10 July 2010

Did you know who the murderer was?

In the most recent murder mystery you read, did you know who the murderer was?
(by this I don't mean, did you work out who the murderer  was, but whether you always knew.)
That is, was it a whodunnit or a whydunnit?
Perhaps it was a combination, but in that case "who" generally comes before "why".

For example, Hercule Poirot was always very interested in why crimes were committed. This was the case in DEATH IN THE CLOUDS where the investigation of the murder is jointly conducted by Poirot, the French detective Fournier and Inspector Japp from Scotland Yard, and each brings a different quality to its conduct. Poirot and Fournier are both interested in the psychology of crime. However "who" has to be solved before "why" can be explored.

But in the modern murder mystery, whydunnits are becoming more prevalent.
For example in Jan Costin Wagner's ICE MOON, the most recent murder mystery that I read, I said in my review  "From the start the reader knows who the murderer is and for much of ICE MOON we watch the murderer's path and that of the investigation converge."

So I invite you to consider the murder mystery that you most recently read. Did you know very early on who the murderer was, or was it a conclusion you eventually came to?

I invite you to participate in the poll over on top right, and then to tell us about it in a comment below. Don't forget to mention the book.

12 comments:

Uriah Robinson said...

The last book I read was Bad Boy by Peter Robinson. The story line[s] concerning the villain [s] and the police investigation converge.

Margot Kinberg said...

Kerrie - Interesting question! I recently finished Jassy Mackenzie's Random Violence, which deals with, if you will, parallel investigations. The murderer was revealed in one, but not in the other. Mackenzie ties the investigations together in a very interesting way, actually...

NancyO said...

I've just finished The Darkest Room, by Johan Theorin. The solution sort of came out of left field so I was quite surprised. I'm actually afraid to say more so as not to give it away.

Kay said...

I am reading THINK OF A NUMBER right now and don't know who the murdered is yet.

I actually prefer to not know the murderer. I like the puzzle, but the psychology is also intriguing. I'm also not a big fan of a TV show that presents a situation (showing the murderer)and then says "two days ago" or somesuch. It's a common plot device these days though.

BooksPlease said...

The last book I finished reading is A Dark-Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine. This begins with the hanging of Vera for murder. The rest of the book deals with the why and the how - fascinating!

Dorte H said...

I didn´t know in the one I finished today. I should have, though, as I began reading Ice Moon the other day. It seemed very realistic and sad, and it just wasn´t what I needed this weekend.

Yesterday I read a review of Barbara Vine´s A Dark-Adapted Eye. I think that one is a brilliant example of a whydunit.

Gavin said...

I had no idea, though I had some guesses. The Broken Shore by Peter Temple. Thanks for introducing me to this fine author!

A Certain book said...

I usually enjoy a combination of whydunnit and whodunnit. Lately, I’ve been reading Michael Robotham’s excellent novels. In Shatter, I didn’t know who the murderer was until the conclusion. In Bleed For Me, again, I didn’t know who the bad guy was until the conclusion, but I must have missed the mark, because someone I know had the murderer sussed before they were halfway through.

Marg said...

The last kind of mystery I read was definitely a whydunnit rather than a whodunnit! Although the author said that that made it a thriller rather than a mystery which I found a little interesting! (For the King by Catherine Delors)

EllenB said...

I recently read Far Cry, the well-reviewed new release by John Harvey. After the first 50 or so pages it was obvious who killed the first child and who kidnapped the second child. Maybe I've read too much of this sort of thing!

Deb said...

I finished Ruth Rendell's THE BRIDESMAID which isn't so much a "whydunnit" as a "Did she dunnit." A besotted man convinces himself that his girlfriend is not as unbalanced as her occasional outbursts show her to be. When she confesses to a murder (to "show her love" for the man), he spends much of the book trying to determine if she did in fact commit the murder. Very intriguing, if not the classic "mystery" that I generally like best. Also, Rendell neatly pulls together several seemingly disparate plot strands in the last chapter.

kathy d. said...

I usually like the "whodunnits," rather than the "whydunnits." I like to follow the detective through the investigation and learning about the characters and thinking through the puzzle.

However, this preference was shattered when I read "The Suspect," by Canadian writer L.R. Wright. That is a superb book where you know who did it near the start and then you find out why and also follow the police investigation until the conclusion. And, then, you see how the police deal with "the suspect."

It's a superb book. Wright won an award that year, in competition with Ruth Rendell, I believe. She deserved it.

Wright wrote several books based in British Columbia but they're hard to get. Felony and Mayhem Press has published two and plans to publish more.

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