Friday, 29 March 2013

Dead Exciting

While we were in London last week we popped in to the British Library for their temporary exhibition 'Murder in the Library: An A-Z of Crime Fiction'. We are both fans of a good murder mystery, whether it's an Agatha Christie novel or Murder, She Wrote on the telly, so we were both pretty excited by everything on display.

A was for Agatha Christie, probably the most famous writer of crime fiction ever. She was knocking about during the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, which was in the 20s and 30s. As well as her, you had Margery Allingham, Dorothy Sayers and Ngaio Marsh writing usually quite gentle murder mysteries involving upper and middle class English people poisoning and strangling each other. We watched a thing about Agatha Christie on telly the other night and it was saying how she'd worked as a pharmacy assistant. As a result she knew loads about poisons and things like that, so about half of the murderers in her stories use poison to kill their victims.

This is the kind of murder we can all enjoy. Sometimes not entirely plausible plots, posh people killing each other and a satisfactory conclusion where the perpetrator is apprehended and everyone goes home happy (unless they are dead). Now there seems to be a new trend in lighter crime fiction, though, that completely fascinates me. We're talking (usually) hobby themed mysteries!

If you look around Amazon, or your library, you will find loads of these things. For example, I am currently reading 'Fatally Frosted: A Donut Shop Mystery' which is part of the Donut Shop Mysteries series. It basically involves the owner of a donut shop being implicated in a murder and attempting to solve the mystery in order to clear their name. Here's the best bit though: after most chapters there's a recipe!

Similarly, on my list of books to read is 'A Crewel World: A Needlecraft Mystery'. From what I can tell, the plot of this consists of a woman attempting to juggle the stresses of owning a small business with solving a murder. Whatever your job or hobby, there is probably a murder mystery series to accompany it. There's Library Lover, DIY Home Renovation, Tea Shop and Cheese Shop mysteries (and plenty more). They all seem to work on the premise that as long you can come up with a good pun for the title, you can always think of a plot later.

When I'm looking for something a little grittier than 'Clobbered by Camembert: a Cheese Shop Mystery', I particularly enjoy reading Raymond Chandler novels. As a child I used to get too warm and then faint and it was the weirdest feeling ever - and not a feeling that seven-year-old me could describe very well. Chandler's famous character Philip Marlowe is always getting smacked upside the head, drugged or mistreated in a number of different ways. Chandler writes loads of really good passing out descriptions, probably because he drank too much and had quite a bit of experience of lapsing in and out of consciousness. Here's an example from 'The Little Sister':
A face swam towards me out of the darkness. I changed direction and started for the face. But it was too late in the afternoon. The sun was setting. It was getting dark rapidly. There was no face. There was no wall, no desk. Then there was no floor. Then there was nothing at all. I wasn't even there.
I could talk about Philip Marlowe getting knocked out all day, so I will leave it here before you all get so bored that you start thinking of ways to bump me off without anyone (amateur sleuth, private detective or professional cop included) being able to figure it out.

Like all good TV detective shows, I am going to summarise the contents of this blog post for added drama and to help out the less able members of the audience who might have forgotten what happened earlier. Imagine I'm Jessica Fletcher challenging a murderer or something like that. Okay? So, I would completely recommend going to the British Library exhibition - it is great. Also, we learnt that some crime fiction is rubbish in a good way and some is good in a good way. Thank you for your time.

Just one more thing! There's a new episode of Jonathan Creek on the telly on Easter Monday. Sadly it has Joanna Lumley in it, but it will still probably be flipping excellent.

Here follows a list of our favourite crime fiction/murder mystery telly programs and writers that we like. Do you agree with us? Comment below, ta!

Midsomer Murders
Murder, She Wrote
Miss Marple
Jonathan Creek

Agatha Christie
Raymond Chandler
Ann Cleeves
James M Cain
Michael Chabon (Although he's not a crime writer per se, Yiddish Policemen's Union is great)

See yer!


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