Why so many of us love crime fiction – Sarah Hilary

On publication of QUIETER THAN KILLING, Sarah Hilary looks at why so many of us love crime fiction

Posted on October 3, 2017 in Guest Author
Tags: SOMEONE ELSE'S SKIN, crime fiction, marnie rome, quieter than killing, sarah hilary

Dear reader,

I’ve been asked to write about why so many of us love crime fiction. Lots of writers have been invited to tackle this subject including, perversely, several who loathe crime fiction. (Although it’s rather fun watching them wrestle their dictionaries to the ground in pursuit of credible reasons as to why so many smart people cannot aspire to their own contempt for the genre.)

Is it that we love to see justice done? That the detective is our secular priest?

Or is it that we delight in solving a puzzle?

Could it simply be that crime fiction respects the first rule of writing—to entertain?

Should I attempt to unpack the reasons why I became a reader of crime when I was ten? What it was about the stories of Conan Doyle and Raymond Chandler and Patricia Highsmith that hooked my pre- and post-adolescent brain?

I’m not sure I should, in fact. Any more than I should attempt to analyse your reasons for reading my books or any other crime writer’s. Other than to say this—

Crime fiction, at its best, is uniquely two things. Firstly, it is subversive. It asks the questions no one else likes to ask. It has a social conscience which is active in the here and now, without recourse to nostalgia (a fetish of so much literary fiction) and unafraid of ambiguity.

The second way in which crime fiction is unique is all about you. More than any other genre, ours depends on the pact between writer and reader. Never will you hear a crime writer bemoan or belittle the role of the reader, or make lofty claims of how little we think about our readers when we write. We think about you all-the-time. About the questions you’ll ask of our characters and what makes you turn our pages, whether our red herrings are too red or our subtle clues too clunky. You’re in our heads the whole time. We want to scare you and thrill you—and outwit you, if we can (knowing how damn hard that will be). Writing, they say, is a lonely business. But thanks to you, dear crime reader, we are never alone.

So join me if you will (I won’t say if you dare) in Quieter Than Killing as I twist and turn, and try to keep you guessing right up until the final page. Then tweet me or drop a line to my website or Facebook page to tell me what you liked, what you didn’t, what I should be doing differently.

Until next time. Keep the faith.

Sarah Hilary

Sarah Hilary has worked as a bookseller, and with the Royal Navy. Her debut, SOMEONE ELSE’S SKIN, won Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year 2015 and was a World Book Night selection for 2016. The Observer’s Book of the Month (“superbly disturbing”) and a Richard & Judy Book Club bestseller, it has been published worldwide. NO OTHER DARKNESS, the second in the series was shortlisted for a Barry Award in the US. Her DI Marnie Rome series continued with TASTES LIKE FEAR and her fourth book, QUIETER THAN KILLING, is out now.

Follow Sarah on Twitter at @Sarah_Hilary

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