Crime's Grand Tour
October 27, 2012 10:37 AM   Subscribe

Crime fiction is a magnifying glass that reveals the fingerprints of history. From Holmes and Poirot to Montalbano and the rise of Scandi-noir, Mark Lawson investigates the long tradition of European super-sleuths and their role in turbulent times.

The BBC 4 broadcasts (preview) can be listened to individually (~15 min) or in the limited-time(available for one week after broadcast) omnibus collections (~1 hour).
posted by shoesfullofdust (11 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I don't read crime fiction, but the connections the author draws between fiction and history are fascinating. I can't believe he doesn't mention Tintin, it seems like the series would tie into a lot of what he is writing about.
posted by oulipian at 11:12 AM on October 27, 2012

"My suspicion is that mystery stories were a particular victim of this self-censorship because the classic structure of the murder puzzle – in which the guilt of the past is exposed and secrets are revealed - was always likely to lead, in Germany, to the villains of the Hitler era."

And I suspect Inspector Derrick wasn't as great a success in the UK as it was in the rest of Europe...
posted by Marauding Ennui at 11:17 AM on October 27, 2012

Speaking of Scandi-noir and its relevance to contemporary politics, was anyone else seized by the scruff of the neck and plunged forcefully face first into a snowbank by the news that Eva Rausing, heir to the Tetrapack fortune who died under bizarre circumstances in London earlier this year, was in contact with Swedish authorities about the unsolved 1986 murder of prime minister Olof Palme?
Scotland Yard confirmed on Tuesday night that it had given information to authorities in Sweden, where investigators are now reported as wanting to question Hans Kristian Rausing as a possible witness about the information his wife claimed to have obtained.

A Swedish author who has written two books on the Palme killing said Mrs Rausing first contacted him in June 2011. She claimed she had learned that Palme had been killed by an entrepreneur who feared the politician was a threat to his business.

The author, Gunnar Wall, said he had engaged in email correspondence with Rausing, who told him she had written to the businessman on three occasions about the allegations. In one email to Wall she wrote: "Don't forget to investigate if I should suddenly die! Just joking, I hope."

Wall told the Guardian: "When her emails stopped, I did not think too much about it, until I heard that she had died in circumstances that were unclear."

"She also told me that she was going to inform the prosectors in Sweden and it seemed like she had some arrangement to meet them." ... [emphasis added]
posted by jamjam at 1:35 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm just here to drool over the AdamDalgliesh tag, yes.
posted by infini at 3:47 PM on October 27, 2012

There's gotta be a lot of dissertations in that, as well as in pop detective/crime fiction. I've read a fair amount of crime paperbacks myself, and I eventually started noticing certain common preoccupations in a lot of writers. Here I am thinking of the kind of writer who has a whole series of books starring a central detective, say the kind of thing that Robert Parker was at the top end of. And he's a great example for the most interesting thing (to me, at least) that I noticed: a preoccupation with the physicality and the aging, failing body of the detective. This motif turns up everywhere in detective fiction, once you see it. Why? Beats me! But I bet it would be pretty easy to churn out a book exploring alternative theories.

*In Parker, this motif of embodiment becomes almost absurd, with detailed catalogues of seemingly everything that Spenser eats or drinks, as he seeks to maximize his gluttonous pleasure while delaying his inevitable death by cardiac explosion. I was actually relieved that there were no descriptions of what his dumps were like. Then again, I only read 4 or 5 of these, so I can't say for sure that this never happens.
posted by thelonius at 4:46 PM on October 27, 2012

I read a lot of (almost always British) police procedurals. It's seemingly a rule of the universe that the detective not be married (or, if they are, they get divorced), is morose and possibly has a drinking problem.

I'm pretty much convinced that when they decided to spin off Inspector Lewis, it was concluded it was not possible for the detective to have a happy marriage (the apparent state of affairs chez Lewis in Morse), so Lewis's wife has been killed in a hit and run.
posted by hoyland at 5:10 PM on October 27, 2012

...likely story.
posted by scribbler at 5:55 PM on October 27, 2012

Eva Rausing was a cokehead. She probably thought she had proof that David Icke was behind the murder.
posted by alloneword at 5:15 AM on October 28, 2012

a rule of the universe that the detective not be married

I'm not sure how or why that came to be a rule of the universe.

But there is at least Paul Temple, and being married doesn't seem to prevent him from being interesting or solving crimes.

Admittedly his wife is known as "Steve", for reasons that I never figured out.
posted by philipy at 8:02 AM on October 28, 2012

But there is at least Paul Temple, and being married doesn't seem to prevent him from being interesting or solving crimes.

Technically not a police procedural, though, because he's not a police detective.

Stabler on SVU is an exception. He gets divorced eventually, but his family are a significant presense in some of the earlier episodes. That said, Law and Order (all of them) is in a distinctly different mould to Morse, say.
posted by hoyland at 10:50 AM on October 28, 2012

Dalgliesh and all his sidekicks each have their own little emotional melodramas going on throughout all of PD James' wonderful little murderettes
posted by infini at 12:37 PM on October 28, 2012

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