Carolyn Hart, author of Death Walked In and Ghost at Work (released this month), is on a Bouchercon panel about crime fiction's role in revealing the darkness of human emotions. That topic, she says. goes straight to the bedrock of mysteries and mystery writing (for all author posts, click here):
Mystery novels, from the most hard-boiled to the most genteel, all spring from the same truth: Humans succumb to evil and evil destroys.
It isn’t fashionable in our secular world to speak in terms of evil, but evil - or the dark side of the moon - is at the heart of all mysteries. Yet, where there is darkness, there must be light or the depth of the darkness cannot be seen. The detective in a mystery novel represents goodness or the hope for redemption.
When the detective sets out to solve the crime, the detective seeks to understand what fractured the relationships among those involved. The focus is not murder. The focus is what went wrong in these peoples’ lives. What dark emotions caused this turmoil?
Human failings - anger, deceit, jealousy, greed, denial, deception, selfishness - destroy relationships. In a traditional mystery, murder is the exaggerated symbol for the outcome of ordinary, everyday quarrels. In real life among ordinary people, greed does not usually result in murder, but an overpowering hunger for money or sex or excitement twists and corrodes character. A quarrel in real life does not usually end with a stabbing, but the results of that quarrel can affect a life or lives for generations.
I write about the effects of jealousy, anger, greed, fear, lust, and treachery among ordinary, everyday human beings, neighbors, friends, family. I am not interested in aberrant personalities. My province is the world of everyday life and my characters are a selfish sister, a mean neighbor, a false friend, an overbearing boss, a cruel family member, an adulterous husband or wife.
The world I know and write about is a world made up of all human emotions, including humor and lightheartedness and happiness. In Ghost at Work, a new series which will debut later this month, my protagonist is Bailey Ruth Raeburn, an impetuous, redheaded ghost, who comes back to earth to help someone in trouble. My editor describes the book as whimsy with a mystery.
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