Tag Archives: mysteries

Who Loves Lady MacBeth?

23 Jun


Writers often create characters who are not likeable, to serve as foils or antagonists for the main characters. These antagonists exhibit qualities in opposition to the main characters in order to create conflict. Readers love an evil character. Think of the wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz. We love to have someone to cheer against and hope for a demise appropriate to their state of badness.

As a writer, it is fun to create a “bad” character. There is a kind of evil “bitchiness” that comes out in characters who do and say things that I would never do. I have heard the same said by actors who enjoy playing evil roles like Lady MacBeth. There is something very satisfying in the complexity of a negative character. Few people are truly evil, and the “good” people and characters have a little of the dark side hidden away,too.

Then there are some books whose characters are not likeable at all, but that still convey an important theme or idea. The Great Gatsby is one that springs to mind. None of the characters is a nice person, except maybe for Nick Carroway, the narrator, who may have gone on in life to be a good person, but the book contains an important message about materialism and selfishness.

All in all, writers want their readers to either love or hate their characters enough to care about what what happens to them, whether they survive and succeed, die a horrible death, or something in between. That is what makes a story. And even then, sometimes, the “good” don’t come out on top, and the “bad” are not punished enough for our liking. That’s life.

In my latest book, Hotel Saint Clare, I loved writing the character Crystal. While she is not 100% evil, she is a character I loved to hate.

Can you read a book in which the main character is unlikeable? Have you put a book down because you just didn’t like the characters?

A Good Book I Read Lately

28 Apr

“Nobody reads a mystery to get to the middle. They
read it to get to the end. If it’s a letdown, they won’t
buy any more. The first page sells that book. The last
page sells your next book.”
                         MICKEY SPILLANE

I am a sucker for a good mystery, especially one set in Italy. Besides the sheer pleasure of getting lost in a good book, as a mystery writer, I love to see how other writers in the genre practice their craft. There is probably room for as many mystery novels as there are writers with unique mystery voices. This is one of the best and most unique that I have ready late.

The Potter’s Field by Andrea Camilleri

Translated from the Italian, The Potter’s Field in the latest in the series featuring Inspector Montalbano, a police detective in the fictional town of Vigáta, Sicily.

The story begins when a local man finds a dismembered body in a plastic bag in an area called “‘u critaru,” which is Sicilian for “the clay-field.”  Even as the police officers fight a driving rainstorm to reach the site where the body was found, their personality quirks illustrate the relationships of these men. Montalbano must identify the victim, find the killer and deal with personality conflicts in the police department at the same time. The first of those tasks turns out to be comparatively simple, due to skillful forensic work when a dental bridge is found in the victim’s stomach.

The case becomes much more involved when the victim is found to have connections to a local Mafia boss. To complicate matters further, one of Montalbano’s officers has been in a particularly bad humor for some time, and his romantic entanglements also have a bearing on the case.

With all these pressures going on in his life, Montalbano begins to dream of retirement, but he is able to see through the complexities and identify the betrayals, as he connects the potter’s field where the body was found to the Bible and the betrayal of Judas for thirty pieces of silver.

This is the first in this series that I have read, and I felt that I missed out not knowing the background. However, Camilleri’s descriptions of the foibles of the police officers often had me laughing out loud, even as I read the gruesome details of the crime. Only an author with true knowledge of Sicilian life could create a story which reflects the unusual setting, as well as the human weaknesses and idiosyncrasies that are universal.