Friday, October 19, 2012

Good Day, Bay Day

Thursday was a day of highs and lows for me. I got great news from my publisher that my upcoming book, The Twelve Clues of Christmas, has received a starred review from Library Journal. This joins a starred review from Publisher's Weekly, a top pick from RT Reviews and a glowing reviews from Kirkus. All great news.
But my joy yesterday was tempered because it was also the day of a friend's funeral. So I've been in reflective mood. Among other things it made me realize how casually I and fellow mystery writers write about death. For us death is usually clever ways to kill, evil murderers to be outsmarted. And wedon't really take into account what a devastating thing death is for a family.

There have been times when I have been aware in my books of the effect death has on families. In my Constable Evans novel, Evan's Gate,(that was my one and only Edgar nomination) the whole story revolves around the loss of a little girl years ago and the disintegration of the family as they live with guilt. That was one of the stories of which I'm most proud. But even in my Royal Spyness novels, that are essentially comedies, I try not to trivialize the actual murder. My victim is often an evil person who deserves what he gets. That way I don't feel so bad about bumping him off.

But I have read plenty of books in which someone falls over dead in the punch bowl at a wedding and the sleuth gleefully says "Oh goody. A murder. Let's solve it." This always leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I realize our books are written to entertain. Readers love the puzzle, the suspense, the danger. And they also love that we can bring evil-doers to justice and make everything all right in the end. It's not often that this happens in real life, is it?

1 comment:

  1. Glad to see you raise this problem, Rhys. I find the question of using murder to entertain a very vexing one, and have frequently raised it in my own blog. I think of P.D.James' remark that detective novels are not about murder but about the restoration of order, but I think also of the response to this by Sally Spedding, chiller-thriller writer, in my blog: "What order?" The fact is, as you suggest, that one can very rarely make everything all right in the end.