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When Murder Is In the Family

The first murder was in the family: Cain killing Abel. Thus has a long dramatic tradition begun. My latest novel, Never Ask Me, centers on the Pollitts, a seemingly normal suburban American family—easy-going dad Kyle, 90s songwriter mom Iris, and teenagers Julia (rebelling and in love with a troubled kid) and Grant (studious and quiet)—who have lost a neighbor and longtime friend to murder. The victim, Danielle Roberts, was a beloved adoption consultant who helped the Pollitts adopt Grant from Russia—and yet whose relationship with the family had undergone recent strain as certain secrets began to be revealed.

The Pollitts, each changed by Danielle’s murder, begin to suspect each other of the unimaginable.

 

 

I love a good family-centered mystery—especially one where the members of the family bend their bonds of blood and affection and end up suspecting each other. Some of my favorites include:

 

Knives Out, written and directed by Rian Johnson

Johnson takes the tropes of the family murder mystery and inverts them on their heads, giving us a wry take that both celebrates the form and pushes it in a new direction of social awareness. We know families like the Thrombeys—vindictive, greedy, selfish, cruel, and distant. We sigh in relief that we’re not them. But still we see ourselves in them as huge magnifications of the resentments and bitterness that can roil a family.

 

So the next time the Thanksgiving table is tense, and you need to be reminded of the thickness of blood, just be glad you’re not in one of these fictional families. You can always visit them, but you don’t have to stay.

 

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