>K is for Killer

>[For Kerrie´s alphabet in crime meme]

In the crime fiction genre, the killer – or murderer – is a very central figure. In early crime fiction, he was usually an unpleasant character, cruel and callous, and nobody doubted that the world would be a better place when he was hanged. Most people seemed to believe that criminals inherited their negative sides from their parents – a very convenient theory because if your parents were good, upright citizens, you would have nothing to fear.

Examples of the nasty killer: Arthur Conan Doyle´s “The Reigate Squire”, but interestingly, the theory of heredity also plays an important role in a Reg Wexford story by Ruth Rendell, “Sins of the Fathers” from 1967.

Already in the Golden Age, some of the better writers offered more nuanced characters. Good examples are Dorothy L. Sayers´ “Busman´s Honeymoon” and “Murder Must Advertise” where the reader cannot help feeling some sympathy for the murderers.

And what about crime fiction from this millenium? Is the killer just an incorrigible villain who ought to be put away for good – or is the truth more complex than that? In the best novels I think the killers are as different and as difficult to typecast as any other character.

Two interesting examples among the books I have reviewed lately: Martin Walker, “Bruno, Chief of Police” and Daniel Woodrell, “Winter´s Bone”.

What is your favourite crime story in which the killer is not presented as a monster but as a nuanced character? 

(Please try not to spoil the pleasure for new readers) 

About Dorte Hummelshøj Jakobsen

I am a Danish teacher. In my spare time I read, write and review crime fiction.
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