As part of my research into the role I am playing in Agatha Christie's The Hollow, (Tempo Theatre, May 17-25), I have been reading lots of murder mysteries. Not the gory forensic ones or the grisly serial killer twisted psychopathic ones (often set in Scandinavia and clearly doing wonders for those country's tourism boards) but the ones set in country houses (or, disturbingly, theatres) where everything is very jolly and people gather patiently at the end to learn whodunit from the brilliant detective.
There's always an assortment of folk with motives and alibis - everyone is a suspect except (although not always excluded from the list) the victim. When the person has been murdered, there is never any real grief or emotion; just a curiosity as to the perpetrator. And all ends are neatly tied up with a pleasant reassurance.
Some people inherit or even get married and it's all happily ever after - except, of course, for the victim and the murderer who either gets meekly led away to face justice (they never get off on a technicality) or conveniently kills themself, thus sparing everyone else the trouble of a trial. Lovely!
5 Murder Mysteries I've Recently Read:
- The Hollow/ Three Act Tragedy/ The Seven Dials Mystery - Agatha Christie. Classics.
- Death at the Dolphin/ A Man Lay Dead - Ngaio Marsh. Not the most pleasant of detectives in Roderick Alleyn, but he always gets his man, or woman.
- The Full Cupboard of Life - Alexander McCall Smith. The fifth in the No 1 Ladies' Detecive Series. I've read the others and enjoyed them, so this was really just an excuse. There is barely any detection but quite a lot of bush psychology and tea-drinking.
- The Murder Room - P.D. James. A modern-ish take on the genre and there is a serial killer, but the other stuff is all present and correct.
- Gaudy Night - Dorothy L Sayers. A murder mystery without a murder. Curious. But it's set in Oxford so one should expect high-brow existentialism.