You Are Not Alone

(This follows on from post titled Maybe This is You)

A lot of people love detective stories.

But you knew that. We all know it. You only have to look at a TV guide or walk into a bookshop …

And yes, ring the bells that still can ring and toot the flugelhorn because …


… bookshops are back!


Where was I ?

You only have to walk into a bookshop to see that there’s a lot of crime fiction out there, and most of it is based on the murder mystery.

In these pages, I use the terms ‘murder mystery’ and ‘detective fiction’ and ‘detective novel’ virtually interchangeably.

But just to clarify, here’s a definition. A detective novel has …

   ‘a central mysterious crime which is usually murder, a closed circle of suspects, each with motive, means and opportunity for the crime; a detective … who comes in … to solve it; and by the end of the book, a solution which the reader should be able to arrive at by logical deduction from clues inserted in the novel with deceptive cunning but essential fairness.’ P.D. James*     

Recognisable, isn’t it? In fact, the world is saturated with murder mysteries. On TV they range all the way from the searing high drama of Broadchurch and True Detective, through the countless cookie-cutter American police and forensic shows, right down to the those other things,

the cosies

the shows that you watch while curled up with a Milo and your Nan

Cup_cosy crime fiction



in a pair of puce and turquoise Norwegian Fair Isle socks.

(Or maybe that’s just me.)

And let’s not forget those TV shows set on tropical islands, full of pantomime actors and dumb jokes — shows that are surely written for kids. Shows that no self-respecting adult would watch.



And the books! So-o-o-o many books. Go to the (hooray) bookshop. Go to the library. Have a look at the crime shelves.

Library stockholm


You will find Rankin. You will find Chandler. You will find Rankinesque, Chandleresque dissections of our corrupt societies, and forensic dissections of dead people, and clever witty tales of clever witty high-kicking female PIs

and gentle little clue-puzzles, set in small towns


 or exotic locations all over the world.

Venice-Italy wikipedia

You’ll find a bright, comic story with a teapot on the cover,


featuring a bloodless body and a quiche,

and you’ll find something else, something  seriously disturbing, about a psycho-serial-killer.


uncanny The_House_by_the_Railroad_by_Edward_Hopper_1925

And if you want a capital L on your Literature, then there’s the impossibly elegant stylistic genius of Raymond Chandler, or long research-laden historical novels, or big fat post-classical books, rich in literary references, laden with moral agonising and the hopeless yearning for lost certainties.

Vale P. D. James

Heck, you’ll even find Umberto Eco.

Oh, and DO NOT MISS the shorter, melancholy, brooding, sad, glorious, lyrical gems of Benjamin Black.


And who is responsible

for all this great, excessive, absurd proliferation? Why is it there? It’s because of us. The readers. The viewers. The customers. We caused it. Because

we can’t get enough.

We pick up a mystery novel, we begin it, we finish it in a huge, compulsive rush, and we reach for the next.

All right. Why?

*James, Phyllis D 2009, Talking about detective fiction, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, page 9.

Thanks to these people for the images

“Shakespeare and Company bookshop” by Alexandre Duret-Lutz from Paris, France – Shakespeare and Company bookshopUploaded by Tomer T. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons –

“Ovaltine Cup – Little Orphan Annie and her dog Sandy” by Nash Gordon – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

“Embarrassed Simon Law” by Aleece Germano – Flickr: Embarrassment. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

“The_Nottebohm_Room” Hendrik Conscience Heritage Library, Antwerp, Belgium, 2016-07-26, 02

“XN Kerascoet” by Guido Gerding – external homepage – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

“The House by the Railroad by Edward Hopper 1925” by Edward Hopper – Licensed under Public Domain via Commons –

“PD James Cologne” by Benutzer:Smalltown Boy (Diskussion) – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

“Gondola, Venice, Italy” by Rambling Traveler (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons



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