Reposted: Dysfunctional Families in Murder Mysteries

​Here is a thought-provoking post from author Christopher Lansdown’s website:

Dysfunctional Families in Murder Mysteries

I was recently watching the Murder, She Wroteepisode It’s a Dog’s Life with my eldest son and it occurred to just how much dysfunctional wealthy families are a staple of murder mysteries.

It’s not the wealthy part that’s at all surprising—it’s well known that the two most common motives for murder in detective fiction are sex and money—but the dysfunctional part. Or at least that they’re obviously dysfunctional.

This is probably more a staple of modern detective fiction like Murder, She Wrote than it is of golden age detective fiction, I should add, though one can certainly find it in golden age detective fiction too.

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4 thoughts on “Reposted: Dysfunctional Families in Murder Mysteries

  1. Hm, an interesting point. I’d also add that it makes the *suspects* less sympathetic, and if you’d be happy to see any one of these people hanged, then that rather takes the stakes out of the mystery.

    A good twist on this subject would be Agatha Christie’s “Appointment with Death,” which features a dysfunctional family in which *all of them* – except the evil step-mother – are sympathetic. It’s great because you don’t want any of the suspects to be guilty, but it seems like one of them, at least, must be.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed; if the suspects aren’t sympathetic to one degree or another, the stakes are lowered. The reader has no reason to worry about the outcome, about whether justice is served. We definitely need more sympathetic suspects in modern mysteries.

      Was “Appointment with Death” the one where the family patriarch was searching for the head of John the Baptist? I think I saw the Masterpiece version with David Suchet once.

      Liked by 1 person

      • No, that’s a different one (at least, I think so; the David Suchet version of ‘Appointment with Death’ is *very* different from the book and, from what I can gather, kind of terrible, which is a shame since the Suchet series is usually pretty good). “AwD” is about an American family visiting Jerusalem whose extremely evil and psychologically controlling step-mother abruptly dies during an outing, when only one of the family or their friends could have done it.

        Liked by 1 person

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