Monday, October 10, 2011

Mysteries: crimes of passion, opportunity, or premeditation?

Whodunit is often-asked as readers settle into a murder mystery, but the challenge to figuring out whodunit is to first identify why the murder occurred. What reason did someone have to commit the murder?


First, let’s think about the different types of murder motivations.

A crime of passion occurs when the act happens because of a sudden strong, overwhelming impulse. Some call this temporary insanity.

A crime of opportunity happens when the perpetrator sees a chance to commit the act and seizes it. Such acts have little or no premeditation.

By contrast, premeditated murder involves wrongfully causing the death of a person through careful consideration and planning.

In summary, murders are conducted as a result of careful planning, a found opportunity, or temporary insanity. Until this post, I thought my books contained varied murder motivations, but my mode of operation has been to vary the cause or emotion (power, revenge, greed, envy, etc.) behind the premeditation.

Spoiler Alert

In my Cleopatra Jones series, the victim in book one, In For A Penny, was killed in a premeditated manner for monetary gain. In book two, On The Nickel, the victim seemed to have been killed via opportunity, but the cold-blooded killer’s revenge included framing two scapegoats.

CALL TO ACTION!


Are murders in cozy mysteries are all premeditated? Any mysteries with crimes of opportunity or passion come to mind? Are the root motivations varied in police procedurals or other types of crime fiction? Are premeditated murders more interesting?

Be sure and leave a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

MORE FUN!!! Scoot on over to my friend Ryder Islington's blog where she also dishes about this same subject - here's her addy: http://ryderislington.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/crime-of-passion-opportunity-or-premeditation/
Maggie Toussaint
Blending romance and mystery into compelling fiction
http://www.maggietoussaint.com/

25 comments:

  1. Hi, Maggie,

    I read all kinds of crime fiction. But I guess my favorite is a whodunit. Whether the crime is planned out or one of opportunity doesn't matter to me as long as the novel has interesting characters.

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  2. I love a planned out murder. Those are ususally the best for trying to guess who did it or how they will get caught. Columbo is still one of my favorite shows to this date. Seeing how the killer got caught was wonderful. If a mystery is done right and the killer planned it, the result should take you by surprise.

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  3. Great post, Maggie! Interesting distinction between the different types of crime ... for me the most important 'thrill' is being surprised when I find out 'whodunit'. Ideally it should be someone who catches you offguard.

    Nancy
    http://chickdickmysteries.com

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  4. Hi Jacquie! I share your love of whodunits and interesting characters. Solving that puzzle draws me through the pages, as does seeing what the characters will do next. Thanks for stopping in. Maggie

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  5. Hey Kathy, I now have the image of Columbo bumbling around in my head! He was a great sleuth. I loved how he could get away with annoying everyone by his attention to detail and they never suspected how smart he was. What a giant in the field of whodunits! Enjoyed your comment and I need to acquire a trench coat so I can pretend to be Columbo! Maggie

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  6. Hi Nancy, We're three for three now with readers who don't have a preference for what rationale was used for murder in books - as long as the puzzle is absorbing. I enjoy putting on my sleuth hat to read other people's mysteries as much as I enjoy writing whodunits. I appreciate the comment. Keep 'em coming! Maggie

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  7. Maggie, good points on why murder - may I throw in involuntary manslaughter? LOL!! I find the Michael Jackson case absolutely enthralling because of the level of risk and stupidity involved.

    I agree with your motivatives for commiting a murder, but I guess what resonates with me is the crime of passion, the temporary insanity.

    In my job as a 911 Dispatcher I hear a lot of crime of opportunities as well, be it murder or robery or burlargy.

    Smiles
    Steph

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  8. Great points, Steph! As a LAPD dispatcher, you're sitting in the catbird seat to see human nature at its finest. Enjoyed your take on the Jackson case. Thanks for mentioning involuntary manslaughter - the I didn't mean it defense! Thanks for visiting, Maggie

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  9. Maggie,

    You offered some great questions, Maggie. In my Sydney Lockhart mysteries all the murders were premeditated with the killers just looking for the right opportunity. I don't think we see a particular motive more often in a certain sub genre. You have given me something to ponder, though. I like the idea of a crime of passion.

    Kathleen

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  10. Such an interesting topic. In real life, I'm always captivated by passional crimes (Simpson. In romantic suspense or thriller, I prefer premeditated murder, because then the murderer has a strongly believable motivation. Crimes of opportunity or passion are too coincidental or easy to explain. Even crime of passion should be premeditated. Otherwise, I get frustrated with the 'satisfying resolution'. That's my personal opinion.

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  11. Hi Kathleen, I must admit that I was shocked not to have any crimes of passion in my portfolio. All "my" murders were premeditated. Maybe that's because I started out as a person who wrote by outline I'm more comfortable with the idea of someone mapping it all out first. It's given me an idea to try something different though. Sydney Lockhart sounds like my kind of sleuth! Maggie

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  12. Mona, You make a very good point. Anything that seems spur of the moment in fiction would probably come off as less than satisfying for the reader, but maybe that would only ring true for the main event. I wonder if I could work in a crime or two of passion or opportunity in a subplot. An idea to ponder, that's for sure. Thanks for visiting! Maggie

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  13. Lots of food for thought, here. After reading the post and all the comments, I don't know which type I prefer. Probably premeditated, though, in fiction, because I like to know the why of things.

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  14. Hi Maggie,
    I love whodunnits! I love to figure out who did it by eliminating motive for each character. :) Thanks for the fun post, and I'm so proud of you and wish you continued success! *Hugs*
    Love you!

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  15. I too like the whodoneit crimes. I also like crimes of passion. I have a story I'm working on with a serial killer whodoneit story line. I'm having fun making the identity of the killer a mystery until the end. Great post, Maggie :)

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  16. Hi Liana, You and are I are in agreement with premeditated being what we prefer in fiction. Thanks for the visit! Maggie

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  17. Good morning, Diana! Thanks for your supportive comments. I knew you were a person who likes to figure out puzzles and motivations because your historicals are so tightly plotted. Wishing you all the best with your new release! Maggie

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  18. Hi Adelle, Your new story sounds fabulous! I can't wait to read it. There's something about serial killers that draws us, even unwittingly, like a horror movie, where you feel compelled to watch the action play out even if you are peeking between the fingers you're holding over your eyes. (sorry for the run-on sentence, LOL). Best wishes for all your endeavors! Maggie

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  19. I love a good murder-mystery, especially when it's not immediately clear who did it but the clues are there. Premeditated murders are usually more satisfying because the killer deserves the justice he/she gets. In a crime of passion, it seems that both sides are victims (of a sorts).

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  20. Very interesting discussion. Glad you started it, Maggie. I was surprised when you mentioned the temporary insanity. I know that is used a lot as a defense gambit, but I thought the law enforcement term was crime of passion. A couple is having a down and dirty fight and she decides to club him with the fireplace poker.

    That said, I don't think any type of murder is exclusive to any one type of mystery story. There are plenty of impulse murders in cozies and hard-boiled, as well as the planned ones.

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  21. Great post, Maggie. I thought I posted earlier, but I see it's not up. I'll try to reconstruct what I said.

    As a reader, I like anything that makes me turn the page, however the murder is committed. I'm not big on amateur sleuths because the plots always seem contrived to me. I mean would you want Jessica Fletcher as a friend? Murder follows her wherever she goes. Columbo is another story. I loved that show because of his wily character.

    As a writer, I like the flexibility to control my killer any way I want, whether premeditated, accidental, or as a crime of passion. Looking over my books, however, all my murderers planned their deadly deeds, so I guess I'm Machiavellian when it comes to the actual act. What does that say about me?

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  22. Hi Keena, It's interesting how you say both sides are vicitims in a crime of passion. I honestly had never thought of it that way. That's one of the thing I love about blogging is that you see things from different perspectives! Thanks for the comment! Maggie

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  23. Hi Maryann, Temporary insanity is a defense name for the crime of passion. When you are so overcome by emotion that you act in an uncharacteristic manner, and especially if you commit a crime, I consider that a temporary insanity. I'm interested in reading a cozy with an impulse killing. If you come across one, please send me the recommendation. I'd like to see how they do it! Thanks for the visit and the thought-provoking comments. Maggie

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  24. Hey Polly, I can't make any comment about your personal character since I have only written premeditated murders as well. You and I are tarred with the same brush! Someone else mentioned Columbo as their fav sleuth. I think his personality added so much to the role, and of course he always beat the killer, or wore them down! I'm so happy to have all these murder comments. Who knew murder was so popular??? Thanks for dropping over to Mudpies. Maggie

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