It is Wednesday, the day the Wicked all weigh in on a topic. Today, we’d like to talk about the role justice plays in cozies. Justice prevailing is part of the author/reader contract, but what does that look like? Is it happily ever after? Does everyone go to jail? Or can there be other forms of justice that are more satisfying for the reader?
Julie: I read a lot of detective fiction, and have a particular fondness for the Golden Age authors. Christie, Sayers, Marsh, Allingham. One thing that strikes me, as I reread some of them, is that justice wasn’t always the guilty party going to jail. Poirot, or Wimsey, often offer the guilty party a “gentleman’s” way out. In rare cases (some very famous), no one is brought to justice. (I am not going to mention titles, since I want people to read them). These days, justice feels like the need to bring order back to the community. Usually that requires someone going to jail.
Barb: Like Julie, I want to be careful of spoilers. But I don’t think justice necessarily means someone going to jail. Sometimes, the perpetrators die themselves before the court system gets involved–either at the hands of the sleuth or an avenging victim. Sometimes there is no chargeable crime. I’ve also seen the opposite done masterfully–i.e. someone has to go to jail because they’ve broken the law, but their punishment doesn’t represent “justice.”
Jessie: For me, in cozies at least, some of the justice comes from truly horrid people getting bumped off. It may be vigilante justice but sometimes it feels so satisfying for detestable characters to get their comeuppance.
Edith: Agree with all of the above. Justice can also be a character who does something bad – less bad than murder, perhaps, but bad – but then makes up for it by doing something good, perhaps dying in the process. Could even be the villain who regrets his or her deed and takes him or herself out of the equation in some way. In cozies, readers expect some form of happy ever after, although it’s sometimes tempered by a not-so-happy teaser at the very end that will lead to the next book.
Liz: I’m a big fan of deserving villains getting their comeuppance – but like Jessie, I’m fine if that means they meet their demise. Jail is fine too, but sometimes an equally horrid end is even better given the crimes they committed. This is true for me in both cozies and other mystery fiction where the ending doesn’t necessarily have to be happy.
Readers: What’s your take on your justice? Tell us your stories.