Sunday, 1 April 2012

Getting Away With Murder...

One of my lovely beta readers, William Urinoski, wasn't altogether happy with the ending of Replica because of what does, or rather doesn't, happen to the villain, Sir Peter Ellis. In his thoughtful critique he said:

"I think he might have benefited from a bit of Jack Reacher's brand of justice - not necessarily fatal, but extremely painful with a prolonged recovery time - followed by some time before the bench with the threat of an also-prolonged prison term...Though as much fun as it is to speculate about alternate endings, I don't mean to imply that yours isn't good. I think, now that I've spent the time writing about it, that I must be troubled by the fact that I think Pete (he really doesn't deserve to be called Sir Peter) got off too lightly...I think readers like endings where most everybody gets their just desserts. That's probably why Child's work consistently sells so well."

This stayed with me, because originally I had wanted Nick to kill or severely damage Sir Peter, and get away with it. And there was the rub - I couldn't work out how a character these days in central London could plausibly get away with the murder or even assault of someone known to him. What with forensics and a thorough police investigation, he wouldn't have a hope.

I'd never read any of Lee Child's thrillers (though Nick does in Replica) so recently I read three, Gone Tomorrow, Bad Luck And Trouble, and Worth Dying For. I can see why he is so successful; the books are gripping and unputdownable. My favourite was Bad Luck And Trouble, my least favourite Gone Tomorrow (torture scenes). With none of them was I entirely convinced by Reacher getting away with murder. Lots of murders, plus crippling assaults. However remote the district in Worth Dying For, I don't think four members of a family could simply disappear, along with six or seven other people, without questions being asked. In fifteen books, Jack Reacher kills 77 people, and gets away scot free. A bit of an eyebrow raiser, though Lee Child does it with great panache.

Perhaps I'll go back to writing fantasy, where heroes kill baddies all the time, with nothing to prevent them riding away into the sunset, rough justice done to the satisfaction of everyone.

Can any of you think of good examples of modern heroes getting away with murder in a totally believable way?


  1. The alternative would be to take away everything that makes him feel important, and leave him without friends, social standing, money or fact, in the same situation that Beth2 found herself. There'd be a nice symmetry in that.

    But then I reckon Replica is rife for a sequel - after all, would they have stopped at one Replica if they knew the machine worked?
    Someone like Sir Peter would be more likely to try to alter it for a more commercial use such as self-clones in case of accident, etc. Or at least you'd think so...

  2. Do you remember the 80s film Trading Places, where at the end the baddies lost all their money on the stock exchange? How to hurt a rich man - make him poor.

    The OMD7 in my book could replicate anything organic; so leather jackets (not handbags because of the catches) favourite pets of course, or you could copy a winning racehorse... I think I'll leave the sequel in readers' heads.

  3. Erm... James Bond? He seems to kill lots and gets away with it - (although as played by Daniel Craig, he broods alot!). Dirty Harry? Although he is sort of borderline psycho anti-hero isn't he!??! LOL! I can't think of any women.. oh I know!!! All these modern femme fatales - like Kathleen Turner in Body Heat and Linda Fiorentino (sp?) in The Last Seduction. They didn't really kill loads and loads - just the hubbies and a policeman or three and frame very successfully the saps who fall in love with them!

    Take care

  4. James Bond has his licence to kill - and does anyone believe a word of those stories anyway?

    I have to admit I haven't seen any of your other examples. As a single parent, there was a time I didn't get out much :o)

  5. Lexi, I think your biggest mistake was killing off the replica.

    You should have engineered a HEA. That way the book could have classed as romance and your sales would have rocketed to the skies.

    To give Sir Peter his comeuppance I would have used the top secret replicator and convinced him that it held the secret to eternal life.

    Instead of an exact replica however, the modified machine would produce a REPLACEMENT. All sorts of possibilities for retribution then. LOL

  6. Q, I couldn't write a 'proper' romance to save my life. In my original ending both Beths did the television interview and survived. Beth Two realized that just like Beth One, she was in love with Nick, but there was nothing she could do about it. She walked away alone.

    As I got nearer to it, I could see the ending was all too predictable and a bit of an anticlimax. So I thought furiously for two or three weeks, then finished it as is.

    Do you remember the terrible ending to the original Stepford Wives when the robotic copy kills the original? I was most put out by that ending.

  7. Lexi, With your original ending you should have had Nick replicated. HEAs all round then. Double value for romance lovers! LOL

  8. Q, I didn't think of that - but the Prof was going to replicate Inky Pink on the quiet and hand him over discreetly to Beth Two in a cat basket...

  9. Lovely posts. I do enjoy reading them. SO much I gave you a shout out on my own.


  10. Hey, thanks, Tyson. That's a stylish blog you've got there. And you do vlogs as well...respect :o)

  11. I have to own up here to reading the Da Vinci code. There is a pretty near perfect murder in that. I can't remember the name of the bad guy, but he gives his driver a drink that is laced with nut allergen, knowing the guy has a severe allergy. He dies. I think that one would be very hard for forensics to prove anything. All the evidence would show is an acute allergic reaction, but it would be impossible to trace back to the person who fed it to him, assuming that they had walked off with the bottle.
    Of course it's not a murder that could be done on anyone to order, but given that this is fiction, I think it works.

  12. I didn't get through the first chapter of The Da Vinci Code, but that does sound a believable murder. Not by a goodie, though, and I think the reader would lose sympathy with a hero who set up that sort of death for an antagonist.

  13. When I posted that, which was a bit late because I'm sitting in a campervan in Italy wiith somewhat dodgy access to the web, I didn't think to mention the one in my book 'Side Effect'. Again it is not perpetrated by a goody, though he is a baddie that the reader is supposed to sympathise with to some degree, and it's even badder baddies being bumped off. The trick is to use a drug that has a lethal side effect that is only triggered by exercise. So, for instance, spiked drinks are put in the minbar of known drinkers and then the fire alarm is triggered so that the drinkers have to run for their lives, but in fact run to their deaths.
    There is more, but you get the idea.

  14. So am I right in thinking a doctor's specialized knowledge would come in handy if he wanted to kill someone?

    Lucky most of you are good eggs...