The Chill 5: Complexity of the situation

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The post below shows the complexity of the situation, both in terms of the sequence of events over 20 years and the intertwining of so many people and places. 

Is this believable? Did you suspension of disbelief snap at some point?

Could you follow it? Did the various revelations make sense as they occurred, or did you get lost among the names and relationships?

Comments

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    Plot

    22 years ago, Bridgeton

    • Luke Deloney, successful businessman, married Mrs Deloney (nee Osborne). He had several affairs, including with Leticia Macready (nee Osborne, sister of Mrs Deloney).
    • Helen Haggerty (nee Hoffman) had a crush of Luke.
    • Leticia also had an affair with George Roy Bradshaw. Luke discovered George and Tish in bed, there was a struggle, Tish shot Luke. Tish was facially injured in the struggle.
    • Mrs Deloney worked with Earl Hoffman (local police) to cover up the killing, saying it was an accident. A "suicide" cover story was concocted if needed in case the killing was investigagted.
    • George Roy married Tish. They went to Europe for her reconstructive surgery, then procured a French death certificate for Tish. They returned, with Tish pretending to be Roy's mother.

    10 years ago, Indian Spings

    • Constance McGee (nee Jenks) took her daughter, Dolly McGee, to see Dr Jim Godwin, psychiatrist. Therapy was due to domestic abuse by Thomas McGee, husband of Constance. Constance and Dolly had moved out of Tom's house, were living with Constance sister, Alice Jenks.
    • Ray Bradshaw was also going to Dr Godwin. Ray and Constance fell in love, started an affiar.
    • Tish found out, somehow got hold of Alice's gun, then went to Alice's house and shot Constance.
    • At the trial, Alice coached Dolly to implicate Tom. He was convicted, went to prison to 10 years.

    A few months ago, Reno

    • Roy Bradshaw had fallen in love with Laura Sutherland. He was living in Reno to establish residence in order to divorce Tish.
    • Dr Godwin was visiting Europe, sent postcards written by Roy from Europe to give an alibi.
    • Helen Haggerty spotted Roy, got Judson to check his credit, then tried blackmailing Roy. As part payment, Roy employed Helen at the college.
    • Roy spread the rumours that he had a relationship with Helen, to cover his relationship with Laura.
    • After the divorce came through, Roy marrried Laura.

    A couple of weeks ago, Pacific Point

    • Alex Kincaid married Dolly McGee
    • Tom McGee, using name Chuck Begley, saw the photo, confronted Dolly over his innocence and her testimony.
    • Dolly ran out on Alex, enrolled at the university, got a job as Tish's driver.
    • Dolly chose Helen as academic advisor, wanted more information about Roy Bradshaw.

    Just now

    • Tish phoned and threatened Helen. Helen asked both Archer and Jud Foley for protection.
    • Tish shot and killed Helen, using the gun stolen from Alice.

    Relationship map

    Relationship map for The Chill

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    It is a small town in a big city, like most stories which can no longer scale to our social reality. I think most of us can't really grasp our situation, and so these stories provide a comfort that we can understand something which in reality is far beyond us. Perhaps we would be better served by stories that reflect our actuality, but that would be the end of genre fiction, and the 'economy / industry' that depends on it.

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    @BarnerCobblewood In other words "You can't handle the truth of your puny, ineffectual, lives" and the publishing/movie/TV industries are exploiting us?

    @NeilNjae - great summary, thanks. I do find the who story to be far-fetched, to be honest. But that's ok. I think my suspension snapped at the end, when we learned who Mrs Bradshaw was. It made me think of Pshyco. But until then there was so much obfuscation it was hard to see how everything connected.

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    edited September 7

    @Apocryphal said:
    @BarnerCobblewood In other words "You can't handle the truth of your puny, ineffectual, lives" and the publishing/movie/TV industries are exploiting us?

    That's not what I said - we can't really grasp our situation. Stories which explain it could provide comfort, but most stories available don't. Who knows what the truth of our lives is? Lew Archer doesn't, so why listen to him? I just didn't care because the focus was too tight, and the whole thing too straight. Are nice people really that rare? I don't think so.

    Edit: To clarify, I'm sick of stories where baddies are bad because they are bad. Seems to me this is the story I read about 95% of the time, and it actually applies about 2% of the time.

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    I didn't really find the complexity of the story very credible, with it's quasi-repetition of events over so many years. It seemed a highly artificial construct. Call me simplistic, but I can't imagine how the network of events and betrayals that @NeilNjae so ably drew could have come about in real life! I currently live in a small village, and to be sure there are personal tragedies and betrayals that occur from time to time, but I couldn't relate to the ones described here.

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    @BarnerCobblewood said:
    That's not what I said - we can't really grasp our situation. Stories which explain it could provide comfort, but most stories available don't. Who knows what the truth of our lives is? Lew Archer doesn't, so why listen to him? I just didn't care because the focus was too tight, and the whole thing too straight. Are nice people really that rare? I don't think so.

    I don't understand your point here. Is this a criticism of this book, where you're saying we shouldn't have stories about killers and murders? Or is this a comment about the wider discourse, where stories about terrible and evil things are far too common, and we should have more stories about people coming together?

    @BarnerCobblewood said:
    Edit: To clarify, I'm sick of stories where baddies are bad because they are bad. Seems to me this is the story I read about 95% of the time, and it actually applies about 2% of the time.

    I agree with this sentiment. In this story, everything revolved around Tish / Mrs Bradshaw being a jealous serial killer: she was the one who created the whole mess. But, we have no explanation for why she committed those murders. We have no insight into her thinking or emotions and why they led to her killing. As @BarnerCobblewood says, it's a classic example of the pure evil serial killer.

    But, while this may be a tired trope now, the reception could have been very different in 1963, when the book was written. Perhaps the idea of a crazed old woman serial killer was a bit fresher then than now.

    @RichardAbbott said:
    I didn't really find the complexity of the story very credible, with it's quasi-repetition of events over so many years. It seemed a highly artificial construct. Call me simplistic, but I can't imagine how the network of events and betrayals that @NeilNjae so ably drew could have come about in real life! I currently live in a small village, and to be sure there are personal tragedies and betrayals that occur from time to time, but I couldn't relate to the ones described here.

    I was happy to go along with the uncovering of events over so long. I could believe that events 10 and 20 years ago have ramifications that affect things now. Where I started losing it was when it became apparent that Mrs Bradshaw had so many identities and was behind all the killings.

    But, relating this to gaming, it would perhaps be more plausible if Mrs Bradshaw had been possessed by some evil entity, or was pursuing occult power, or something like that. But that's a different question thread!

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    > @NeilNjae said:
    > But, relating this to gaming, it would perhaps be more plausible if Mrs Bradshaw had been possessed by some evil entity, or was pursuing occult power, or something like that. But that's a different question thread!

    Actually that's a really interesting and provocative question :smile: ... what if you took the framework of a story and rewrote the underlying motives and reasons for characters' actions? Maybe turning Dickens into a steampunk plot, or Jane Austen into horror, or whatever
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    @NeilNjae said:
    I don't understand your point here. Is this a criticism of this book, where you're saying we shouldn't have stories about killers and murders? Or is this a comment about the wider discourse, where stories about terrible and evil things are far too common, and we should have more stories about people coming together?

    This is a detective story so there must be a crime, but a story where the protagonist is so lacking in agency, where the crime is greeted with such lack of affect, and where justice is unable to function, leaves me cold, and I think when told over and over again (as it is) makes readers into cold people. When we listen to, play, and practice at being and speaking like bad or ineffective people, we become so.

    But, while this may be a tired trope now, the reception could have been very different in 1963, when the book was written. Perhaps the idea of a crazed old woman serial killer was a bit fresher then than now.

    Actually I think that as genre fiction goes, this was very good. It was well-plotted, the writing was snappy, the action kept coming (but viewed passively - it was more what happened to people rather than what they did), the detective was confused but got there in the end, etc. And I think it could be read as a commentary for the relation of ordinary people with the new post-war American state. But it articulated a world where effective constructive action was entirely lacking, and I think that as fiction it fails because such a world is impossible. I'd say the same thing about stories where protagonists are too effective.

    I was happy to go along with the uncovering of events over so long. I could believe that events 10 and 20 years ago have ramifications that affect things now. Where I started losing it was when it became apparent that Mrs Bradshaw had so many identities and was behind all the killings.

    That's what I was trying to say when I talked about as long as the sequence of the session works, I can go along, and don't really care about sequential paradoxes the 'logic.' But I think playing (and reading is best when playing) is all about a remarkable fusion of dream logic with waking logic, but the waking logic (where explanation and understanding of the persons and events occur) is a necessary part of the whole, and need to be satisfying. So I give this a fail, because a critical part of a good story is lacking.

    Anyway I'm not saying we should or shouldn't have stories about terrible things, nor that we we need more Hallmark after-school specials. I'm saying that "I'm bad because I am bad" is a lazy plot device, and that serial stories of serial killers are a very lazy deus ex machina, and far too common in genre writing. To me it looks like simple money grabbing. I haven't read the other Archer stories, so maybe this is his 'crazy killer' story, but I think it obvious that our 'psychological' age cannot adequately understand and explain evil, and is full of stories that treat it as a pathogen rather than an aspect of person. @Apocryphal pointed out how remarkable this aspect of the story is, and he was right in noting it. However lamp-shading poor plot is not the same as writing good stories.

    @RichardAbbott said:
    ... what if you took the framework of a story and rewrote the underlying motives and reasons for characters' actions? Maybe turning Dickens into a steampunk plot, or Jane Austen into horror, or whatever

    I think this is exactly what playing lets us do, and what is important about it is that it shows that the external world alone (objects and objective talk) is insufficient for reality.

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    @BarnerCobblewood said:
    This is a detective story so there must be a crime, but a story where the protagonist is so lacking in agency, where the crime is greeted with such lack of affect, and where justice is unable to function, leaves me cold, and I think when told over and over again (as it is) makes readers into cold people. When we listen to, play, and practice at being and speaking like bad or ineffective people, we become so.

    I agree with some of your points. Archer is generally unemotional and looks at events (and people) dispassionately. Archer isn't that upset by the historic crimes, but he is upset by the emotional impact on Dolly and by his failure to protect Helen. And I think it's pretty clear that Archer is offended by the Osbourne's attempt to buy justice in the cover-up of Luke Deloney's killing. And the final page shows that Archer has deduced who committed all those killings, with the implication that she'll be tried for those crimes.

    At the same time, just about no one has a happy ending. Roy is killed by his ex-wife, leaving a widow behind. Alice Jenks is still consumed by hatred for Tom McGee. Tom is still estranged from Dolly. Alex has deeply upset his father. Dolly has a loving husband, but her psychological damage has resurfaced.

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