Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Whodunit? Me!

by Bethany Maines

On my recent trip to Iceland we were watching the BBC channel in the hotel room before going to bed (the entertainment value of the Icelandic Shopping Network could only last so long) and I caught a fun segment about the British Library which is showing an exhibit called Murder in theLibrary: An A-Z of Crime Fiction. The exhibit looks at the development of the whodunit genre and features the “10 Commandments” of Monsignor Ronald Knox. 

If you haven’t looked up the good Monsignor’s rules they basically consist of some guidelines to prevent the author from pulling solutions to a problem out of thin air and keep a story based in reality.  The rules hold up pretty well even over 80 years after being written – except for that one about the Chinamen.  I’m not really sure what that rule was attempting to accomplish, but we’ll hope that it wasn’t as racist as it sounds. 

Anyway, once I returned home I did a quick google on the exhibit and found an interesting article that covered the rules and posed the question: Is the Whodunit dead? Has the reading public moved on to thrillers, true crime and procedurals?  Is the Whodunit now a passé relic of an older time?

Well, I have to say that if I took a survey of the authors on this blog that the answer would be a definitive, “No!” The Whodunit is alive and well on the Stilletto Blog – whether it’s Joelle Charbonneau’s roller skating heroine cleaning up a small town mysteries or Maggie Barbieri’s college professor solving murders with the help of a handsome NYPD homicide detective – our gang write crimes that get solved.

It’s my personal theory that books, like music, no longer have one mainstream genre that is overwhelmingly popular. The world has more readers than ever and that allows readers to pick the specific genre that appeals to them.  The Whodunit may no longer be THE thing to read, but I don’t think it’s being read any less.  In fact – I’m about to start reading a new one today.  


  1. I love mysteries!!!! I rarely read anything else and I enjoy both cosy and dark ones. It's the best way to spend an evening or vacation or any other time!!!!!

  2. I love the mystery genre, but I think the whodunit types are my favorite. They always get me in the end! :)

  3. The whodunit mystery is as popular as ever, if not more so. It's just not as popular and trendy with those who write about our culture and literature in the media. Thrillers are hot with them. So they look around and see that everyone in their crowd (the "people who matter") are reading thrillers, if they read any crime fiction at all, and for them, that's the world.

  4. I agree with Linda. Thrillers seem to be the types of books that get the most media play but if you look at the NYT bestseller list, LOTS of mysteries and a LOT of cozies. Interesting. I'm glad you had fun in Iceland, Bethany. Sounds like a fascinating place. Maggie

    1. Iceland was incredible (as was the Iceland Shopping Network). And I agree, with you and Linda, I think Thrillers are getting the most press, but I honestly don't think standard mysteries are dropping much in sales.

  5. I do not enjoy dark or blood and guts. I do enjoy a puzzle. A puzzle in a setting that seems like a normal part of life (except for that pesky little murder) is what appeals to me. I am a fan of Cozies. And I am definitely a fan of mysteries. I would like to comment that much of what gets the big headlines in the arts - whether it be movies, music or books is not necessarily what I would enjoy. Just as Grey has never been a favorite color of mine, a grisly murder is not my cup of tea.