Crime fiction has often been thought of as less literary than other genres of writing. As someone who has been researching and writing about crime fiction for many years, I know this as well as anyone else.
Personally, I’ve found it hard to get people to think that crime fiction is more than just a silly, fun genre. My friend once said something similar about fantasy fiction, when he went into a bookshop and asked about the fantasy section and the bookseller said it was just for kids.
Crime fiction is pretty similar; many people think it’s the book equivalent of Midsomer Murders with its formulaic plots and reputation for being something you can watch easily without having to do much thinking or paying masses of attention.
However, in my mind most crime fiction is much more than that. There are always bad examples in any genre, but some of the world’s greatest crime fiction is truly amazing.
From Agatha Christie through to Raymond Chandler, Ruth Rendell to Peter James, there are some incredibly talented writers across the genre and their work is more than just something to check through; it’s true literature. It goes over the full plethora of human emotion, morality and social issues. They often showcase the challenges of the period in question and make for a great study of the ways in which people behave and interact with one another.
Cosy crime fiction is one of the sub-genres of crime fiction that gets the most flack. Often dismissed as the Mills and Boon of the crime fiction space, the style doesn’t have the gravitas of police procedurals nor the selling power of gritty, gore filled thrillers.
What it does have is the insight into human emotion and behaviour that many genres lack. Cosy crime fiction, from Agatha Raisin to the Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency series, is designed specifically to lull readers into thinking that they are about to read something easy and uncomplicated. What these novels create instead is a complicated allegory of human emotion and life in general.
One of the best examples of this is Kerry Greenwood’s Miss Fisher series, which expertly combines convoluted plots and sweet romances with darker discussions on such topics as rape, the 1920’s justice system and racism. Greenwood’s novels show how twee, cosy crime fiction can hit home as succinctly as any grittier examples of the genre can.
So next time you think of crime fiction, don’t dismiss it completely offhand. No matter the sub-genre or style, there is something great to be found among the tales of grizzly murder and mayhem.