A hazard of historical crime fiction, and a question for readers
The novel proposes amusing alternative backgrounds for its historical characters, and it sets up tension between the foremost of those figures and the novel’s protagonist. That protagonist is an amateur sleuth (the novel’s setting predates professional investigators, whether public or private), and his summoning to the murder in question is atmospheric, bawdy, and entertaining. The scene where the body lies is suitably eerie and, again, evocative of its time.
And then comes the detection. The sleuth pauses; something bothers him. He looks at the victim’s hands and finds a clue, either gripped tightly between clenched fingers, or caked under fingernails; I forget which. And I stop reading because I have been yanked out of the illusion that the author has maintained until now, not, strictly speaking, by anachronism, but by a convention I'd seen a hundred times before in modern detective stories.
How might this author have written the scene differently to keep me reading? What extra burdens do writers of historical crime fiction face?
© Peter Rozovsky 2014