary twist on this topic in an Arne Dahl novel, but unfortunately it's not available in English. (I can offer a summery if you're interested.)

Then there's Robert Wilson's "A Small Death in Lisbon." It's not so much that the victims are sinful in this, but two characters who are framed are definitely not innocent of anything *except* what they're charged with.

And if we're being topical, there's the death at the centre of "Girl with a Dragon Tattoo." Trying to be oblique for those who haven't read it, I'm not entirely sure whether this counts as a traditional murder victim, but the character is definitely sinful.

Finally, I vaguely recall the plot of the Anne Perry novel "Defend and Betray" turning on the revelation of the victim's less-than-stellar personal activities, but I read it some time ago and have since become slighty uncomfortable with the author, so I may be mistaken.

vegetableduck said...

I've always loved the remorselessness of Christie's vision in And Then There Were None. Nothing "cozy" at all, and the bleakness would seem right at home in PD James. Indeed, one would assume The Skull Beneath the Skin must have been partly inspired by it. It's a shame the situation in And Then There Were None has become such a cliche, sent up in twee works like the play Something's Afoot. It's a forceful book.

Philip Amos said...

Further thought on this, Martin, at first only took me back to 1923 and Christie's Murder on the Links. But then much further forarder with Sjowall's and Wahloo's Murder at the Savoy of the sixties, in which Beck certainly thought the victim sinful. And a small leap to 1985 and a dodgy victim in Rendell's An Unkindness of Ravens. Perhaps something in there for you, and perhaps not.

Martin Edwards said...

Many thanks for these comments/suggestions, and apologies for the belated response, as I've been working away. Lauren, I'd certainly be glad of a bit more info about the Dahl book.
Cards on the Table is an excellent example, and I'll have to refresh my memory of the Rendell book. I don't know Murder at the Savoy or Defend and Betray.