Perplexing Plots

Crime fiction has fascinated audiences for centuries. Moreover, crime-based tales have been depicted across a wide range of storytelling mediums, including literature, theatre, radio, films, and television. Employing numerous creative devices such as multiple perspectives, muddled timelines, and unreliable narrators, they have happily entertained audiences determined to know the full, true story.

David Bordwell’s Perplexing Plots: Popular Storytelling and the Poetics of Murder examines crime fiction and its plot devices across different mediums. He notes a sophistication in this particular genre, pointing out that audiences know they are going to be toyed with as part of engaging with the story. Bordwell analyzes the work of various popular crime fiction writers, including Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Agatha Christie, and more in order to familiarize readers with plot engineering tools. As many crime fiction stories have been adapted for film and television, Bordwell goes on to discuss these depictions in addition to noting how today’s crime fiction storytellers are influenced by ones who preceded them, tracing the evolution of the genre over time.

Bordwell’s work is exceptionally well-researched and offers fascinating examinations of plot devices, patterns, and structure in crime fiction. This book is sure to be enjoyed by fans of crime fiction and film noir.

Perplexing Plots: Popular Storytelling and the Poetics of Murder is available for purchase via Columbia University Press.