JAN: At the moment, the world is captivated with the Craiglist's murderer. For any of you who haven't been watching the Today Show, etc., that's the 23-year old Boston U. medical school student, Philip Markoff, accused of killing a woman allegedly selling massage and erotic services on Craigslist. He's also charged with robbing and assaulting another.
Any murder and violence against women is horrific, but unfortunately, there is so much of it, it doesn't capture the world imagination. Murder and the sale of sexual services have no doubt been linked since prostitution began in -- what? Cave man times - and this is a single murder, not the serial variety that usually gets our attention.
So is it the innovative use of Craigslist to advertise sex (which, I found UNBELIEVABLY direct and rampant, BTW, when I was researching Teaser.) Or is it because the suspected murderer is so upscale, with his medical school pedigree and $1400 a month apartment? And if it IS because our culprit is upscale -- what does it say about us - that we love this combination of affluence and violence?
ROBERTA: Or is it that we can't tear our eyes away from the pedigree brought down? I think that is particularly titillating--the idea that someone is so not what he appeared. And that someone who seemed to have it all going for him had screwed up in such a major way. Or here's another theory, maybe we're fascinated because in some ways we can imagine ourselves stepping over a line like he did?
Jan, I have to admit I haven't read Teaser yet--deliberately, because the book I'm working on has some similar elements, Craigslist included, and I'm afraid I'd steal everything you wrote! I'm saving it for when I'm finished:)
RO: Are we not even considering the possibility that the poor girl may have really been a massage therapist? Up until quite recently, I used to get a massage every week. (Fraser, I miss you!) People really do this for a living. And they probably keep a certain number of loonies sane - certainly kept me sane.
JAN: Call me cynical, but considering how dangerous it would be to conduct business that way, I'm guessing a real, certified massage therapist doesn't drive up from NY to meet strange male clients in hotels -- no matter how nice the hotel.
RO: Have table, will travel. But okay, let's say she was a sex worker. It's Craiglist. It's the name. The Boston Strangler. The Honeymoon Killers. It's like, instant story.
And all of these guys are sort of cute and respectable-looking. Let's face it how many women are going to go home with a drooling hunchback with horns and fangs? (Unless of course, that's your thing..which is fine by me..no judgments here.)
HANK: But wasn't it about the money? He--and of course he's presumed innocent and it really could be that he is, and it's sad that people just assume he did it, what if he were your brother?--apparently had lots of gambling debts, and it's the theory that he was targeting edgy Craig's List advertisers, figuring they wouldn't turn him in.
RO: How much money could he possibly have hoped to steal from her? $200? $300?
JAN: If it's at the end of the day,I'm saying it could be a grand, but sounds like theft might have been only an introductory motive (See Hallie's comments below).
But Hank, I take your innocent-until-proven guilty point. I once had a homocide detective confide to me that cops make up their minds in the first five minutes on the scene who probably did it -- and that influences the way they collect evidence. He also said that the investigators very stubbornly hold onto whatever original theory they came up with. On the other hand, the Globe reported Friday that the gun and DNA matched so.....
HANK: Oh, it's an amazing story. It's the fiancee, really, that puts it over the edge for me. This woman, who's studying to be a doctor. And she gets engaged to a doctor. And they're planning this elaborate wedding, with a web page and all. And then--wham. Guess what.
(Let me just say, parenthetically. All this about the "panties" he supposedly took as souvenirs. Have you EVER used the word "panties"? Forgive me, but I think that's disgusting.)
RO: Anyone remember that great scene in Anatomy of a Murder when the judge discusses "the panties" and says something like "get your snickering over now. There's nothing funny about a case where one man is dead and another may go to prison"?
JAN: There is just something about term panty that sounds both infantile and sordid. I think men use this word a lot more than women. Except that my husband wears some sort of tight, lycra, short things to ride the exercise bike in that supposedly keep the muscles warm -- my daughter labeled them his "man panties," and we now use this term to make fun of him whenever possible.
RO: Compression shorts. I was researching jockstraps the other day and that's what they call them. Apparently men don't wear those other things anymore.
JAN: Researching jockstraps?? Trying not to giggle.
HALLIE: If Markoff takes their underwear, then it's not about money.
HANK: True. It's about money and sex and power and panic and megalomania. I mean--police say he hid stuff in a hollowed out copy of Gray's Anatomy. It's--as creepy as it gets.
HALLIE: And this guy lives about 1/3 mile from me. Creepy creepy creepy. The hubris of it gets me. I think we're fascinated because someone that young, gifted, and with all the trappings of the boy next door, the doctor your mother wanted you to marry, is this twisted. The veneer of the everyday makes it particularly sinister.
JAN: Want to know more about Markoff? Here's a link to Sunday's Boston Globe piece on how shocked his friends were to find out.... Http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/04/26/if_there_were_any
Tell us what makes you follow this murder in the news? And why we seem so fascinated in it.
And come back Wednesday, when I interview, Spencer Quinn AKA Peter Abrahams, about his hysterical new book, featuring a canine, PI, Dog On It.