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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 have come 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 Powder 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!


  1. I can't stand self-help books and crime thrillers at all. I want to know the kind of literature,and writing,you enjoy.
    Do you like to read anything and everything on cricket? Do you own a kindle? And what kind of serious literature have you read that you enjoyed? I hate crime thrillers because you never get the entire picture except what the author wants to reveal. So i don't get your love for whodunits.

    1. >> Do you like to read anything and everything on cricket?
      >> Do you own a kindle?
      >> What kind of serious literature have you read that you enjoyed?
      I take thrillers very seriously.
      >> I hate crime thrillers because you never get the entire picture except what the author wants to reveal.
      That is true for any book.

  2. I am afraid I can only partially agree: the place where I agree totally with you is that one cannot be sure based on a hunch by definition ... so there cannot be any real disagreement on this. However, this does not mean that I cannot accuse the author of being predictable, and therefore unpalatable: the most common case in point relates to the well known trope of having the least suspected player in the game being the culprit. If an author keeps repeating this then he or she is predictable (but not necessarily the book).
    The other point I would make is to say that a 'hunch' is not acceptable for a final verdict, but is fine in building a case. In fact, some of the authors just allow their detective's hunches in building cases to be right too often.

    1. RGB, I am talking of perfectly laid down proofs. I know of authors who make their detectives "guess", which I feel is unfair.

      Suppose there is an excellent and complete grid of proofs; I have seen people jump to conclusion before the author lays the proofs down, or even during, when random readers "guess" the identity based on hunch, and claim they have found out who the murderer was long before the case was solved.

      It is the reader's "hunch" where there is concrete proof lying around that irks me.

  3. I have had similar conversations about movies so I can relate. BTW this page shows that you watched "Rahasya" recently, is that any good?

  4. Have you read books by Keigo Higashino? If not, you should start by The devotion of Suspect X. Its not a whodunit, but very enjoyable thriller.

  5. Oops! Looks like you are badly pissed off....I completely agree with you that guesswork is unfair...BTW, my fav authors in this genre are Agatha Christie in English and Saradindu Bandyopadhyay in Bengali lit.

    1. Sharadindu never wrote quality whodunits. In fact, a lot of his works were based on guesswork. Then, again, his style was so lucid, that...

  6. You have had multiple conversations of the above kind with whodunit readers?? Wow!

    As for the first commenter asking you about your tastes, maybe the correct response is to ask them if Jane Austen is good fiction... and if they think she revealed "the entire picture"...

    And as for the remaining "Marquee readers", why don't you ask them to read some of the following books: "The caves of steel", or "Foundation trilogy", and ask them to guess who done it :). Maybe they'll find Asimov predictable!

  7. I guess. I enjoy cursing the predictable authors and I also at times read the last page after chapter 5, so that I can have the thrill with a very 'cool' mind. :D :D :D stuff that wherever :D :D :D. And still I sit with another 'whodunit' and prepare to be thrilled!

    1. You do not deserve to read whodunits. Stick to romance.