The other day, I was perusing our Netflix watchlist for movies to stream as well as the Recently Watched list and then all the Because You Watched This, You Might Like This suggestions, and I turned to Mr. Loosinhouse and said, "Damn! We watch a lot of crime, murder and suspense stuff! Why do you suppose that is?"
We ended up having a fairly interesting discussion about what was the actual attraction about this kind of content and why was it so prevalent as a topic in books and movies since primordial times. What is the lure? Is it a need for catharsis in order to sublimate our own dark individual urges? Is it a need for re-assurance of a moral order to the universe since most fictional murderers are found out and punished for their misdeeds, if not by man, then by some mysterious universal force of retribution that makes sure they come to no good end?
Mr. Loosinhouse opined that much of his own enjoyment of the genre stemmed from the puzzle aspects that is a standard structure - a number of traditional murder mysteries are laid out from the aspect that a murder has occurred and the perpetrator is unknown. Then ensues an intellectual exercise pursued by either an official policeman or a detective or some observant and intuitive amateur or some combination of all of the above, who must then examine the crime scene and the victim's life, and reach some thesis as to why they were murdered and who among the suspects would have the best motive, opportunity and ability to carry out the heinous deed.
The open challenge to the reader is to be a bystander following the narrative and to see if they arrive at the same conclusion as the detectives, hopefully before the entire scheme is laid clear in the "This is how this happened" speech given at the denouement among the assembled suspects, culminating as the snarling and hostile revealed killer is dragged out of the library shouting "Yes! I did it! And I'm glad do you hear, glad! She was a monster - I did the village a service!" or something like that.
In one of those beautiful co-incidences in life, the day after my husband and I were having this discussion, an amusingly wrapped book appeared in my mailbox (it was my birthday) from an old friend with a note saying "Saw this and thought of you - seemed right up your alley." Unwrapped was revealed a book addressing the EXACT topic about the lure of murder that my husband and I had been discussing.
The book was A Very British Murder by Lucy Worsley which examines this very topic, albeit limited to the British variant of the fever. The link above is to a review of the book by the Telegraph which is much better and more comprehensive than I could ever put together, give it a look. I am still in the early chapters, but it is all I could have hoped for so far.
From the review:
This is not a handbook for murderers, but a study of the license to thrill. As its subtitle suggests, it tells “the story of a national obsession”: how, over the past two centuries, the British have reacted to the changing circumstances of murder and developed it into a form of entertainment.My googling for a review revealed the happy news that the BBC did a limited series about the book which unfortunately is not available at this time, but lo and behold I did find that it is about to appear on PBS ( although at some very odd times) in the immediate future.
WGBH -A Very Birtish Murder
This morning where I am sitting it is drizzling, cold and grey - perfect weather for contemplating more about the "curious obsession" that grips so many of us - the need to not just WHO murdered Col. Mustard but where and why and with what weapon.
Books In My Life is a diary published most Friday mornings about books that have had a particular resonance in ones life for some personal reason. If you would like to write a diary in this series please contact Phoebe Loosinhouse by Kosmail to schedule a date