|Image by Mr Clementi, via Flickr|
I just looked up Homicide in my grandmother’s UK-published encyclopaedia, published in the UK in 1913, a useful resource for me as my Daisy Dalrymple mysteries are set in England in the 1920s. It directs me to two other entries: Manslaughter and Murder. My 1964 American encyclopedia agrees.
Disregarding accidental homicide, what is the difference? Basically, it’s “in the heat of the moment” versus “malice aforethought.”
I have no statistics—I doubt anyone has ever compiled any-but based on my own writing and reading I’d guess a large proportion of mysteries have homicides that can be classified as manslaughter, not murder.
This doesn’t make the chase any less urgent, however. Usually the detective can’t tell which he is dealing with, and in any case, he doesn’t decide. That’s up to the courts, once the arrest has been made. The suspicious death has to be investigated just the same whichever it looks like at first sight.
The uncertainty can be used to add to the suspense, especially if the main suspects are likeable, so that the reader is rooting for them.
Of my three covers here, one has malice-aforethought murder, one has in-the-heat-of-the moment manslaughter, and one remains questionable in spite of multiple unnatural deaths. At least, that’s my opinion, standing in for the Coroner’s jury.
|Carola Dunn is author of the Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries, Cornish Mysteries, and multitudinous Regencies. The paperback edition of Superfluous Women is now available to pre-order.|