I discovered a new mystery series the other day, about a forensic anthropologist who gets in to the most awful scrapes. Someone said that in a novel the ratio of interesting people is much much higher than it ever is in real life, and I think I believe that. Anyway, I settled in for a good read amongst bones, mayhem, clues, dead ends, red herrings, and hairbreadth escapes, when I got tangled in -- her relationships. Her ex-husband, whom she still loves, she thinks, the hunky cop whom she love, she thinks, her bright but erratic daughter. All tangled in with bones, creepy cellars, mysterious artifacts, strange phone calls, and obnoxious male cops.
I mean, why can't I have a good mystery without all this baggage? The formula for a woman writer seems to be one part mystery and two parts relationship misery. Not one, not one, mystery features a well-adjusted female with a loving husband and a secure marriage. Even my favorite novelist, Liz Adair, has moved. Her first three novels were very good mysteries, with a country cop, a ranch, a loving wife, and corpses. Then, when she started writing about woman protagonists, relationships started creeping in, and her latest novel, Counting the Cost, though a whang doodler of a novel, is all about --- relationships.
Not that men don't write about relationships. They do. But with men it tends to be straightforward narration, not a convoluted agonizing about motives and moves. Can you imagine Abe Lieberman worrying about his relationship with his wife? If he does, it's simply, "Abe was worried about his wife." Or how about Matthew Scudder and Elaine. Does he torture himself about what she's thinking at every moment of the day.
And how about Sam Spade? He'd shift his toothpick from left to right in his mouth and say, "Sorry sweetheart, gotta go now."