Saturday, March 28, 2009

Guest Blogger - Kelley Armstrong - Day 3

Vigilantism

As you might expect from a series about an ex-cop-turned-hitwoman, vigilantism is a strong element in my Nadia Stafford books. My protagonist is a part-time contract killer for a small Mafia family. She took the job to keep her beloved wilderness lodge open, but she’d be the first to acknowledge there’s more to it than that. The truth is that she doesn’t mind killing mob thugs. It feeds a part of her that’s still grieving over her career. And that part is getting stronger, needing more, pushing her uncomfortably close to vigilantism.

A vigilante is someone who takes the law into his own hands. We’ve all read vigilante cases in the news. I recall a local one where a guy found a would-be thief threatening his girlfriend, and beat the crap out of him with a pipe. At first, we might think “good.” But then we start to think about it. What if, during the attack, the thief got the upper hand, then vented his rage on the guy…or his girlfriend? Wouldn’t it have been safer to restrain the thief while his girlfriend called the cops? Beating the crap out of him probably felt good, but was it necessary? Was it prudent? Was it justice?

Nadia struggles with these questions. As a former cop, she takes a dim view of vigilantes. Too often it isn’t about justice, but about finding an excuse for violence. When we read about citizens patrolling the borders, beating up illegal immigrants, do we believe they’re proud Americans protecting their country? Or guys spoiling for a fight, seizing on a patriotic excuse?

Yet what if the vigilante is clearly not just a guy spoiling for a fight, but someone who knows the system and, on occasion, acts outside it to find justice? In the Nadia books, that would be Quinn. What drives Quinn, though, is not the same compulsion that drives Nadia. His comes from the head; hers from the gut.

Nadia derives emotional satisfaction from tracking and killing a murderer. Does that, then, make her any different from the guys out patrolling the border? She knows it’s not the same, and yet she fears she’s not as far from them as she’d like to be. Even with Quinn, while she finds his intentions noble, one can’t argue that what he does is indisputably right or just.

If there’s an easy answer, I haven’t found it…and neither has Nadia. That’s the fun of playing with ideas like this, exploring all the facets of a complex and thought-provoking idea. In the end, there isn’t a right or a wrong choice. But there is a choice. The characters have to make it, then live with the consequences.

Once again: leave a comment, get entered in a draw to win any of my backlist. And, as this is my last day, thanks to the DIK Ladies for hosting my stay and thanks to everyone who visited!

14 comments:

Chuckie said...

Hi Kelley, great article again. One thing I love about this series is the moral questions that Nadia struggles with. Working in law enforcement myself I sympathise with Nadia's position, and most of the time fully understand her viewpoint!
Looking forward to the next one already....

Cheryl M. said...

I think that since having children, I can relate more to this subject. Although I'm a pretty easy going, pacifist, Liberal-voting Canadian, I could see myself going vigilante if someone were to hurt one of my kids. It might not be the right thing to do, but sometimes instinct overcomes good judgement I guess. Thanks for the great posts Kelley, you really made us think!

Sinful Cinnamon said...

I also find it interesting to read about the moral conflicts Nadia is having. I very much enjoy seeing other characters with different motivations too, because it brings contrast, and as such makes us question what's going on even more. I haven't yet read Made to be Broken, but I will soon. I'm looking forward to it very much! :D

Tracy said...

It's nice to actually see that the character is struggling with this question rather than just doing it and sticking their head in the sand. The questioning character attracts me more than the Ostrich-type does.

Great post, once again, Kelley. Thanks again from all the DIK Ladies for taking the time out of your busy schedule to blog with us.

Carolyn Jean said...

I so love this series for that reason. I think it's smart, and I enjoy not being served up an easy answer.

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said something like, it's a great thing in a book when a writer could honestly argue either side of an issue, or where she could easily take either of two opposing perspectives. OMG, I've butchered it, but you get the idea.

seanachi said...

I'm really looking forward to seeing how you pull off having a former cop be a vigilante hit woman.

Sarah said...

There is nothing more fascinating than a character that struggles with the whole line in the sand and whether their actions have been justifiable. I think this is what makes Nadia so compelling and I wonder where her line is.

Lori T said...

Hi Kelley~
Another interesting post. I think that reading about characters and their struggles to find the balance between good and evil/ right and wrong is a huge bonus to the story.
I am really going to have to pick these books up!

Lisa said...

I have really enjoyed your articles. They have really made me think. This is one I have struggled and went back and forth both ways on. I think if we all take the law into our hands anarchy happens, but since I have had nephews in my life I know if someone hurt them I would want to hurt them back.

Pamk said...

i'm with cheryl if someone hurt my kiddos they are going down. I'd probably hurt someone who hurt any child. Otherwise I'd have to think about it.

RachieG said...

Kelley! :) Really enjoyed reading you these past few days. Always something pretty interesting! As I'm sure you've already read, I love in the series is the moral problems Nadia deals with. Morality is such a gray area with everyone having a slightly different view.

Have a great weekend!

Kytaira said...

I really loved yesterdays excerpt. I think the survivor's guilt would be so self-destructive. I can easily see taking things into your own hand when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt the evil someone did and got away with.

Erica said...

Hi Kelley,

Really good articles you wrote. I have to admit, I wasn't as excited about the Nadia Stafford series but after reading "Exit Strategy" I've gotten sucked in! Great writing helps too ;)

Jasmine said...

I love flawed characters. They're so much more fun than someone who just does the job and doesn't think of the consequences.

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