I have a confession to make. I can’t take most currently popular crime novels. It’s a genre I’ve always loved and it makes me sad.
Crime novels, says PD James, are about the restoration of the social order. They are about justice. Now I have a passion for justice and an appetite for murder in a story. I relish following a character over the tipping point where the functioning social being goes out into the dark alone to kill. But, but, but …. I can’t be doing with voluptuous nastiness, even when it’s very well written. Maybe especially when it’s very well written.
Take an example. I read the Millenium Trilogy in one bound, as it were. Was fascinated by the characters and the ideas but the violence was such that I really had to brace myself to read the second in the series. I’m glad I carried on through book 2 and then finished The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. But I’m pretty sure I couldn’t take it again. Nastiness like that gets into my dreams.
Maybe I’ve overdosed. And not just on Stig Larsson.
Which is why I have always puzzled over my willingness to pick up another Jack Reacher novel. Some (though not all) of Lee Child’s murderers are sadists. There is a high body count. Violence is not shirked. Reacher, of course, is a hero– a career soldier who retires and declutters his life of everything, house, books, relationships, laundry. (Possibly a touch of wish fulfilment for me there, I thought.) He solves problems beautifully. Restores justice. Moves on. A hero, certainly. But my hero? Why?
And then I read Killing Floor and realised wherein lies his attraction. He is my soul mate. He believes in apostrophes. Hell, he deduces clues from apostrophes.
Reacher and a fellow investigator are looking for what Hitchcock called the McGuffin. They have found a list but so far have drawn a blank. Then Reacher has an idea.
‘You recall the second to last item?’ I asked him.
‘Stollers’ garage,’ he said.
‘Right, ‘ I said. ‘But think about the punctuation. If the apostrophe was before the final letter, it would mean the garage belonging to one person called Stoller. The singular possessive they call it in school, right?’
‘But?’ he said.
‘It wasn’t written like that,’ I said. ‘The apostrophe came after the final letter. It meant the garage belonging to the Stollers. The plural possessive. The garage belonging to two people called Stoller. And there weren’t two people called Stoller living at the house out by the golf course.’
Soul mates, I told you.