Friday, March 6, 2015

Why I do not like most whodunit readers

Courtesy: Dan's Topical Stamps
Click here for a general list of random things I dislike. Since the link is a tag, it will contain this post as well, so you may complain of a cyclic redundancy error, but who cares?


This is going to be a brief post. If you know me, you would have, by now, been familiar with my affinity towards whodunits. While the trio of Agatha Christie, GK Chesterton, and Arthur Conan Doyle (in that order) continue to fascinate, there have been others in the list as well (*cough* Robert Galbraith *cough*).

Obviously, this has led to my affinity towards other fans of the genre (including Holmes vs Poirot arguments, but maintaining a general respect towards the other). I am generally respectful towards ardent lovers of the whodunit, and treat those who cannot distinguish between whodunits and other thrillers with utter disdain.

In other words, my respect for whodunits is not restricted to the books or the authors: I want to respect the readers as well.

Now, the point: What do people do when you read a whodunit? I cannot vouch for the world, but discussions have given me the impression that people — like me — try to deduce the identity of the criminal (usually the murderer).

Do note the word I used: deduce. Not guess, but deduce.

In other words, whodunits cannot be solved by guesswork, for that defeats the purpose of whodunits. There needs to be neat, foolproof, cold logic that should eliminate all alternatives and close down on the criminal (s). Hunch is not acceptable as a tool.

I have often had multiple conversations like these:
Me: Have you read Book X?
Whodunit reader: Of course. It is a horrible book.
Me: What? Why? I loved it!
Marquee whodunit reader: Because I knew that Y was the murderer as early as Page N! Imagine my disappointment when I read through the entire book and found I was correct! What a waste of time! Z is such a predictable author!
Me: Really? How did you guess? I could never see it coming! Hang on: wasn’t the first clue dropped at Page M, which comes after Page N?
Super whodunit reader: I guessed. The moment I read Quote A and Quote B, I was sure Y was the murderer.
Me: But what about proof? How did you deduce?
Fake whodunit reader: Why do you need proof? I was sure, and this is not for the first time my guess was correct. Z is so predictable!

That is precisely how whodunit readers get ticked off my list one by one. If you do not agree with me on this, I will ask you a simple question: Dear reader, if you were the judge, would you convict someone based on hunch, or would you wait for proof?

For ages I had isolated myself from these fake whodunit readers, eliminating them one by one — to the extent that I began asking myself: am I even correct? Or are these people correct in getting orgasmic over correct guesswork?

Of late I came across Ellery Queen. For the uninitiated, Ellery Queen is a detective and a pseudonym used by Daniel Nathan (who had another alias, Frederic Dannay) and Emanuel Benjamin Lepofsky (Manfred Bennington Lee). Ellery Queen was extremely popular during the “Golden Age” of whodunits (sigh).

While reading The French Hat Mystery (the second Ellery Queen novel) I came across an excerpt, just before the climax — where Queen himself challenges the reader to identify the murderer.

And I was overjoyed — for not having given in to peer pressure.


Stuff your guesswork up your rectum, morons!