No Sex Please We’re Crime Writers

19th February 2021.

Have you ever wondered why there’s so little sex in crime fiction?

Maybe there is and I’m reading the wrong books. Maybe sex and murder are not good bedfellows.

Some categories of crime fiction, such as cosy mysteries, exclude explicit sex, graphic violence and excessive swearing. In my book, literally and metaphorically, this doesn’t exclude romance, sexual tension and people sleeping together. It simply frowns on graphic description.

But sex scenes should only be in a story if they are essential to the plot or character development. This should be the case in any book in any category. If a killer, for instance, seduces his or her victims before killing them, does this need to be shown in detail?

Crime Scene - No sex please

You could argue the same for murder. Does it need to be shown in great detail?

It depends on the type of book and the writer, I guess. With so much emphasis on the collection of forensic and DNA evidence at crime scenes, detailed description that may lead investigators closer to the killer would be essential.

It’s up to writers to show the world as they see it.

Personally, I’m not a fan of torture scenes or any graphic descriptions that involve violence or someone inflicting pain on another human being or animal.

That’s not to say I live in a closeted world where everything’s rosy. I simply don’t need to read the details. I have an imagination. If someone is being tortured as part of the story, tell me. I need to know. But do I want to know every detail of what the killer’s doing?

Some writers like to get into the minds of killers, to show how they’ve become who they are. We’re all inquisitive and the subject’s fascinating, but that doesn’t mean it needs graphic descriptions.

It’s the same with sex. My readers can imagine a sex scene much better than I can write it. And let’s be honest here, each person will imagine it a little differently, making the story more personal to them.

Fun readingSurely, that’s what we want as authors – readers to enjoy our books. Reading is an emotional experience. The imagination fills in the blanks. We see characters in a particular way, even when they are described in detail. It means readers are more likely to get something personal to them from what they read.

Of course there are times when you have to lay things out in detail, if only for accuracy or credibility, but I would suggest there’s always some room to allow the reader’s imagination to personalise what they’re reading.

If I want everything laid out for me, I’ll watch TV.

Then I can complain on social media that the main character is nothing like the one I pictured in the books.

Not that I really picture them. I’m more interested in who they are, not what they look like.

And that’s the point, ultimately. No two readers are alike. Every one of us has different tastes, values and attitudes. I prefer to read books that aren’t graphic or filled with profanities. I know people swear in the real world, but they also belch, fart, pick their noses, scratch their bums and so on.

If the story and characters are engaging, some swearing and violence won’t put me off a book.

If the swearing and violence feel excessive or unnecessary, I can stop reading – and often do.

I want people to enjoy my books. I want to entertain my readers.  I want to tantalise them with complex plots and mysteries in a contemporary world that feels real.

I don’t need graphic sex, foul language and excessive violence to achieve that. It doesn’t make my books soft and fluffy or unrealistic.

I’m writing a murder mystery not a bonk buster.

Reading questions

How do you feel about swearing, sex and violence in crime novels?


Learn more about the Kent Fisher murder mysteries.

A Pocket Full of Rye by Agatha Christie

17th February 2021.

Under the cover of a children’s nursery rhyme a killer is bumping people in the Fortescue house. The dysfunctional family, ably looked after by the efficient Miss Dove, offer up plenty of suspects and motives, as you would expect with Agatha Christie. Then there are the servants, a lover, and a historical rivalry to add more suspects to the pool.

The author handles it all with her usual mastery, laying false trails and diversions to fox the local police. There’s no lack of social comment and humour as she reveals the secrets and conflicts within the family.

Having trained one of the parlour maids serving there, Miss Marple arrives at the house to assist the police. It doesn’t take her long to separate the rye from the chaff with her incisive knowledge of human nature and ability to spot the worst in people.

The story’s a joy from start to finish, weaving a winding trail through a house filled with largely unlikable characters, nearly all tarnished by money and greed. It’s a masterclass in the classic whodunit and hugely entertaining.

Description

In Agatha Christie’s classic, A Pocket Full of Rye, the bizarre death of a financial tycoon has Miss Marple investigating a very odd case of crime by rhyme.

Rex Fortescue, king of a financial empire, was sipping tea in his “counting house” when he suffered an agonizing and sudden death. On later inspection, the pockets of the deceased were found to contain traces of cereals.

Yet, it was the incident in the parlour which confirmed Miss Marple’s suspicion that here she was looking at a case of crime by rhyme. . .

A Pocket Full of Rye by Agatha Christie

They Do it with Mirrors by Agatha Christie

10th February 2021.

I’m working my way through the Miss Marple series and thoroughly enjoying myself. All the stories so far have been smoothly written in a direct style that takes you to the heart of the story and plot. Each story is distinctive and They Do It with Mirrors is no exception.

This time Miss Marple’s asked to help an old friend, Carrie Louise, who may be in danger. She’s living in an old mansion which now has a rehabilitation centre for criminals. Due to her history of marriages, Carrie Louise has accumulated a number of family members, who live with her. Add the staff needed to run the rehab centre and you have plenty of suspects.

When her stepson visits unexpectedly, no one expects him to be murdered in his room. Most of the suspects are in the dark, thanks to the lights failing, while her husband, Lewis, is arguing with a troubled young man in the office next door.

Then it looks like someone’s trying to poison Carrie Louise.

The author handles the large cast well, with her usual skilful characterisation, providing plenty of suspects and motives for the murder, as the police soon discover. Miss Marple’s not thrown by the red herrings as she slowly makes sense of everything that happens in a detached, almost clinical manner that belies her humanity and understanding of human nature.

It’s all over a little quickly, but that doesn’t diminish what is another fine example of the author’s ability to weave a complex, gripping story that keeps you guessing to the end.

Description

A man is shot at in a juvenile reform home – but someone else dies…

Miss Marple senses danger when she visits a friend living in a Victorian mansion which doubles as a rehabilitation centre for delinquents. Her fears are confirmed when a youth fires a revolver at the administrator, Lewis Serrocold. Neither is injured. But a mysterious visitor, Mr Gilbrandsen, is less fortunate – shot dead simultaneously in another part of the building.

Pure coincidence? Miss Marple thinks not, and vows to discover the real reason for Mr Gilbrandsen’s visit.

They Do It With Mirrors by Agatha Christie

A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie

3rd January 2021.

I’m thoroughly enjoying the Miss Marple series in the order they were written. Alongside the deft characterisation, wry social comments, ingenious plots and Agatha’s Christie’s effortless writing style, you get to see the author and Miss Marple develop.

The story starts with an ad in the local newspaper, announcing the date, time and place of a murder. Naturally, the locals are intrigued and find excuses to visit the house, where the occupants, equally mystified and intrigued, are ready to welcome them. At the allotted time, the lights go out and three shots are fired soon after. When the lights are restored, a stranger in a mask lies dead on the floor.

It doesn’t take long to identify the stranger and come up with possible motives for what happened. Was it a prank gone wrong, an accident or something more sinister? Fortunately for the police, Miss Marple isn’t far away and soon starts piecing everything together.

The book follows Inspector Craddock’s investigation. He soon discovers that almost everyone at the house at the time of the shooting has a motive for murder. This creates plenty of red herrings, false trails and dead ends to keep the mystery bubbling along nicely until Miss Marple figures it all out.

When she reveals the murderer and motive, you realise all the clues were there in plain sight as the story was told. And as you would expect from an author at the top of her game, there are no loose ends or plot holes to be seen.

If you accept the attitudes and values that were prevalent in 1950, this is another brilliant, entertaining and clever whodunit that’s a pleasure to read and contemplate afterwards.

Description

A mystery that will defy even the most ingenious of detectives because, when you turn over a stone in an English village, you have no idea what will crawl out…

‘I’m not too late, am I? When does the murder begin?’

An announcement appears in the local paper: this Friday, at exactly 6.30pm, a murder will take place.

Who could resist such an invitation?

Driven by morbid curiosity, the villagers head to the appointed location: a quiet house on the outskirts of the village.

The crowd gathers. The clock counts down. And then the lights go out.

A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie

The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie

23rd December 2020.

Every time I read one of Agatha Christie’s books, I’m impressed by her direct, easy-to-read style that draws you into the heart of the story from the first page. Language and values aside, her writing feels modern, with plenty of dialogue, the minimum amount of description, and succinct characterisation. In short, she transports you into her world with the minimum of effort.

The Moving Finger is no different. It starts with injured pilot Jerry Burton and his sister Joanne moving to the quiet village of Lymstock, where someone’s sending out poison pen letters. It isn’t long before Mrs Symington, wife of the local solicitor, takes her own life after receiving one of the letters.

With a wide cast of suspects, Jerry Burton tries to identify the letter writer. Then Rose, a maid in the Symington household, is brutally murdered, and the whole atmosphere changes as the police investigate.

The story builds slowly, using the different reactions of the recipients of the letters to build suspense and suspicion. Jerry Burton, who narrates the story, is a capable lead who’s soon out of his depth as he struggles to identify the person responsible. When Rose dies, it’s time to call in Jane Marple.

I’m not sure why Agatha Christie waited until the final quarter of the book to bring in Miss Marple, but her impact is immediate. She swings into action to connect all the clues, solve the murders and restore calm and justice to Lymstock in an exciting climax.

With a fine cast of suspects, red herrings, misunderstandings, and the author’s humour and social commentary, this is a classic whodunit that’s as clever as it is baffling and complex. An enjoyable and memorable read, the novel reveals why the author remains so popular.

It’s simply a treat from start to finish.

Description

The placid village of Lymstock seems the perfect place for Jerry Burton to recuperate from his accident under the care of his sister, Joanna. But soon a series of vicious poison-pen letters destroys the village’s quiet charm, eventually causing one recipient to commit suicide. The vicar, the doctor, the servants—all are on the verge of accusing one another when help arrives from an unexpected quarter. The vicar’s house guest happens to be none other than Jane Marple.

The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

2nd December 2020.

There’s so much to enjoy and admire about Agatha Christie’s writing. It goes without saying that her plots are intricate, complex and beautifully constructed, so much so that techniques she used in the 1930s and 40s are still being used in today’s murder mysteries.

If you accept that attitudes and language were quite different in 1942, you can appreciate her direct style of writing that hasn’t lost any of its appeal over the decades. With minimal description and digression, she delivers the twists and turns of the plot with skill, deftness and confidence, leading the reader astray with red herrings and enough suspects to satisfy the stingiest critic. Add in sharp characterisation, lots of dialogue, and social comment that will raise a few smiles, and this is a superb whodunit that will keep you guessing until the reveal.

Miss Marple isn’t the fluffy character you see in some TV adaptations. She has a backbone of steel, an incisive mind and a sharp tongue. Where the police and the village see scandal when a young woman is found dead in the library of Colonel and Dolly Bantry, Miss Marple sees a puzzle with no obvious explanation.

While the police follow their own investigations, she seizes on the small clues, the little details they don’t fully appreciate, weaving it all together into an excellent and believable climax.

Agatha Christie’s books never fail to entertain me or inspire me as a mystery murder writer.

Highly recommended.

Description

It’s seven in the morning. The Bantrys wake to find the body of a young woman in their library. She is wearing evening dress and heavy make-up, which is now smeared across her cheeks.

But who is she? How did she get there? And what is the connection with another dead girl, whose charred remains are later discovered in an abandoned quarry?

The respectable Bantrys invite Miss Marple to solve the mystery… before tongues start to wag.

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

He weaves a mystery that can match any of our best thriller writers

In another wonderful review for No Love Lost, Colin Garrow says

Robert Crouch manages to create a delightfully complex plot with twists and turns galore and more suspects than you can shake a doggy snack at. The plot is his best yet and kept me enthralled from start to finish. With a writing style that includes witty one-liners and precise plotting, he weaves a mystery that can match any of our best thriller writers.

 

 

Such a brilliant series, so well written

In her review of No Love Lost, Lesley from The Bookwormery says

Kent is a marvellously complex, likeable character with an engaging humour and slight eccentricity about him. The plot has twists, turns and some shocks and heartbreaking moments too. It really has it all. Such a brilliant series, so well written it is completely engrossing from start to finish.

No Love Lost Launch

The plot is absolutely fantastic

In her review of No Love Lost, Chelle from Curled Up With A Good Book says,

Each time I read a new Kent Fisher mystery I think it’s my favourite, and then the next one trumps it! I love the series so much, adore Kent (the complex character that he is) and the other characters, love the mystery and intrigue and enjoy the writing style so much.

No Love Lost Launch

An addictive mystery series

Yvonne at Me and My Books believes No Love Lost is part of an addictive mystery series. Brilliant from start to finish.

The author really has woven a wonderful tale of mystery, revenge, deceit and also a tragedy. It was a brilliant book and I think it may be my favourite so far and also the one that shocked me the most with events. It draws things from the past and the present and they have been twisted and turned into such an addictive read.

No Love Lost Launch