Hello everyone. I'm brand new to this site/forum, although I've been a reader of crime fiction for decades. To be perfectly honest, I need to vent about something, and here is a place where I can address readers, writers, AND editors.  At the risk of sounding like a crank I really have to talk about this, because it bothers me a LOT. And I think it's important.

 Over the past few months, in no less than 3 of the murder mysteries I have read, I have come across extremely disturbing (though fictional of course) murder/mutilation of animals---in this case, cats.  It's presented as a gory  aftermath---introduce cat, then later, cat turns up dead, mutilated---as a threat/warning  to protagonist. Can't we think of something else?
The novels in question: Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,  Jennifer McMahon's Promise Not to Tell, and Barry Maitland's Dark Mirror, which I'm currently reading.

No doubt the writers (the ones still living, anyway)  would justify these kitty death/mutilation  (cats are the most popular victims, apparently, because I guess maybe  writers  assume it's  easy to get hold of a friendly cat and slit its throat  without having your face clawed off).    as necessary to the plot---to show what sort of  hideous  character we're dealing with here.  And then they would say, BUT IT"S FICTION!  There's human murder, shouldn't that upset you more?   But, we EXPECT that, don't we, when we read a murder mystery! 
 ( Oh, now I also remember--- P.D. James had her murderer try to hang a cat in The Murder Room, but happily, the cat was rescued in the nick of time, so I had to forgive her for that one.  )
 For this reader, it's like being blind sided. We can't know this is coming, can we, when we pick up a promising new mystery?  Maybe there  should be a warning on the cover, a sad kitty face or something, because no matter how good the book---this kind of incident pretty much ruins it for me.  
 I read mysteries  for the puzzle, the suspense, and, ultimately, the cleverness of the solution.  And for the quality of the writing, too, as it happens--- NOT for the  grisly  and gratuitous details.
  I don't just blame the writers---I would also like to whisper a word of advice to the EDITORS.  Do you really think readers are going to enjoy being introduced to a sweet, friendly cat only to find it dismembered some pages later?  (I should probably put the book down as soon as a cat appears).  Come on now ---is this gratuitous killing/ mutilation REALLY necessary to "prove a point?"  Yes, animal cruelty is a fact of life. I try very hard NOT to read about it any more than I have to.  I deplore it. It's why I've rescued so many stray cats myself. 
  Is this getting to be a trend in contemporary crime fiction, or was it just LUCK OF THE DRAW for me?   I've been reading mysteries for years, but it's only now , it seems, that I'm encountering this "other"  kind of violence as a plot device.
 Recently, a friend of mine, also a cat owner/lover, asked if I could recommend "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo."  I had to tell her: Yes, BUT...  and when I told her, she decided she was  probably NOT going to read it.
And Barry Maitland, who has become one of my favorite crime fiction authors, had to go and ruin it for me too. (Of course I'm going to finish reading the book,  but I feel as though I've been smacked in the head  with a fly  ball in this one, and I'm not happy about it).   The "fictional"  cat in question was a  little ginger tabby---exactly like the one I happen to own, I might add.   If you've read this book, you'll know what I'm talking about; if not, BEWARE. It's horrible.
  SO:  Does anyone else find this disturbing?  If I hadn't encountered this new phenomenon three times recently, I might have ignored it.  Writers, editors---we don't NEED this!  It's disgusting, and it really does take from the pleasure of reading an otherwise excellent and suspenseful crime novel.

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In fact, I've pretty much given up on any kind of crime novel with random (previously unknown to the murderer) female victims.

I can't even think of any, at thge moment. A lot of those are probably sensational potboilers. I don't read them either. Books about TRUE CRIME serial killers, like Ted Bundy can be very interesting, though ( I'm thinking of The Stranger Beside Me) if there is a serious attempt to probe the mind of such a person. But that's a whole other topic all to itself.
If I recommended one serial killer book to you would you try it?
Sure, why not? i might, If it's well done.
Not sure if I write/read crime fiction because I am "fascinated with death." My fascination is with the sometimes slow, sometimes abrupt revelations as to why people kill (or commit crimes) and, naturally, how they get found out.
My fascination is with the sometimes slow, sometimes abrupt revelations as to why people kill (or commit crimes) and, naturally, how they get found out.

And in fact, that's why I read crime fiction, too. The puzzle: why, how. The best murder mysteries do appeal on an INTELLECTUAL level. And, if the setting--the place-- is skillfully evoked, that's a part of my reading pleasure as well.
And in fact, that's why I read crime fiction, too. The puzzle: why, how. The best murder mysteries do appeal on an INTELLECTUAL level.

What I'm about to say could very well be its own subject. And I'm just going to say it rather they then be long winded about it. But the genre of fiction that we all love to read has clear dividing lines. A mystery is not a crime novel is not a thriller. By and large these terms can not be conflated. It sounds to me like you prefer mysteries and should steer clear of crime novels. Thrillers could go either way.
Gee, you might be right about that. I thought they were all mysteries, sort of. Maybe you should start a new thread. There seem to be a lot of categories that fall under the genera; heading of "mystery." I do , however, find books on "true crime" interesting from time to time---esp. psychological studies. A local murder--Ann Miller's arsenic poisoning of her husband Eric---was written about by a local newswoman, Amanda Lamb, and it was not only a page-turner, but an interesting psychological study AND polical and legal procedural. You may not ever know why Ann Miller did what she did, all under the guise of the perfect wife and mother, but you start to get a glimmer at the end. Now, what was that serial killer book you were going to recommend?
What I'm about to say could very well be its own subject.

That would be an interesting thread, Brian. I'd like to know. What distinguishes a straight MYSTERY from a CRIME NOVEL from a THRILLER? Don't those categories often overlap?
Umm, mysteries are called crime novels in the UK. My guess is that you're trying to distinguish between the puzzle type (usually traditional or cozy) and the hardboiled. There are all sorts of other varieties. It's a house with many rooms. But "crime" merely means that the novel deals with a crime. It's probably a better term than "mystery" which has supernatural connotations.
I'm afraid that I have no feelings toward fictional animals.

And mostly, I have not much feeling for fictional humans, either---easy come easy go---most are not memorable, but it all depends on how skillfully they are created. How about Charles Dickens...in "David Copperfield," when David's childlike wife, Dora, dies in childbirth, and her beloved and devoted little lapdog expires almost at the same moment... I shed tears for Dora and her little dog. I couldn't help myself. Dickens could make you "feel" for the oppressed poor, for mistreated and neglected children, elderly people...even for Dora's little dog... because he was a great writer, and a reformist, and he drew from life. It's all in the artistry. Sorry--I am getting a little off the track here. But not really....
Jeez, Dora was a twit. And adding the dog's death was one of Dickens' weakest moments. I remember making a face and being glad they were out of the rest of the novel. Sentimentalism was, alas, a Victorian fad.

Not to say I don't like Dickens. :)
Yes, Dora was a twit. poor thing. But an adorable one. And sentimentalism was Victorian--Dickens had to think of his readers. Copperfield should have married Agnes instead---and of course, eventually he does. But sometimes, I have to admit, I long for a little bit of sentimentality. Everyone now is so determined to be hard-nosed, gritty, loving the VERISMO. Enough.


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