On another discussion board, in respons to Tom Piccirili's question abour morally ambiguous protagonists, Ray Banks said:

I bloody love morally ambiguous protags, and wish they were the norm for "crime fiction", seeing as questions of morality (on whatever scale) should well be the genre's chief remit.

Last week I was on a couple of panels and a few (quote a few) of the other writers said that the greatest strength of mystery novels was that murderers were caught, justice was served and order was restored. the reader could feel a little better about the world in the end.

Ray's point about the genre's, "chief remit" being questions of morality, got me to thinking, does the genre spend too much time on the answers and not enough on the questions?

Most really good books, from whatever genre, more often than not leave the reader unsettled and not feeling much better about the world.

Or do they?

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Ah, yes. That's very true. The traditional mystery presents a finite group of individuals, all of whom are shown to have motive and opportunity, and make the reader guess. It's a very unlikely scenario. I much prefer mysteries that present us with a crime and then show the detective following a trail, sometimes making mistakes, until persistence leads him to the perpetrator. That's why I like police procedurals. They come closer to real life than most other mysteries.
Hey I. J.
In my case, the story was inspired by actual events so I had an agenda. But From my life experience as a prosecutor I find poor actors are victims of circumstances usually and do simple/uninspired crimes generally of opportunistic situations (beer bottle over head in bar brawl) verses educated people who because of greed/mental defect (sociopath), etc... create premeditated cold crimes knowing the pain they have unleashed. So at least for me, they are the more vile and interesting to muck around with.
I grant you that. I try to mix it up, as a rule. But even the upper class murderer may be a victim of circumstances and horrified at his crime, and that is where it gets really interesting.
My current WIP features a protagonist who kills people because, in his words "some people need killing." This sounds bad at first, but when you think about it, it's a widespread attitude. I was trying for a "hero" you felt a little queasy about pulling for. As another character puts it "He's not a good guy, but he's the guy we need right now."
Well, I do think that feeling queasy is a good thing to feel when reading book and I really like the idea of having to question "heroes."
I'll have to think about this. What makes me queasy is that so many people don't feel queasy about vigilantism. It's a very popular fantasy, and too many public figures play off those fantasies it to justify things that they should be ashamed of.

So I'm hoping your book makes a lot of us barf, Dusty (in a metaphorical sense...)
That is my plan. :-)
how did I miss this one?!
Absolutely agree, that the reader should feel unsettled and perhaps apprehensive too at the end.
The world is an unsettling place populated by all sorts of problematic people. Yes, justice can be served--but if it were a movie I'd expect the camera to pan away and show us something unsettling.
it's like the way my favorite horror or suspense films ended.
just as everyone's walking away--suddenly we see the curse isn't over. there's one villain left, or maybe the bad guy is getting ready to escape from prison or the nut farm.
Perhaps it's negative on my part--but I don't think so.
no gift wrapped ends for me. I prefer the tightrope with the ever present possibility that I can slip off because sometimes the fall is the high (in a book or a film)!


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