Have you ever read a book and liked or even fell in love with a character, only to realize with dismay that the character is killed off by the author. It’s a heart wrenching experience!
Sometimes the character’s death is unavoidable, I guess. Sir Arthur Canon Doyle wanted to kill Sherlock Holmes so he could move on and write his historical novels. He made him fall to his death together with his arch enemy Moriarty down the Reichenbach falls above Meiringen in the Bernese Alps of Switzerland. However, his readers protested so much that he was forced to bring the sleuth back to life. (There is an excellent new TV version of Sherlock Holmes on PBS, so far there are only three series. I hope there will be more!)
Anyway, characters die for different reasons: illness, murder, war, natural disasters, etc. Most of the time, the reader accepts the death as being a necessary part of the story. We grieve, gnash our teeth, but ultimately we agree with the author that the character’s time has come.
Sometimes, however, the death of a character is so out of line and, in our—well, at least, in my— opinion, outrageous. How dare the author….
Here is an example. I have been reading a series of four excellent mysteries/thrillers. They are real page turners and I couldn’t wait until the next installment was out. I’m not going to list the title or the author because I would be spoiling it for the readers. The heroine in the novels together with her journalist friend is trying to unlock a sinister secrete having to do with a religious cult. One of the characters, the father of the heroine, has disappeared under very mysterious circumstances and is believed to be dead. The heroine, however, finds evidence that made her believe that he is still alive. She suspects that he was somehow involved in the crimes committed by the cult and has faked his own death to protect his daughter.
As the story proceeds through three books, we get glimpses of the mysterious father. The author does an excellent job of keeping us wondering, wanting to know more about him. Like his daughter, we are made to believe that he is not exactly innocent, but we begin to like him and we want the daughter to finally meet him.
In the fourth book, the long-awaited meeting and reunion finally does take place—but what a reunion and what a disappointment. The father is about to be arrested and what does he do? HE SHOOTS HIMSELF. What??!!! Nooooooooo! After all this time, all our wondering and debating and waiting, he comes on the stage to be killed?
Please, that’s just not fair. Now, to the defense of the writer of this otherwise excellent series I have to say that there is going to be a fifth part. So, perhaps, the author will bring the father back to life just like Canon Doyle did with Sherlock Holmes? Well, I doubt it but I am looking forward to finding out more about all this. Still, dear author, you could have been a little gentler with the poor guy. Really!