Spoiler Comments on TRAPS by Paul Lindsay
In the seventieth and nineteenth centuries, a type of morality story was very popular. In it, a young, foolish woman would give her favors away, and become a "fallen" woman. You've seen it in opera, with Violetta in La Traviata, with Anna Karenina, and many more. The woman always dies, by her own hand, or by the hand of God through some disease, and she's always repentenant, justice and moral right is served. I see that trend happening again. Recently, I saw a movie, the title of which I won't share, because I don't want to ruin it, that shares many of the same trends that Traps does. In both cases, an agent of the law becomes "fallen," and to make everything morally right, that agent dies in the end, usually heroically. The heroism that Jack shows, I think we can both agree, is incredibly moving. It has become so that the second I see a movie or book where the main police character is somehow corrupted, I know right then and there that he's a dead man walking.
This is for several reasons. One, once everyone discovers that Jack is the trapper, his career is over, he's going to go to jail. Putting a cop in jail is about as effective as taking him out and hanging him. A writer can't let his main character go to jail, because if he's done his job, we won't want that person to suffer. So, to end the story, the only option is to kill him. This method has a side effect of making the man disposable. If you have a situation that is not easily fixed, send in someone who is expendable, who can make the sacrifices. Also, no one wants an agent or a detective taking matters into their own hands. They cannot, in the movie's case, be the ones to sit in judgment, and, in Jack's case, be the one who's stealing our hard earned dough. For equilibrium to be established, for the moral balance to return, we have to kill them, just as Violetta and Anna have to be killed.
I don't think that I like this trend...these two examples are not the only places I've seen it. I don't like it because, as I said, it makes the hero disposable, and it makes everything inevitable. Why invest all this time and emotion into a man who's going to die? I have to admit that Traps was well done, and I enjoyed it, but it makes you so sad at the end because you keep secretly hoping that he gets out of the situation while, at the same time, you're resigned to his fate. The other reason why I don't like it, is that it says some very sad things about the power of redemption and forgiveness. If the only way we can forgive someone of Jack's caliber is to have him sacrifice himself for the lives of Ben and his daughter, then what does that say about our own sins? Were not Jack's other actions, the swiftness with which he applied himself to solving these murders enough to redeem him, to allow him to be cut some kind of break, and allowed to continue on past the end of the book, an agent who can do much more good than the relatively small evil of the bank traps?
Such thoughts are not easily solved. Every story has its own rules, and with rules come expectations. When a man and a woman meet at the beginning of a story, the rules and expectations become that they will fall in love. Perhaps then, it is silly, even hypocritical to think that the expectations created by what I've discussed with you should change. Not every story can have a completely happy ending, as life itself gives us so few. But, isn't that why we read book? To escape?
That, however, is the topic for another review.
Comments by Cindy Lynn Speer as an addendum to her review of TRAPS by Paul Lindsay