As you may have deduced from the title, as a writer, I’m not fond of the concept of the Master Criminal. You know the ones I mean: Wo Fat, Dr. No, Goldfinger, Red John, Mr. Hyde, those guys. Vindictive, relentless and merciless, they are responsible for a list of despicable fictional crimes as long as your arm.
I blame Conan Doyle. He was probably among the first to introduce such a character in his Sherlock Holmes stories: Professor James Moriarty. “He is the Napoleon of crime, Watson. He is the organizer of half that is evil and of nearly all that is undetected in this great city,” Holmes declares in The Final Problem. This fellow held all of London’s criminals in his sway. No crime, however petty, escaped his knowledge and was likely launched at his instruction.
If you want me to stop watching a TV show or quit reading a book, simply introduce a criminal mastermind rubbing his hands together and cackling in fiendish glee and I’m outta there. Why is that, I wonder? And why is it I am loathe to have such a villain in the mysteries I write?
That’s not to say that my villains aren’t intelligent. One can be extremely evil and highly intelligent at the same time. In fact, a bright villain makes a better adversary for my hero or heroine to engage and makes for a more challenging puzzle for the reader. So that’s not the problem.
So why don’t I have criminal masterminds in my books? Here are a few of my reasons:
Ellen Edwards Kennedy, aka E.E. Kennedy, is the author of a cozy mystery series about a high school English teacher. The stories are set in the Adirondack region of NYS, where she grew up. The fourth one in the series, Incomplete Sentence, will be released February 1 by Sheaf House Publishers. Ellen and her husband live in North Carolina. Her website is www.missprenticecozymystery.com
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