Saturday, July 18, 2015

Motifs and imitation

I thoroughly enjoyed Joseph Finder’s 2014 thriller Suspicion.   The only other book of his I’ve read -- likewise excellent -- is his industrial-espionage thriller Paranoia (2004).    Only after-the-fact did I realize that the books share an identical premise to trigger the action.
In both cases, a likeable protagonist engages in a piece of legally sketchy behavior, not for selfish reasons, but to aid another.  And in both cases, another party, with a sinister agenda of their own, discovering his role, use that leverage to grab him by the short-hairs and force him into extremely delicate and dangerous behavior as an undercover operative.
The fact that I didn’t realize until afterwards that, to that extent, I was reading the same book over again, simply illustrates the role of motifs in literature.  It is no crime to swipe them, to reuse them consciously or unconsciously.  In the Middle Ages, that was taken for granted.   And even today, in genre fiction, it is recognized to be no harm no foul if the book or movie employs such tried-and-true vignettes as the Spy Called Out of Retirement (the Cincinnatus motif), or car chases, or femmes fatales.

[For the full essay, of which the above is an update, click here:]

[Update 19 July 2015]  By an accident of meteorology, I found myself in the atrium of the local library, a lethal heat outside, and A/C like an ice-blanket within.  Seeking an excuse to remain amid the soothing cool, I browsed a bit, and stumbled upon another Joseph Finder -- Buried Secrets (2011).
Today, sheltering indoors, I curled up with the book.   This time, parallels to Suspicion  leap to the eye  immediately.

*  Both novels focus on a teen daughter, product of swank New England boarding schools, abducted by a sinister crime organization (in one case genuinely, in the other only initially-supposedly, a Latino drug cartel).
Now, I myself never had a daughter, and didn’t attend prep school:  but with the slightest tip of the die, I might well have done so.  Therefore these themes are of personal interest, as being might-have-beens, real in a closely adjoining alternate universe.  
So, I read and imagine.  Along the way, I meet the slang that has come into currency since the Beatles broke up.

*  The central target of elaborate blackmail is a very wealthy man who made his pile in high-finance, hedge-fund type activity.  In either case, he has an over-manicured tarty trophy bride, whom we see in her “soapstone-topped” sparkly kitchen.  In both cases, in addition to his criminal pursuers, the magnate is being closely monitored by Federal law enforcement (FBI bzw. DEA), who are wise to his game.

 About halfway through, though, Buried Secrets begins to unravel.  Oh well.

No comments:

Post a Comment