You have lived to read the end of this book. You probably took that for granted. Yet every book about crime challenges this assumption; we are reminded not only of our own mortality but also of its potentially random and violent nature. Our fictions express both our desire for this to be otherwise and our awareness that it is not so. Individual works may impose a meaning upon criminal destruction, but they contain within them the sense of their own contingency. The ancient Greeks watched Aeschylus’s Oresteia and felt they had achieved a fresh enlightenment about revenge and murder and our place in the universe, but they also knew that the last word had not been spoken, that the next year they would watch another writer’s version of the same myth. When the detective in the final chapter of a country house ‘cosy’ performs his tour de force in the library, rendering coherent a pattern of means, motive, opportunity, we are already deciding to repeat the experience with the next book. We know that the pattern is not an answer; it is a ritual which we enact to express our desire for an answer. When we turn to a narrative about real crimes we look for the specifics — the words actually spoken, the smallest details of a scene, an act — which mark its uniqueness, as if we might find an explanation this time. But it will ultimately elude us.
KeywordsCountry House Violent Nature Real Crime Mourn Ritual Christmas Gift
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