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Dead men can talk: voicing the dead in crime fiction
journal contributionposted on 17.07.2018, 00:00 by Leanne Dodd
Death is frequently the defining event and consequently an indispensable presence, in most crime fiction narratives. Historically, death in crime fiction is embodied in graphic descriptions of the crime scene and the corpse. In an age of significant advances in technology and unlimited access to information, there has been a shift in the sympathies of readers who want to comprehend not only what death looks like, but also what death feels like through the voice of the victim. Traditionally used as a plot device to initiate the detection and investigation of the crime, the corpse has undergone a resurrection that imposes upon the body its own narrative as a means to explore modern social and cultural anxieties surrounding death. Examining the work of crime writers throughout the history of the genre, this paper investigates the representation of death and the dead body’s changing purpose within the narrative of crime fiction. Various narrative strategies are identified that inform writers how to engage their intended audience in a conversation with the dead. Considering these in conjunction with trauma theory illuminates how crime writers may assuage some of the cultural taboos and anxieties around death while enhancing the appeal of their crime fiction.