"So Fragile A Casing"

"That's the drawback to the human body: so full of sensation, yet so fragile a casing!"

Rachel put together a little tag for her mystery series which she is currently hosting.  Since I am going to write a mystery myself several novels down the road, I thought I would pick up this tag and indulge myself.  It was rather fun, since I have been quietly story-boarding for the mystery in between scribbling for Talldogs.

I'm afraid I don't really fall into the quaint English village mystery ideal, much as I watched "Midsomer Murders" in its earlier seasons.  To me, murder is easy: it's getting away with it that is hard.  Detecting it is even harder, because you start off pitying the corpse and then you start unearthing facts about it and you begin to realize that the person was really a blackguard and he probably deserved very nearly what he got, and then you have to find the murderer, with whom you have begun to sympathize, and you have to turn them over to the law, and you have to watch them hanged.  And then you realize that it isn't all happy hunting for clues.  People got hurt.  People keep getting hurt.  Everything is simply wretched, and if it weren't for your infernal desire to ferret out the truth you would have had done with the whole nasty business long ago.

the questions from the tag, which are a little less serious-serious

1. You are writing a mystery novel and decide to base the detective off of one of your writing friends: whom do you choose?
To be an effective detective he or she would have to be based on Abigail, because she is so eminently logical and also because, being a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes, she has “read the right sorts of books.”

2. If you and the best of your writing-blog friends were living out a mystery, which of you would be most likely to end up as the victim?
That depends on who the murderer was, what was the provocation, and the means presented for the crime. Lots of different people would like to kill lots of different people for lots of different reasons. Knowing myself better than I know anyone else, I can readily imagine someone wanting to murder me, and if the plan went off without a hitch and I did not end up committing a violent act of self-defence (yeah, that’s funny), I would probably be killed so that someone could steal my “muse of fire,” and then I would have to come back as a ghost and team up with Abigail to get my muse back.
“My first girlfriend turned into the moon.”
“That’s tough, buddy.”
3. If you decided to write a mystery (or if, on the other hand, you do write mysteries) would your style fall under thriller, terror, literary, historical or cosy?
I actually do plan on writing a murder mystery, and have had it pending for some time. “Cosy” and “literary” probably do not apply. “Historical” may apply in a rough sense; I think it will cut a line through thriller, terror, and horror. Not one to do things by halves.

4. Who is your favourite mystery author?
I haven’t read much beyond Dorothy Sayers (one Agatha Christie and two Arthur Conan Doyle mysteries), and I have to confess, I’m not really a mystery reader. In a faintly interested sort of way I want to know who the body is and who killed the cat and why, and naturally I prefer to see justice done; but in general I am captivated by the detective. Someone bowled my heart at Lord Peter Wimsey and he cracked it out of the field. I love reading his exploits, and I love the way Dorothy Sayers knows what life is like and grabs the bull by the horns. I rather suspect her character Harriet Vane is a picture of herself in some respects. She knows people; she knows sin and depravity and grace and redemption and she isn’t afraid to strip the romantic pall off murder. She doesn’t do things by halves, and I really appreciate that.
“Do I look like a killer to you?”
“Everyone looks like a killer to me.”
5. What is the best mystery you've ever read?
I don’t feel qualified to define the best mystery, so I will say that the mysteries I most enjoyed were The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Man Who Was Thursday, and Gaudy Night.

6. If you were going to be in charge of solving a mystery, where would you want it to be set and what would the circumstances be?
First of all, this responsibility would have to be thrust upon me out of sheer desperation and by complete fools because surely there must be someone of a more methodical turn of mind who could take the job. Unless, of course, that person had the appalling lack of foresight to become the deceased. From an artistic standpoint I would want the setting to be sleepy and safe, because that amplifies the sense of invasion (assuming this is a murder mystery). But not a little English village, because then we can all assume the vicar did it (blah), or a sleepy New England town, because then we can just blame it on Cthulhu and have done.

7. You walk into a library and find a body on the floor. Your first reaction?
That rather depends on the state of the body. If it were lying innocently on its front I would start and gasp and swallow my heart a few times before going round the body to be sure it was actually dead. If it were “Silence of the Lambs” I would swear and vomit and contaminate the crime scene.

8. Your second reaction:
Don’t touch the body. Call the police.

9. What do you say when the policeman tells you that you are the prime suspect in the murder?
“What.” I would say. “What.”

10. How does your answer affect the powers that be?
God knows.

11. Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle walk into one of those Solve the Murder Dinner Theatres and sit down and start to spoil the fun by solving all the mysteries before anyone else and shouting the answers to the crowd: do you retaliate, and if so, how?
I don’t know either of them by sight (again, not real into mysteries here), so I would probably go away despising them to the uttermost depths of my soul. I do not retaliate. We are English. We carry on.

12. Post a quote from your favourite mystery//mystery author:
This is an interchange between the main characters of the TV show “Castle.” 
 Best-selling crime novelist Richard Castle gets roped into a case 
when someone starts copy-catting some of his murders in real life.

Richard Castle: I'm here for the story.
Kate Beckett: The story?
Richard Castle: Why those people? Why those murders?
Kate Beckett: Sometimes, there is no story. Sometimes, the guy is just a psychopath.
Richard Castle: There's always a story, always a chain of events that makes everything make sense. Take you for example. Under normal circumstances, you should not be here. Most smart, good-looking women become lawyers, not cops. And yet here you are. Why?
Kate Beckett: I don't know, Rick. You're the novelist. You tell me.
Richard Castle: Well, you're not bridge-and-tunnel. No trace of the boroughs when you talk. So that means Manhattan. That means money. You went to college, probably a pretty good one. You had options. Yeah, you had a lot of options, more socially acceptable options. But you still chose this. That tells me—something happened. Not to you. No, you're wounded, but you're not that wounded. No, it was someone you care about, it was someone you loved. And you probably could have lived with that but the person responsible was never caught.
Richard Castle: And that, Detective Beckett, is why you are here.
Kate Beckett: Cute trick. But don't think you know me.
Richard Castle: The point is there's always a story.
You just have to find it.

6 ripostes:

  1. Snaps up for your excellent taste - a quote from Avatar that I use with my flatmate daily (just discovered it and watched all three series - squee!), *that* exchange from Castle and Sayers.

    Ahem, normal sober service will now resume.

  2. I'm glad I'm not the only one who regards TSP as a mystery. Some people just don't understand. In other news, I concur with your idea of being nabbed by the character of the detective. Wimsey *does* have that effect on one, doesn't he? That is why I am so excited about Vivi & Farnham. I'm rather fond of that pair and I think I can build them around a mystery rather than vice-versa.

  3. Is The Man Who Was Thursday really a mystery, though? The back cover of my copy (which someone very thoughtfully gave to me) proclaims it "equal parts mystery, suspense story, allegory, and farce," but I'd say only the latter two actually apply. Philosophy and literature have always gone hand in hand, but Chesterton here accomplishes the very rare feat of constructing a literary philosophy (a philosophical literature?) while arguing from the correct perspective, rather than approaching it by way of negation, which some have done intentionally, and the rest inadvertently. But the story that floats on the surface of the allegory was immediately guessable, to the point where the whole thing descended quickly into farce (which was by design, I'm sure, perhaps to make the truth more bearable). Not that that's bad, just... I'm not sure you could call it a mystery. I also found it somewhat distracting that Chesterton was directing such venom at anarchism, an anti-philosophy that was obviously a Thing in his day but through the sloth and apathy of generations of its practitioners has degenerated into a much less focused, much less potent, and therefore much more dangerous ideal known as relativism. But the antidote is still the same, and should be applied with the same vigilance and vigor.

    Hmm. Now I need to expand this post into three or four paragraphs, drop a few more references, maybe a Latin phrase or two, and get it up on Goodreads.

  4. Well, naturally, if you are sharp enough to see the answer, no novel is a mystery. I'm simply not. ButThe Man Who Was Thursday is a mystery in the same sense that The Scarlet Pimpernel is a mystery: I didn't know who the Scarlet Pimpernel was or who Sunday was. That was the mystery, and that was the aspect of the novel which happened to stand forefront in my mind.

  5. That's an awesome quotation/conversation there at the end. What's the show like?

  6. Lots of fun to read! Though, if I was in the middle of a mystery, I'm not sure I'd call upon you to save it. Maybe to bring tea though.