List Love: More bookish pet peeves, detective novel and mystery version

Since I am not participating in the Top Ten Tuesdays this week, I decided to continue with my literary pet peeves list, moving on to specific genres. First up is detective novels and mystery fiction. My top peeves for that genre appear below in no particular order, except that no. 1 is my absolute favourite pet peeve.

  1. Suicide endings, especially when it is out of character or not necessary to avoid the death sentence. Can be found in a number of Robert Barnard novels and the works of many other authors.
  2. Sub-intelligent or useless sidekicks. I much prefer teams that make up for each other’s faults to a star detective and a side-kick who is useless except as a dumb stand-in for the reader. I feel that the side-kick must be a developed character of at least normal intelligence and able to contribute to the investigation on other ways than just being a sounding-board for the detective. She could, for example, be the brawn to the detective’s brains or he could be the one with common sense even if lacking in detection abilities. This is why I like Watson - he might be rubbish as a detective, but Holmes would have been killed many times over if not for his side-kick's bravery.
  3. Technobabble and psychobabble. Don’t go into long, involved explanations of how something technical works or why someone is so screwed up – just give a brief explanation and let that suffice. If you show the reader that it is so and explain why in broad terms it is not necessary to go into tiny details of how or why.
  4. The following as the murderer: neurotic spinster, repressed lesbian, slimy homosexual, grossly and unattractively fat character.
  5. Overly complicated solutions/murder plots. John Dickson Carr is a big offender, and one or two books by Dorothy L. Sayer also fall into this category.
  6. Detectives who appoint themselves judge, jury and executioner as well as accuser, and kill people left and right with seemingly no consequences.
  7. Far-fetched murder methods combined with far-fetched motives. If you have to have the murderer use a hitherto unknown poison or a remote-controlled gun, the motive had better be a simple and straightforward one, and if the motive is far-fetched, the method had better be straight-forward.
  8. Murder victims who were so evil and so hated by so many that the murderer was doing humankind a favour by eliminating them. Victims who are sympathetic on some level make for a much more thrilling plot.
  9. Ordinary people, who, when faced with murder for the first time in their lives, act as if it was something perfectly normal and don’t seem affected by it. 99,5 % of all detective novelists are guilty of this.
  10. Dysfunctional detectives whose troubled private life invades the story with monotonous regularity. I don’t mind reading about detectives’ private lives, but do they all have to be divorced or almost divorced alcoholics with children and/or exes who hate them?


George said…
The early Ellery Queen mystery novels had very complex plots. Troubled Kurt Wallander from Henning Mankell is about the only dysfunctional detective I can abide.
Trish said…
Yes, #3 gets to be a problem when they're talking about technology because it's so quickly out of date. I tried reading Umberto Echo's Foucault's Pendulum and was immediately turned off by the obviously outdated techno-babble. What might have been hip and cutting edge in 1985 is just plain old now.

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