• Susan Rowland, Author

Brexit and the Planet in Mysteries

Updated: Nov 22, 2019

Last week I found my first mention of Brexit in Alice Boatright’s What Child is This? An Ellie Kent mystery set at Christmas complete with real life abandoned baby in the nativity crib, and a missing student plus a predatory king masquerading as a supportive teacher. So what about mysteries and those other provocations to violence, political controversies that lead to disorder and despair. Green Letters, a scholarly journal of ecological literary criticism recently put out a volume on eco-crime fiction. This is a bigger and more contested category than might first appear. While crime fiction plays with what constitutes a crime when social rules vary so much across cultures and for some, the rulers are the bigger criminals, perhaps mysteries revolve around murder because that is the one violation that a society must solve if it is to survive. But what if the victim is not a human being but the eco-system? On the one hand, crime writers easily incorporate environmentalists, pollution and corruption associated with the Climate Emergency into murder stories. On the other hand, perhaps the genre itself with its obsessive repletion of killers and clues is using the desecrated corpse as a metonym for assaulted nature? Might killed human-nature stand for the poisoning of planetary nature?

Again, to come back to Brexit, as I write, there is a UK Election which is supposed to solve Brexit, although we know it won’t. Might crime/detective/mystery fiction provide a lens by which the violent emotions generated by Brexit be made visible, even solved? Brexit has already had at least one real historical murder in the slaying of a pro-Remain MP. Just as a few fictions have included 9/11 in some remote piece of their plotting, how appropriate is the white heat and raw emotion of Brexit (so fare unsolvable) to a genre dedicated to the difficulty of ascertaining the truth? I would like to suggest that mysteries are the opportunity for white magic (white because dedicated to clarity, understanding, generativity and love) to counter the black magic inflicted through and by politics (black because careless of other people’s lives, livelihood, the truth and the health of the planet since the EU is far more attuned to addressing the Climate Emergency). Magic is dangerous without artistic genres to process the spells and the witches writing them!


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