Autumn Trapani is the winner of A Tale of Two Murders! I’m delighted to welcome back Heather. She writes the A Dickens of a Crime mystery series and is giving away a signed copy of A Tale of Two Murders. Grave Expectations the second in the series released on July 30!
Every subgenre of mysteries has its own subtle rules about the degree of violence and gore actually shown in the murder scene and its aftermath. From the graphic descriptions of Kathy Reichs’ forensic anthropologist-led Tempe Brennan series, to the off-camera death in Kellye Garrett’s PI trainee-led Hollywood Ending, there is a wide range of what kind of death is on the page.
I had never really thought about this until recently, when I was working on a library presentation on how to build exciting mysteries. I revisited or discovered a number of British and American mysteries from the last one hundred years in the process and noticed the substantial variations in crime scene discovery.
My A Dickens of a Crime series is that subgenre called “historical mystery” but it is one of the less clear genres in terms of descriptive death. It all depends on the sleuth. If your hero is an “anatomist” like in Tessa Harris’s Dr. Thomas Silkstone’s mysteries, it’s going to be gorier, whereas with someone who is writing cozier historicals, like Catherine Lloyd, the violence might be more glossed over.
My books, led by real life nineteenth century author Charles Dickens when he was a parliamentary reporter, are somewhere in between. I’ve written three of them so far. A Tale of Two Murders had poisoning and suicide, with Charles witnessing the first tragic death. The new one, Grave Expectations, has a rather grisly demise. Next year’s Christmas Carol Murder has the most delicate murder, I would say, though I think the novella I based it on, A Christmas Carol by Dickens, is as much a horror story as it is a comedy or holiday parable.
My series is based on both author Charles Dickens’s life as a young man in London and much more loosely, on his novels. Grave Expectations is set in the summer of 1835 when he lived in Selwood Terrace and worked at the Morning and Evening Chronicle as a reporter and sketch writer. I took themes and motifs from his novel Great Expectations, written many years later. Themes like “the dead don’t stay dead” and “the tug of past life on the present” and motifs like “spiderwebs.” I had to have characters like a blacksmith to honor the saintly Joe in the novel, and of course, an elderly lady in a wedding gown. Miss Havisham is such a grotesque character that my own version seemed to require some sort of fantastical death.
Readers, where do you fall on the murder spectrum? Do you want a cerebral puzzler, just focusing on the whodunnit, or do you like the realistic atmosphere of crime scene description? Answer below by September 10th to win a signed copy of A Tale of Two Murders, my first A Dickens of a Crime mystery. North American residents only.
About the book:
In this clever reimagining of Charles Dickens’s life, he and fiancée Kate Hogarth solve the murder of a spinster wearing a wedding gown . . .
London, June 1835: Charles checks in on an elderly spinster who resides above him. He finds her decomposing corpse propped up, adorned in a faded gown that looks like it could have been her wedding dress. A murderer has set the stage. But to what purpose?
Secrets shrouded by the old woman’s past may hold the answers. But Charles and Kate will have to risk their lives to unveil the truth . . .
About the author:
Heather Redmond is the author of many novels, novellas, and short stories under three names. She writes the A Dickens of a Crime and the Journaling mysteries series. Her novel, A Tale of Two Murders, received a coveted starred review from Kirkus and was a multi-week Barnes & Noble Hardcover Mystery Bestseller.
Welcome, Heather! I’m not a fan of too much detail for the sake of being gory, but if there’s some value to the description (like for forensic purposes) I’m generally not bothered by it. Your series sounds very interesting, and congrats on the recent release!
I haven’t read either in this series, but it sound very interesting!
Welcome, Heather. I love the premise of this series! I prefer to avoid the gory – although as I write about childbirth in my own historical mysteries, some might think that falls along the gory spectrum, LOL.
Hi Heather! I don’t need too much detail about the crime scene, but some info from the forensics perspective or thought processes on solving are appreciated.
I love cerebral mysteries. Carter Dickson,Craig Kennedy(character),Anthony Berkeley ,etc.
Welcome back– thanks for visiting us today! As I’ve gotten older, I like less gore when I’m readning and I don’t like to write gore.
Thanks for having me to visit again!
I like a blend. The cerebral aspect of solving a mystery really draws me in, but I also appreciate a limited amount of description. Congratulations on your new release!
Guess you would call me a middle of road person when it comes to details of the actual murder. Definitely not into the blood and gore of horrific crimes or events, but there needs to be accuracy and enough details to make it believable or to understand the investigation. Love the crime solving aspect and feeling like you are walking beside the investigator and sleuth in finding clues and figuring out whodunit and why. The sign of a good author and one that I enjoy reading is when you feel you are in the scenes or at least looking as a bystander while reading the book while not getting ahead of the reveal.
Thank you for the wonderful opportunity to win a signed copy of A Tale of Two Murders!
2clowns at arkansas dot net
Hi there! I like a book that makes me think, that includes a lot of research and detail – as well as a puzzler. I should be able to deduce whodunnit without just guessing. I don’t love over gore. I think people (authors, tv, and movie producers like to focus on gore as a means of entertainment – violence is their “creativity” which usually translates into “how can I hurt a woman today?”. Some aspects of gore – the science-y stuff about people and corpses I don’t mind. But, I don’t need nightmares.
I like it somewhere in between. If it moves the story along and helps me to empathize with or understand the murderer/deceased better then I’m all for a bit of blood and bits.
I don’t care for the blood and gore. I’m not offended by it, but I don’t enjoy reading about it either. As I’ve gotten older I want to read things that are less realistic. Too much realism in the daily news. I want to be taken away from the real life horrors and have fun reading.
I would love to read your book and see where in the spectrum your story falls.
I’m fine with not having all the gory details of the murder in the mysteries that I read. Good character description and a strong plot are essential.
I much prefer my Mystery about the puzzle with the details glossed over. (And please enter me in this giveaway.)
I can’t handle too much gore, but I like everything from cozies to classic mysteries to police procedurals to thrillers. As long as there’s a mystery to solve and a little excitement here and there, I’m happy! Legallyblonde1961 at yahoo dot com
I fear I’m going to go all wishy-washy on this topic. I think the specifics of the sub-genre one’s tale occupies, along with the needs of the plot have to determine just how specific (and graphic) we authors need to get.
If the sub-genre of the story is police procedural, if we’re going to be realistic, then the specifics of the murder need to be discussed. You can still control just how gory things get. You can also use the sensibilities of your narrator (much in the way Colin Dexter used Morse’s aversion to blood) to keep the gore-level under control.
It’s also possible that the story may need some specific details about the condition of the body to drive the plot. For example, in a story I just finished last week, the victim was strangled, and the markings on his neck were key information that needed to be shared with the reader.
The above two caveats aside, I’m with everyone else who’s commented thus far. In my story, I didn’t need to describe the eyes bugging out or the blackened tongue along with the release of bladder and bowel contents that accompany most deaths, nor would I have enjoyed reading about those specifics. I doubt that any of those who are contributors here (or even those who only read) are aiming to emulate the writing style of Mickey Spillane.
But, of course, I don’t mean to suggest that our detectives (along with the tones of our stories) can’t be hard-boiled. Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade was as hard-boiled as they come, but the specifics of the violence and the gore of the murder scene aren’t remotely what his books are about. In mysteries written more recently, Lindsey Davis’ Marcus Didius Falco series, which is set in ancient Rome, uses the voice of the hard-boiled detective in her books with extraordinary wit. She’ll get graphic about her corpses, but only when driven by the plot.
But I agree that our readers neither need nor want to hear or (in a word picture) see all the specifics of that gore. Current events are giving us enough nightmares; we don’t need any more.
Sending my thoughts and prayers (and I will be sending some cash) to the residents of the Bahamas today, along with my hope that those living on the Southeastern coast of the US stay safe.
I can take some gore, but as others have said it depends on the story line, plot etc and if I want gory gore, I’ll watch a gory detailed TV show, movie or the news. I’ve not read this series, but had come across it awhile back and have it on my TBR list. I’d totally love a paper book!!! Thanks for this interview Heather and Sherry!!! nani_geplcs(at)yahoo(dot)com
I like a cerebral puzzle best. I love a good mystery of any kind, but cozy is my favorite. I do not mind crime scenes on tv, but not sure i would care to read all the gore for some reason, lol. Thanks for the chance to get an introduction to your series. kayt18 (at) comcast (dot) net
I prefer cozy mysteries but can tolerate descriptions of the body and the crime scene. Loved the CSI’s and Bones.
I enjoy the time period in which this mystery is set.
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