Of all the crime fiction that is written, murder occupies a disproportionately great part of the field. I've never really understood why that is. Is it our fear of death that makes murder such a fascinating subject? And yet many devout Christians, who ought not to fear death, devour Christie and all her get by the truckload. Is it simply that murder is the worst of all crimes? And yet, many consider rape a fate worse then death, but there are not the number of crime books about rapists that there are about murderers, not nearly. Is it just that death, physical death, is the worst thing that can happen to a person? And yet that isn't even an universal belief. History is full of people who considered, for example, dishonour worse than death. We wear poppies every year to honour them.
Be that as it may, when it comes to crime fiction, murder is always the chef's special.
Killers in fiction, however, are not limited to murderers, and in the group of works I have to present to you today, other killers are also represented.
By an odd coincidence, both of these particularly fine murder mysteries are also historical fiction. The Summertime Dead, by Robert Engwerda, is a beautifully drawn portrait of life in a small Australian town in the 1960s. The Bookseller's Tale, by Ann Swinfen, is set in 14th Century Oxford. Both are meticulously researched and both are wonderful reads.
In Trish Dawson's I Hope You Find Me, the killer is a deadly plague, presumably viral, which wipes out nearly everyone in the world. A handful of survivors is left to make their way forward. It's an exciting story, enlivened by a touch of the paranormal, but this is not allowed to dominate and the action remains firmly centred around the interactions between the human survivors.
This chilling short story deals with an unexplained plague of vicious monsters, who overrun everyone in their path, leaving a swathe of - well, not corpses - bloodstains on the ground after their prey has been ravenously devoured. Despite the extremity of the premise, it is written with restraint and beautiful timing. A teasing sampler of Tobin's work.