The human brain has the consistency of a bowl of porridge. That information was provided in the first sentence of a book about the brain that had just come in the mail and that I was starting to read as I bit into my sandwich. Forced to choose, I opted for the sandwich and never did get back to that book. And that was a book by an expert and no doubt highly enlightening and educational for a stronger-minded reader.
So it’s not surprising that I don’t buy mysteries featuring gruesome descriptions of autopsies for light entertainment. But after avoiding the pathologist protagonists of Kathy Reichs and Patricia Cornwell, I found myself reading Tess Gerritsen by mistake.
On top of all the mutilated corpses they (and the reader) have to deal with, these (female) pathologists have equally depressing private lives. I’ve only been personally acquainted with two pathologists, both of them reasonably cheerful people and neither of them an alcoholic, so I assume that the unrelieved gloom, doom, and addiction in these books isn’t meant to reflect reality but to cater to an apparently large class of masochistic readers. (For the record, Gerritsen’s pathologist doesn’t indulge in substance abuse, she’s just lonely, isolated, and at least in this book, in love with the wrong man. Outside of this book, she’s Dr. Isles of the TV series Rizzoli and Isles.).
Attention mystery/thriller writers: Here’s my wish list for enjoyable reading for non-masochists.
1. NOT a lot of graphic description of mutilated bodies.
2. NOT an alcoholic protagonist. I understand the attraction of the ready-made plot complication, not to mention the page-filling possibilities as the detective/protagonist spends his/her evening being tempted to take a drink, taking or not taking that drink, etc. etc., but I wish you would resist. I’s rather not spend my evening reading about it.
3. Protagonists who are good company. They do something more interesting in their spare time than mope around thinking of their troubles and an occasional joke or witty remark is welcome.