A recent interesting post by Marina Sofia at Finding Time to Write touched on the topic of bored teenagers. Even teens who aren’t what you’d call thrill-seekers still get bored, and when that happens, the results can be disastrous. Teens seldom have the judgement and maturity that adults do, so they don’t always make wise choices. A quick glance at crime fiction should suffice to show just what can happen when teens get bored. If you’re interested, I did a post on this not long ago.
The whole thing has got me thinking about boredom and routine. We all like a certain amount of routine, but sometimes, it can all get dull. And that’s when people crave a bit of change, even excitement. That in itself isn’t such a bad thing, of course. But sometimes, it can have all sorts of terrible consequences. It certainly can in crime fiction.
For instance, in Agatha Christie’s Cat Among the Pigeons, we are introduced to Honoria Bulstrode, headmistress of Meadowbank, an exclusive school for girls. She’s been toying with the idea of moving towards retirement, or at least, doing something else. For her, things have gotten a bit dull, and she is hoping some change will help. She gets her wish and more when Grace Springer, the new games mistress, is shot in the school’s new Sports Pavilion. Then, there’s a kidnapping. And another murder. Now, many of the pupils’ parents begin to pull their daughters out of the school, and there is a risk that the school might have to close. One of the pupils knows of Hercule Poirot, and goes to visit him to tell him what’s been going on. He comes back to the school with that pupil, and begins to look into the matter. And in the end, he finds that all of the events are related to each other and to international intrigue and missing jewels. It may not be the change Miss Bulstrode hoped for, but it’s certainly different!
Lawrence Sanders’ The Anderson Tapes begins just after John ‘Duke’ Anderson is released from prison. He’s got a legal job now, working in a printing plant, but it’s far from exciting or lucrative. Still, he tries to live on the right side of the law. Then everything changes. Anderson meets wealthy Agnes Everleigh, who lives in an exclusive Manhattan apartment building. A little bored with his new routine, and eager for a big payoff, Anderson decides to pull off a major robbery. He’s going to rob every apartment in the building. He won’t be able to do it alone, so he recruits a number of people from the criminal world. What they don’t know, though, is that the FBI and other agencies have been keeping tabs on them. Several of their conversations have been recorded, and now, it becomes a race between Anderson and the authorities. Will they be able to stop him before he pulls off the heist?
One plot thread of Gene Kerrigan’s The Rage concerns Vincent Naylor, who’s recently been released from prison. He’s been in and out of trouble with the law for some time, and he has no desire to go back behind bars. He and his girlfriend, Michelle, dream of getting away and starting over somewhere else. For that, though, they’ll need money. Naylor’s rather bored, and legitimate work doesn’t pay very well (when an ex-convict can even find work). So, Naylor connects with his brother Noel and some friends, and the group plans the perfect heist. The plot will be Protectica, a security company that transfers cash among different Dublin banks. The group puts together all of the details, and the heist comes off as planned. But then, things start to go very wrong, and it all ends in tragedy. In this case, that sense of boredom leads to some awful consequences.
Ian Rankin’s Doors Open introduces wealthy Mike Mackenzie. He’s gotten rather bored with what he sees as his humdrum life, and he’s looking for some excitement. He and his banker friend, Allan Cruikshank, share a particular love for art; so, together with an art professor named Gissing and a local gangster named Chib Calloway, they devise a plot. They’re going to rob the National Gallery of Scotland and replace some of its art with forgeries. They choose the gallery’s ‘Doors Open’ day, when the public is invited to view the warehouses and some of the other ‘behind the scenes’ parts of the gallery. Everything’s worked out carefully, and the robbery goes off. But the group learns that stealing the valuable art is just a beginning…
And then there’s Pascal Garnier’s How’s the Pain. Twenty-one-year-old Bernard Ferrand lives in a small town where there’s not much to do. He’s bored with life, and not sure what he’s going to do. Then, he happens to meet an aging professional assassin, Simon Marechall. It turns out that Marechall wants to make a trip to Cap d’Agde, on the French coast, to do one more hit before he retires. He wants to hire a driver to take him there, and Ferrand agrees. He doesn’t have much of anything else to do, and he can use the money. But, Marechall hasn’t told his new driver what he does for a living. By the time Ferrand finds out, it’s too late, and things are already spinning too far out of control.
And that’s the thing about boredom. Whether you’re a teen or at another age, it’s not a lot of fun to be bored. But sometimes, it’s better than the alternative, at least in crime fiction. Thanks, Marina Sofia, for the inspiration. Now, folks, please treat yourself and go visit Finding Time to Write. Thoughtful, rich reviews and commentary await you there!
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Tom Petty’s Mary Jane’s Last Dance.