DECLINE OF THE MYSTERY NOVEL
Craig Henry laments the increased violence and gore in the modern incarnation of the mystery genre.
Great detective stories and mysteries are profoundly moral at their core despite being hugely entertaining Sadly, the “evolution” of the detective and mystery genre in recent years has focused on eroding that core.
Once upon a time a single murder was enough to propel a novel. Many short stores, in fact, had no mayhem at all. Holmes foiled bank robbers, jewel thieves, and blackmailers in many of the stories. Now we seem to be obsessed with serial killers. Without a high body count, a novel gets relegated to “cozy” status.
Figures like Holmes or Peter Wimsey are fictional and bear little resemblance to real detectives. But they are hyper-realistic compared to the serial killers in modern thrillers. Writers like Thomas Harris have turned the detectives into somewhat intelligent bureaucrats while making the killer the one endowed with the rare mind. Philip Marlowe is only the ” personification of an attitude, the exaggeration of a possibility;” Hannibal Lector bears no resemblance to real serial killers. He is the personification of an impossibility as a criminal, but the perfect example of moral rot as an “artistic” creation.
I’m personally a big fan of (Dr.) Robert B. Parker’s detective stories, especially his longrunning (since 1973) Spenser series. Parker focuses mainly on character development and the interaction between Spenser and Hawk provide some of the best repartee anywhere.