Tag Archives: clues

Carnival Row (spoilers)

I don’t watch a lot of TV.  We have BritBox, so I can watch British mysteries, and my husband loves the Great British Baking Show even more than I do, but when I saw the clips for Carnival Row on Prime, it had all of the elements I like in a story.  A Victorian feel.  A gloomy setting.  Supernaturals and Fae.  And a scary monster that guts people to take their livers.  Yes, the show is dark.  And the humans aren’t depicted as much nicer than the monster.  The way they treat the supernaturals, for me, was gut-wrenching.  (Oops, there’s that word again.  Sorry).

And it made me love this series, it was so complex.  And in my opinion, and this is JUST my opinion, the plotting was brilliant.  I love mysteries, especially puzzles where each little clue becomes important at the end of the story.  Carnival Row was like that.  We start out following a detective who’s determined to stop a killer from beating Fae women with a hammer, killing most of his victims.  I thought, Aha!  The story’s big question.  Hardly.  The other cops who work the area aren’t much concerned about the women’s deaths.  What’s one less Fae?  Good riddance!

We get a glimpse of Philo’s private life, living in a boarding house.  The woman who runs it has fallen for him, and when we see them in an intimate scene, we learn that Philo has scars on his back from the war he fought in.  (If nudity and sex bother you, be warned).  Being a soldier has shaped him, and he  doggedly follows each clue that comes up until he confronts the killer.  And then there’s a twist.  The killer tells him that the Fae haven’t only brought their strange religions and customs to Carnival Row, they’ve brought a dark monster, and the evil has only begun.  Then the killer throws himself off the top of the building, killing himself.

We wonder why Philo cares so much about the Fae when no one else does.  And then we learn, through a flashback, that while fighting the war, he was stationed in a Fae bastion, and he fell in love with a woman there.  She ends up in Carnival Row, too.  And we know the two will meet and the plot’s going to have another twist.  We also learn that the scars on Philo’s back are because his mother was Fae.  She had his wings cut off when he was a baby so that he could pretend to be human growing up and have a better life, and she placed him in an orphanage so that he wouldn’t be associated with her.

When we return to present day in the story, Philo’s now tracking the dark monster that’s stalking the area.  I’ve shared enough spoilers, so I won’t say more except that there are subplots that add more layers to the story, and the twists keep coming, and the story gets more and more complicated.  It’s as much a maze as a mystery with each person’s story  weaving in and out of each other.  The over arcing storyline builds more and more tension with each episode, and the characters were well developed, even minor ones.  Predictions seem like one thing and then morph into another.  There was even decent social commentary if you chose to notice it.

I write cozy mysteries.  Even my Muddy River stories with supernaturals don’t push the envelope too far.  But I think I could learn a thing or two by studying the plotting of Carnival Row.  Writers can learn a lot from movies that inspire them.  How were they put together?  What made them better, more compelling than other movies you’ve watched?  I was impressed with the writing of this eight episode series.

October is almost upon us with days that get shorter and shorter, (at least, where I live).  All Hallow’s Eve will soon arrive with its thinning of the veil.  Enjoy the changing of the leaves, the brisk temperatures, and let’s hope that happy writing is in your future!

 

Advertisements

Mysteries

Writers can end up talking about and researching strange things.  When I write mysteries, though, I always hope no one tracks the history of the sites I visit.  For instance, my character dug a hole near a septic tank–so no one would get suspicious why he was digging a hole in the first place, and then dumped a body in it.  Six months later, the house has sold and the toilets aren’t draining right, so another person digs near the septic tank and finds the body.  Question is:  what will it look?  Answer:  not at all like the body my protagonists found stashed in the attic–which was above ground and protected. Hence the working title:  The Body in the Attic.  But when I read the first chapter to my writers’ group, they all had different ideas of what dear Lynda’s remains would exactly be. Would the clothes still be intact?  The hair?  Would her skin and flesh have dissolved or mummified?  Would the pillow under her head be stained from when her flesh liquefied?

How I love my writer friends!  They didn’t blink an eye while they discussed how bodies decompose or dessicate–as Lisa Black explains in her book THAT DARKNESS.  A fellow writer in my group is working on a much more grisly mystery than mine and needed to know how long a body can hang in woods before the neckbone gives out and the head and body drop and roll in different directions.  Oh, the possibilities!

I bought Lisa Black’s book THAT DARKNESS, because she’s a forensic scientist and I thought she’d HAVE to make me start thinking about stuff I usually try to avoid.  And I was right.  It reminded me of when I went to a big mystery conference in Chicago and a coroner gave an hour and a half workshop on finding clues when studying dead bodies.  He brought slides of entry wounds and exit wounds.  A bullet goes in small, but exits big.  Unless it’s a .22, and then it might just bounce around inside the skull.  (Black used that in her book, but the coroner had already warned us about it).

Black’s book concentrates on crimes and forensics, so it was fun to read–unless you’re squeamish.  I want my book to concentrate more on characters but with realistic clues to the murders.  Black’s book has lifetime criminals and cops and forensic scientists.  Her characters work with crime day after day.  Professional criminals do WAY worse things than the killer in my book.  He’s an amateur with amateur detectives finding clues they don’t want to.  My book will have a totally different feel than hers.  On purpose.  But I’m so glad I read hers.  Details make a difference.  And she’s a professional, so her details drive the story.  When she has to cut off a dessicated finger to soak it long enough that she can get prints, you believe her.  And that’s awesome!