We meet several people like that in Agatha Christie’s novels. For instance, in Death in the Clouds (AKA Death in the Air), Hercule Poirot works with Inspector James “Jimmy” Japp and the French authorities to find the murderer of French moneylender Madame Giselle. She’s poisoned while on a flight from
In Christie’s Dead Man’s Folly, we meet Marlene Tucker, a young girl guide. She’s chosen to play the part of the victim when a Murder Hunt, patterned like a Scavenger Hunt, is planned for a local fête. Ariadne Oliver, Christie’s fictional mystery writer, planned the Murder Hunt and has invited Hercule Poirot to give out the prizes – and to look into Oliver’s suspicions that something more is going on than just a fête. Poirot agrees, and visits Nasse House, where the fête will be held. When Marlene Tucker meets Poirot, she’s fascinated by the fact that he’s investigated murders and asks him several questions about the murders he’s seen. Marlene’s keen interest in murders becomes sadly ironic when she’s strangled during the fête. Poirot and Inspector Bland look into the death and they find that Marlene’s curiosity wasn’t limited to interest in killings. She knew too much about someone’s secrets and was killed because of it.
And then there’s Dorothy Sayers’ Strong Poison, in which mystery novelist Harriet Vane is accused of poisoning her former lover Philip Boyes. She’s arrested and tried for the crime, and there’s some compelling evidence against her, too. However, Miss Amanda Climpson, who’s sitting on the jury, doesn’t believe that Harriet is guilty. Her demurral gives Harriet a new trial and Lord Peter Wimsey the time he needs to clear Harriet’s name. Wimsey, who’s fallen in love with Harriet, uncovers the truth about the murder, but Harriet gains quite a lot of notoriety, and the murder itself is the object of a lot of morbid curiosity.
In Ellery Queen’s Calamity Town, the town of
In Dicey Deere’s The Irish Village Murder, interpreter Torrey Tunet is drawn into a murder investigation when wealthy scholar John Gwathney is shot at his home near the Irish
We see a similar morbid fascination with murder in Martha Grimes’ The Man With a Load of Mischief, the first pairing of Inspector Richard Jury and aristocrat Melrose Plant. In that novel, the bodies of Rufus Ainsley and William Small are found at two different pubs in the
We also see an example of morbid curiosity in Ruth Rendell’s The Secret House of Death. Louise and Bob North live in the
There’s just something about a murder that seems to arouse people’s ghoulish interest. We see it in real life, and we see it in crime fiction. I’m not a psychologist, so I don’t know why, but it’s a fascinating phenomenon. Why do you think this is so? What books have you enjoyed that have this theme of morbid curiosity?