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Detective fiction is a kind of imaginative mystery or felony where an investigator probe into a crime. The detective probing into the crime could either be an amateur or a professional. Fictional detectives can be grouped into three categories private investigators, professional police, and amateurs. Many amateur detectives are journalists, people who have business relations, and lawyers who come into close habitual contact with criminal activities. Most detective fiction crimes normally revolve around murder, burglary, kidnapping, etc. This essay is going to focus on Nancy Ellen Talburt and Jauna Young’s “The many guises of the contemporary amateur detective”. The essay will analyze the success of amateur detective fiction authors, paying special attention to the narrative voice and character, as well as the interest and complexity of solving a problem. Other aspects that will be timidly addressed will include effective integration of interesting or esoteric information and insights or lore. All these elements are largely intertwined and one cannot be described independently (Christie, p. 25).
The narrative voice of an author of a fictional narrative, as defined by an author’s persona (narrator), can either help or hamper the success of an author. All authors of fiction have a voice, they bring out in their narration, which is either narrated in first-person viewpoint or as an implicit author. A detective amateur author should tell his story in an interesting, trustworthy, and engaging manner, that will make the reader believe in his/her work. The narrator an author chooses for their works depends on the kind and nature of the story the author is telling and the emotional atmosphere it invokes (Singh and Rav, p. 18). The characteristic qualities of the voice of an author are manifested through their explicit language, style, and technique of expression, for instance, a lyrical narrator, satirical narrator, among others. From the attitude and personality of a narrator, a persona is developed, which are developed by incidents and the choice of words of the narrator, which essentially depends on the story’s point of view. The viewpoints of a narrator can be told in three forms that include first-person viewpoint, second-person point of view, and third-person viewpoint. The most widely used viewpoints by most authors of detective amateur fiction are third-person and first-person viewpoints. Maida and Spornick, in “Puzzle –Game” uses the voice of a first-person narrator to bring out her uniqueness as a fictional amateur author throughout her narration, as well as fully engage the reader “I don’t like messy deaths. Anyway, I’m more interested in peaceful people who die in their deaths” (Maida and Spornick, p. 29). The author manages to make her narrative as interesting and intriguing as possible through her choice of this narrator. In her book, “Christmas Mourning” Margaret Maron, makes use of a third-person narrator “A beautiful young cheerleader dies in a car crash and the community is devastated by her death. Dwight Bryant soon learns that her death was not a simple accident, and more lives may be lost unless he and Deborah can discover why she died” (Maron, p. 2).
Style, language, and tone also define the personality of the authors of amateur detective fiction and are largely intertwined. Language and tone create a style of an author. The diction of a writer, choice of his/her words, dialogue, the structure of a sentence; all creates style. The tone is created by the attitude the narrative takes towards its subject, which is more or less influenced by the choice of words, and the viewpoint of the narrator (Mansfield and Marchino, p. 55). A narrative can put across severe importance in its events and characters through the usage of irony and humor, otherwise, tone. Some styles used by authors of amateur detective fiction include the weaving of narratives, allusion, use of illustrious characters, self-insertion, emotional distancing, etc, through which language and tone are exploited. The success of usage of style, language, and tone depend on the way an author perceives and influences each component. Cornwell, for instance, can be said to have a highly admirable style where she indulges in a diverse and well-built, character with dialogue and introspection, as well as the use of a combination of the development of a rich character and rational analysis. Some writers of detective fiction present their pieces in a challenging and sportive tone, for instance, Christie’s work, which makes the work more believable to the reader. Others still, use wit to engage their characters in solving puzzles, and complex mystery problems of their stories, for instance, the author constantly engages the reader through giving theme clues, distancing the emotional attachment, usage of facts, among others. “Varied styles, tones, and points of views not only add interest and variety to a narrative but are a powerful revelation of character” (Cornwell, p. 66).
The character of a detective fiction story is almost as imperative as the narrative that it helps to narrate. An author should choose characters that are distinct, memorable, and realistic; those that a reader can relate well to. The use of the main character is very vital, to allow a reader to have a viewpoint for his/her basis. The viewpoint permits the reader to be well informed about a character of a narrative. It gives insight into the feelings and thoughts of a fictional character and lets the reader understand the change in feelings of the character. Most detectives of amateur fiction make use of the main character, instead of where they could use more than one main character, of which the reader will be left more confused and unable to distinguish between their thoughts. According to Agatha Christie, the author has to decide on the character either as female, male, adult, child, according to the nature of the narrative (Talburt and Young, p. 35).
The success of a story is dependent on several intertwining factors, among them, character and narrative voice. Most fictional detective authors, especially, Nancy Ellen, Juana Young, Margaret Maron, Agatha Christie, and Patricia Cornwell, have managed to pull through the art of the character and author persona to the advantage of their readers, who have continually enjoyed their appealing and interesting works. Thus, it can be concluded that most works of amateur detective fiction can be termed as successful.
- Christie, Agatha. The A.B.C. Murders: A Hercules Poirot Mystery. Reissue: HarperCollins, 2011. Print.
- Cornwell, Patricia. Scarpetta. Berkley: Berkley Books, 2009. Print.
- Mansfield, Deane, and Lois Marchino. Longman anthology of Detective Fiction: The Puzzle Game. London: Pearson Education, 2004. Print.
- Harmon, Singh and Dhaliwal Rav. The Private Investigator. Wales: Brit Aspen, 1996. Print.
- Maida, Patricia and Nicholas Spornick. The Puzzle-Game. London: Pearson Education, 2004.Print.
- Maron, Margaret. Christmas Mourning. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2011. Print.
- Talburt, Nancy, and Juana Young. The Many Guises of The Contemporary Amateur Detective. London: Pearson Education, 2004. Print.