the point of it all

J. D. Rhodes has a sad, thoughtful, wrenching post today over at Murderati and it raises a question about crime fiction that I often ask myself. Here’s some of it.

This past Friday morning, Emily Elizabeth Haddock was home alone, sick with a case of strep throat. Three young men, not realizing that there was someone in the house, broke into the mobile home where she lived. Apparently, when Emily surprised them, one of them shot her to death with a stolen .22 caliber pistol. Emily’s grandfather found her body on the floor when he stopped by the house to check on her and saw the door forced open.

Emily Haddock was 12 years old. She went to my daughter’s school. She lived on the same road as one of my daughter’s close friends.

The three charged in the murder were apprehended and jailed Monday night. They’re 16, 18, and 19 years old. . . .

. . . As crime writers, I think we sometimes lose sight of what murder’s really like. Most often, it’s not a puzzle for the brilliant detective to solve. It’s not the plot device that causes the plucky heroine and her true love to get together so they can be happy and just too cute for words forever. It’s not the dangling thread of a giant tapestry of international conspiracy to be unraveled.

More often than not, a murder is just a stupid and pointless fuckup by someone who didn’t start the day out thinking “I’m gonna kill me someone today,” but who started that day with one bad choice that cascaded inevitably into another, then another, like a snowflake that turns into a snowball that turns into an avalanche. In this case, the avalanche leaves an innocent girl dead and not just one, but four families devastated.

I’ve been looking at the words above for the last fifteen minutes, trying to draw some conclusion from all this, some point. And I can’t find one. . . .

Go read the whole thing. Give it some thought.

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