Tuesday, January 30, 2018

When the complete plot for a crime novel arrives on your doorstep

b)y Rick Blechta

Accused serial killer Bruce McArthur
Actually, change that title to “when a complete plot for a believable crime novel arrives on your doorstep”, because that’s exactly what is taking place right now in Toronto (where I live).

First, here’s a pretty good article that lays out how the man at the centre of this case came to be arrested and also includes some more recent details of the investigation: http://www.680news.com/2018/01/30/man-handcuffed-to-mcarthurs-bed/

Pretty good place to begin the novel, right? The police have staked out a suspect’s apartment and our protagonist detective and his team observe a young man go inside. Realizing the danger this person could be in, they decide they have to take action and break down the door to the apartment.

Next, the investigation leaps into high gear as the crime team fans out across the city to gather information. They’re suspecting the arrested man could be a serial killer, but they are completely unprepared for what they go on to discover.

Looking at the internet, I see this story is being covered everywhere and you’ve probably seen or heard something about it by now. Like any crime of this kind, the details are really quite horrible, but it’s not as if this sort of thing hasn’t been plotted numerous times in crime novels already. If you read my post about the Bosch series from Amazon Studios, it probably struck you as it did me that the subject would fit right into one of their seasons. The first season in fact featured the hunt for a serial killer of male prostitutes.

What moves this Toronto case into exceptional territory is the manner in which the bodies were disposed of. Put yourself in the place where the couple living on quiet Toronto street find out the beautiful planters that have been decorating their backyard for several years actually contain the remains of murder victims. I have no idea how I would handle news like that. They seem to be taking it in their stride, however.

While the details that have come out are heartbreaking, as a writer of crime fiction, I have to admit I am utterly fascinated by what is happening. Call me ghoulish or unsympathetic, but I’m just being honest.

Another factor in the developing story is that the police as recently as last year were insisting there wasn’t a serial killer active in Toronto’s Gay Village (as it’s known) when two men, now confirmed murdered by McArthur, went missing. A lot could be made of this as a secondary plot in our imaginary crime novel, and the Toronto Police Services are certainly going to have explain just why they made that statement.

They’ve already stepped into this sort of situation a number of years ago when they didn’t publicize that a serial rapist was at work in an area of the city because they were hoping to catch the individual red-handed, which they did, but not before he raped another woman. The lawsuit on behalf of the victim that followed and the investigation of police methods was not a pretty sight (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/jane-doe-wins-case-against-police-force-1.163867).

It’s going to happen again, I’m sure.

And now here in Toronto, the police feel certain the body count is going to go up — perhaps very high.

I’m sure some writer is going to take up this situation and turn it into a novel. There won’t be a lot of imagination required in coming up with plot details. It’s all in the newspaper reports.


N. J. Lindquist said...

Peter Robinson has used several crimes from this area in his books.

Susan D said...

Me too, Rick. First thought....OMG. Landscape Gardener. Access to lots of places. Lots of plots (so to speak). Gold mine.

And of course second, third thoughts....
Robert Pickton
Jane Doe & Lawsuit, aka, don't they learn?

Sybil Johnson said...

Interesting. Hadn't heard about this, but I echo the "OMG. Landscape Gardener." So many possibilities for body disposal.

Rick Blechta said...

Nancy, the only one I remember was his use of the Paul Bernardo/Karla Homolka murders in Aftermath — very effectively, I might add. What were the others, please? (And I wonder how I could have missed that, having read every one of his Banks novels.

As for the gardener angle, yup, I thought the same thing when I heard about that. I also wonder if he did any composting...

Thanks, Susan, for reminding me of the name the lawsuit went by. I should have looked it up. Bad research skills.

Marianne Wheelaghan said...

I've not heard anything about Bruce McArthur, but maybe i'm not paying enough attention to the news. What a despicable person. Well done the Toronto police for catching him! Yes, what a great story for a crime fiction writer to take and make his or her own, although with so much information in the public domain - and no doubt more to come – i imagine anyone writing it would have to be quick off the mark to get his or her book out before everyone else!

Rick Blechta said...

I'd say for certain that there are already non-fiction crime writers already at work on books about this case.

If a novelist wanted to use this story as the basis of a plot, it would be best to see how it all plays out and then put their spin onto the story and add character development for the protagonist(s) in the story, subplots, as well as additional made up details to flesh out their novel further.

For instance, I have a pretty decent idea for a plot twist -- but I ain't telling anyone because I just might decide to take my own run at this. Who knows?