fearful symmetry

by Megan Abbott

The murder of Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen is the kind of story I always feel drawn to. While the conspiracy theories, which are always my favorite theories (why even call them “theories”? and what isn’t a “conspiracy” really?), continue to fly, the case actually seems to have settled itself, after a fashion: The gun of the “person of interest” who took his own life “appears ” to be a match with the one used to kill Chasen.

My response to this news was a keen disappointment of which I’m slightly embarrassed. First, the resolution (if it is that…) violates my crime writer/reader sense narrative dictates, or even justice. It can’t be the lone robber who kills himself before he’s caught. That’s always the red herring. It’d be like Owen Taylor, the chauffeur in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, being responsible for everything that transpires in the novel, including the disappearance of Rusty Regan, which launches the tale. It’s just not good enough. It doesn’t sing.

I remember, for all my complicated feelings about the Jon Benet Ramsey case, experiencing a secret, a sneaking disappointment — a narrative disappointment — when it became clear that the murderer was likely an intruder and not one of the family members. What an awful personality feature, I know, but there it is….

Sometimes, of course, the solution, the resolution is simpler than we’d like. But isn’t simplicity sometimes a trick? A phrase from Chandler’s novel that I’ve never forgotten kept ringing in my head this week:

”It seemed a little too pat,” Chandler’s detective Philip Marlowe reflects. “‘It had the austere simplicity of fiction rather than the tangled woof of fact.”

P.S. This last quote particularly apt, given that famously sneaky fact about the chauffeur The Big Sleep. We never do definitively find out who kills him, in the book or the movie.

2 Comments to “fearful symmetry”

  1. One funny thing reading the LA times coverage was that all these amateur sleuths were poking around in the comments sections analyzing the clues–and criticizing each others detective skills!

  2. But wait, I wanted to say, you really think Jon Benet Ramsey is solved?

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