Modern readers have come to expect one or more dead bodies in crime stories. But, with the increasing violence encountered in ‘real life,’ many are becoming offended with the amount of gore in fiction, which may partly account for the growing popularity of those novels termed ‘cozy’. In these books murder exists, though it’s mentioned after-the-fact and never seen in its most brutal aspects.
Still, the questions remains–must a mystery have a murder?
What’s most important for many readers in a crime novel is a puzzle. Why a crime was committed and who did it? And, if they can answer those questions before the author reveals them, more the joy. This is most evident in ‘classic’ crime tales which often didn’t focus on murder as the highlight of the menu.
Murder is absent from several of Conan Doyle’s best Sherlock Holmes tales. Wilkie Collins didn’t need a murder to intrigue us with The Woman in White. And there’s no murder in Dorothy Saylor’s Gaudy Night.
Yet, as P. D. James tells us (Talking About Detective Fiction), “Readers are likely to remain more interested in which of Aunt Ellie’s heirs laced her nightly cocoa with arsenic than in who stole her diamond necklace while she was safely holidaying in Bournemouth.” Truth is, as abhorrent we may find it in reality, murder fascinates the human species and always has.
There are several murders in my latest novel, The Bartered Body, but they come late in the story and are not its main focus. Here’s a blurb:
Why would thieves steal the body of a dead woman?
That’s the most challenging question yet to be faced by Sylvester Tilghman, the third of his family to serve as sheriff of Arahpot, Jordan County, Pennsylvania, in the waning days of the 19th century.
And it’s not just any body but that of Mrs. Arbuckle, Nathan Zimmerman’s late mother-in-law. Zimmerman is burgess of Arahpot and Tilghman’s boss, which puts more than a little pressure on the sheriff to solve the crime in a hurry.
Syl’s investigation is complicated by the arrival in town of a former flame who threatens his relationship with his sweetheart Lydia Longlow; clashes with his old enemy, former burgess McLean Ruppenthal; a string of armed robberies, and a record snowstorm that shuts down train traffic, cuts off telegraph service and freezes cattle in the fields.
It will take all of Syl’s skills and the help of his deputy and friends to untangle the various threads and bring the criminals to justice.
Read more about my writing on my website: http://www.jrlindermuth.net
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