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Old 08-26-2018, 10:46 AM
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Which fictional detective is the most personally miserable?


Watching Hinterland on Netflix, I'm tempted to vote for Welsh detective Tom Mathias, but there's a long tradition of fictional detectives with absolutely pathetic personal lives. So who else is up there with Tom in terms of misery? Cormoran Strike might be up there too, though he's seemed to me to be reasonably content with his personal lot, pathetic as it might be in many ways.
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Old 08-26-2018, 10:49 AM
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Jessica Jones on Netflix seems pretty messed up and miserable to me. Utterly joyless, always drunk. Don't read the comics so don't know how she compares between the two.
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Old 08-26-2018, 10:51 AM
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Jones is another good example!
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Old 08-26-2018, 11:27 AM
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Sherlock Holmes needed to mainline cocaine to cope when he wasn't working.
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Old 08-26-2018, 11:27 AM
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Wallander, Morse and Rebus?

I don't think you are allowed to be a male fictional detective and be chirpy.
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Old 08-26-2018, 11:34 AM
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Wallander, Morse and Rebus?

I don't think you are allowed to be a male fictional detective and be chirpy.
What about Poirot? I haven't read any of the books but on the TV show he always seemed chipper enough. Eccentric as hell, but happy.
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Old 08-26-2018, 11:39 AM
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Stuart M. Kaminsky's Lew Fonesca is as depressed as they come. He is a virtually penniless process server who lives behind his office, uses the bathroom in the building, showers at the gym and only has a bike to get around. He is seeing an 80 year old therapist trying to resolve his issues after the hit and run death of his wife. The novels are set in Sarasota which makes a nice change.
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Old 08-26-2018, 11:41 AM
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Jim Rockford lived in a trailer, got beat up a lot, and the calls on his answering machine were never good news. He was cynical as hell, but seemed to be holding up okay.
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Old 08-26-2018, 11:47 AM
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Adrian Monk
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Old 08-26-2018, 11:52 AM
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Gregory House. He's a doctor by profession, but really his job as "diagnostician" is detective work.
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Old 08-26-2018, 11:54 AM
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Dick Francis has a protagonist in one of his books, Blood Sport, who is clinically depressed and suicidal. He was the first one who leapt to mind, though I don't usually think of Francis's characters as "detectives."

My guess would be something from Scandinavia. Or maybe they just make me personally miserable.
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Old 08-26-2018, 12:22 PM
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I was gonna say Adrian Monk. Everything is an anxiety disorder for him. Going out, staying in, touching things, not touching things, being with other people, being alone....
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Old 08-26-2018, 12:38 PM
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Wallander, Morse and Rebus?

I don't think you are allowed to be a male fictional detective and be chirpy.
I noticed Wallander and Morse's melancholy (never saw Rebus) and wondered about it. A couple of times in Morse episodes, DS Lewis even told him to cheer up. (And then when Lewis became the focus of his own show, he was melancholy.)
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Old 08-26-2018, 12:53 PM
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Columbo never looked all that happy.
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Old 08-26-2018, 12:54 PM
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Ash Henderson. He is the protagonist in a two book (so far) series by Scottish author Stuart MacBride (best known for the popular Logan McRae books.) Now, Henderson has plenty to be depressed about. Here is a brief synopsis of the plot:

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Detective Constable Ash Henderson has a dark secret

Five years ago his daughter, Rebecca, went missing on the eve of her thirteenth birthday. A year later the first card arrived: homemade, with a Polaroid picture stuck to the front – Rebecca, strapped to a chair, gagged and terrified. Every year another card: each one worse than the last.

The tabloids call him ‘The Birthday Boy’. He’s been snatching girls for twelve years, always in the run-up to their thirteenth birthday, sending the families his home-made cards showing their daughters being slowly tortured to death.


But that's not the worst of it, because...

SPOILER:
He's too late to save his daughter and after endless scenes of beatings, torture and other assorted mayhem, he finds her mutilated corpse.


But it couldn't get wore...could it?

SPOILER:
It sure could! Because after that, his other daughter is kidnapped by a copycat psycho. And guess what? He's too late to save her either. Yes, both daughters die horribly


One of the few times I was actually angry upon finishing a work of fiction. I love the McRae novels, but I'm not touching another Henderson book.
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Old 08-26-2018, 01:09 PM
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Not quite a detective, but a criminal psychologist... How about Fitz from the Brit series Cracker? Wikipedia describes him as "alcoholic, a chain smoker, obese, sedentary, addicted to gambling, manic, foul-mouthed and sarcastic" which is a roundabout way of saying "Scottish"*

*kidding
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Old 08-26-2018, 01:09 PM
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I think Kinsey Millhone, in her fictional life, is miserable at the frustrating knowledge that she came so close to Z, but will never cross that finish line.
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Old 08-26-2018, 01:20 PM
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I think Kinsey Millhone, in her fictional life, is miserable at the frustrating knowledge that she came so close to Z, but will never cross that finish line.

*I'M* miserable, too, over this! I was hoping Z would wrap up with Kinsey writing from the present day in the 21st century, looking back on her last big case and updating us on what she is doing now, what happened to Henry and her exes, that kind of thing. As it is, I suppose she will forever be working away in the 1980's with the same old cast of characters, living in her tiny house, never moving on AFAIK.
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Old 08-26-2018, 01:23 PM
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Adrian Monk
Yeah, I'm suprised it took to the 9th post to get the obvious answer.
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Old 08-26-2018, 01:29 PM
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I think Kinsey Millhone, in her fictional life, is miserable at the frustrating knowledge that she came so close to Z, but will never cross that finish line.
I happen to know that she's right in the middle of her last case as we speak! See, she got a call from an old high school crush, Matt, who's "working" in Switzerland, in a tiny mountain village (hence the "Z is for Zither" appellation). I won't spoil it, but the rumor is that at the end of the alpine adventure, she'll find out that Matt is actually Matteo von Graffengriff, next in line to restore the village's ancient-yet-quaint castle.

The reason we'll never read Z is for Zither is that Kinsey will be too busy making wedding plans and renovating the castle... and she'll never have time to type "Respectfully submitted, Kinsey Milhone."



ETA: She'll also have her hands full with the newest businesses in the village: Henry's Bakery and Rosa's Hungarian Café.

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Old 08-26-2018, 01:33 PM
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Yeah, I'm suprised it took to the 9th post to get the obvious answer.
The "troubled genius" trope is so common in detective fiction that Monk seems no more than an average example to me! It's as though you have to go as horrific as Blank Slate's example of Ash Henderson to make the misery notable.

Last edited by Riemann; 08-26-2018 at 01:34 PM.
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Old 08-26-2018, 01:40 PM
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James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux is another example -- long-term alcoholic who has lost something like 3 wives to murder or accidents. And his best friend Clete Purcell, a private eye, is even more messed up. And they're both Vietnam vets who somehow are still getting into fistfights and chasing baddies well into the 2010s.
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Old 08-26-2018, 01:41 PM
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Here we go

https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.p...ctiveDetective
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Old 08-26-2018, 01:47 PM
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Great!
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Old 08-26-2018, 01:55 PM
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I'd nominate Dirk Gentley of the Dirk Gentley books. Been a while since I read them, but he was pretty miserable in all aspects. No friends, no money, a feud with his house cleaner over his refrigerator, and his clients seemed to have a tendency to die before they had a chance to pay, when he did have clients.
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Old 08-26-2018, 01:56 PM
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I nominate John River, whose only friend is the ghost of his former partner.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4258440/
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Old 08-26-2018, 02:13 PM
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Yeah, I'm suprised it took to the 9th post to get the obvious answer.
I don't think Monk is particularly miserable. He has lots of issues but he mostly deals with them, he's in therapy, and he gets a fair amount of pleasure out of life. Yes, his wife was murdered. There's lots worse in a lot of other detectives' lives.

The Irish detectives that I have read seem especially unable to be happy. There's Ed Loy, in a series by Declan Hughes, who seems to not only be pretty miserable himself, but brings misery to those around him. Then there's Quirke, in a series by Benjamin Black; he's the Dublin forensic pathologist who drinks too much and can't seem to keep his nose out of things that get him beaten up.

But the most miserable detective of all is Ian Rutledge, Scotland Yard inspector. An officer in WWI, he survived physically but his mental state is crippling. In the war he had to execute his Scottish sergeant for failure to order his men to charge as ordered, and now he carries the sergeant's voice in his head. The voice gives him no peace and no quarter, although it also occasionally warns him of danger, since the sergeant knows if Rutledge dies he dies finally too. Rutledge is a very good detective but he gets no kudos because of bureaucratic jealousies, and he can never allow himself to get close to anyone lest they discover his secret -- the voice in his head would get him diagnosed with shell shock and sent to an institution.
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Old 08-26-2018, 02:14 PM
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I'd nominate Dirk Gentley of the Dirk Gentley books. Been a while since I read them, but he was pretty miserable in all aspects. No friends, no money, a feud with his house cleaner over his refrigerator, and his clients seemed to have a tendency to die before they had a chance to pay, when he did have clients.
The guy had a really positive attitude! That's because of the whole holistic thing. He knew stuff would just work out.

Some of Douglas Adams quirks leaked into him, but not as much as Mr. Adams lived with.
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Old 08-26-2018, 04:48 PM
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Batman.
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Old 08-26-2018, 04:55 PM
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No mention yet of Harry Bosch?
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Old 08-26-2018, 04:56 PM
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Batman.
Depends on which Batman. In some depictions of superheroes (including Batman), they seem to be having a pretty good time being superheroes.
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Old 08-26-2018, 05:03 PM
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No mention yet of Harry Bosch?
There are also various Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and James Ellroy detectives among whom it would be difficult to choose.

There was a good one from 30 ears ago, The Crosskiller, by Marcel Montecino, and his veteran police detective Jack Gold certainly qualifies.
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Old 08-26-2018, 05:07 PM
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Sherlock Holmes needed to mainline cocaine to cope when he wasn't working.
But he's quite happy (after his own fashion) when he is working. He has a highly rewarding life, he lives comfortably, he has at least one friend (in his own fashion), and is the subject of public adulation. He's actually doing extremely well for a fictional detective.
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Old 08-26-2018, 05:31 PM
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Columbo never looked all that happy.
How do you figure? Near as I can tell, he seems to genuinely like his job — and he seems genuinely fond of his wife, and of his favorite restaurant, and of his dog, and of the music he listens to, and so on; and he doesn’t seem to drink to dull the pain, but because he just enjoys it, same way he just enjoys ice cream. Or reminiscing about old times. Or watching a good film. Or hearing a good joke.

Most of the time, he just strikes me as an upbeat guy.
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Old 08-26-2018, 05:37 PM
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James Bond, in the books, was generally pretty miserable. He hated his job, hated his boss, and continually tried to drown his sorrows with whatever alcoholic beverage was handy. Didn't have to be a vodka martini, either.
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Old 08-26-2018, 05:42 PM
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Either of the two protagonists from Kill the Father.
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Old 08-26-2018, 05:49 PM
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Yeah, I'm suprised it took to the 9th post to get the obvious answer.
I don't think Monk is particularly miserable. He has lots of issues but he mostly deals with them, he's in therapy, and he gets a fair amount of pleasure out of life. Yes, his wife was murdered. There's lots worse in a lot of other detectives' lives.
I agree with this. Plus Monk has the advantage of living and working in San Francisco. Wallander, for instance, is Swedish, so he has that whole Scandinavian depression thing going and Sherlock Holmes was living and working in gloomy, foggy London.
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Old 08-26-2018, 05:52 PM
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But he's quite happy (after his own fashion) when he is working. He has a highly rewarding life, he lives comfortably, he has at least one friend (in his own fashion), and is the subject of public adulation. He's actually doing extremely well for a fictional detective.
Well, there was 'the woman'.
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Old 08-26-2018, 06:08 PM
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Well, there was 'the woman'.
So? Every detective has one of those.
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Old 08-26-2018, 06:21 PM
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Bruce Wayne as they've been interminably writing him. Back when he was a smiling, happy psychopath...enjoying his wealth....trading quips with his ward while they laughingly maimed criminals...he had a certain joie de vivre. Now? Not an ounce of happiness in the man's lives.

Last edited by Scumpup; 08-26-2018 at 06:21 PM.
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Old 08-26-2018, 06:22 PM
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Well, there was 'the woman'.
At least in the stories (actually, story) Holmes only admired her for her cleverness.

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It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind.
-A Scandal in Bohemia

To all appearances Holmes was asexual, and happy that way.

Last edited by Colibri; 08-26-2018 at 06:22 PM.
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Old 08-26-2018, 06:29 PM
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I agree with this. Plus Monk has the advantage of living and working in San Francisco. Wallander, for instance, is Swedish, so he has that whole Scandinavian depression thing going and Sherlock Holmes was living and working in gloomy, foggy London.
I agree. I think that sometimes Monk is happy with all his peculiar quirks and tics.
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Old 08-26-2018, 06:48 PM
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How do you figure? Near as I can tell, he seems to genuinely like his job — and he seems genuinely fond of his wife, and of his favorite restaurant, and of his dog, and of the music he listens to, and so on; and he doesn’t seem to drink to dull the pain, but because he just enjoys it, same way he just enjoys ice cream. Or reminiscing about old times. Or watching a good film. Or hearing a good joke.

Most of the time, he just strikes me as an upbeat guy.
I think that Columbo is very happy. He loves his job, he loves his car, his dog, his wife. And especially his raincoat. He's one of the happiest of detectives.
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Old 08-26-2018, 06:53 PM
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DI Jack Lennon of Stuart Neville's Belfast series.
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Old 08-26-2018, 06:59 PM
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The various Scandanavian detectives all seem to have bleak outlooks on life and the bleak lives to go with them. I would nominate Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole ("The Snowman", etc.) as the most miserable.
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Old 08-26-2018, 07:23 PM
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Stephen King's Bill Hodges was pretty miserable.
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Old 08-26-2018, 07:29 PM
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I think that Columbo is very happy. He loves his job, he loves his car, his dog, his wife. And especially his raincoat. He's one of the happiest of detectives.
Side note: Until Mrs. Columbo got her own TV series, there was wide speculation that Columbo didn't really have a wife. You never saw her, and it was thought that making references to a nonexistent wife was one way of making the perp let his guard down.
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Old 08-26-2018, 07:30 PM
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Scooby and the gang seemed quite happy. Especially, Shaggy. What was in those Scooby snacks anyway?
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Old 08-26-2018, 08:04 PM
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Side note: Until Mrs. Columbo got her own TV series, there was wide speculation that Columbo didn't really have a wife. You never saw her, and it was thought that making references to a nonexistent wife was one way of making the perp let his guard down.
But we’d see him telling other cops on the force about her at the end of an episode: after getting the perp to blurt out incriminating stuff, after which said perp was never seen or heard from again. Or, in the ‘vacation’ episode, we repeatedly saw a guy who works on the cruise ship flatly state that he’d seen her — including in the final scene, well after the perp had already been caught.

And et cetera, and AFAICT all before the other show ever hit the air...
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Old 08-26-2018, 08:16 PM
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Don't kill the messenger. I'm just passing along the speculation.
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