I miss the days when a cop or a PI had to prowl the mean streets to solve a crime. Remember when Philip Marlowe or Mike Hammer would pin a snitch to a wall, duke it out with a gunsel in the alley, or kick in a few doors to track down the bad guys? How about when Columbo would put on the rumpled raincoat, coax the rumpled little car to life, and visit suspects to learn that “just one more little thing?”
Now, on TV and in movies, we see squints pull DNA evidence from a tiny spot of blood or find a suspect in a data bank with a few strokes of flying fingers on a keyboard.
Or they access security cameras from every street corner in the city and spot the getaway car.
Okay, that’s progress. Uberscience and superforensics. Technology has taken crime investigation into a whole new world. On the screen anyway.
Will this eventually have an effect on crime writing?
I know amateur and cozy sleuths don’t have the multi-million-dollar forensics labs to rely on, so they find clues and suspects the old-fashioned way. Same for small town police departments with limited resources.
But in recent years, something has come along called the “CSI Syndrome.” Judges and juries are not satisfied unless prosecutors have the accused’s DNA taken from the victim or, at the very least, fingerprints on a murder weapon.
But I’m wondering if mystery readers will adopt that kind of thinking. Will we who write crime stories, in order to satisfy our readers, have to include more modern forensic science into our stories? Will our fictional protags have to spend more time in the lab and less time on the mean streets?
I hope not. The old-fashioned way of figuring out whodunnit is a lot more fun to write. For me, it’s also more fun to read.