Charlie Harris from Miranda James' New York Times bestselling "Cat in the Stacks" series
A friend asked me not too long ago why I read so many mystery novels. She was really puzzled by my fascination with death, as she called it. And she opined that surely after having been involved in several murders the last thing I'd want to do would be to read about more murders.
I asked her what she liked to read, and her answer was non-fiction. She had no time for fiction, because it wasn't real. I didn't offer her my first reaction on hearing this -- that I have little patience with such an attitude. Moreover, that I think people who don't enjoy fiction are rather lacking in imagination.
Instead I told her that for me, every novel is a journey, and I love finding out where it's going to take me. As a child I discovered Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and many other teenage detectives. They had adventures, the like of which a small-town Mississippi boy could never hope to have. Adult fiction took me even more interesting places -- into the past, the future, into rich realms of imagination. Why wouldn't you want to read fiction with rewards like that? (That was me trying to put my earlier comment in more tactful terms.)
But why murders? she persisted.
I fell back on a quotation from the Book of Common Prayer, usually quoted in burial services: "In the midst of life we are in death. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust." Mysteries -- at least the kind I prefer -- attempt to make sense of death. Understanding how and why someone died helps me understand how we live -- the choices we make that propel us down a particular path, whether we be murderer or victim. In the end justice -- of a sort -- is served, and the world can move on.
I don't know whether that convinced her, but it's what I think. What do you think?