Curling up with a good murder

coverWe’re a bloodthirsty lot if our TV viewing and reading habits are any indication. A recent survey of British crime novels found that the average body count per book last year was 8.38 and it seems to me that they get through that many in a CSI episode (with plenty of .38s floating around in the form of spare hands and feet).

What is it that draws us to murder and mayhem as a form of recreation? There have been all sorts of theories. These range from the Freudian idea that we need to sublimate our own violent impulses to the more obscure idea that we want to assign motivations to other people. Kate Summerscale, author of that wonderful exploration of the origins of both real and fictional detection The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, sees it as a comforting genre in which the detective goes into a scene of chaos and lays it to rest.

I’m in agreement with her. It seems to me that the more chaotic and threatening our environment becomes, the more TV crime shows fill our screens, and crime novels fly off library shelves. Deep down we want to believe there is someone out there of superhuman intelligence/terrifyingly clever technology/obsessive dedication, who is battling to sort it all out for us.

Perhaps that is why I can think of nothing better to do in the coming winter days than to curl up in front of a roaring fire (ok a whirring heat pump) with a good mystery. Vying for my attention at the moment are, the fast paced and entertaining Surrender by Donna Malane and set in Wellington, Ice Princess by Swedish writer Camilla Lackberg and a traditional British police whodunnit Water Like Stone by Deborah Crombie.

I have some more lined up on my “for later” shelves in the new BiblioCommons catalogue and I have my eye on these lists to keep me going till spring:

Why do YOU read detective fiction?

One thought on “Curling up with a good murder

  1. joyciescotland 29 June 2011 / 7:06 pm

    I also agree with Kate Summerscale’s idea that it is reassuring and comforting to have some fictional detective dude make sense of all the brain matter, blood splatter and violence in the world. I’ve been obsessively reading Lee Child’s macho froth during these shaky times and imagining myself as a deoderant averse, 6ft 5 inch, kick-ass, ex-military fighting machine. Infinitly more comforting than being a fragrant, under-tall, pacifist librarian!

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