Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bouchercon 2011: Friis and Hellstrom on whodunnit?

After a bit of unintentional comic byplay, my first Bouchercon panel finally got around to the question in its subtitle: How important is whodunnit?

Not at all, said Agnete Friis, co-author of The Boy in the Suitcase. Very, said Anders Roslund, one half of the team whose novels include Three Seconds and Cell 8.

The two don't necessarily disagree. Friis maintains that the social predicament of her book's (and her country's) unprotected victims, rather than the solution of a crime, is paramount. Roslund had stressed earlier that the novels he writes with Börge Hellström do not star the Stockholm police detective Ewart Grens, but rather feature him as "one of two," in a kind of dialectic with a different partner in each book.

In Three Seconds, the partner is a police informant working under such deep cover that his government handlers' refusal to acknowledge him very nearly dooms him to a death in which Grens would have been unknowingly complicit. The book's point? Police and informant/criminal are equally actors and victims. So, while "whodunnit?" in the traditional sense of "Who knocked off the duke in the library?" may be unimportant, "Who's doing it?" is the book's moral center.
Anders Roslund and Agnete Friis were part of my panel "A QUESTION OF DEATH: HOW IMPORTANT IS WHODUNIT?" at Bouchercon 2011.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Thanks. Well, the police procedural requires finding the perpetrator,but as you point out, it need not be a puzzle. Neither does it need a last minute twist, a more recent fad that irritates me almost as much as the traditional solution scene a la Nero Wolfe.

September 21, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

One of these authors is arguably guilty of a last-minute twist, but there is a slow, skillful build-up to it. The twist makes sense in light of what had gone before.

As to the requirement that a police procedural include the quest for a perpetrator, Three Seconds is a police procedural only in part.

September 21, 2011  

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