Literature about crime, or crime stories in general, hold their interest for one of two reasons. In the first case, exemplified by, for instance, the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, we are presented with a mystery that, through various twists and turns, gets solved. This is exciting and satisfying. We didn’t know who done it, then we get to know who done it. The second kind of crime writing is more illusive. Crimes may get solved, but the question of “why” often takes precedence over “who.” The question of who is relatively easy to answer: it was that guy. The question of why is more intractable. It tends toward a lengthy regress. OK, he did it for the money or for love, but, still, why? In the novels of James M. Cain or Georges Simenon, for instance, there are crimes and those crimes are sometimes solved. But buzzing around the Who and the What is a troublesome Why that often does little more than buzz. The novel ends and the buzzing fades away, only to reemerge in the next novel. Once, in an interview with Giulio Nascimbeni, Georges Simenon was asked about a recurring dream. Simenon replied, “Yes, it’s true. It was night and I could see a large and calm lake, reflecting the moon. Black mountains rose around it. I arrived from between two of these mountains, I looked at the lake and the moon, and that was it, nothing else happened.”
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