Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Women Are Writing the Best Crime Novels
They don’t seem to believe in heroes as much as their male counterparts, which in some ways makes their storytelling a better fit for the times.
Once upon a time, in the smoky, violent neverland of crime fiction, there were seductive creatures we called femmes fatales, hard women who lured sad men to their doom. Now there are girls. It started, of course, with Gillian Flynn, whose 2012 suburban thriller, Gone Girl, told a cruel tale of marriage and murder and sold a zillion copies. The most striking thing about Flynn’s cool, clever mystery is the childishness of its main characters, Nick and Amy Dunne, the sheer pettiness of the deadly games they play with each other. And the prize for winning is something like a gold star from the teacher: Gone Girl takes place in a world in which grown-up girls—and boys—will kill for no better reason than self-validation. This is not a world Raymond Chandler would have recognized. On the streets his people walked, motives were more basic—money, sex—and means were more direct. “When in doubt,” he once told his genre brethren, “have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand.” When today’s crime writers are in doubt, they have a woman come through the door with a passive-aggressive zinger on her lips.