Who dunnit? Don’t ask me. This column was almost late because I was watching “Midsomer Murders.” This British series, based on books by Caroline Graham, has run continually since 1996. It is delightfully gruesome, humorous to a fault and rated for everyone who likes a good mystery. It is hypnotizing. After that, I turned over to Perry Mason on the television to hear the music and to guess who will die first. I run to see Mason (in black and white), who says, “Incompetent, immaterial and irrelevant.” I am addicted to Mysteries.
So here is a question for you: Who has the greatest mysteries, Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, or Dorothy L. Sayers (for the British) or James Patterson, Diane Mott Davidson, or Janet Evanovich for America?
I recently read an article by Dr. Michael Mantell, who works with the San Diego Police. He said that if you read or watch mysteries, you are probably normal, but if you have posters of gore and newspaper clippings on your wall… well… not so much. What draws us to this gory genre? According to the good doctor, people are drawn to taboos in society. Murder is one of them unless you have the Texas defense, “They needed killing!” The fight for Good and Evil is part of an interesting story. Without conflict you have boredom.
Watching Mysteries gives you scenarios to run in your head. You think of how to protect yourself or your family. On a dark and stormy night, look around. It gives you good ideas when walking, like putting your keys through your fingers. If you are attacked rip ‘em up. Don’t go to the garage where the chainsaws are, get in the moving car and race away. You know what I am talking about, right?
Next on the list of why we watch Mysteries is why we cannot look away from a train wreck or other natural disasters. The media promotes this. We see volcanos in Hawaii, forest fires in California, floods in New Orleans. They play the videos over and over. Some mystery writer gets inspired about putting a murder in any of those situations. When “Murder She Wrote” was on with Angela Lansbury as the mystery novelist, Jessica Fletcher, of Cabot Cove, Maine, Jessica caught 264 murder victims. Did anyone question her? We kept on watching from 1984 to 1996.
What about Sherlock Holmes? Is he a better detective than Columbo? Is, “The game is afoot” a better catch phrase than, “Just one more question?” There used to be a Brothers Three Sherlock Holmes club and festival held in Moriarty. Morrow Hall kept the organization going. They held literary meetings in the now-closed Frontier Bar. You had half the crowd with deer stalker hats and cloaks and the rest, real cowboys, with boots and State Fair buckles. Some of the best times were held in debate of how to murder and why.
Remember we Americans invented the ultimate in detectives, “Scooby Doo, and the Mystery Machine.” When you hear someone cackle and say, “We could have done it too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids,” be prepared for the adventure to begin. Roaring Mouse getting my magnifying glass and pipe out… out.