To summarize, detective stories, like classical dramas, observe a unity of time, lasting from a few hours for short Sherlock Holmes cases to several days for most book-length stories. Within this time, fictional detectives must give undivided attention to the mystery, while often needing to justify their actions and defend themselves and the crime victims.
Police detectives like Leaphorn, Chee, and Maigret risk that superiors in the police department will re-assign the case, or will cave in to pressure from political influences and cancel the investigation. Private eyes like Spenser or the Continental Op worry that their employers will become impatient and cut off their expense accounts or will block activity that compromises their interests. Criminals are always threatening to strike new victims or preparing to escape, and they often brutally attack their pursuers — they always seem to be catching Jim Chee in deserted locations on the reservation and blowing up his truck, they routinely send V.I. Warshawski to the hospital for a night, and they constantly engage Spenser and Hawk in fist fights and fire fights.
With all this rush, pressure, and danger, regular meals are a clear indication of the presence of reality and passage of time. Breakfast descriptions, emphasizing the arrival of each new morning and the state in which the detective finds himself, reinforce the reader’s impression that detectives are committing themselves to their missions with their every waking moment.
Christie, Agatha. Dead Man’s Folly. New York, Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster, 1956.
Christie, Agatha. Hallowe’en Party. New York, Simon & Schuster, 1969.
Christie, Agatha. A Holiday For Murder. New York, Bantam, 1962 (Original Publication: Murder for Christmas, 1938).
Christie, Agatha. The Mystery of the Blue Train. New York, Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster, 1971 (Original Publication: 1928).
Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. New York, Berkeley Publishing, 1963.
Hammett, Dashiell. Red Harvest, New York, Vintage/Random House, 1972. (Original date: 1929)
Hillerman, Tony. A Thief of Time. New York, Harper, 1988.
Hillerman, Tony. People of Darkness. New York, Harper, 1980.
Hillerman, Tony. Talking God. New York, Harper, 1989.
Paretsky, Sara. Burn Marks. New York, Dell, 1990.
Paretsky, Sara. Deadlock. New York, Dell, 1984.
Parker, Robert. Playmates. London, Penguin, 1989.
Parker, Robert. Walking Shadow. New York, Berkeley, 1995.
Simenon, Georges. Maigret and the Apparition. New York, Harcourt, 1964, transl, 1976.
Simenon, Georges. Maigret and the Hotel Majestic. San Diego. Harcourt, 1942, transl, 1977.
Simenon, Georges. Maigret Meets a Milord. Harmondsworth, England; Penguin, 1931, transl, 1963.
Freeling, Nicolas. The Kitchen Book; The Cook Book. Boston, David R. Godine, 1991. (Orginal dates: The Kitchen Book, 1970; The Cook Book, 1972)
Gorman, Ed, et al. The Fine Art of Murder. New York, Carroll & Graf, 1993.
Larmoth, Jeanine. Murder on the Menu. New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1972.
A note from Postcard Mysteries: Mae Sander’s culinary blog is particularly “palatable” to me because of its literary twist. Mae blogs about books—mainly cookbooks—but also travel books and all books with an interesting twist on food. Partly as a result of her influence, I’ve decided to start a separate blog that addresses “all things criminal,” especially fictional crime. Don’t worry, though, the plight of jurors is my special cause, and I promise to keep blogging here until they pry my cold, dead fingers off my keyboard.
Check out Mae Sander’s blog: MAEFOOD.BLOGSPOT.COM