Day 60 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project.
Jo is still reading mystery after mystery, and I have just been re-reading the opening chapter of Reasonable Doubt, by Steve Vogel, a true crime book.
Today I want to share with you Jo's categorization system for mystery, and also ponder that "scarlet thread" as it winds through real life.
Jo says there are two main kinds of mystery: cozy and not cozy. Within these are a number of subcategories and degrees. A cozy murder mystery is often set in a small town or other non-metropolitan setting. The reader will not be exposed to a lot of blood and gore, and good will prevail in the end. That is, the murderer will be found out, caught, and punished or sent off into the legal system, or meet his/her own bad end.
A subcategory of cozy is fluffy, where the detective or investigator is often unconventional, maybe even more of a busybody than a professional. Fluffy mysteries are cute and often come in series. There can be lots of sidetracking and silliness, but justice will prevail in a happy ending.
My parents were listening to another in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith in the car on our recent road trip to Ohio. A delightful, cozy mystery. I got interested in the people.
Not cozy mysteries are gritty, often set in big cities, and don't shy away from tough language and the hard realities of life. In a gritty mystery, the reader may well see the murder take place, in all its blood and gore, in present action, or in imagined re-enactment during the autopsy or a court proceeding flashback. The violence may be gross and extreme.
A subcategory of either cozy or gritty mysteries is the police procedural, where we learn what happened during the investigation, which has its own intrigues.
Those Swedish mysteries by Stieg Larsson sound pretty gritty to me. But I haven't cracked open my Girl With the Dragon Tattoo yet. Eww.
Reasonable Doubt, by Steve Vogel, opens as a police procedural. We discover the bodies with police officer Mike Hibbens. And we see lots of blood, eventually, when flashlights give way to room illumination, and a horrific scene of a mother and children murdered in their home. The horror is in the idea. Vogel spares us what he can, and does not manipulate or exaggerate. He wasn't there; he is re-enacting the scene from the point of view of Hibbens and is giving us the realizations as they come. But the axe and the butcher knife are right there in the middle of the bed.
This is a true crime story, by a radio news director who was troubled by discrepancies in the case. David Hendricks, a traveling salesman, was accused and convicted of the crime of killing his family. He sold prosthetic limbs, designed & sold a medical back-brace, perhaps dallied with the models for his catalogues, and belonged to an evangelical Christian sect, so there was an icky factor as the police investigation and trial progressed. Icky after the horrible fact of the deaths.
An important book, raising, well, reasonable doubts, Vogel's own investigation as a writer caused the case to be re-opened, and Hendricks was retried and got out of jail. What really happened remains a mystery, and telling you the readily available reported facts of the case is not really a spoiler for this book. It grips you and makes you want the real killer, whoever it is, to be found out, caught, and punished. Especially, in my case, because it happened in my small, cozy town.