Here we go again

Mostly because the opening of Victoria Coren’s Observer piece is so damn funny on one level that you can almost tell she’s struggling to get her argument across:

The other day, I was

chairing a Radio 4 chat show about the British interest in crime

stories. We all love a bit of Poirot or Jane Tennison – but is this fun

so innocent (I was intending to ask my three guests), given that we

also love poring over the grisly details of real-life crime as well?


debate was strangled at birth by the owner of the Murder One bookshop

in London, who told me that there is almost no crossover between fans

of crime fiction and readers of ‘true crime’. They are two completely

different sets of people.


was awkward at the time, as I drew a quick and quiet red line through

my entire list of questions and set out to wing it for 28 minutes of

radio, but of course it makes perfect sense. The neat conclusions of

crime fiction offer a wholly different experience from the messy

question marks of real life. If you conducted a survey, I bet you would

find that most readers or viewers of crime fiction are puzzlers: people

who also buy sudoku books and do word mazes on the train. If this issue

of Review is to be a ‘puzzle special’, it should really have a short

story in it by Patricia Highsmith or Dorothy L Sayers.

But to be fair, she doesn’t flounder for long once she hitches herself to the “order out of chaos” bandwagon (terminology I know I love to use myself):


director of public prosecutions suggested last week that television may

be allowed to screen the conclusion of serious crime trials. I won’t be

watching. Far too irritatingly nebulous. But it occurred to me that, if

jurors were drawn exclusively from those who had sent in solutions to

crossword competitions, I’m sure there would be far fewer innocent

people in prison. The down side is, nobody would ever be convicted of


‘Unsatisfying! Too many loose ends!’ we would cry, throwing out the case and going home to watch Taggart.

Then again, maybe she’s just not reading the right crime novels, especially since I often espouse what I’ll now call the Elizabeth Spiers rule of fiction.