Any curious kid growing up must have read Agatha Christie at least a dozen times before concluding that murder is really very exciting. He/she then watches a Hitchcock film only for her convictions to be further affirmed. Murder really is exciting, but what about it is that excites us?
David Fincher’s new TV series Mindhunter brings back the old romanticism of murderers and serial killers with a team of detectives investigating a few notorious serial killers of America and trying to understand how their mind works. But what really excites us perhaps is not that the imagination of the murder or even the thrill of it, but the realisation that such crimes can be committed by us too, and that it takes no extraordinary being any extraordinary effort to commit a murder. Murderers are everywhere and they are everyone, husbands, wives, children, doctors, lawyers, fathers, mothers.
In this essay in the London Review of Books, Jenny Diski writes on the famed English crime novels and authors and also about murder in general, stressing on the the thing most pivotal to a murder: the instrument (in this essay, arsenic).
Heartlessness is rather the point. Even the idea of people dying of wallpaper or poisoned candles, or children buying and dying from sweets on the market stall in the Victorian era belongs to the ‘well how about that’ category of non-fiction. Agony is sidelined when it happened long ago and has become dated genre fiction. The reality of arsenic poisoning makes greater demands on the imagination in the face of a present-day global accident that is the result both of good will and a different kind of laissez-faire.
Click here to access the essay.