Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None is a very suspenseful example of what happens when strangers are thrown together. In that novel, ten people receive an invitation to visit
In Christie’s Death in the Clouds (AKA Death in the Air), Hercule Poirot is traveling by air from
Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train shows the tragic consequences of what can happen when strangers are thrown together. Guy Haines and Charles Anthony Bruno are strangers to each other, who happen to be traveling by the same train on a cross-country journey. They get to talking and soon share their life stories. Bruno hates his father and would like nothing more than to get rid of him. Haines dislikes his estranged wife, Miriam, and would like to get rid of her so that he can marry again. Bruno proposes the idea that each should, if you will, commit the other’s murder. His view is that if he kills Haines’ wife, and Haines kills his father, neither will be suspected because neither will have a motive. It’ll be, so Bruno thinks, the perfect crime. Haines brushes off Bruno’s suggestion, not aware that Bruno is serious. Then, Bruno kills Haines’ wife and puts pressure on Haines to fulfill his side of the bargain. Under pressure, Haines finally kills Bruno’s father. It’s almost a perfect crime – almost. Private detective Arthur Gerard suspects that somehow, Bruno’s involved in his father’s death although he can’t prove anything. In the end, it’s Gerard’s sense that something’s “wrong” that leads to the solution of the mystery.
In Thomas Scortia and Frank Robinson’s The Nightmare Factor, a group of strangers is caught in a terrifying health nightmare when they’re struck by what looks like a particularly virulent outbreak of influenza. As the illness begins to claim more and more lives, Dr. Calvin Doohan of the World Health Organization works frantically with the San Francisco Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control to find out what’s responsible for the deaths. These strangers have in common only their membership in a civic group, but that common thread is the key to the mystery behind this severe outbreak.
Hugh Pentecost’s The Fourteen Dilemma tells the story of a group of strangers who are all staying on the fourteenth floor of
In Lilian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who Lived High, former investigative reporter Jim Qwilleran, Braun’s sleuth, agrees to help save the
And then there’s Yrsa Sigurðardóttir’s’s My Soul to Take. In that novel, Reykjavík attorney Thóra Gudmundsdóttir is approached by Jónas Júlíusson, the new owner of an upscale spa/resort. He wants to sue the former owners of the land and buildings, because he believes the former owners didn’t tell him that the area is haunted. Thóra doesn’t believe in ghosts, and isn’t sure she wants to take on this case. However, she does like the chance for a spa getaway. So she agrees to come to the spa and find out what’s going on. Then, the body of a young and successful architect, Birna Hálldorsdóttir, who was staying at the hotel, is discovered on the beach not far from the hotel. When Jónas is accused of the crime, Thóra agrees to defend him and gets involved in the investigation. As Thóra tries to trace Birna’s last days, the residents of the hotel are drawn together in a web of suspicion.
Whenever a group of strangers is gathered together, especially in a situation where they feel trapped, this adds tension and drama to a story. Which novels have you enjoyed that use this theme?