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The conventional view of mysteries

15 April 2018

The conventional view of mysteries, as explained by Auden, for example, is as an essentially conservative genre. A crime disturbs the status quo; we readers get to enjoy the transgressive thrill, then observe approvingly as the detective, agent of social order, sets things right at the end.  We finish our coca and tuck ourselves in, safe and sound….But what this theory fails to take into account is the next book, the next murder, and the next.  When you line up all the Poirots, all the Maigrets, all the Lew Archers and Matt Scudders, what you get is something far stranger and more familiar: a world where mysterious destructive forces are constantly erupting and where all solutions are temporary, slight pauses during which we take a breath before the next case.

David Gordon


3 Comments to “The conventional view of mysteries”

  1. “We finish our coca and tuck ourselves in, safe and sound”

    I sincerely hope this is a mistyping! Otherwise, it illustrates a slip in the proofreading team at the original post.

    Tickled my fancy.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      A habitual cocaine user might perceive randomness and disorder where there was none, due to the cognitive impairments.

      I can imagine a crime series with a realistic explanation for involvement in a series of criminal investigations, that would still be a matter of bringing order to disorder, a restorative force.

      Suppose the combination of a high crime area and a local government wholly disinterested in having murders investigated and prosecuted. You could reasonably expect a lot of murders over and over again. A private citizen could, in theory, investigate and gather evidence, just without a bunch of the legal stuff that makes it practical for cops. I understand that the decision to prosecute involves a grand jury, so perhaps that is something that a private citizen could get involved in without being a prosecutor or even a lawyer.

      (IANAL. I understand some of the obstacles enough to understand this is probably nonsense, but also that it is a matter of convincing readers, not an actual court of law.)

      I am reasonably sure this could be implemented in a way that seems restorative. I’m also reasonably sure there would be issues of finding a market, even if you could sell it as an implementation of community policing.

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