Thursday, May 9, 2013

Alphabet Crime: Letters D & E

Here we are kicking off another year of the Alphabet in Crime Fiction hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise.  Each week she expects participants to produce a post featuring a mystery/crime novel, mystery novelist, or crime fiction topic related to that week's letter.  In the past I have pretty much stuck to titles or authors, but this year I'm going to try and produce posts on various crime and mystery topics.
I somehow got off track last week and missed posting.  So, here are both letters D & E. 

D is for Detectives. What good would a mystery novel be without a detective? Whether it be an official representative of the law such as Lt. Bill Weigand or Inspector Heimrich in the novels of Frances and Richard Lockridge, a private, "consulting" detective like Sherlock Holmes, or your out-and-out amateur like Agatha Christie's Miss Jane Marple, you've got to have a detective to help the reader sort out the clues and get to the bottom of the mystery. Personally, I always enjoy trying to figure it all out before the detective. And I'm pretty broad-minded. I like most any kind of detective--even the hard-boiled type in small doses.

Within each category of detective there is even more variety....There are the quiet, unassuming elderly ladies like Jane Marple and Patricia Wentworth's Miss Silver whom everybody seems to underestimate. Those fluffy old ladies drink in the gossip and have their eye on everything that goes on in their small towns. There's Nero Wolfe sitting in his brownstone home--drinking beer, raising orchids and unraveling all the mysteries that come his way. There's the very logical and scientific "Thinking Machine" (Dr. S. F. X. Van Dusen). And, of course, there's Hercule Poirot who depends on his "little grey cells." Representing the law, you have Inspector McKee, one of New York's finest and starring in some of the first examples of the police procedural. More recently, and on the other side of the pond, there is London's Inspector Lynley. A very good detective--but a very human one. Elizabeth George's stories have a lot of human interest mixed in with her mysteries.

Hmmm. Maybe I should put The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton on hold and grab me a detective novel.....

E is for Evildoers.  And, of course, without the evildoer/s...the culprit, villain, murderer or thief...there would be no mystery.  Crime fiction features evildoers in all shapes and sizes from the "Napoleon of Crime," Professor James Moriarty who is Sherlock Holmes's nemesis, to Flambeau, the jewel-thief and master criminal in Chesterton's Father Brown stories who eventually turns detective.  There are burglars and serial killers, bank robbers and poisoners.  There are the famous master criminals (as mentioned) and the regular Joes who suddenly burst out in murderous rage.  There are the fictional accounts of Jack the Ripper--with everyone from P. D. James to John Gardner and Robert Bloch (Pyscho) to
Paula Marantz Cohen (What Alice Knew) giving us their solution to Jack's identity.  There are blackmailers and poison pens, art thieves and frauds.  There is a little larceny and a lot of blood-letting and it all serves to allow the crime fiction reader the pleasure of hunting down the culprit from the comfort of their own home, watching as justice prevails, and knowing that, for the most part, good will conquer evil in the fictional world of crime.


TracyK said...

This is a interesting post. You have reminded me that I need to re-read some mysteries by Frances and Richard Lockridge and Patricia Wentworth.

Peggy Arthurs said...

Great post, Bev!

Anonymous said...

Bev - I like the way you've approached this an awful lot! There really are two essential characters in a crime fiction novel: the sleuth and the 'bad guy.' And honestly, if those two characters aren't believable or at least characters I can get interested in, I get pulled right out of the story. And one of the strongest points you make here is that there's a whole lot of variety within the 'good guy' and 'bad guy' category. No wonder crime fiction is so diverse.

Bev Hankins said...

Thanks, Margot!