October is National Crime Prevention Month. That’s an appropriate recognition for mystery books and their heroes. We can find protagonists from every tier of the justice world, and many of the themes of these stories mirror the social issues reflected in our culture.
Police detectives, sheriffs, and other agents of the state are out pounding the pavement when crime erupts. Karin Slaughter celebrates determined women fighting crime in Atlanta law enforcement during the 1970s with COP TOWN, while Thomas Muller’s DARKTOWN illustrates the struggles black men encountered when they integrated the Atlanta Police Force and tried to do their jobs several decades earlier. Read more…
As kids, no one ever wants a curmudgeonly neighbor who’s regularly chastising them to “stay off my lawn.” That messes up all the games of kick-the-can and hide-and-seek. And what happens when your baseball accidentally goes in their yard? Lost. For. Ever.
But in other realms, the curmudgeonly characters are often some of the most well-loved. They’re the comic relief, the unfiltered voice, the personality we secretly hope we’re brave enough to embrace one day. And typically, there’s a pretty good heart buried deep inside as well. TV is full of these grouchy personalities: Leroy Jethro Gibbs from NCIS, Dr. Gregory House as the title character in HOUSE, and for those who can remember, Jonathan Higgins in MAGNUM, P.I.
Crime fiction also claims a number of delightfully cantankerous characters.
Louise Penny, whose new audiobook in the Three Pines series is GLASS HOUSES (and an Earphones Award winner), has crafted an excellent curmudgeonly specimen in Ruth Zardo. Penny’s expletive-spewing poet may walk around with a rain cloud over her head, but she brightens every scene she enters. Both Ralph Cosham in the early recordings and now Robert Bathurst illuminate her cranky disposition with aplomb, allowing that hidden softie to peek out just around her sharp edges.