I started the week by spending much of my time reading The Falls, an Ian Rankin detective story chronicling dark deeds in Edinburgh, and watching Case Histories, a BBC dramatisation of Kate Atkinson’s detective stories chronicling dark deeds in ditto.
I can understand why crime writers are attracted to Edinburgh, which (like me) looks particularly impressive in poor lighting – all broody and dark, or, as they like to say in crime circles, noir.
You only need a shot of Arthur’s Seat, some dark alley or Edinburgh Castle by moonlight to set the scene and put you in mind of wild and bloody stories – notably Burke and Hare or Dr Jeykll and Mr Hyde (and is anyone else puzzled that Robert Louis Stevenson chose the name Jeykll, which sounds jagged and threatening, for his genial hero and Hyde, which sounds cuddly and reassuring, for his murderous anti-hero?).
There seems to be a relationship between successful crime fiction and northerness; apart from the works of Ian Rankin and Val McDermid (Scotland), the biggest detective stories of the moment are probably the Wallander series (Sweden), The Millennium Trilogy (ditto) or The Killing (Denmark).
I think shorter daylight hours must help – imagine trying to create dark atmospheric thrillers in Eastbourne, which, says Eastbourne, has more sunshine than anywhere else in Britain and has yet to produce a credible tough-as-nails detective.
Smoking also establishes a fictional detective as being a bit of a character; both Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus and Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie smoke rather a lot in gloomy rooms, which tells you they are fiercely individualistic, maverick types who don’t live in Eastbourne.
And while I’m at it, has anybody ever invented a tough, charismatic, troubled detective (all the best detectives are troubled) who doesn’t drink too much? Hetty Wainthropp and Father Brown don’t count.