Susan Russo Anderson
A Character in Distress
Note: The Girl with the Golden Earrings is free September 23 - 27, 2021
Ash Bogle is a character in distress. He is eternal, of course, being a character. But in life, you’ll find him in the pages of The Girl with the Golden Earrings, the seventh of Fina’s Brooklyn mysteries. Like all the books in this series, it is a standalone.
Here’s how we meet him:
A tall figure in his late thirties with a slight paunch and a mouth like a mulberry, Ash Bogle met us at the door all suited up and with a long face. Most people called him Ash, he told us after a perfunctory apology for his tardiness. His full head of brown hair was streaked with blond.
Fina cannot help but like him. Me neither, but then I like all of my characters—some much more than others—unless they do something to really and truly disappoint. Off the top of my head I can think of a few but won’t name them: that would be telling.
Here’s Fina again on Ash:
But for all that, for all the wealth in the room, which was usually off-putting and made me dislike the inhabitants, there was something engaging about him, something that made me like Ash Bogle, feel sorry for him, and want to fix his life, starting with that crooked bow tie of his.
Later in the story, he becomes a tragic figure. In the following scene, he hears the bad news: his wife is dead. And even though he is a man of the world with a business to run, he goes to pieces.
He stared at me wide-eyed before churning in place like a large trout caught on a hook. After collapsing into the nearest chair, he focused on nothing. I thought the man had turned to stone, and it seemed like several minutes before he spoke. “There must be some mistake. We had such a wonderful evening last night. Tickets to see La Bohème, her favorite. A night I cherished, just the two of us. She was fine this morning. I thought whatever had happened, whatever she’d been going through, I thought it was all over.” He’d developed a tic on one side of his mouth and must have felt it because he stopped talking for a time, trying to hide the movement by covering his mouth with one hand. “Sometimes she has these moods, you see. Especially of late. But this morning she was different.” He stopped talking and looked up at us, his eyes pleading. “Are you sure it’s Babette? You must be mistaken! Oh, Babette! No!” He shook his head. “We had such a nice talk over breakfast. She was going to meet a—” Suddenly he stopped, moving to the edge of the chair. He tried to continue but seemed frozen, a look of horror on his face.
“Can I get you something to drink?” Kate asked. “A brandy?” He nodded and pointed to one side of the room where a well-stocked drinks caddy stood. Kate shot me a glance and walked over. It took her a few moments, but she picked up a fancy bottle, which had been standing next to a stack of smallish crystal goblets. Looking like a pro, she filled a glass and brought it to him.
We watched as he drank the liquid in one go and wiped his mouth before setting down the glass on top of the end table beside his chair. There had been only a few times before this when I’d seen a man cry, and for some reason, it affected me more than I cared to admit. This was no exception. Ash Bogle moved to the edge of his chair and stretched his neck up to the ceiling, letting out a howl I was unprepared for. Then he buried his face in his hands and wept.
Later on, he stuffs his grief, making Fina, and perhaps the reader, suspect his complicity in the murder:
“We’ll need you to identify the body,” Willoughby began. “If you’d like a lift …” His voice trailed off.
Business was what Ash needed, a problem to solve that was completely intellectual, something involving no emotion. Right before my eyes, his tears dried up. He straightened himself to his full height and handed me the food. “Take this home to your family and enjoy.”
Photo: cover, The Girl with the Golden Earrings. Cover design: Avalon Graphics.