Female crime writers are no less brutal than their male counterparts. Mo Hayder’s The Treatment, for instance, features a deranged killer who forces a man to rape his own child; Red Dahlia by Lynda La Plante is a story about the torture, murder and dismemberment of several young women; and Two Women, the book that catapulted Martina Cole to international success, contains some of the most graphic scenes of domestic violence I have ever read.
Given my work as a feminist activist and writer, you might expect me to hate the crime genre. I have spent the whole of my adult life fighting male violence, and much of my work involves researching topics such as rape, child sexual abuse, pornography and murder. I talk regularly to women who have survived sex attacks, and have had to look at crime-scene photographs showing mutilated corpses of women who have been raped, tortured and murdered. It was as a direct result of the hideous brutality of a serial killer – Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper – that I became a feminist in the first place. Yet, when it comes to fiction, the serial killer genre is my favourite.
It’s funny, as long time readers will know, I am married to a culture, gender and sexuality sociologist–a strong feminist with a great grin and a withering raised eyebrow. She’s utterly practical about the line between theory and reality, but can be ideologically unforgiving, especially when stupidity is involved. Yet she too loves crime and mystery novels. I think it’s an academic thing. What’s with that? She reads a wide range, on the rare occasion she has time, but the last few years it’s been Laurie R. King. Some beekeeper lady. She devours them whole in an afternoon. I guess after years of reading a page of deep theory a minute, it must only take seconds to follow a narrative. Makes it easy for Xmas and birthday gifts, though.