Everybody Wants You*

The public can be very fickle, so today’s wildly popular band, athlete, or movie star may be forgotten in a short time. But while they’re ‘hot property,’ these people can be very much sought after and ‘courted.’ They develop fiercely loyal fan bases, too. And they can make for interesting characters in a crime novel.

In Agatha Christie’s Lord Edgware Dies, for example, Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings attend a London performance by Carlotta Adams, the sensation of the moment. Her specialty is doing impressions of different people, and she’s very good at it. After the performance, Poirot and Hastings are approached by famous actress Jane Wilkinson, who also attended. She wants Poirot to approach her husband, Baron Edgware, about granting her a divorce. Poirot reluctantly agrees, and he and Hastings visit Edgware. Surprisingly, Edgware agrees to the divorce, and says he’s already communicated that to his wife. It’s odd, but it seems the case is solved. That night, Edgware is stabbed, and Chief Inspector Japp investigates the case. He hasn’t been working on it long when Carlotta Adams is found dead, seemingly of an accidental drug overdose. Poirot and Hastings work with Japp to find out how the deaths are connected, and how those murders are tied to a third death that takes place.

Harlan Coben’s series featuring sports agent Myron Bolitar begins with Deal Breaker. Bolitar is a former professional basketball player whose career was ended by an injury. He knows a lot of people in the sports world, so he’s set himself up well to be an agent. In this novel, his new client is Christian Steele, a very much sought-after football player who’s recently graduated from university and is now ready to play professionally. Bolitar’s trying to get the best deal possible, and plenty of teams would like to make that deal. Steele is ‘hot property.’ Everything changes, though, when Steele asks for Bolitar’s help. Several months earlier, Steele’s girlfriend Kathy Culver went missing. The police got involved, but never found much conclusive evidence about what happened to her, although it’s assumed she was murdered. Now, Steele has received a strange package – a pornographic magazine with some ads for phone sex lines. One of the women pictured in those ads is Kathy Culver. If she’s dead, as it’s believed, how did her picture get there? If she’s alive, why hasn’t she contacted anyone? Bolitar knows this needs to be solved if he’s to help Steele in his career. So he starts asking questions. He soon finds that not much in this case is as it seems.

In Åsa Larsson’s The Savage Altar/Sun Storm, we are introduced to Viktor Stråndgard. Known as The Paradise Boy, he’s a phenomenon at the Church of the Source of All Our Strengh, located in Kiruna. Sales of his videos and audio recordings have skyrocketed, and he’s gained an avid following. One day, he is found murdered in the church building. When Stockholm attorney Rebecka Martinsson learns what happened, she is shocked. She’s from Kiruna, and she knew the victim. Then, she gets a call from Viktor’s younger sister Sanna, who was a friend. Sanna wants Rebecka to travel to Kiruna to be with her at this time. Rebecka has good reasons for not wanting to go, but she agrees. Not long after Rebecka’s arrival, the police find evidence that suggests that Sanna is guilty. She insists that she’s innocent, and she asks Rebecka to defend her. Rebecka is not a litigator, she’s a tax attorney. But she once again is persuaded to help, for old times’ sake. As she starts asking questions, we see just how dangerous it can be to be suddenly wildly popular.

Famous entertainer Gaia Lafayette learns the same thing in Peter James’ Not Dead Yet. She’s originally from Brighton, but has become the hot superstar of the moment, and now lives in Los Angeles. She’s planning to return to her hometown, though, to do a film. Superintendent Roy Grace of the Brighton and Hove Police is tasked with ensuring Gaia’s safety and that of her son. He’s not looking forward to the job since his resources are stretched as it is. Still, he doesn’t have much choice but to co-operate. Grace and his team do their best to make sure that nothing happens to their celebrated guest, but with fame like hers, that’ll be hard. It’s even harder when there’s a death, and the team members have to solve the crime and look after Gaia.

As Paddy Richardson’s Traces of Red begins, Wellington journalist Rebecca Thorne is looking for a good story to follow up for her show, Saturday Night. She’s done well enough in her career, but she knows that there are younger, hungry people coming up behind her. One of them is Janet Beardsley, who’s got her own show, Courageous Leaps, and is rapidly getting very popular. She’s the new darling of the network, and in fact, it’s been said that Saturday Night is going to be replaced with Courageous Leaps. Rebecca knows that to stay relevant, she’ll have to get a powerful story – one that will establish her at the top of New Zealand journalism. She thinks she may have found that story when she hears of the case of Connor Bligh. He’s been in prison for years for the murder of his sister Angela, her husband Rowan, and their son Sam. Only their daughter Katy survived, because she wasn’t home at the time of the killings. Now, there are little pieces of evidence that Bligh may be innocent. If he is, then Rebecca could have just the story she needs. As she starts to look into the case, she finds how dangerous it can be to want to be at the top of the heap.

The thing about being the darling of the moment is that fame has a price. There’s a lot of pressure, and things can get awfully stressful, not to mention dangerous. Perhaps anonymity is the better choice…


*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Billy Squier.






10 thoughts on “Everybody Wants You*

  1. I have so many favorite Hercule Poirot novels, and I cannot say that Lord Edgware Dies is one of them. BUT it is very memorable. A complex story and one that had me completely fooled.

    I read Harlan Coben’s Deal Breaker a few years ago and I liked it very much. I found some of the characters over the top and I haven’t returned to the series, but I would not mind reading more of them. There are just too many books to read.

    I don’t know that I have read many books with this theme, but Josephine Tey’s A Shilling for Candles is about the death of a young actress, Christine Clay, who had been living under an assumed name for a while to avoid the pressures of fame and fortune.


    1. I like the way you put that, Tracy: Lord Edgware Dies is memorable, and yes, Christie did such a great job as misdirection there.

      As for Harlan Coben, I know just what you mean. Somehow those ‘over the top’ characters don’t bother me in his work the way they can with other authors. He works them in in a way that doesn’t put the reader (well, this reader) off. I haven’t kept up with the series as I might, and it’s chiefly because of the ‘too many books’ thing. I doubt I will ever catch up.

      And thanks for mentioning the Tey. You’ve got me thinking now about other fictional characters who go into hiding, if that’s the word, for the same reason. Thanks for the inspiration – I feel another blog post coming on…


  2. The lifestyles of the rich and famous do garner so much attention, don’t they Margot? Which definitely makes them the perfect subject for a crime novel! And there was a recent BL anthology of theatrical mysteries which featured some marvellous stories of actors in the public eye and some very twisty mysteries!


    1. Oh, yes, KBR, I’d heard of that BL release! I confess I’ve not (yet) gotten to it, but it sounds fantastic. And the theatre is such a perfect context, isn’t it, for that sort of story. There really is something about the suddenly rich and famous that just gets people’s attention. Sometimes I wonder what the fuss is about, and sometimes, I admit, I catch myself reading those headlines myself… It must be quite the life!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The Josephine Tey that Tracy mentioned is the only one I can think of off-hand that has this theme. But there must be quite a lot. Although wasn’t there an episode of Lewis that had his favourite band from years ago in it? What always surprises me is the number of famous people who were household names in Victorian times and since, who are now completely forgotten. Makes you wonder who, from the current age, will be remembered long-term.


    1. You have a good memory, Cath! I think there was an episode of Lewis where there’s a murder connected to a band he loved, Midnight Addiction. Thanks for the reminder of a fine show! That’s an interesting point you make, too, about the people who were household names in the Victorian Era but are forgotten now. It would be fascinating to time-travel a hundred years into the future and see whether the names we all talk about now will even be mentioned then…


  4. Given how often fictional celebrities come to a sticky end, it’s always surprising that so many people still seek fame! The only addition to your list that springs immediately to my mind is Lulu, the supermodel/victim in JK Rowling’s The Cuckoo Calling – another one who discovered that there can be serious downsides to fame!


    1. You make such a good point, FictionFan! Why would anyone want that sudden fame? A-list or no A-list, there’s a lot to be said for anonymity! Thanks, too, for mentioning The Cuckoo Calling. It’s an excellent example of what I had in mind with this post. I didn’t include it, so I’m glad you did!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Totally agree with the last line. I’d prefer to be inconspicuous and not have a large following of sycophants than be in the limelight. Fame was always dangerous, but more so today with the growth of social media, etc. Anyone can develop an obsession and stalk you. It’s better to live a quiet life and go about your business methinks. You’ve given some great examples in this post.


    1. Thanks, OP. And you’ve got a good point about the benefits of anonymity. When you just live your life without being followed around, it’s a lot less stressful – and dangerous.


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