Saturday, July 16, 2011

Weekend Mystery

Catherine Aird. Photo from her website.
The best science fiction explores great philosophical questions, and sometimes mystery novels will do the same. But more often they lead readers on a romp through some place, occupation, or way of life of which we previously knew little. Historical fiction does the same. This may mean, for the writer, that considerable research is in order. With a mystery, the crime must be somewhat believable; its detection must line up with how things actually work. 

One dubious benefit of the mystery novel is that it adds to one's knowledge of how to kill people. Such lore has yet to prove useful to me; I've never felt the need to commit a murder, nor - as far as I know - to recognize and evade the murderous intentions of another. Have you? 

But it is kind of fun to learn things. How to use (or cover up) poisons like arsenic and digitalis. Where to stash a body. Ways to establish an alibi.

My friend Sharyl recently introduced me to one of her favorite mystery writers, Catherine Aird. British. Check your library for her books. Half cozy, half "police procedural." They shouldn't be hard to find. She's been writing for a long time and still is.

Don't think I'll be giving anything away if I share a brief passage from the one I just finished. Gives me a new perspective on medieval architecture - or indeed, the challenging construction of the more "modern" castle I toured with a group of friends last weekend.
"There was no chance of rushing someone standing eight feet above ground level. He knew that. Especially with stairs wide enough for only one person at a time. Builders of medieval castles had known what they were about when they designed their tiny turret staircases inside their towers. One man with a sword standing at the top of one of these could keep an army at bay."
>> Have you learned anything from reading mysteries? What are your favorite genres or authors?

The quirky Bishop's Castle,
rises from the ground
in southern Colorado.

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