Given the rise in cosy crime, once more a staple of TV, and now ubiquitous in our bookshops and cinema screens one would be forgiven for thinking the serial killer sub-genre has well and truely died. With the terrifying onslaught of reality that we have seen over the past few years, it is no wonder that people want something less grissley and violent, so gravitate to what is called a sub-genre, but if thought about enough, is clearly more of a tone.
Some of the milaise around the serial killer genre has to do with ingrained tropes and a lack of inovation, the push towards ever more absurdist “mastermind” killers who’s plotting of their crimes stretch into the realm of fantasy or supervillans. So it was with a glad heart I finished The Butcher and The Wren, what I am sure is just the first novel in a series from Alaina Urquhart, one half of TCF favourite podast due Morbid.
The Butcher and The Wren is not without the familure, we have the heavily ladened New Orleans atmosphere, where mystacisim and music meet in an irresistable mix, we have the bodies of young women found dumped in water, and a protagonist with a past. So far, so crime fiction. What Urquhart does do though is give us a more rounded an believable serial killer for our protagonist to fight. She leaves aside the grandising of the serial killer as some kind of terrible, yet infalible not quite human figuer in the shadows, an inversion of the great man fallacy, and instead show us someone who is not as clever as he thinks, or wishes to be.
This appears like a natural course for anyone heavily involved in true crime. With it’s recent proliferation it is hard to ignore that when we brand people “monsters,” or in some way super natural, the world is don ea diservice by not looking at them realisticly in the cold light of day, where we can often see them as stunted aberations, pathertic and piteous, rather than mythic beasts into which we pour the fears of society. This healthier and more realistic look at people who comit what many would agree are the worst crimes is welcome, and I hope will revive our flagging serial killer sub-genre. Urquhart, I am sure, is a crime fiction voice we are only just starting to hear from, and I look forward to following her journey.