Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A Killer of a Dinner Party

By R.J.Harlick

You are having a dinner party for eight, including yourself, in a memorable setting. Where is this setting and which seven characters in crime fiction would you invite and why?

Meg Harris wasn’t the least happy when I proposed that she and her husband, Eric Odjik, host the dinner party for some of her fellow crime fiction characters.

“Three Deer Point is the perfect place to hold it,” I continued. “Your guests will love your Victorian cottage with its enormous pine timbers and fieldstone fireplaces. Your dining room can easily handle eight people and you have more than enough dishes and silver that you inherited from Aunt Aggie.  And if the conversation stalls, people can comment on the marvelous view of the lake. Best of all, it’s isolated with no cell coverage. You could entertain without fear of any of your guests being pulled away to solve a murder.”

“Yeah, I suppose, but I hate entertaining,” she said pulling at a stray wisp of red hair. “Particularly with strangers. I don’t know any of these characters. You’re the one who reads crime fiction, not me. Besides they’re so much better at solving murder than I am.”

“Don’t cut yourself short,” I replied. “You always catch your man or woman as the case may be. But who knows maybe during the course of the dinner you’ll learn a few tips.”

“Meg, I say let’s do it,” cut in Eric, the cook of the family. “I know exactly what we’ll serve. We’ll give them a taste of the wilds of Quebec. I have at least eight venison steaks in the freezer. You could pick some of the chanterelles and blueberries I saw growing along the trail that leads to the old sugar shack. With a little red wine, they’ll make the perfect sauce for the venison. We could start with the trout I smoked last week.  Your arugula is almost ready for picking…” His grey eyes gleamed with anticipation.

“But who will we invite? I don’t know anybody. And there are a zillion crime novel characters to choose from.”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’ll put together the guest list.”

“Make sure you pick another amateur sleuth. It would be interesting to compare notes with them.”

“Camilla L√§ckberg’s Erica Falck is a possibility. She also happens to be a crime writer so is quite up on the latest sleuthing techniques.  She has a habit of sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong, something you’ve been known to do. Mind you, like you, it invariably helps her uncover the killer. But having a husband on the Swedish police force doesn’t hurt her either. You two could also trade winter horror stories.  How about we invite her but without her husband, since someone needs to stay home to look after their children?”

“Sounds good to me. Don’t some of those British books have characters that are members of the aristocracy? It would be fun to invite one.  Great-grandpa Joe would laugh in his grave if some fancy lord ate in his dining room.”

“I know the perfect aristocrat, Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey. He’d love roughing it in the colonial wilds and could show the other guests how to properly use Aunt Aggie’s fancy cutlery. His man, Bunter, could be useful in the kitchen and help serve the food. Lord Peter’s an amateur sleuth too, so could offer you some helpful tips though they might be somewhat outdated, since he hasn’t solved a murder since 1942.”

“Okay. What about a cop or two? It wouldn't hurt to learn about proper police procedure. But where do you start. It seems that most crime fiction has a policeman as the main character.”

“You’re right, a very difficult choice. I was thinking of retired LAPD detective Harry Bosch since I’d love to meet him myself, but I imagine he is at the top of everyone’s guest list, so I suggest we invite a lesser known policeman. One candidate is John Farrow’s Sergeant-Detective Emile Cing-Mars with the Montreal police force. He has quite the Gallic panache about him and he would be able to answer any of your questions regarding the inner workings of a Quebec police force. I suspect he would enjoy baiting us maudits anglais.

“And he won’t have far to drive either,” Meg laughed. “Who else? How about a female cop? I want to ensure that the sexes are equally represented. Besides it makes the seating plan easier, if I follow Aunt Aggie’s rules of boy-girl-boy, etc..”

“I know just the cop. Another Brit, Ann Cleeves’ Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope. Her track record in catching killers is as good as Harry Bosch’s. She doesn’t mince words, has quite the way about her and could care less about the proper way to use a fork. It might be fun to see her butting heads with Lord Peter.”

“She sounds like fun. I’m beginning to enjoy this. Who else?”

“What about a private detective?” Eric offered. “There are plenty of terrific hardboiled P.I.s, like Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer or Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe”
“I see you know your P.I.s.”

He grinned. “Nothing beats reading a good detective novel in front of a roaring fire with a glass of Lagavulin.”

“Is there anyone you would particularly like to meet?”

“Yup, I’d like to meet Sam Wiebe’s up and coming detective, Dave Wakeland. He’s gritty, has a brutal streak in him and sure lives by his own rules, but he has a soft side too that makes him very human.  I hear he likes his beer. It would be fun to compare notes on Vancouver brewpubs.”

“Okay, we need one more guest. May I suggest a female private detective, Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan. She’s a very independent and able woman and like you, tends to concentrate on the psychological motives behind murder. I think the two of you would get along very well.”

“But, these are all good guys,” Meg said. “Don’t you think we should also invite a bad guy? It would keep everyone on their toes.”

“Who would you suggest? One of the villains you caught?”

“They’re either in jail or dead. No, let’s make it a surprise. We’ll put out an extra chair and see who shows up.”


Dietrich Kalteis said...

Sounds like a good party, Robin. I wonder who's going to show up in that extra chair.

Unknown said...

This was a blast, Robin - thanks! :)

Susan C Shea said...

Oh - the extra chair! Fun post, Robin!