Wicked Wednesday: Justice

It is Wednesday, the day the Wicked all weigh in on a topic. Today, we’d like to talk about balance_scalethe role justice plays in cozies. Justice prevailing is part of the author/reader contract, but what does that look like? Is it happily ever after? Does everyone go to jail? Or can there be other forms of justice that are more satisfying for the reader?

Julie: I read a lot of detective fiction, and have a particular fondness for the Golden Age authors. Christie, Sayers, Marsh, Allingham. One thing that strikes me, as I reread some of them, is that justice wasn’t always the guilty party going to jail. Poirot, or Wimsey, often offer the guilty party a “gentleman’s” way out. In rare cases (some very famous), no one is brought to justice. (I am not going to mention titles, since I want people to read them). These days, justice feels like the need to bring order back to the community. Usually that requires someone going to jail.

Barb: Like Julie, I want to be careful of spoilers. But I don’t think justice necessarily means someone going to jail. Sometimes, the perpetrators die themselves before the court system gets involved–either at the hands of the sleuth or an avenging victim. Sometimes there is no chargeable crime. I’ve also seen the opposite done masterfully–i.e. someone has to go to jail because they’ve broken the law, but their punishment doesn’t represent “justice.”

Jessie: For me, in cozies at least, some of the justice comes from truly horrid people getting bumped off. It may be vigilante justice but sometimes it feels so satisfying for detestable characters to get their comeuppance.

Edith: Agree with all of the above. Justice can also be a character who does something bad – less bad than murder, perhaps, but bad – but then makes up for it by doing something good, perhaps dying in the process. Could even be the villain who regrets his or her deed and takes him or herself out of the equation in some way. In cozies, readers expect some form of happy ever after, although it’s sometimes tempered by a not-so-happy teaser at the very end that will lead to the next book.

Liz: I’m a big fan of deserving villains getting their comeuppance – but like Jessie, I’m fine if that means they meet their demise. Jail is fine too, but sometimes an equally horrid end is even better given the crimes they committed. This is true for me in both cozies and other mystery fiction where the ending doesn’t necessarily have to be happy.

Readers: What’s your take on your justice? Tell us your stories.

6 Thoughts

  1. I’m wrestling with this issue in my WIP. Someone who was convicted of a crime is cleared–after he’s served his long sentence and been released. My protagonist helps identify the real criminal, but is it worth prosecuting that person now? Will it change anything? It was not a malicious act in the beginning. How do you make things right under these circumstances, and what is the just outcome?

    1. Wow, Sheila. I see dilemmas playing out in real life. I recently read about a person who committed a crime, was caught and released without bail, told to wait until the courts got back to him, and they never did. He checked with his attorney who said if they haven’t called you, don’t worry about it. Now, about 20 years later, he’s married, a stable community member, nothing like he was when this happened, and they want to send him to jail for that earlier crime. I feel for him — and, sadly, don’t know the outcome of the case.

  2. I’m of a limited sense of justice most of the time. I like to see the bad guy in jail. If they are going to die, I want it to be by their own hands to avoid jail or a complete accident.

    Very rarely do I like to see something else happen. It has to be handled just right.

  3. I want justice, and even more, clear resolution. I won’t say in what book, but in a recent favorite the ending seemed appropriate in that the villain died in his attempt to kill another.
    Protagonist: He didn’t deserve to die. Friend: Neither did you. Poetic justice . . .
    My one little short “NCLB Murder,” written primarily as therapy for myself, ended with the killer not found. A friend wanted justice, so I added a solving of the murder, with a caveat for those who preferred the first ending . . .

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