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Everybody’s a Murderer!

I enjoy Sarah Rayne’s books. I want to say that right now. They are frequently a bit cheesy and they’re thrillers and there are Horrible Dark Goings-On and the right people always live through the book, and all this makes me very happy. (I have had one or two complaints about individual plot points, which I may have muttered about on the blog in the past, but I keep buying them and enjoying them.) This is not a complaint.

I am realizing, however, having almost finished my way through her back catalog, that there’s a particular quirk to her writing.

In most books of this sort, somebody’s a murderer.

In these books, everybody’s a murder.

The last one I read had a little old lady murdering people to cover up the other murder which was a cover-up for her mother murdering someone. Meanwhile, one of the murder victims has left a journal where (surprise!) he murders people.

This is not like a mystery where you wonder whodunnit. You know whodunnit, and that they have dun bad, bad things. Often in quite extraordinary quantity.

Much as I enjoy these, I am occasionally bemused by the body count. You can’t help but think somebody would notice all this going on. I’m halfway through this book, and already we’ve had a murderer murdered in the act of murdering somebody else, another murderer’s sister who turned out to have murdered her parents, a definite suspicion that more murder will be going on in the Very Near Future, and by now, incidentally, I have typed “murder” so many times that it no longer has any meaning and I am not sure how it is actually spelled.

Sometimes there is a broad thread that attempts to explain how all these people merrily murdering each other has come together in this particular place and time, which, across several books, has so far been Nazis, conjoined twins, and syphilis. (Syphilis I totally bought. Everybody in the family had it, so of course they were all nuts and killing people. Perfectly valid! Less sure about the conjoined twins. “Because Nazis” is, of course, always a valid literary excuse. Hmm, I may start using “Because syphilis!” as an explanation myself.)

I still have one more to go before I’m through the back catalog, and can only imagine what combinations of murderers, murderers, and more murderers will get put together, like a complicated Jenga set with alibis.

Originally published at Tea with the Squash God. You can comment here or there.


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Evidently she comes from the Cardassian school of Criminology - Everyone's guilty of something.

I have always wondered what would happen if Jessica Fletcher went to visit her distant cousin in a small village in Midsomer...

The entire country would keel over deader than doornails.

'Because syphilis', that's good.

I know a wonderful woman, a vet tech / professional singer who has done everything from the Mass at the local Catholic Church to burlesque shows, and after a few drinks, she will gradually begin answering questions more and more frequently with 'because penis'.

You can take that competitive urge too far sometimes...

Edited at 2012-07-11 02:05 am (UTC)

I once had a conjoined twins in a World of Darkness game... the parasite twin was a vampire (no one knew) and his brother the host was his ghoul. At night, the parasite twin would slither off and murder people left and right. Soooooo much fun.

That sounds... Really horrible and yet awesome at the same time, in the typical WoD fashion.

"Because cat" is a reason in our house.

I"m reminded of Lillian Jackson Braun. She writes like a pg version of Agatha Christie, and the principal character is a guy that used to work "Down Below" in Chicago as a reporter, then he inherited a huge fortune and an estate 400 miles north of everywhere. Everyone is quaintly middle-aged, he has two Siamese cats, lives in a converted apple barn, has a girlfriend, and he solves crime on the side. Very Murder He Wrote. At last count, there have been something like 45 murders across all her books. In a town with about 150 people.

They do get a lot of visitors from Down Below who manage to kick the bucket while in Moose County. Still, it does stretch believability a bit... Who on earth would move to a city with crime rates like that?

I love the series anyway, some of my favorite "popcorn" reading.

(Deleted comment)
I wonder if anyone ever considered that Jessica Fletcher was actually a serial killer, murdering people everywhere she went and then throwing everyone off the scent by "solving" the case via a well-framed patsy?

(no subject) (Anonymous) Expand
"Future, and by now, incidentally, I have typed “murder” so many times that it no longer has any meaning and I am not sure how it is actually spelled."

...oh my god. I'm not the only person who this happens to. I hate it when you keep writing/typing a word and all of a sudden you have this feeling that it's spelled wrong. You Google it to make sure and re-check Dictionary.com, but the more you stare at it in suspicion, the less you're convinced that it's even a word in English, even though you know it is, and your confidence for your capacity for the written language is shaken to the core.

...or mayhaps I'm just odd. :p

Edited at 2012-07-11 09:22 am (UTC)

Nope, not just you. Been there, done that; spell-check, Google, variety of dictionaries both on-line and physical and the occasional resorting to "Hey, honey! Is this spelled right?"

Although, sometimes it is because it's not an English word, just the English version of it. So many words from other languages.... Damn you English, and your pickpicketing ways! ::shakes fist::

It is fascinating to find out where words originated from, ferisnstance jerky is a word from Quechua, well Spanish by way of Quechua. And plants! particularly food plants, like potatoes, which are from Peru and not Ireland, which is why the potatoe famine hit so hard- not enough varieties.

It is also why there's the Mafia in the US, because the Irish immigrated and they started it first.

Yeah, I've possibly consumed too many reference books.

Re: Spelling (Anonymous) Expand
*ahem*

Allow me to lay some facts on you.
1. Only ~20% of murder cases are solved on average.
2. In over 90% of solved murder cases the victim is related or known to the murderer.
3. Roughly 0.4% of any given urban population simply 'disappears' every year, for no readily discernible reason, and leave no trace or sign that they even still exist.
4. 0.4% is also statistically the average percentage of a given population that is 'culled' by predation.

From these one may infer that the majority of murders are actually carried out by relative strangers, that the majority go unsolved and undiscovered, and that there are lots more where the person just vanishes and isn't counted, [for it to be a murder the police have to have a body, or reason to suspect a death].

One may also infer that either there are lot more murderers out there, or that some of them have very high kill counts. Oh, and there's a whole lot of undiscovered bodies.

In other words, those books aren't that unreasonable.


Edited at 2012-07-11 11:26 am (UTC)

Sorry if I've misunderstood something, but how exactly are you inferring that the unsolved/undiscovered murders are carried out by strangers? Couldn't we just as well assume that since most solved murders are committed by people known to the victim, the same applies for the unsolved murders too (and undiscovered murders, for that matter)? Fact number four doesn't seem to point either way, since predators and prey are (by definition? I don't know enough biology to say) of different species, and are therefore always "strangers", unlike murderers and their victims.

(It sounds plausible to say that unsolved murders presumably stay unsolved because the murderers are mostly strangers, but I can think of alternative options. Maybe murders are just really hard to solve, period.)

And to return to mystery fiction, while the amount of murders may not be unreasonable, surely their tendency to be *always discovered*, and by the same little old ladies/eccentric amateur detectives/jaded private eyes (etc.) for that matter, is? ;-)

(Deleted comment)
For no particular reason I am imagining all her books being set in the same town or city, with a tourism board despairing of keeping the tourist industry healthy and growing.

This is how I felt about Dexter the TV show. Amazing that no one's ever noticed that 76% of the population of Miami is serial killers; aren't they going to run out of victims at some point? No wonder Dexter is a serial killer who kills other serial killers; at this rate, he could probably just swing an axe randomly in a mall and hit two serial killers, a garden-variety murderer, and a pedophile.

I love Dexter, but yeah, you make a valid point. For some bizarre unknown reason, the three states with the highest rates of known serial killers is Florida, Texas, and Oregon. You'd think California would be up there, but it isn't. Why Oregon?

Another entertaining post! Missed lunch reading it. I could murder a kebab right now... ;-)

Edited at 2012-07-18 09:39 pm (UTC)

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