False Impressions

Hot Summer Crime

Hot Summer Crime_blog.jpg

Megan Scott, the main character in False Impressions, feels the heat in more ways than one when she becomes the prime suspect in her husband’s murder. As Detective Moreau mounts surprising evidence against her and her partner, crime reporter Michael Elliott, she dreads the outcome of a police investigation that has already turned her world upside down.

In the story, the hot and humid summer in Montreal offers a backdrop that reflects Megan’s fears and anxieties. I’ve included excerpts below that show how the setting plays to her apprehensions.

This first excerpt takes place after Megan and Michael meet with their lawyer to discuss the case but fail at validating their alibis:

Outside the Regency, a blazing sun had pierced through the clouds and chased away the cool summer morning. I kept thinking how the weather was so volatile these days—just like my life since Tom’s death. With my freedom at stake, I expected more of the same and wondered if things would ever return to normal.

In this next passage, Megan travels to meet Michael at Santino’s restaurant:

The outdoor air hung heavy with humidity. Before I’d walked the three blocks to the underground subway station, my T-shirt had absorbed the dampness and was beginning to cling to my skin. I welcomed the coolness of Le Metro, but it was too short a train ride downtown to the McGill station for a complete cooling down period.

A gust of hot air greeted me as I resurfaced at the street level. The sun seared the pavement and sent up tides of heat that blurred my vision of objects in the distance and made breathing a chore. The two blocks east to Santino’s stretched out before me like two miles...

I fought to take in each breath from surroundings so thick and dirty with gas emissions that I could almost taste the greasy stench. My eyes burned and my throat ached with dryness...

The following passage describes Megan reaching her destination:

Parched on the inside and clammy on the outside, I arrived at Santino’s and pushed open the glass door with the last bit of energy I could muster...

I came up to our table and noticed an icy carafe. I reached for the fluid that would save my life. I filled a glass and gulped down half of it before I realized it was white wine.

The next excerpt takes place as Megan and Michael venture out on one of their fact-finding missions:

Even at eight in the evening, humidity hung heavy in the air with no relief from the slightest breeze. So much for the cooling trend the meteorologists had predicted. It was a wonder they ever got it right. Pure luck, I supposed, which was what Michael and I needed right now.

Such descriptions of the weather in False Impressions play a pivotal role in the story. As part of the setting, they create a mood that enhances my characters’ thoughts and actions and heightens readers’ expectations.

If you haven’t yet read this fast-paced mystery, visit the Books page to find out where you can get your copy of this first book in the series.

Happy reading!

 

Film Noir and the Femme Fatale

Film noir was a style of black and white American mystery and crime drama films that evolved in the 40s and 50s. The mood or tone of the film often reflected fear, despair, ambiguity, entrapment, and paranoia—emotions produced by the insecurities of the Cold War period. You would hardly find happily-ever-after endings in a film noir. Some notable films of that era include Rebecca (1940), The Maltese Falcon (1941), Laura (1944), and The Blue Dahlia (1946). More modern releases, also known as neo-noirs or post-noirs, are Fatal Attraction (1987), Basic Instinct (1992), and Mulholland Dr. (2001).

The film noir films feature an actress in the role of a femme fatale. One of the definitions of femme fatale in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “a very attractive woman who causes trouble or unhappiness for the men who become involved with her.” Females in film noir films span the spectrum from honest and loving to dishonest and manipulative. Regardless, the end result is the same: The femme fatale implicates the male protagonist by involving him in intricate and dubious circumstances that plunges both of them into the depths of crime—usually murder—and inevitable disaster.

One reviewer referred to my mystery novel, False Impressions, as “a film noir style crime drama.” The theme of my story mirrors that trend to a degree, and I’ll sum it up here. My main protagonist Megan Scott meets investigative reporter Michael Elliott and, in film noir fashion, their working relationship places him in a desperate position after they become primary suspects in a murder investigation. Their lives spiral out of control as incriminating evidence builds and threatens to obliterate their weak alibis. Rising mistrust between them follows on the heels of despair and sets up a dark mood that, though not supported by smoke-filled rooms or abandoned warehouses often depicted in a film noir, is tangible nonetheless.

As for the femme fatale in my story, Megan Scott certainly fits the description: young, attractive, and vulnerable. But she’s also observant, smart, and independent.

I’d like to hear what readers have to say. Would you consider Megan Scott a femme fatale? Or does that label more aptly apply to another female character in my story?

If you haven’t yet read my first book in the series, grab a copy of False Impressions and let me know what you think.

http://www.sandranikolai.com/books

 

Montreal: joie de vivre

Photo: Montreal over river at sunset © Depositphotos.com/rabbit75_dep

Photo: Montreal over river at sunset © Depositphotos.com/rabbit75_dep

If there’s a city that reflects an eclectic culture, a flair for fashion and the arts, and a genuine joie de vivre, it’s Montreal. It’s not surprising that I chose this cosmopolitan city as the setting for my mystery novel, False Impressions.

I get a pang of nostalgia whenever I visit Montreal. After all, it is my hometown. In my younger days, I’d spend weekends shopping along Saint Catherine Street, attending live concerts at Place des Arts, and checking out quaint boutiques along the cobblestones streets of Old Montreal. Memories like these stay with you forever.

Also engrained in my mind are historical landmarks like the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, McGill University, and Mount Royal—a large hill that overlooks the city from more than seven hundred feet high. The view from the top is spectacular—day or night!

English and French are the main languages spoken, though four million inhabitants of Greater Montreal represent more than eighty ethnic communities. The cultural diversity extends to the variety of eateries. From gourmet to traditional, the choice of restaurants and menus is vast. No visit is complete until you’ve tried poutine—a French-Canadian tradition of fries, cheese curds, and gravy.

The hot summers set the stage for this City of Festivals to play host to film, comedy, music, and other events, including the International Jazz Festival and the International Fireworks Competition. Montreal also holds the annual Canadian Grand Prix and is home to the legendary Cirque du Soleil. With winter comes the hockey season and watching Les Canadiens—aka the Habs—on ice at the Bell Centre.

The fastest way to get around and to avoid traffic jams is to ride on the Metro—the subway system. If time permits, you can stroll through the Underground City. As one of the largest interconnected complexes in the world, it boasts twenty miles of tunnels and connects the subway, shopping malls, hotels, banks, and other sites.

And did I mention the choice of delicious restaurants?

One visit to Montreal just isn’t enough.

Meet the Characters of False Impressions

If you haven’t yet met the characters in my first mystery novel, False Impressions, I’d like to introduce you to the personalities who worked their way into my imagination and decided to stay for a while. The following excerpts from the book are narrated through the first-person POV of Megan Scott, one of the two main characters featured in this series.

Michael Elliott (main character #2)
The last time I’d seen him, he was reading Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood while our English Lit professor lectured the class on Renaissance culture. I had a secret “thing” for this boy with the tousled brown hair and blue eyes, but he didn’t even know I existed.

He looked as if he’d just stepped out of bed and all the more charismatic than I remembered. His tanned, chiseled features suggested a preference for rigorous outdoor pursuits, such as mountain climbing or sail boating, rather than writing. Tousled brown hair still framed those blue eyes.

Tom Scott (Megan’s husband)
I stood on my toes and wrapped my arms around his neck. “You know that trying to get pregnant is the most important part, don’t you?” I kissed him on the lips.

He responded with a passion that made me want him even more and reminded me how much I loved him.

We lingered in bed later, my head resting against his back. Even in the dim light, I could see the small tattoo of two intertwining roses on his lower back—the same one we’d both had engraved while honeymooning in Nassau.

Pam Strober (Megan’s boss and friend)
The metal tips of Pam’s three-inch heels clicked against the back-and-white checkered linoleum as she moved to her desk, the trail of Prada perfume lingering in the air behind her.

Pam had dated more men in the last year than other thirty-three-year-old women had in a lifetime. “Use them, then lose them” was her mantra.

I sat down, glanced at her collection of cat figurines displayed in a corner bookcase. Trips-without-sex gifts from the older men she’d dated. I was relieved to see she hadn’t added any other pieces since January.

Detective Lieutenant Moreau
I caught the scent of cigarette smoke on Moreau’s clothes as he breezed past me into the living room. A tweed jacket, a lilac shirt, and a tie that looked as if it had been used to wipe off paintbrushes gave the impression he’d selected his clothes in the dark. While strands of mousey-brown hair made a futile attempt to cover the top of his head, a thick mustache filled the narrow space between thin lips and a pointy nose. Sporting a black attaché case, he could have passed for a fifty-year-old salesman peddling insurance door-to-door.

Emily Saunders (Megan’s co-worker)
Emily strutted down the corridor toward us on black high heels identical to a pair Pam had bought at Browns Shoes last month. She couldn’t possibly afford designer strap sandals on her salary, so I assumed she’d dug them out of Pam’s office closet. Bits of mascara smudged the rims of her eyes and streaks of pale skin showed through where tears had washed away the makeup. That girl was going to be at a loss without her mentor around to crack the whip whenever she spoke out of line or applied her lipstick wrong.

Peter Ewans (Tom’s co-worker)
Gray hair at the temples, a sagging facial expression, and rimless gasses, Peter looked as if he’d aged ten years since I’d seen him weeks earlier. As we stood by the front door to my apartment, he handed me the car keys but dropped them. We both made a move to retrieve them. I was faster.

Tricia Bradford (wife of publishing company owner)
Bradford’s offices only occupied fifteen hundred square feet, so conversations flowed easily through the air when doors were left open. I couldn’t tell who the other woman was, but her tone of voice grew argumentative.

Footsteps approached. A woman with a stride that said, “Get out of my way!” whizzed past my office. Well-coiffed hair, dark blue suit, lots of makeup, fiftyish. Old money.

I recognized her as Tricia, the wife of company president, Bill Bradford.

Dan Cummings (lawyer)
Dan stood about four inches taller than Michael and had the kind of build that might have secured him a football scholarship in earlier days. Now salt-and-pepper hair and a fleshy waistline added years to his age. His leather shoes made a statement about the style of attire that people in his profession could afford, while Michael’s jeans and running shoes embodied the dress code for blasé writers.

Jane Barlow (paralegal)
Her hair hung straight down to her shoulders. A band pulled it away from her face to reveal high cheekbones and accent blue-gray eyes. She wore a navy jacket, a matching skirt that stopped right above the knee, a white shirt, and a pearl necklace. The look was austere, but I supposed it was all about depicting reliability and a sense of business ethics. The only thing that betrayed her woodenness was the scent of her perfume. A blend of lavender and vanilla, it alluded to a lighter, more carefree side of her personality and was more in line with her age group. Rather, our age group.

This list isn’t complete, and other characters play minor though colorful and vital roles in False Impressions. There’s Mrs. Speck, the snooping widow; Willie, the elusive informant; and Anita, the hotel maid who… Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out!

Here's the link. Happy reading!