Friday, November 8, 2013

Criminal Minds

The results of the Crime Writers Association (CWA) poll were announced earlier this week, and much to my delight, Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was voted the best crime novel while Agatha Christie herself was voted the best crime author and Sherlock Holmes the best crime series. Having read devoured ALL of Christie’s books as a kid, I do not quite subscribe to her accolade as the best writer, but I do agree that The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is one of her best works, if not the best.

Now blame it on my upbringing, but I have always had this morbid streak in me which led me into the world of crime fiction at a very early age, both Bengali and English. While I never enjoyed violence, I was simply enamoured with cold blooded murders which were well planned and well executed and which challenged me as a reader as much as they challenged the sleuths in the novels, be it Holmes, Poirot, Marple, Feluda or Byomkesh. This obsession often found me awake through the night before an exam, secretly finishing off a mystery novel rather than studying for a Chemistry paper the next morning.

The fascination with heinous crimes only deepened when I discovered shows like Law and Order, The Practice or Boston Legal while I was still in school and later with Castle, Dexter and Breaking Bad. Even now, I am guilty of blowing off social engagements on weeknights, simply because I just CAN’T miss the rerun of the season finale of The Practice after work. Exaggeration? Not really. Crazy? Probably.

But lately the lure of barbarism has taken a more serious turn as I have now turned to history to walk through some of the real-life atrocities committed by leaders across nations. While my travels to some of these places touched me deeply, what shock me are not the events themselves which are out there and well documented, but the people behind these tragedies, their thought processes, their justifications or simply their denials. May be these “leaders” don’t even deserve a chance to have their say, but nonetheless it makes for an interesting read. Which is why I first picked up Hitler’s autobiography and then Pol Pot’s biography: just to understand how someone can possibly sleep at night or look at himself in the mirror every morning, knowing the genocide he has sponsored among his own people.

History does what a crime fiction can’t: it leaves a legacy of the murderer long after the crime has been committed…

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