Very much looking forward to tonight’s Edgar Awards in New York — and hoping I’ll still be awake after a long day of conversations, connections, and (yes) cocktails. Check out the list of nominees here — and check back later for the list of winners too, of course!
Then this weekend is the annual Malice Domestic gathering back in Bethesda, Maryland, and I’m fortunate to be moderating the panel “The Seven Deadly Sins: Mysteries and Modern Morality Plays.” The panel was suggested by Carolyn Hart, drawing on a comparison that Agatha Christie herself made many years back, and the draft of my introduction to the panel draws heavily on Hart’s own comments in this direction:
Agatha Christie compared her own detective novels to medieval morality plays, “demonstrating that there was wickedness in the world.” In those plays — parables really, mixing education and entertainment — the seven deadly sins are personified, and the good man, despite temptation, chooses the right path and triumphs over evil. In the modern detective novel, of course, the triumph belongs to the detective; wickedness is found out and punished; sin is “expiated” — that’s Christie’s word too. As Carolyn Hart put it in her proposal for this panel: “Murder is always wrong and the object of the story is to solve the crime — i.e., reveal the murderer — and uphold society’s law and the commandment: Thou shalt not kill. In discovering why a crime was committed, the detective discovers what happened to fracture the relationship among those involved in the story, thereby affording moral parallels to the reader: If this, dear reader, is how you act, then this can happen. Reflect before you succumb to envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness.” Carolyn continued, “We live in a world beset by evil. The mystery clearly recognizes evil. The mystery does not excuse evil. Readers read mysteries because we live in an unjust world. They know that in the mystery they will find the goodness and decency and justice they strive for in the world at large.”
My panelists — Hart, Margaret Maron, Nancy J. Cohen, R.J. Harlick, and Tracy Kiely — will be talking more about this on Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. Check out the full schedule of the weekend’s events here. — Art Taylor