Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Survey: What's "Dark" in Mystery Fiction?

by Leann

When I think of a book being "dark," I guess serial killer books come to mind first. Or books where the good guys and the bad guys are hard to tell apart. Or stories where violence is prevalent and murders are described in graphic detail. Or fiction in which children or animals are harmed (hate that).

So I am asking all of you to weigh in. What's dark writing for you? Would you enjoy a cozy where the characters deal with strong emotions and family dysfunction? Is this too "serious" for books like mine? (Of course my books always include plenty of fur friend fun.) I'd love to hear your take and maybe prepare readers for what they might get from me come April 2012. :-)

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't mind serial killers and I think that where it is hard to tell the good and bad guys apart is great - I'm one of those readers who are trying to solve the mystery too, so dead ends like that are challenging. There's nothing worse than knowing who the murderer is straight away.

I really don't like it when animals are harmed, Carole Nelson Douglas had a cat 'crucified' on a door in 'Cat on a Blue Monday' and while the cat was OK, the image she created upset me and has stuck with me since.

I think that cozies can get away with brutal murders, just not have every detail covered - my imagination does that!

What makes me really squeamish are sex scenes, graphic ones really are too skin crawlingly awful. Again, my imagination does fine where all of that is concerned ;)

So, bring on the murder!! :)

Kuzlin said...

For me, dark is about the detailed violence and the killings for the thrill of it...as often is the case with serial killers. And while I do read these, I also enjoy cozies where the murder is second to the mystery and the imagination can provide the details.

Leann Sweeney said...

Thanks. I think I am in line with both of you. I read all kinds of mysteries but lately have burned out on serial killers.

Aurian said...

Difficult question Leann, I think Dark means for me when it gets too scary, mutilations and stuff. When that is discribed in technicolor. Really don't like that.

Harbingerdc said...

When I think dark, it is more about the killing process. I would also add that it would also contain a lot of graphic descriptions of the violence. And, although I like several aspects of the flawed hero archetype, the hero can be too flawed and, to me, that's dark as well.

I read all kinds of mysteries, but always come back to my cozies because they are so place and character-driven. It's like visiting with old friends.
(Even if they all seem to suffer with "Cabot Cove Syndrom".) ;-)

Lori Cimino said...

I used to read all of kinds of dark mysteries....John Sanford, Patricia Cornwall, Michael Connolly. And then, something inside me just changed. And those books no longer appealed to me. I dont like all the details or the killing, or the description of decomp and mutilations. That is why the Cozy has become my favorite type of story. Like was said above, the characters feel like old friends who dropped by for a visit.

Leann Sweeney said...

What you guys are saying is very in line with what I always thought was "dark." The reason I wrote this blog is to confirm my thoughts. My next book has a lot of "emotional content." But there's no violence, no graphic anything, hardly a swear word. For some reason, my editor considered this "dark" for a cozy. (No pets or continuing characters die!) But we came to understand each other finally and the book is out of rewrites. Thank goodness the emotion is still there because as many of you know, that's me!!

Katreader said...

I see "dark" a bit differently. I see it as being serious with no humour; depressing is you will. I don't mind if children get hurt-but brutally hurt an animal and odds are I won't be back.

Ramona said...

I like Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine's stories which are dark in theme, but not with violence or content.

Rita B said...

I agree with you Leann on several points....graphic violence, children hurt. No humor is a bad thing. Like to be kept guessing who dunnit. Like your books as is.....or is that as are??:^)

Ellery Adams said...

To me the truest sense of Dark is when justice doesn't occur. When you're left feeling hollow because the bad guy didn't get what he deserved. I need that to happen, to believe that the characters can recover and enjoy happiness again in the future.

Diane P said...

Dark to me is what has been said: graphic violence, cruelty, seeing inside the mind of a serial killer. I guess it is truly having the evil slap me in my face.
I read cozies to escape my every day life, and though I know there is evil out there, not for my relaxing reading.

Dru said...

If I have nightmares after reading a book, then it is dark. Like Ellery said, if there is no justice for the victim, then that is dark as well. A mystery that makes me depressed is dark.

Judy Alter said...

Oh dear Leann,I'm sorry you're tired of serial killes, because my next novel, due out in April, revolves around one. But it's a cozy--no on-screen violence, no pleasure in killing, certainly not Hannibal Lecter! Honest, it's a cozy. I've sort of wondered about marketing a cozy with a serial killer. Watch for No Neighborhood for Old Women and tell me what you think.

Peggy THOMPSON said...

I don't like serial killers books but I REALLY do not read a book where an animal is killed or badly hurt. There is an author whose name I always skip over, because in one of her books she killed a dog. I did not finish the book or ever touch another book by her.

Vickie said...

Cozy mystery or amateur sleuth can be dark. I've read P J Alderman's Port Chatham series and it's dark.

Susan Wittig Albert's China Bayles series is dark.

I like escape and I like realism, a mixture is good.