Ellen Smith

Detective novels have lost their savor, but it’s been so long since she’s read anything else that Ellen isn’t sure what to do with herself. She’s wise to their tricks, that’s all; there’s only so many ways you can arrange a limited number of suspects, only so many ways to organize a killing. She’s seen it all: shootings, hangings, drownings, explosions, immolations, defenestrations. Bumped from a high place, buried alive in a low place, fed to ants and dogs and bristle-chinned pigs. For jealousy, for money, for revenge, for mania, for no reason at all.

Some cheat, which makes for a surprise ending but not a fun one. There’s nothing to put together ahead of time, nothing to suddenly fall in place, no moment when the clouds part and the sun shines down, just the stultifying wonder of a magician whisking a cloth aside to reveal your missing card. Yes, that’s the one. Of course.

She nibbles at real crimes, but shudders back. Out here, people die for too many raw reasons, killed in the street for a busted taillight, shot in the office by an abusive husband, hit by accident for no reason at all.