Have you ever wanted to completely leave everything behind and make a clean start? If so, you’re not alone. Many people get to that point, either because of life’s circumstances or their own sense of adventure. That’s part of the reason for which people pick up stakes, so to speak, and move to new places, especially places where they’re not known. Of course, it’s not always easy to make a clean break. The past often has a way of catching up with us. Trying to make a clean start is common enough in real life; it’s also a common theme in crime fiction, and that makes some sense. Making a clean start allows for all sorts of possible plot points and complications (e.g. hidden identities, characters from the past, getting used to a new environment).
For example, in Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of the Dancing Men, American-born Elsie Cubitt has tried to make a clean start in
Neither is Samuel Ratchett, a wealthy American businessman whom we meet in Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. Ratchett is traveling across
In Christie’s Mrs. McGinty’s Dead, Poirot visits the
In Mickey Spillane’s The Big Kill, former con man William Decker decides to make a clean break with his past. He’s got a young son and wants to “go straight” for his son’s sake. It’s not as easy as it seems, though, and one night, Decker brings the boy into a bar, has two quick drinks and leaves again, this time without his son. Just as he exits, Decker’s shot in a drive-by incident. The car involved then turns around and runs over Decker, as if to be sure he’s dead. Mike Hammer, who’s in the bar, sees what happens and rushes out. He’s not in time to find out who’s responsible for Decker’s murder, but he takes Decker’s son in and determines to find out the truth for the boy’s sake. It turns out that Decker was desperate for money and linked up with a criminal gang, so at first, it seems that he was shot because he’d bungled a break-in job. In the end, though, Hammer finds out that Decker was shot for quite a different reason.
There’s also a case of trying to make a clean break in Colin Dexter’s Death is Now My Neighbor. In that novel, Sir Clixby Bream, Master of Lonsdale College,
Tonino Benacquista’s Badfellas is centered, you might say, on the theme of making a clean start. The Blake family is an American family who live in Cholong-sur-Avre in
Sometimes, it’s the sleuth who tries to make a clean start. That’s what happens in P.D. Martin’s Body Count. Australian-born Sophie Anderson lost her brother to an abduction when she was a child. Since that time, she’s had psychic visions of the incident that still plague her. Although her parents aren’t happy about it, Sophie moves to the
Most of us have had times when we’ve wanted to begin again and make a clean start. As crime fiction shows us, that’s often hard to do. Which novels have you enjoyed that focus on trying to make a clean start?