My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Given the concerns about representations of violence against women in popular culture, I often wonder about women who write violent crime stories. And women who like to read or watch violent crime stories. I am sympathetic to the critiques of the parade of brutally abused female body parts across our screens and pages; and, from what I’ve gleaned of Tara Moss on the periphery of my Twitter feed, she certainly wouldn’t be advocating a sensationalising of violence against women, despite the fairly graphic descriptions in this, her first novel, of the proclivities of her villain, dubbed the Stiletto Killer.
So, what is going on here? Why do I like these psychological thrillers? Why have I watched Cracker, Wire in the Blood, Prime Suspect and so on over the years, where sooner or later a woman is going to end up sexually assaulted, tormented, and, very likely, ceremoniously murdered? Why have I already decided that I’m going to listen to Tara Moss read the remaining five novels in her series, where Canadian Makkede Vanderwall, part-time international model-part-time forensic psychology student, pursues her friend’s killer, attracts psychopaths at every turn, all the while continuing to earn her qualification and fall in love?
The answer can’t be a kind of Stockholm Syndrome, or desensitisation in the face of countless such representations; none of us are stupid, either. This is perhaps why I’m not convinced by arguments that uniformly decry such depictions; I get fairly impatient with the prescriptive nature of them; and then I don’t really say anything for fear of not being a Good Feminist. Let me be clear, I’m not criticising feminism or feminists here; indeed, using a critical feminist perspective, I have to conclude that something else is going on here–it has to be.
I suspect that so many women write, watch and read violent crime as a way of working through fears about violent crime. Perhaps these fears are unfounded; perhaps they’ve been exacerbated by these very kinds of stories. Still, this is what is reassuring about the crime genre: the fears and anxieties about violence are contained in the pages or pixels of the stories and, in the end, the detective triumphs over the killer and she is all the much stronger for it.