Thoughts on Criminality

by Cooper Young

So, by signing up for the whole “Post-A-Week” thing I’ve also signed up for the helpful email prompts.  While I hadn’t planned to post until Monday, I can’t very well ignore the emails until I’m ready; it would be both rude and restrictive to my creativity.

Today’s topic was the theory of the “perfect crime”.  I was immediately excited; let’s just say that what little French I know comes from asking my mother to translate Christie’s Poirot for me and my current “reward” movie (the one I watch when I’ve written myself into satisfied exhaustion) is Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder, recently replacing Murder on the Orient Express and Murder by Death.  I like murder mysteries.  I always have.

I don’t, however, write them, and it was this realization which abruptly deflated my imagination.  Sure, I might have a lot to say, but does it really have a place in my blog about the trials of writing a science fiction tragedy?

Of course it does.

The violence which I write and the multifaceted themes which surround said interpersonal tumult easily lend themselves to a discussion of criminality.  For example, in the first book alone we see a murder by torture, undeniable treason, regular murder, the beating to death of a killer by the victim’s father, child abandonment, more treason, and an attempted murder involving a combination of telekinesis and stabbing.  Crime I have.

My attention turned away from the treason and abandonment simply because when someone uses the phrase “the perfect crime” they mean murder.  I went ahead and threw out the whole torture aspect as well; it was a war situation and the individual felt no need to hide his crime.  We turn then to the suffocation of a prince by his best friend, her subsequent confession and death at the hands of his father, and a woman placing a knife in the hands of an enemy soldier in a successful attempt to have him off her romantic rival.  The first and third of these are secret occurrences, known only to the criminal and the victim.  In pondering these, I have come up with the following answer.

Is it possible to commit the perfect crime?  Yes, but only under very strange circumstances: the killer must not have any moral belief that contradicts their actions (either because they  are amoral, because they believe their victim inhuman, or because they believe they serve a higher moral purpose) and the victim must be complicit.

I give you these examples:

In the first instance I discussed, the prince was a willing victim asking to be sacrificed for the greater good.  The killer got away with the crime without suffering even the least suspicion, until- doubting the morality of her actions and eaten alive with guilt- she confessed her crimes willingly and begged for execution.  Let us call this The Tell-tale Heart Scenario: the killer is free but trapped by compunction and often led by it into peril (justifiable though it may be).

In the third instance, we have a killer without conscience attacking an unwilling victim.  Belief in her own righteousness is not enough; she finds herself battling her victim as opposed to working with her toward the same end.  Such struggle invariably leads to clumsiness on the part of the perpetrator and rebellion on the part of the victim; mistakes are made.  In this case the killer is caught but forgiven by her opponent who then begs the courts for mercy on behalf of her assailant as she dies.  Let this be the Dial M Scenario: the killer believes lacks compunction, but is undermined by the unwillingness of the victim.

In the second instance, however, we see a man who believes he is exacting justice on a victim who believes the same.  There is no protest and no consequence; he feels no need even to hide what he has done.  There is nothing for the writer to do but fade to black.