How Gruesome Is My Noir?

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by Ann Giles


















I prefer my murders nice and sweet. A bit like myself. I might not look it, but deep down I’m nice. And kind.

So it goes without saying that I like ‘cosy noir’. Hang on, is there even something called that? I could be getting my cosies and my noirs all mixed up. There is ‘rural noir’. That sounds cosy enough, but isn’t, unless you like sheep and manure and farmers. Dead or otherwise. Stephen Booth writes rural noir, with the moody Ben Cooper and his boss Diane Fry.

I do enjoy those, although they are distinctly lacking in chintz. I am aware that chintz is not exactly in, unless it’s now so out that it really is in. But if it’s to be a British (I suppose I really mean English) murder, then some floral patterned furniture or curtains is almost required, along with the vicar and the tea and the knitting.


By now there must be a genre labelled ‘knitted noir’, after Sarah Lund and her jumpers in Forbrydelsen (The Killing to you lot). Really very dark and bloody, but knitted.

Not the kind of knitting Miss Marple engaged in, though. Miss M must surely be the cosiest of cosies?

I’m not sure where cosy noir ends. Ngaio Marsh and Margery Allingham were both ‘quite nice’ in their dark deeds. Lovely police detective or equally lovely amateur sleuth. Good breeding, romantic and not entirely penniless.

How black and dismal do you have to be to count as noir?

There is ‘Nordic noir’ and there is ‘Irish noir’. Both are newish on the international crime market, even if they have always murdered at home, as it were.

Two recent reads of mine are Adrian McKinty’s Falling Glass and Lars Kepler’s The Hypnotist. Both are black-ish, but in different ways. Falling Glass has a hero - and a baddie, for that matter - who is, or can be, quite brutal. But the bloodshed felt to me as though it wasn’t written to be enjoyed, and therefore not too gory, at least on the page. Whereas in The Hypnotist the bloodbaths were much more intended (?) to be enjoyed. I think. I found that I objected to the swearing in Falling Glass, more than I did the killing. I don’t recall too much bad language in The Hypnotist, but the blood and the gore stand out. Suspect I skated across some of the descriptions fairly fast, in an effort to take in the necessary plot elements, but not feel sick.

So, dual standards is what I have.

At this point I feel sufficiently ‘axed out’, and all I want is to return to the vicarage and the knitting needles. Preferably not as murder weapons, but if they were, it’d all be in a good cause. That seemingly nice victim was secretly a most horrible person. And at the end the murderer, be he the butler or whoever, is either behind bars or dead.

We’re safe. Until next time.



Photo credit: fingle

1 comment:

Stroppy Author said...

Oh dear, I've been having a very noir spring. And not a knitting needle in sight. But it's an idea.... wonder if I can swap the guillotine for knitting needles as weapon?