We see the way financial trouble affects people in Agatha Christie’s Dumb Witnessd (AKA Poirot Loses a Client). Wealthy spinster Emily Arundell dies of what at first seems to be liver failure. The only problem with that theory is that before her death, Emily Arundell wrote a letter to Hercule Poirot asking his help in a delicate matter. The letter didn’t go into specifics, but it intrigued Poiriot, so he and Hastings visit Market Basing, where Emily Arundell lived. By the time they get there, it’s too late; she’s already died. Still, the letter intrigues Poirot, so he starts asking questions. He finds that all of Emily Arundell’s relations have been desperate for money. Each of them has an equally plausible financial motive and what’s interesting is that not one of them seems to bear the victim any personal malice. It turns out that the killer was desperate to be out of a situation, and money seemed to be the best way out.
Financial desperation is also a theme in Christie’s Deah in the Clouds (AKA Death in the Air). Madame Giselle is a well-known French moneylender who’s en route from
Christie explores financial distress on a few levels in Taken at the Flood (AKA There is a Tide). In that novel, wealthy Gordon Cloade is tragically killed by a bomb blast just two weeks after he unexpectedly marries. This means that his widow, Beautiful young Roaleen Cloade, will inherit everything. Cloade’s relations had all been taught to expect that he would take care of them financially, so when they find out that he’s died without changing his will, they realize how financially dependent on him they’ve been, and how desperate they are. Then, a stranger comes to town who just may be Rosaleen Cloade’s first husband, long thought to be dead. If he is alive, that means that Roasleen cannot inherit. So the Cloades have a vested interest in vinding out who the stranger is, and they engage Hercule Poirot to find out if he is Rosaleen’s husband. Then, the stranger is killed, and Poirot is investigating not just an identity, but a murder. On another level, the novel explores the financial desperation felt by many in
Financial desperation is also addressed in Robert Pollock’s Loophole, in which Mike Daniels, a career thief, decides to rob the City Savings and Trust. To do the job, he hires three fellow criminals and Stephen Booker, an out-of-work architect. In fact, it’s ‘s desperation that leads him to take up criniminal activity. He’s just lost his job, and as the months go by and he can’t find anything else, we feel how desperate he becomes. When he agrees to join the team, they make elaborate plans to break into the bank through the sweer system. Tragedy strikes on the day of the break-in, and everyone survives, but it’s an interesting study of what desperation will do to a person.
In Caroline Graham’s A Ghost in the Machine, wealthy Carey Lawton dies, leaving her fortune to her nephew, Mallory Lawson. The only stipulation is that he has to move with his wife, Kate, into her home, and hire her former companion, Benny Frayle. The Lawsons agree and all goes well at first. Then Dennis Brinkley, Carey Lawson’s financial advisor and the executor of her will, dies of what looks at first like a tragic accident. Benny Frayle finds his body under one of the antique torture devices he collects. She’s convinced that he’s been murdered, and it’s not until tater in the novel that Inspector Tom Barnaby and ASergeant Gavin Troy begin to treat Brinkley’s death as a murder. When they do, they find more than one suspect. One of them is Polly Lawton, Mallory and Kate Lawton’s daughter. She wants her share o the
We also see that in Alexander McCall Smith’s The Kalarahi Typing School For Men. One of the cases that Mma. Precious Ramotswe takes on in that novel is the case of Mr. Molefelo, a successful businessman. As a young man, he became desperate for money when he found out his girlfriend was unexpectedly pregnant. So he stole a radio from his kind landlord and landlady. Now, as a more mature adult, Mr. Molefelo feels ashamed of that theft, and wants to right the wrongs that he committed. So he asks Mma. Ramotswe to find his landlady and girlfriend so that he can apologize and make amends. Mma. Ramotswe agrees and is able to re-unite Mr. Molefelo with his former girlfriend and landlady. One of the things we see in this story is the way that real financial distress can make a person turn to crimes she or he would never have considered otherwise.
Sometimes, even the sleuth feels financial desperation. In fact, that’s how Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum turns to sleuthing. Her plan had been marriage to successful attorney Dickie Orr. That changed when she came home from work one day and found him with her rival, Joyce Barnhardt. As if that weren’t enough,
It’s easy to understand how desperate a financial crisis can make a person feel. So it’s logical to believe that someone in those straits might turn to crime – even murder. Which novels have you enjoyed that explore this theme?
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Roy Orbison's Money.