Maybe I’m suffering from the February blues, but things seem pretty chaotic out there. Just look at the headlines – “Ukraine crisis escalates”, “Flights diverted due to unruly passengers”, “Western megadrought worse in 1200 years”. Even the Olympics, usually pretty good escapism, is tainted by human rights issues, environmental impact, censorship, and more.
So why, when I sample the newest books in my library, do I inevitably pick up crime fiction that features peoples’ darkest moment – murders, deceit, greed, and all the rest?
Paul Dorion’s superb and latest book is a perfect example of why. In “Dead By Dawn” Maine game warden Mike Bowditch faces pretty bad odds (spoiler alert) – immersion in a freezing river followed by a nighttime trek through the snowy woods stalked by a persistent villain who’d like to slice through Mike’s limbs with a chainsaw. Dorion’s skill interlinking an indifferent, brutal natural world with raw human cruelty is stunning.
I keep on reading because I know that, however bad things are, evil will be punished, Mike will be okay, and all will become right in the world. That’s why I love crime fiction.A few examples:
− In Dorothy L. Sayers’s Strong Poison Harriet Vane is on trial for murder. The brilliant Lord Peter Wimsey proves that Harriet did not kill anyone and ends up marrying her.
− A horrendous kidnapping is put right in Agatha Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express.
− A black man accused of raping a white woman is shown to be innocent in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird.
You’ll have to read Dead By Dawn to learn what happens to Mike.
Here are a few more reasons why crime fiction, mystery, and thriller books consistently top the bestseller charts and why are they generally regarded one of the most popular literary genres:
– People love solving puzzles. Be it thriller or classic whodunit there’s always something both readers and the characters need to work out. As we read along we try to figure out what’s really going on until we think we have the bad guy. We are detectives who work through puzzles, clues, and dead ends.
– All crime stories have a dark side and sometimes it is very dark: kidnapping, murder, gang crime, people who lie as a game. But unlike the actual world out there, we can step away from what’s dark and simply close the book. We are in control.