It’s All Hannibal Lecter’s Fault

As of late, a kind of disquiet has taken over me. I used to pride myself to look at life in wonderment but as of late, the wonderment had diminished somewhat, only to be replaced by a mild irritation and frustration, a feeling that can be wisely summed up by the famous expression: “Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.”

Of course, when you look at life and you feel it’s dull, there’s only one solution short of emptying your savings account and going traveling around the world to find yourself and a new perspective in life (well, I may have done something like that, but more on that later) and at the risk of going Sesame Street on your ass, the only solution, as I was saying is…to read.

I used to be a ferocious reader. Really, I was very ferocious, I would bite people if they interrupted me whilst I was reading. But somehow, post school and university, the ferocity mellowed down quite a bit. Where once I used to carry a new book with me all the time – now, not so much. Heck, I sigh these days when people interrupt me as opposed to biting them.

But as I’ve mentioned before, the beginning of the new decade meant that we turn over a new leaf. I’m starting to read again. I want to broaden my horizons, my experience and open my mind…and beat Eizwan’s current reading scorecard. Ever since he started his new job, Eizwan had stopped driving to work and opted to commute instead. And during his commute, he reads, frequently finishing two to three books a week, whilst being squished by smelly and sweaty commuters.

And of course, everyone knows that it simply isn’t right he reads more than me. I AM THE SELF-PROFESSED (MYSTERY) WRITER. AND BITEY READER.

Yesterday was a public holiday. Usually, we spend our holidays lazing about in bed, thinking about doing chores and then not actually doing it, thinking about cooking an epic dinner and then getting lazy sometime before dinner and then going out to eat. So yes, we pretty much stare at the ceiling together during the holidays.

But yesterday was different. You see, my scheming thoughtful self wanted to beat Eizwan broaden my horizon and I announced to him that after we do all our chores, plan for an epic dinner, we are going to Kinokuniya KLCC to look for books after having lunch there. Little did he know, this was part of my plan of um, broadening my horizons

We finally headed off to KL around 3pm yesterday after well, thinking of doing chores and thinking of doing an epic dinner. I had looked up various mystery novels and some books that I could buy whilst I was there. Eizwan was thinking of buying some IT books and so off we went.

I love mysteries. Whilst most girls grew up reading romances, I used to throw myself into mysteries. I started with good old Nancy Drew before graduating to my favourite author ever, Agatha Christie. My aunt gave me her collection of Agatha Christies. I devoured the novels, Hercule Poirot quickly becoming my favourite detective and I was compelled to learn French so I could understand Poirot – he occasionally peppered his anecdotes in French and I felt like I was missing out when I did not understand.

I’ve grown to love police procedurals since then, not as big a fan of private detectives as I used to be. But I’ve noticed that mystery novels aren’t what they used to be. Someone on the radio commented that there are an awful lot of serial killers in the fictional world these days and I hate to say that is true. I picked up two novels recently – one, a forgettable mystery that involved some sort of insurance claim, and Henning Menkel’s Kurt Wallender series – and, despite adoring Inspector Kurt Wallender, the poor Swede who whined how hot it was at 23 degrees C, they both dealt with serial killers.

Serial killers don’t fascinate me. Strangers stalking and killing at random is never going to be as delicious as the death of a seemingly wonderful individual, of whom as you read further, lead a secret life, and everyone who claimed to love him or her, secretly hated him or her and wanted him or her dead.

Wonderful stuff.

I was looking for that yesterday – that kind of engaging plotting that makes you wonder, whodunnit? I identified a few and set off to look for it. Unfortunately, after trawling through they mystery section from A to Z, I couldn’t find the recommended stuff. I did not want to give up and not get a book after traveling so far, and therefore opted to look for the books that won the Golden Dagger awards.

But they all had serial killers.

I’m done with serial killers. Very much done with them. The last mystery novel I’ve read that did not have a serial killer was gosh, nearly three years ago, when my friend D lent me Michael Nava’s The Little Death, a gay mystery novel that was wonderfully gritty and I think Ruth Rendall’s novel. But while I really liked Michael Nava’s writing, Ruth Rendall didn’t do it for me and I’m left without an author to follow.

I was quite disappointed that the trip was for nought. Eizwan bought an intellectual book, Reza Aslan’s No god but God, on my recommendation (who in turn was influenced by Rae) just to make the trip worthwhile and then bought me macarons from Harrods to cheer me up. Although I suspect that it was less to cheer me up, but more to feed his addiction. I introduced Eizwan to chocolate macarons about a week ago, and since then, he still tears up at the memory of eating them and speaks of them daily, fondly.

Later that evening, at my parents, I browsed for book recs online. As I went through them, I found myself getting profoundly angry. Most of the new mystery novels featured online were about serial killers. First pet peeve. Second pet peeve. They were all written in first person perspective. I hate, hate first person perspective. I personally feel that it’s laziness on the author’s part as opposed to actually sitting down to write but that’s irrelevant if the story can be good. Third pet peeve, there are so many books with epic titles but the synopsis can be well-disappointing and so insular that the interest wanes. If the title suggest the bone breaking, please have something as gory inside as opposed to kids finding their way in life after their mum abandons them or something.

I tried to whine to my cousin and my brother about it – except it’s less whining than shouting over the new American Idol. In between youngsters and Steve Tyler wailing at the same time, I had to shout over my complaints. I thought no one was paying attention to me since the tired old American Idol was commanding more attention than moi – when my brother responded:

“It’s all Hannibal Lecter’s fault. Everyone wants to write an epic serial killer after him.”

Huh. Is it true? Certainly, in my mind – no other fictional criminal in any police procedurals commands as much fear and respect as Hannibal Lecter. And certainly, I can’t think of fava beans without associating it with brains (Though I can’t think of brains without associating it with zombies, but that’s another story for another time). And it is tempting to come up with a foil to your hero, the Moriarty to your Sherlock, the Master to your Doctor, your Voldemort to your Harry Potter etc. the last two aren’t even mystery novels.

Still, it’s a shame though – I would much prefer to find out what would motivate one to kill, finding out the secret lives that people lead. Later in the evening, I found these two books that I’m going to take a risk on: Bloody Women by Helen Fitzgerald, about a woman who is about to marry, and as she ties up loose ends, she finds all her exes have been murdered, and naturally, she is the prime suspect. The second is Shadowplay by Karen Campbell. The book caught my eye since it revolved around a female DCI and a violent crime. I love strong female protagonists, so that would be something to just try out.

The other two books I plan on buying: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen – this book has caused so many people to froth at their mouths, including a harrowing play-by-play by Rae as she reads the book on Twitter, so I must check it out. And The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. I’ve heard about this book for a while, and I’ve heard how harrowing it is – so I have to wait till I’m mentally prepared enough to read. Books have a greater effect on me than movies and tv shows. It just sticks with you for a long, long time.

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3 comments on “It’s All Hannibal Lecter’s Fault

  1. raihanaaaa says:

    Eeyurgh, I need to finish Freedom. I got halfway through before having to put it down and walk away because I, er, got a little too emotionally involved with the characters.

    Let me know what Eizwan thinks of No God but God though. I frankly think they should make it compulsory reading for all Malaysian Muslims, especially the bit about the word “Allah”.

    • Adlina says:

      I haven’t read No god but God yet, and neither has Eizwan, we’re caught up in this kids’ novel: Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles. As a rule of thumb these days, I try to get my understanding of Islam from Western intellectual sources vs Malaysian ones.

      Finished Freedom yet?

  2. raihanaaaa says:

    Heh, nope. I was reading Keith Richards’ autobiography, and then I got distracted by a couple of magazines that arrived in my mailbox, and now I’m reading Paul Auster’s Hand to Mouth – A Chronicle of Early Failure (I need a break from Keef). It’s apparently about his early years as a poor writer, which is kinda fitting given I’m having cash flow issues at the moment, haha.

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