Share a favorite mystery or detective story. Describe what effect learning “who done it” at the end had on how you viewed certain characters or events from earlier in the story.
The first season of the British television series “Broadchurch” is perhaps the most gripping detective story I have ever been told. It isn’t about a crafty killer who attempts to outfox the authorities and get away with it. In fact, the murderer in this story simply grows tired in the end. He starts trying to turn himself in before he ever even becomes a suspect. It is not really about the intrigues of a murderer, a sleuth, or what it takes for the latter to track down the former. Rather, it is primarily about a small town which is grieving the loss of one of its own and, overall, everyone in the town does a remarkably terrible job of grieving. The death was the murder of a child. So I don’t suppose there really would have been any way the towns folk could have processed the ordeal “well”. But accusations start flying! Almost everyone starts to look guilty (even the murdered child’s father). A second town member ends up dead—not at the hands of the villain “back at it again,” but, rather, this second death owes solely to the sheer force of the fierce accusations being bandied about by the townsfolk.
One of the lead characters is a local police officer who is slowly and methodically taught to become suspicious of the people she grew up with. This aspect of the story begins to muddy the genre distinction. The local officer’s forced descent into the terror of suspecting the worst of loved ones is not unlike the classic contours of a horror film. Normalcy slowly erodes and in the end only frightful villainy is left.
This detective story doesn’t fill the viewer with satisfaction once the case is solved. I felt more disturbed after the culprit confessed; I think because I had (to that point) judged the murder to be the most steadfast and levelheaded character. The one who had seemed the most successful in pushing ahead with normalcy was the perpetrator of the disaster that turned the town upside-down. The murderer never appeared anything other than normal; all the while, the police were scouring the town for the person who was “cracking” and starting to behave unusually. It was a catch-22. The unusual thing (i.e. the cracking) that would have ed the police to the murderer would have been to notice that one person behaving normally in a fracas.