After catching the bug from Rhian over at It’s a Crime! (or a Mystery…), here’s the first in an occasional series entitled Meme me up, Scotty! The idea is to create a meme that captures, in the purest possible form, a reading moment or reaction on my part.
As you might guess from this lovingly-crafted meme, I’m currently somewhat frustrated by the volume of autopsy scenes I’m made to sit through as a crime reader. I’ve just read three novels in a row that feature long and lavishly-detailed autopsies, and am now a reluctant expert in the grisly protocols involved. However, I have yet to feel that these, or any of the other autopsy scenes I’ve read, contribute significantly to the crime narrative. This may just be a question of taste – there’s certainly an element of subjective judgement involved – but I still can’t help wondering why authors feel they are necessary.
Some theories (from the serious to the silly)
- They’re just part of the formula for police procedurals, so in they go
- They show I’ve done my research and am an expert on the detail of policework
- They mean you can’t mistake my novel for a cosy: it’s gritty and real
- They confront readers with the reality of violence/crime
- They confront readers with their own mortality (an existential statement, if you will)
- The grumpy-yet-erudite pathologist is a winning character
- I’ve been told by my publisher that autopsy scenes sell really well
- We crime authors have a secret autopsy contest: the most gruesome example wins a bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothschild.
I’d be very interested to hear some reader and author views on this topic. Do autopsies enhance crime narratives and if so how? Or could we do without them?
Update: See also the excellent post on the rise of the serial killer (with graph!) over at the Past Offences blog (thanks for the kind mention, Rich.)