In Relentless Persuit Edwards shows us that one person with enough tenacity can work against forces much larger and more powerful than himself. However it is not in everybodies gift to do that kind of work, and not every victim will be lucky enough to have Edwards, or a lawyer of his caliber, on their side.
We do women no favours if we discount their violence, their crimes or the great damage we can do and only see them as victims. More importantly we compound the damage they have done to their victims. We, however also do wrong if we don't take into account the fact that we live in a society where it is all to easy for impressionable, vulnerable women to be manipulated by older, more powerful men. My answer to the question that we should never be asking, if these women are victims or villian, is instead to let go of the pervasive "perfect victim," fallacy and accept that a great deal of the time, people can be both.
The Coombs case indeed throws up a mirror to our apparently more modern age, where we consider ourselves to have more understanding. The Wicked Boy however does not lead one to the satisfactory conclusion that we would react differently now-a-days because we are so much more knowledgeable and clever. Instead it shows us that despite the great advances we've made both socially and in technology, once you scratch the surface the human reaction to children committing murder is the same tumultuous mix of shock, horror, pity, and disbelief, accompanied by the kind of wild blame seeking and judgement that speaks more of calming anxiety than the search for true understanding.
In the content creating world which is bent towards crime, murder is always considered the worst. Most cultures and civilisations have always done so, although some may disagree with the concept of all murders being bad, given how throughout history there have always been some lives considered less. However, there is genearlly agreement that murder …
It is not just the effects on the soul that Dundass has got right, it's also the othering and dislike of disability from society. At the heart of HellSans is the unspoken question that all those with disability come to ask themselves sooner or later "Is it me who is disabled, or is the real disability societies inability to cope with differnece."
The surface question of this book is "Who is killing these people?" but as a book of layers, readers who choose to dig down further find other questions, many of which will be uncomfortable. Like it's antipodean counterpart, Dust off the Bones, we are seeing an emergence in crime fiction of narrative which deeply engages with crime. Not just the crime that propels a reader to turn the page to find out who dun it. Rather crime that is rooted in great injustices, crimes of nations and states, crimes for which no one person can be jailed, so we can easily say justice is done and move on. Crimes which are so large, that they ripple throughout history, and on the level of time are still present, happening and, ongoing, before our very eyes.
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 week on a podcast only episode Mairi interviews Jack Lutz, author of London in Black, a near-future novel about crime and society in London after a biochemical attack. They talk crime fiction, London, names and flawed detectives.
Science Fiction and crime fiction make extremely potent mix, best exemplified in China Mieville's The City and The City. The combination of working out what has happened in the crime, and also unravelling world building to understand the culture and history of a future or different universe, means that a readers synapses will be firing more than normal, and the satisfaction of finding the solution to the crime, while understanding the implications of the sometimes extremely unusual context means the dopamine hit at the end is higher.
The nicest man in crime fiction This week Mairi interviews Jonathan Whitelaw, author of The Bingo Hall Detectives. They talk cosy crime, podcasts, journalism and writing tips. You can buy a copy of The Bingo Hall Detectives from the TCF shop where profits support independent bookshops and this podcast and site.