Modernity and Oil Change

The writer’s job is made more difficult by the fact that certain features of life remain unchanged as the years go by, and certain features do not.  Murder remains murder, much the same now as it was in the time of Cain and Able, who, as memory serves, played starring roles in the world’s first ‘cozy.’

But technology changes.  Guns replace knives, sophisticated poisons get developed, the world of forensic science intrudes in the office of the detective, who must now deal with sophisticated coroner’s reports.

That is crime technology.  But there is other technology, too.

Nina Bannister, in attempting to solve a murder in the novel Oil Change, is inundated and overwhelmed by the massive technical flood of figures that must figure in an imminent catastrophic oil rig disaster.  Still, her biggest discovery involves a scientific breakthrough that Miss Marple never had to deal with.

The murder victim is a young man, who has just come home to stay at his mother’s house after two weeks on the huge rig Aquatica.  Clearly something is wrong; he is disturbed.  Late at night he makes a call, but it is unclear to whom.  He goes out, probably expecting to meet someone.  The next morning early his body is found in a drainage canal.

No clues.

But maybe there is one clue, after all.

Nina receives permission to search his room.  She does not find what she is looking for.

She receives permission to examine the personal effects found on him.  Still no luck.

It must be somewhere.

And so she goes to the drainage canal, through which a higher flow of liquid had been flowing at the time of death.

She has to wade in the muck, and this is not pleasant.

But ultimately she finds it.

His cell phone—which of course contains in its little plastic window a list of numbers called and received.

Ahh, modernity!

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