Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cruise ships: the perfect place for the perfect murder?

In my daily morning perusal of overnight news, I ran across this article: Families search for cruise ship passengers lost at sea. With Tom’s posting of yesterday priming the pump, I’ve spent nearly an hour just thinking about the plot possibilities.

Cruise ship lines have been taking black eyes left and right over the past year, from that ship that ran aground off Tuscany to the one that passed by those fishermen adrift in the ocean off South America. In between are stories of mysterious disappearances of passengers from cruise ships and that’s the topic of this article. Pretty frightening stuff, isn’t it?

In pondering the contents of the article, it’s pretty obvious that this situation is very fertile ground for the crime writer. Think about it: all these hundreds of transient people – not to mention the transient crews (I didn’t know about that), everyone fairly anonymous. Throw in a host who has no vested interest in calling attention to any potential problems, almost no police oversight, muddy legal jurisdiction, and it’s all aboard this movable city. If anyone were inclined to do murder, it really is the perfect set-up. Tom posits that it is rather difficult to commit the perfect murder. Now here am I presenting a place that could well be the basis of Murdering Someone for Dummies book.

One thing not mentioned in the article is something that was told to me by an aspiring author, Denise Willson, with whom I had a long conversation at Bloody Words two weeks ago. Seems that if you find yourself going overboard on one of those big cruise ships, and you want an outside chance of surviving, you’d better go over the railing from the front third of the ship and wind up as far away as possible. If you “disembark accidentally” any farther back than that, you will not survive, period. Apparently, everyone who works on cruise ships knows this little fact. Somehow it didn’t make it into the The Star article mentioned above. The vested interests in the cruise industry obviously don’t want this to be common knowledge and the reporter didn’t dig deeply enough.

So here’s fertile ground for an enterprising writer, and a bit of a contest sponsored by moi: how many different scenarios for a crime novel (or a series) can readers of Type M come up with based on what I’ve set out here? Come on now, don’t be shy! The prize will be a copy of my new novel, The Fallen One, when it comes out this September. (Sorry, the ARCs are all gone.)

Personally, I’ve never had an inclination to go on a cruise. It’s not the way my wife and I prefer to travel, but you certainly won’t catch me on one of them now. Not that I have any fear of my wife doing me personal injury or anything...


Laurie Januska said...

You're right! It *is* a perfect scenario, isn't it? Hmmm ... the facts you've laid out plus my claustrophobia that keeps me off cruise ships in the first place could come together to form a pretty good story!

Merlin said...

The fact that it's possible to survive from the front third of the ship suggests a different scenario to me.

Bad guy attempts to bump off our hero by pushing him off into the water from the front 1/3 of the boat at night. Our hero survives, but lets it seem his death is real - then seeks revenge.

aaron said...

Plus, given the rich vein of social commentary that crime fiction has the potential to explore, the various levels of society in the hermetically-sealed world of a ship could prove fascinating fodder in the right author's capable hands! Crime fiction, to me, has to be as much about the effects of the death as the corpse, as much about the questions as the answers, and as much about the innocent bystanders as the killer and the detective...

Rick Blechta said...

I'm thinking of a plot where the cruise line is forced by bad publicity to put a detective on board to take charge of these sorts of situations. The staff would hate him/her and make the job as difficult as possible. The employer would be doing this purely as window dressing and its response would be the same. Conflict upon conflict. Great for the backstory of a novel.

Anyone else have any ideas? And thanks to the three who have already submitted!

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