I recently read Henning Mankell’s novel The Man From Beijing. Mankell is the author of the Detective Kurt Wallander mysteries, which my wife and I discovered on PBS.
Mankell has a remarkable ability to imbue his mysteries with a palpable sense of evil. This is not easily done. I’ve read several current murder mysteries that try to do this but fail. Not all murder mysteries strive for this mood, of course. But for those that do, I was intrigued to see how, and examined the techniques authors used to cloak their stories in a foreboding sense of evil.
My first observation is that the examination of motive must go beyond a simple psychological explanation. It must raise moral and even philosophical questions.
Second, the murder must be horrific in some way.
Third, the protagonist’s attitude must match, not disrupt, the mood. Brooding silence seems to work quite well. And certainly, the protagonist has to show a level of moral gravitas that counter balances the evil in the villain.
What are your insights?