Earlier this week fellow blogger Margot Kinberg was talking about how crime fiction has changed, and one point she made struck me in particular.
Margot was talking about "Golden Age" crime fiction in particular:
- There might be more than one murder or crime, but all were related to the central mystery. Christie’s standalones tend to be that way, too (although there are exceptions). We also see that focus on one murder or set of murders in Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Those stories too, including the novels, are focused on one case, even when there is more than one murder or crime.
For example, from my recent reads...
4.7, BLOOD MOON, Garry Disher
Nearly everyone in Australia is familiar with Schoolies Week and probably has the attitude of "thank goodness it doesn't happen in my town/suburb".
Against the issues of Schoolies Week, we have other issues such as whether people who work together should live together; what causes young people to commit suicide; and control freaks who stalk their spouses.
4.6, THE VAULT, Ruth Rendell
Four bodies are found in a coal cellar and that of course is the primary investigation. But against that thread is the issue of retirement where Reg Wexford is desperately trying to strike a balance and come to terms with the fact that he no longer works.
5.0, THE BROTHERHOOD, Y.A. Erskine
The primary investigation is into the death of a popular Tasmanian police sergeant in the course of his duties, but a range of side issues come up: an Aboriginal population, the remnants of Australia's original inhabitants, now welfare dependent, and in some cases only too willing to cry victimisation and brutality; an under resourced police force with more than usual difficulties in recruiting and retaining good officers; corruption in all professions, even among those responsible for managing the legal system; and an island state with significant social prejudices.
So maybe the fact that I am now looking for side issues in a murder mystery novel explains why last year I found some of the Vintage crime fiction that I read just a bit flat. I think you can see that when you look at how I rated them.
- 4.4, GIDEON'S WEEK, J.J. Marric (aka John Creasey) (1956)
- 3.8, BEFORE MIDNIGHT, Rex Stout (1955)
- 4.4, GIDEON"S DAY, J.J. Marric (aka John Creasey) (1955)
- 4.2, AN ASSISTANT MURDERER, Dashiell Hammett (1926)
- 3.6, X.Y.Z. A Detective Story, Anna Katherine Green (1883)
- 4.1, DEATH AT THE PRESIDENT'S LODGING, Michael Innes (1936)
- 4.3, DIED IN THE WOOL, Ngaio Marsh ( 1942)
- 4.5, DUMB WITNESS, Agatha Christie (1937)
- 4.4, MAIGRET & the MAN on the BOULEVARD, Georges Simenon (1953)
- 4.4, IN THE TEETH OF THE EVIDENCE, Dorothy L. Sayers (1939)