Historical Mystery Lovers discussion

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Q & A Discussions > Violence in Historical Mysteries

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message 1: by Lauren (new)

Lauren (laurenjberman) | 1710 comments Mod
Are graphic descriptions of violence appropriate in this genre? What do you consider too much violence? Which books have appealed or not appealed as a result of this element?


message 2: by Michell (new)

Michell Karnes (royalreader) | 80 comments I don't care for graphic violence descriptions in my books. It is one of the reasons I prefer the regency and victorian historical novels. This time period doesn't usually give those graphic descriptions. I also like the way the detective isn't able to rely on our modern day science.


message 3: by Sandy (new)

Sandy | 1206 comments I also don't like graphic violence, BUT, I am an avid reader of both Anne Perry's Monk series and Harris' Sebastian St Cyr, both of which portray brutal crimes. Perhaps the difference is coming onto the scene after the crime? Or the historical setting is less real to me?


message 4: by Veronica (new)

Veronica  (readingonthefly) | 694 comments I don't really mind graphic descriptions. Murder is ugly, after all. That said, I don't think I've come across violence in the historical mysteries I've read that I'd consider to be graphic in their description...at least not as compared to the contemporary mysteries and suspense thrillers I read.

The one exception is the Matthew Corbett series - which I'm binge-reading now (currently on book 4). The author came to the series after writing mostly horror/creepy books for years so he doesn't sugarcoat death or murder or the means used to achieve either. To me though the books seem more like historical fiction with some mystery elements as opposed to solid mysteries.


message 5: by Michell (new)

Michell Karnes (royalreader) | 80 comments Sandy wrote: "I also don't like graphic violence, BUT, I am an avid reader of both Anne Perry's Monk series and Harris' Sebastian St Cyr, both of which portray brutal crimes. Perhaps the difference is coming ont..."

I love both of those series but I don't feel they describe murder in a graphic way. I guess graphic is a matter of opinion.


message 6: by Veronica (last edited Jul 18, 2018 10:00AM) (new)

Veronica  (readingonthefly) | 694 comments Michell wrote: "I love both of those series but I don't feel they describe murder in a graphic way."

Same here. Everyone's personal mileage varies though.


message 7: by QNPoohBear (new)

QNPoohBear | 425 comments I don't care for graphic violence or even for a bloody corpse. I prefer my mysteries in the cozy genre. Amateur female sleuth from a genteel family happens to stumble across a mystery and tries to solve it to save herself/loved one from jail. If the mystery gives enough historical detail to give a sense of what the time was like, that's good enough for me. That being said, I think the Mrs. Jeffries series (Emily Brightwell) is a bit too cozy. There's not enough period detail to pinpoint a year just Victorian.


message 8: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (last edited Jul 18, 2018 01:28PM) (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 463 comments Depends. I dislike crudeness or crassness just for the sake of being crude, though - as compared to a fair description of a brutal crime.

ETA: I guess you could say that I'll accept a level of brutality that's generally acceptable in regular mysteries or thrillers, but appropriate to its genre. For a historical mystery version of a cozy - no way. Modern-day set cozies don't have graphic violence, and neither should their historical mystery cousins.


message 9: by Lauren (new)

Lauren (laurenjberman) | 1710 comments Mod
Interesting points, everyone.

I have a really strong stomach for graphic descriptions in contemporary mysteries and thrillers, so I'm not disturbed when it appears in a historical mystery.

That said, there is something out of place about excessive violence in the genre. Perhaps because I think of earlier time periods (especially Georgian and Regency) as more civilized even though this is really not at all true. In fact, modern times are arguably less barbaric than the Roman, Dark Ages or Medieval times.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 463 comments Definitely things are less violent now, in common life.


message 11: by Victoria (new)

Victoria Prescott (victoria_prescott) | 3 comments I don't think graphic descriptions of violence are necessary. But some historical times and places were more violent than others and it wouldn't be realistic or appropriate to pretend otherwise. One wouldn't set a cosy mystery at the court of Henry VIII, for example, or on the Western Front. C.J. Sansom sets his Shardlake series in the later years of Henry VIII, and he does get a bit graphic for my taste at times, and I skip bits. But it's appropriate for the period.

I think an author should make some attempt to show the reality of the period or setting, even in a cosy, otherwise there's no point in writing historical fiction. But it can be done without extensive descriptions of blood and gore.


message 12: by Cheryl A (new)

Cheryl A | 130 comments One thing I've noticed is that the level of graphic descriptions of violence often increases with a male protagonist, especially with male authors. Perhaps it's sexist, but the "cozier" historical mysteries tend to be written by women; the darker, more graphic ones by men. It's not universal, just a trend. The Scotland Yard Murder Squad series by Alex Grecian, the Bernie Gunther series by Philip Kerr, the Barker & Llewelyn series by Will Thomas and of course, The Alienist by Caleb Carr are all pretty graphic.

I've noticed the those in the middle of the spectrum are written by both men and women, with both male and female protagonists - think The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye, Anne Perry's series, Charles Todd's series, the John Madden series by Rennie Airth.


message 13: by Sandy (new)

Sandy | 1206 comments Cheryl A wrote: "One thing I've noticed is that the level of graphic descriptions of violence often increases with a male protagonist, especially with male authors. Perhaps it's sexist, but the "cozier" historical ..."

I agree with your observations and, not liking too much violence, I gravitate towards the woman authors.


message 14: by Lauren (new)

Lauren (laurenjberman) | 1710 comments Mod
That's a very good point, Cheryl.
It does seem to be divided along gender lines at least in this genre.


message 15: by QNPoohBear (new)

QNPoohBear | 425 comments I prefer Regency drawing rooms in the world birthed by Georgette Heyer. Violence happens off page and rarely to someone innocent. The Kurland St. Mary mysteries byCatherine Lloyd have a lot of historical detail and some of the more nitty gritty bits about the period. The John Pickett mysteries by Sheri Cobb South feature a lower class hero and an upper class heroine. She learns first hand about the rougher aspects of Regency life through her association with John.

I really like the Jane Austen mysteries Stephanie Barron and Dido Kent mysteries by Anna Dean. They're basically the same thing but the Dido Kent books are fictionalized based on Jane Austen but not about Jane Austen. Both authors know how to work in historic details without getting graphic.


message 16: by John (new)

John | 277 comments Books set in ancient Greece and Rome seem to abound with details of damage incurred from street brawls, as well as torture of slaves (real and threatened).


message 17: by J. (new)

J. Rubino (jrubino) I have been a fan of Mick Finlay's "Arrowood" series - Arrowood is a down-at-heels private detective in Victorian London, taking what he can get because the major cases all go to that fellow Sherlock Holmes. The books are dark, there is violence and bleak descriptions of Victorian London's lower class, but - except for the latest, which I did not like - they are great reads.
I find violence against children and cruelty to animals disturbing, and avoid books - however well written - with these elements.


message 18: by QNPoohBear (new)

QNPoohBear | 425 comments I love the Kat Holloway mysteries but the last one Murder in the East End really bothered me.

I avoid violence all together and I am especially disturbed by violence against animals, women and children. I like my historical mysteries cozy with the victim being a "bad guy" who (for a CHARACTER) deserved to be killed. The question being: which of the cast of characters had the biggest motive to kill.


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