This week we stray into territory that I enjoy – the detective novel. I’m quite partial to a good murder mystery and even tried to write one (see my nanowrimo posts for more on that!), so I thought now would be a good time to talk about them.
The crime genre can be broken down into many subgenres, some of which are explained here, filled with many detectives, police people, suspects, victims and innocent bystanders. Crime fiction can be complicated, filled with twists and turns or a little more straight forward.
I prefer the type of crime fiction (or of course crime drama, of which I am also a fan) where the reader or viewer has to work along with the detective to figure out who is the guilty party. I’ve never understood the point of the novel starting with the reader knowing who did it. Yes, you are one step ahead of the detective and can watch them edge closer to the right answer, but I think the fun of crime fiction comes from trying to work out who did it before the detective.
The denouement – the moment when characters are gathered together and the detective (or someone acting for them) delivers the answers, usually tricking the guilty party into confessing in front of a room full of people that thought them innocent – is slowly dying out. (excuse the awful pun) These days, the resolution will come out in a car chase, or on foot, or perhaps the perpetrator will confess during a final police interview. The days of the lone detective are going too. A lot of modern police based detective books and television shows have the detective backed up by a lesser rank sidekick of sorts, such as Inspector Morse and Sergeant Lewis, DI Lewis and DS Hathaway (can you tell what I watch yet?), DCI Janine Lewis and DI Richard Mayne from ITV’s Blue Murder, DI Joseph Chandler and DS Ray Miles from ITV’s Whitechapel, amongst many, many others. Colin Dexter, author of the Inspector Morse books compiled this list of his top ten favourite sidekicks (though I think he cops out a bit on option ten.)
One of my favourite subversions of this is in the television programme Castle, in which Nathan Fillion plays a writer who tags along with the homicide team in order to get inspiration. While Castle could technically be a sidekick along side Beckett, the detective, he’s not allowed any defensive items, armed only with his stab proof vest with ‘Writer’ on the front. Castle tries to ‘help’ the murder team using his knowledge as a mystery writer, sometimes actually coming in useful, other times just being a nuisance.
I’m sure I could write at length about this, but I won’t. Go off and enjoy some crime fiction! recommendations listened to and appreciated!
Currently reading: If Walls Could Talk by Lucy Worsley