Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Favorite Murder Stories

Before we get into today's favorites, I wanted to announce that we are now on Facebook!


In honor of this week's novel, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind, we're discussing our favorite murder stories today.

Mine is a little bit of a cheat, because it's two books at the same time: Desperation by Stephen King, and The Regulators by Richard Bachman. (Bachman was King's pseudonym, which had been discovered and "killed off" by the time these books were released in 1996, but the inside cover of Regulators stated that this was written by Bachman and hidden in a trunk, recently discovered by his widow.)

The covers shown above are the first-edition hardback covers, designed to create one complete image when held together like that.

These books are parallel universes of each other. It's hard to describe unless you read the books yourself. Most of the characters in one are present in the other, although with differences. The settings are entirely different, with Desperation taking place in the Nevada desert and Regulators in an Ohio suburb (both of which, I have to say, are a refreshing change of pace from Maine).

In Desperation, the crazed deputy of a town named Desperation takes a number of travelers from the highway (using ruses like an arrest or protecting them from an escaped criminal). It quickly becomes clear that the deputy is crazy, possessed by an evil creature named Tak.

In The Regulators, there's a little boy named Seth who is autistic. With the help of some creature named Tak, he can control reality in unusual ways. He applies his knowledge of his favorite TV shows (one a western, one called "MotoKops") and Tak uses all of this to attack the other people who live on Seth's street.

Because this is Stephen King, there are gruesome and horrifying deaths throughout both books, but the best part about them is the small similarities between the two books. He wrote them as "mirrors" for each other, and it is so masterfully done. My favorite crossover is Collie. He's the crazed, possessed deputy in Desperation and a washed-up former cop accused of misconduct in Regulators. He has the same exact name in both books (and if I'm not mistaken, he's the only one).

When I was young, and my mother encouraged me to read just about everything.  She would throw books at me that she thought I would like.  When I was in... I think middle school, she handed me my first, bonafied murder mystery.

It even looks all spooky and scary.

So, ok, I know Mary Higgins Clark isn't the best murder mystery writer of all time.  You read a few of her books and you can always figure out who done it.  But in middle school, this book really stuck with me.  It's about a woman, Maggie Holloway, who rediscovers one of her stepmothers, and then goes to visit her.  Only, when she gets there, her stepmother has been murdered.

Of course, Maggie ends up being the one who tries to solve all the murders (because why should we leave these things up to cops!)  She ends up staying in the area because her ex-stepmother left her the house.

The thing I really liked best is that Clark adds some odd things to it that are just neat to learn about.  For instance, during the Victorian age, they used to tie bells to the grave and then run a string to the inside of the casket and post someone outside of the grave for three days.  This way, if the person in the casket was buried alive, they would just pull on the string and ring the bell and get dug up.

Maggie finds these bells buried on the graves of three women, her stepmother and two women she knew.  This leads her down the path of figuring out corrupt people, crazy men and all sorts of other things that just don't quite add up.

There's something about the book that I always just enjoyed.  I liked that there was a hint of romance without it taking over, or being the point of, the book.  I like that there was history involved and you could tell that Clark had done her research.  And I liked Maggie's character: an independent woman, wonderful photographer and a little bit like Nancy drew.  It's a decent book and nice to read if no other reason than for the nostalgia factor.

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