In my opinion, fiction writers rarely choose stories. I believe that more often than not, stories that demand to be told choose someone to tell them. Surely neither Andrew Vachs, Patricia Cornwell, nor other novelists whose works ooze blood and gore derive much pleasure from imagining vicious killers and their deeds. Publishers do derive pleasure from profits and readers there are who enjoy putting money into the pockets of writers and publishers of gory novels. This seems to be a symbiotically cozy arrangement for those involved.
Trouble is that some readers lack whatever it is that makes reading gory stories enjoyable. I am one of those. My view of the world is sufficiently dark–what with ISIS and other mad people creating mayhem globally–that do not I find side trips into the minds of imaginary psychopaths all that entertaining. That is why I see M.J. Arlidge’s THE DOLL’S HOUSE and Fiona Barton’s THE WIDOW as fiction to avoid. The former follows the ghastly doings of a criminal who abducts and starves young women. The later deals with a poisoner and a policewoman who likes to be brutalized. I cannot go into details. I stopped reading both books after the first few chapters.That no doubt disqualifies me from judging them fairly.But the problem is not the writing. Rather, it is the topic I find unapproachable. all masterfully crafted, Having read Nabokov’s LOLITA, John Fowler’s THE COLLECTOR, and Emile Zola’s THERESE RAQUIN, I lean into the universal privilege of readers, that which allows me to refrain from diving into the garbage pit of fictional criminals’ mind. I feel no compulsion to read pedestrian writing about fictional killers just so that I can say with satisfaction that there but for the grace of god go all of us. Writers may abdicate the responsibility of choosing their topics. I, as a reader, cannot. My time is finite, unlike the activity of writers and publishers. No, I will leave these two novels to those who are capable of appreciating them. I certainly cannot.