I’ve recently being enjoying reading and rereading a few golden era who done its. For the uninitiated, these are tales in which the amateur sleuth is prevalent and usually has the whole crime solved with the application of a public school education/common sense/a life spent in a small village (which, pound for pound, come across as the most crime ridden places on earth.)
Usually, there is only one police officer per crime which, if you found a body in your library today, I think would attract a whole fleet of coppers (unless it’s a common occurence in your neck of the woods, in which case I would consider moving, as corpses take up a serious amount of shelf space.)
Libraries, yes. If your house isn’t the sort to have a library, you’re patently rif raf and can forget a visit from that nice Belgian detective or the old lady with the knitting; this is not a genre in which you will appear other than as a parlour maid or the stiff.
But what was I talking about? Ah yes, technology. It struck me that it would be impossible to construct one of these simple mystery stories in the modern age as modern gadgetry as rendered much of the traditional devices of threat and tension redundant.
Isolation is just not what it used to be. You’re in a spooky old house in the middle of nowhere, the other inhabitants dropping like flies, and you find that someone has disconnected the telephone line. Kids, that used to be frightening. These days, who would care? Seriously, how long would it be before you even noticed that your own land line had been disconnected?
Stranded on an island with a homicidal manic? Call the emergency services with your mobile. Finding yourself lost in the woods when following the trail of a gang of crooks to their lair? The sat nav feature will solve that (or at least the compass.) And if you can take a few clear photographs of the gang members while you’re there (good job you went for the model with the better camera), that’s going to save the police artist a lot of work.
Think the other members of the diner party have a ‘past’? Google them. Person who may be able to corroborate a story unobtainable because they are travelling ‘out East’? No problem, text them, no one’s unobtainable these days unless they are on retreat (and taking it seriously, not Tweeting about it.)
I’ve just read my first who done it featuring characters with mobile phones and digital cameras as common place. How long before we get a story where the characters in a country house mystery are updating their Facebook status with the current body count and the amature detective is using Wikipedia to research untraceable poisons. Or have I just invented a new spoof genre?