Thursday, February 19, 2009

Do clues really matter?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Are most murders solved by using clues? I doubt it. I suspect most murders are solved by knowing the people involved, their histories and the reasons they are what they are.

I started thinking about this as I read Batya Gur. Also, one of my Sunday Quotes, Maigret's "I shall know the murderer when I know the victim well," seemed to make great sense to me.

I prefer reading about people, not puzzles.

When I was younger, I read a slew of Agatha Christie mysteries. Then it occurred to me that, except for the really unusual ones (Roger Ackroyd and the like), I didn't like them as well as I liked some other mystery stories. The characters (even Miss Marple after a while) seemed wooden and uninteresting.

Now I say this with some trepidation. I suppose it is like saying Shakespeare is just a hack writer. But I'm just telling you what I felt. I prefer interesting characters, whether they are people like Easy Rawlins or people like Precious Ramotswe.

So, for me, it is not clues that really matter. It is people. I like stories where you figure out what's happening because you get to know the people.

One thing about the world. There is great variety in it. For me and for the people who see it the other way, the clue-driven way, there are plenty of good mystery stories.

If you would like to respond to this post, please leave a comment or go to my web site where there is an email address. Thanks.


Corey Wilde said...

I agree with you, Joe. A dry puzzle like a Christie mystery -- I might as well just do a crossword puzzle for all the emotional connection I get from her books. But Easy Rawlins, or in my recent reading, Sheriff Walt Longmire, are people -- 'scuse me, characters who intrigue me and their stories are about other people who are also interesting. I say people I suppose, because they read like real people to me, people I would want to know.

And I don't think it's like saying Shakespeare was a hack. I can get pretty excited about some of his characters: Henry V, Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, Beatrice & Benedict.

Joe Barone said...

I see characters in stories as people too.

About Shakespeare, what I meant is that there are certain writers whose names are so sacred you don't criticize them. Christie is one of those in the mystery genre.

Corey Wilde said...

No doubt there are cozy fans who think Christie is sacrosanct, but those of us (namely, me) who prefer a Ken Bruen or a Raymond Chandler to a cozy would not hesitate to criticize the great Dame for the very reasons you have identified. Maybe I wouldn't walk into my book club (mostly made up of cozy fans) and denigrate Agatha for fear of them letting some of my blood, but they'll never persuade me that her books have the depth and interest of writers like JL Burke, Crais, or sir, your own. And that's not flattery, it's sincerity. I'll take Roy Rogers over Roger Ackroyd any time.

And even Shakespeare devotees will admit that sometimes he went on a bit too long in places, or that some of his sonnets were not exactly gems. I don't think it made him any less of a creative genius, it just shows that Einstein was probably right in his estimates of inspiration & perspiration.

Joe Barone said...

Thanks, Corey. One thing my writing has taught me is that we should really appreciate the writers who bless us. What they do is not as easy as it looks. --Joe.

Cathy said...

I picked up an Agatha Christie novel a few years ago and just couldn't get into it. I'm a character-driven reader, no matter the genre I'm sampling. If I'm not interested in the characters, no amount of puzzle pieces is going to save a book for me.

Joe Barone said...

Good to have you comment. I taught a high school literature class in mystery story once. We used a couple of Christie books, but we also used several books that were more character oriented.