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Saturday, September 28, 2013


I recently had a brilliant insight into mysteries (fictional).

I'm allowed to say brilliant. This is my blog, after all, and I've been an avid fan since I read Nancy Drew and Sherlock Holmes as a child and Hercule Poirot as a young adult I am an avid lover of mysteries. In a bookstore or library, I head for the shelves of mysteries. On television, mysteries form the core of my favorite dramas. Comedies, too, if you count shows like Monk and Psych.

So here it comes:

Sherlock Holmes is to Hercule Poirot as CSI is to Criminal Minds.

Holmes is the father of detective work, a master of deducing facts from physical clues. A century later, more or less, CSI broke new ground on television by detailing the scientific methods used by contemporary police forces to catch criminals.

Hercule Poirot and Agatha Christie's other creation, Miss Marple, solved cases by a different method. Both would interrogate suspects. Poirot would put his "little gray cells" to work. Miss Marple would recognize "types," comparing suspects to people she knew in St. Mary's Mead.

Criminal Minds works a lot like Christie's characters. Their goal is to understand the psyche of the "unsub," determining what "type" of serial killer works that way. A St. Mary's Mead full of serial killers, if you will.

Sometimes a show has both. In Castle, for instance, best selling mystery author Rick Castle states, "I am highly paid to think like a bad guy." His insight into predicting a criminal's next steps make him a valuable asset. Kate Beckett, of course, is the hard-boiled, by the book, detective--looking for real clues.

Biology vs. psychology. Evidence vs. interviews. In today's judicial system, physical evidence carries more weight. It's not enough to know who committed a crime; the DA's have to prove it.

Do you cop shows on television? How would you classify your favorites? Hmm, here's a few. . .

Perception: Dr. Daniel Pierce is a schizophrenic university professor whose illness gives insight into crimes. Sounds a bit like profiling rather than forensics.

Rizzoli & Isles: Although the show is more about the relationship between two strong women, Dr. Isles is very much a evidence-first medical examiner.

Bones: Classic of forensics (Brennan) vs. profiling/people skills (Booth)

The Mentalist: Patrick Jayne's ability to "read" people made him successful as a fake psychic--and as a police consultant. Definitely profiling.

Oh, yes, mysteries that I read? That could take a chapter. :)

I'd love to hear your thoughts. . . how would you classify your favorite fictional detectives, in print or film?

P.S. I've been sick the last couple of weeks. I'm baaaack.


bonton said...

I don't watch detective shows on TV, nor do I very often read detective books, unless there is another side to the story - romance, dysfunction, etc.. SO - not much for me to comment on, Darlene! Sorry!

Prayers for your healing!


Jennifer said...

I love reading detective stories especially those from the golden age of detective fiction. [Agatha Christie and all} My new favorite is Ngaigo Marsh, the Inspector Alleyn series. I don't watch much on tv though...