Hate Comes First, Love Comes Second: Reading Detective Novels

Usually, when I read a book, it takes me not much longer than two weeks to finish it. I’ve noticed, however, that there’s a specific genre with which it always takes much longer: detectives. I finished reading Jo Nesbo’s The Snowman a while back, and am currently struggling my way through Nicci French’s Sunday Morning Coming Down. Struggling, I say, because there no other way for me to describe what it’s like for me to read a detective.

Don’t get me wrong – the fact that I use the world “struggling” does not mean I think detectives are bad books, or badly written, even though my use of vocabulary might imply this. In fact, I don’t think the two detectives I’ve read so far are bad books at all – I really liked The Snowman, especially Nesbo’s smart way of playing with suspects, and I might end up liking Sunday Morning Coming Down even better. Regardless, I feel like there’s a very… heavy vibe to detective novels. A bit too heavy to read them in less than two weeks.

“Of course there’s a heavy damn vibe, 90% is about brutal murder,” you might think, and you’re right – yet that is not what I meant. What I mean by heavy is, with well-written detectives at least, the psychology behind the story. The thinking process. The way you think you’ve got it all figured out, only to realise a few pages later that there’s a gap in your theory and everything comes crashing down again, and you have to start over. I feel like this specific process – the epiphany, the frustration, the struggle – is what makes a detective worth reading.

Frankly, I believe that if a detective novel can’t make you sigh in utter frustration and throw your book aside for a few days, it might not even be that good of a book. The feelings that come along with it are part of you feeling the story, your empathy for the characters. A detective novel that lacks the ability to make you feel what big of a mess the investigation is, whether it’s about murder or something else, just can’t be as good as one that actually has you angry and upset.

Many of my friends asked me how I was liking The Snowman when I was reading it, and I gave most of them the same answer: I hate it. And that’s exactly why I loved it so much.

  • L. Parole

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