Saturday, 30 May 2020 16:47

As most of us have been working at home, a new reality has emerged: Many couples have no idea what their partner does.


You may know that the other person goes to work every day.

You may even know the name of the business where person works. Probably even the address.

But do you actually know what he or she does?

How they fill up those hours? Who do they interact with? What constitutes a job well done? Even do they go to work?

This was the subject of a recent New York Times article in which several couples mentioned that, while they know their partner so well, they can’t really say what their job is.

I don’t think that is uncommon. I was talking with my favorite cousin a few weeks ago and he mentioned that his daughters’ husbands were still working. But he wasn’t quite sure what those jobs entailed.

I remember a conversation with neighbors when I was just a couple years into my career as a journalist. What do you do all day, they asked. When I explained that I interviewed people, wrote articles, thought up story ideas, well, let’s just say they still didn’t get it.

Chris Pavone took this idea and turned it into his debut The Expats, which won the 2013 Edgar Award for best first novel. In The Expats, Kate Moore resigns her job to follow her husband Dexter from Washington, D.C., to Luxembourg where he has a lucrative job offer.

A financial systems expert, Dexter’s skills are in high demand. But Kate’s skills are even more valuable—she’s a CIA operative, though her husband knows nothing about that.

In Luxembourg, Kate plans to leave her spying days behind and concentrate on her family, which includes their two sons.

But Kate isn’t the only with secrets. Dexter may be a thief who has stolen millions through online banking transactions, drawing Kate back to her old job.

Pavone mixes the spy novel with a tense domestic drama, keeping his character believable. The reader totally buys into how they have kept their double lives secrets.

Granted, most of us don’t have a spy or a thief for a partner.

At least I hope we don’t.

But what The Expats pinpoints is that we get so caught up with just the daily details it is easy to neglect or even ignore the big picture.

Just getting out the door—when we could get out the door—is a trial in itself, one which I think each of us would welcome again.

Secret lives have been the foundation of many a mystery. Maybe that’s why they are called mysteries!

Imagine going to a psychiatrist like Hannibal Lecter.

Blood expert Dexter Morgan’s side hobby made perfect sense, especially in the Showtime series Dexter.

Breaking Bad’s Walter White hid his sideline of making meth for a long time, at least six years, trying to justify making poison to support his family.

In True Lies, Jamie Lee Curtis had no idea that her husband, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, was a secret agent.

Law & Order: Criminal Intent had a plot in which a man told his family he worked at the United Nations when, in fact, he spent much of his days in the park. Those secrets, of course, led to murder.

So many secrets—the details of a job just seem mild.

And fiction never trumps reality.

How often do we learn that killers have kept their proclivities from their family, friends and neighbors. Think BTK or Ted Bundy. Remember the phrase we hear so often—“but he was such a nice guy,” who, of course, always kept to himself.

Many husbands or wives keep their affairs secret or drain the family bank accounts to cover their undetected gambling habit.

For the record, I know exactly what my husband does since he also is a journalist. And he knows what I do, too.

My husband is now a theater critic. Although theaters are on hiatus, he is finding many things to write about theater, like a true journalist.

Either that, or he is a CIA operative.

You Do What at Work?!
Oline H. Cogdill
Tuesday, 26 May 2020 18:50

The #SaveIndieBookstores campaign isn’t quite over.

New York Times bestselling authors and journalists Michael Connelly, left, and CNN’s Jake Tapper, below left, will be in conversation beginning at 7 pm ET/ 4 pm PT on Thursday, May 28, via Crowdcast at

The conversation will cover both authors’ new books, the craft of writing, how journalism informs fiction, their move from journalism to fiction writing, and the importance of supporting independent bookstores now and always.

Should be an exciting conversation.

Connelly's newest novel is Fair Warning; Tapper's novel is The Hellfire Club.

The special, one-time event will benefit Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc) and #SaveIndieBookstores.

The event is free and open to the public via Crowdcast.

During the event, viewers will be encouraged to donate to Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc.) to a general fund that will go toward helping booksellers, their businesses and their families as they navigate this difficult time.

#SaveIndieBookstores campaign was a partnership of James Patterson, who donated $500,000, the American Booksellers Association and the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc).

To date, the campaign, which began April 2, 2020, and was to end April 30 but was extended to May 5, raised $1,239,595 to support independent bookstores, Bookselling This Week reported.

For previous essays on this campaign, visit the Mystery Scene blog and on Connelly’s T-shirt fundraiser.

Photos: Michael Connelly photo by Mark DeLong; Jake Tapper photo courtesy CNN.

Michael Connelly and Jake Tapper in Conversation
Oline H Cogdill
Monday, 25 May 2020 22:53

Something Old: "Gone" by Peter Godfrey

Something New: "The Man Who Wasn't There," by Michael Allan Mallory

Peter Godfrey was a prolific short story writer who emigrated from South Africa to England in the 1960s because of his distaste for apartheid. By his reckoning (in a private letter) he published hundreds of stories in newspapers and magazines last century.
His story "Gone," which he wrote for a Crime Writer's Association anthology (John Creasey's Crime Collection 1982, edited by Herbert Harris), is the story of a shocking occurrence by the seaside. The plot pivots on a landscape painting of a beach.
The tone is somber, the ending... creepy. Godfrey takes us inside the mind of Tom Burt, deaf since birth, who at 12 years old had a mysterious encounter with a girl he met at the shore. She's not deaf herself, but her mother is, so she knows how to "handspeak," and she and Tom have a single magical afternoon together. It ends abruptly, and Tom doesn't know why.
Years later Tom realizes the incident has had a profound effect on his life and his painting career, and and he sets out to discover what really happened that day, and why it has haunted his subconscious ever since. What he finds out will haunt you too.

Michael Allan Mallory's story "The Man Who Wasn't There" was published in 2019 in the 50th Anniversary Bouchercon collection Denim, Diamonds, and Death. It's the story of a shocking occurrence by the seaside, and the plot pivots on a landscape painting of a beach.
Claudette and Peter are looking for Marco, wealthy owner of the oceanfront estate they've arrived at. They think they see him sunbathing, but on approaching closer, Peter discovers Marco's throat has been slit. Apart from Peter and Marco's, there are no footprints in the sand. They investigate to save Peter from prosecution.
This is, I believe, a new solution to the footprints-in-the-sand mystery, a variation on the impossible crime. The clueing is first-rate, and it's the kind of straightforward detective story that Edward D. Hoch might have written.
The two stories share another very specific link, but I'll leave you to discover what it is. Read both, starting with "Gone," and you'll receive an object lesson in how two virtuosos--one old, one new--can start with the same concept and produce completely different works of art.

Which Way Did They Go?
Brian Skupin