It’s Like a Dream Come True*

Most of us don’t get that huge lottery win, or the place on the championship team, or…or…. But we still dream. We think of what we’d do if we got a huge inheritance, or a major recording contract, or whatever else is on that ‘magic list.’ Those dreams are part of what keeps us going, and even the most unattainable of them can still be fun to imagine. But the fact is, those dreams seldom come true. Even when they do, things don’t often turn out the way people thought they would. And if crime fiction is anything to go by, there’s wisdom to the warning to be careful what you wish for…

In Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side, we are introduced to Heather Badcock, who lives in the new council housing that’s been built in the village of St. Mary Mead, and volunteers for the St. John’s Ambulance Society. She is an avid fan of famous actress Marina Gregg. So, when she learns that Marina and her husband have purchased Gossington Hall, a local estate, she’s terribly excited. She’s even more excited when she learns that Marina will be appearing at a local fête. It’s her dream to meet her idol. The big day arrives, and Heather wears a special dress she’s purchased just for this occasion. She goes to Gossington Hall and finally gets the chance to live out her dream. It doesn’t end well, though. Soon after meeting Marina Gregg, Heather collapses and later dies of what turns out to be a poisoned cocktail. At first, it looks as though her death is accidental, and that the drink was intended for Marina. And there are people with motive. But Miss Marple, who’d already met Heather, isn’t so sure. She and her friend Dolly Bantry investigate, and they find out the truth about Heather’s death. It’s certainly not what Heather had dreamed…

Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives is the story of Walter and Joanna Eberhart and their children, Pete and Kim. The Eberharts have been living in New York City, where prices and taxes are high, and living space limited. So, they decide to follow a dream of moving to a better place. They think they’ve found it in the suburban community of Stepford, Connecticut. The taxes are low, the schools are said to be very good, and they can afford a decent sized house on a little land. At first, everything does seem to be perfect; the house is terrific, the children soon make friends and settle in at school, and Joanna begins to pursue her interest in photography. But things are not as they seem, and it’s not long before Joanna’s new friend Bobbie Markowe begins to suspect that something is very wrong in Stepford. Joanna doesn’t take Bobbie’s concerns really seriously until she, too, notices that things are not as they seem. In the end, the Eberharts’ dream life doesn’t turn out as they’d planned.

Peter Robinson’s A Dedicated Man takes place near the town of Eastvale, in Yorkshire. Harry Steadman, a professor of archaeology at Leeds University, has always dreamed of excavating the Roman ruins in Yorkshire. When he unexpectedly inherits a great deal of money, he decides to follow that dream. He and his wife leave Leeds and move to the Eastvale area. He goes through the process of getting the necessary permissions to dig, and finally begins the work. His dream turns tragic one day when he’s found bludgeoned to death. Detective Inspector (DI) Alan Banks and his team investigate, and soon find that more than one person might have had a motive for murder. For one thing, not everyone was happy at the prospect of excavation in the area. For another, Steadman’s former colleagues might have a reason for wanting him dead. There are other possibilities, too. It’s going to take plenty of metaphorical digging and some luck to find out the truth about this murder.

Teresa Solana’s A Shortcut to Paradise begins at a glittering awards banquet in Barcelona, where the prestigious Golden Apple Fiction Prize will be awarded. At the banquet, famous author Marina Dolç gets the award, something she’s dreamed of for some time. It’s a major cash prize and will stand her in good stead to become even more well known. She doesn’t get much time to live out her dream, though. Not long after winning the award, she is found dead in her hotel room. At first, the main suspect is Amadeu Cabestany, another finalist for the prize. He claims that he’s innocent, although he can’t really provide an unshakeable alibi, and he had good reason for murder. His agent wants his name cleared, and hires PI brothers Eduard Martínez and Borja ‘Pep’ Masdeu to investigate. They find that Cabestany is not the only one who had a motive to commit murder.

And then there’s Waldemar Leverkuhn, whom we meet in Håkan Nesser’s The Unlucky Lottery. Leverkuhn and some of his friends go in together on a lottery ticket, and to their delight, they actually win. The group decides to go out for a celebration, and everyone gets ready to live the dream of wealth. Later that night, though, Leverkuhn is murdered. Intendant Münster and his team investigate, beginning with the other people who went in with Leverkuhn on the lottery ticket. The team also looks into the possibility that someone in Leverkuhn’s family committed the crime. The other people in the building where the Leverkuhns lived also fall under suspicion. It takes time and work, but in the end, Münster and his team find out the truth.

A lot of us dream of one thing or another, and there’s no harm in that. But things don’t always work out as planned. So do be careful what you wish for…

 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Steely Dan’s Peg.


19 thoughts on “It’s Like a Dream Come True*

  1. What an interesting theme and selection of novels, Margot! I must confess that I sometimes dream about what I’d do if I won the lottery, but it sounds like Håkan Nesser’s novel might cure me of that!

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    1. Thanks, Mrs. P.! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I think most of us probably dream of that big lottery win and what we’d do. Right now, for instance, there’s a US lottery (the Mega Millions) that’s up at US$1billion! You can bet that lots of people are dreaming of winning that much. But, as you say, that’s no guarantee of anything, is it? I do hope you get to read the Nesser at some point; that’s a fine series, in my opinion, and that’s a solid entry in it.

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  2. Well, they do say be careful what you wish for … Your post has reminded me to get back to reading Peter Robinson’s Banks books. I have read A Dedicated Man, but I have many more of his left to read.

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    1. Oh, yes, that saying has a lot of truth to it, KBR! And you know, those characters really ought to keep that in mind. But then, of course, that wouldn’t make for much of a story… Still, you’d think they would!

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    1. You know, you’re right, Col. There really is never enough time. If you do get to Nesser, I think you’d like his work. And as for Robinson, I think that’s a solid series that I really ought to get back to, myself!

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  3. Even though I loved Ira Levin’s A Kiss Before Dying, I haven’t been able to talk myself into reading The Stepford Wives. That is just too spooky.

    On the other hand, I do plan to move on and read more books in Peter Robinson’s series.

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    1. The Stepford Wies is a creepy story, Tracyi. I can see why you wouldn’t want to read it. I’m glad, though, that you plan to read more of Peter Robinson’s work. His Alan Banks series is really well done, I think.

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  4. W.W. Jacobs’ The Monkey’s Paw is, in my opinion, the ultimate story about the tragedy of our wishes coming true. I first read it in school but it gives me the shivers still.

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    1. Oh, yes, indeed, Neeru! That’s such a great example of what I had in mind. It gives me the shivers, too, even after all this time, and it shows what can happen when we get our wish…

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  5. Forgot to add, very interesting post Margot. And I was horrified to learn later that Christie’s book was actually based on a real-life tragic incident. Certainly bad taste on Christie’s part to turn it into a novel without so much as by your leave.

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    1. Thanks for the kind words, Neeru; I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I’d forgotten that that story was based on a real-life incident. It does seem as though Christie might have at least got permission or something; perhaps she did? I honestly don’t know, but there is definitely that real-life connection.

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  6. Ooh, yes, The Monkey’s Paw! Definitely a case of be careful what you wish for! Mind you, I’d still be willing to risk winning that $1 billion dollar lottery – imagine how much chocolate you could get with that! 😉

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    1. Haha! You could buy a LOT of chocolate with that much, FictionFan! I’m here to attest that I didn’t win the lottery, but I sure did speculate about what I’d do if I had… And, yes, The Monkey’s Paw is an excellent warning to be careful what you wish for!

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