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Issues
Cityscape as Crime-cape: Reading the ’Urban’ in Anita Nair’s Police Procedurals

By: SOMDATTA BHATTACHARYA

Jack M Bickham, in his book Setting, discusses how "an evocative physical description of setting can transport the reader into the story’s universe." Setting often functions as a mirror of the psychological states of characters and at other times reinforces the structure of the story by linking the different phases of the story. Again, in the case of the genre of mystery and detection, scholars have definitively recognized the significant function that setting plays. Setting is what often binds crucial elements of plot, characterization and point of view in crime fiction. Gillian Mary Hanson, in City and Shore: The Function of Setting in the British Mystery, elaborates on the merits of "city" and "shore" as settings of works of mystery. She posits that in such settings, often the space "speaks for the character and mood." Though country homes and closed, small rural-scapes have been exploited as the setting of memorable works, ". . . quite distinct in their topographical features, the settings of city and seashore in the mystery do share thematic aspects such as alienation and the carnivalesque." Whereas alienation can play out in the interactions strangers have with established communities when they have suddenly and newly arrived, Bakhtin’s idea of the "carnivalesque" forges new mode of interrelationships among individuals, which in turn reveal hidden or dormant aspects of human nature. In city settings, Hanson believes, the carnivalesque can "represent a powerful theme of evil and moral decay, a distortion of truth and human values." This is why crime fiction and the city have always been deeply entwined,necessarily because of the scope for anonymity and individualism that a city provides to its citizens, outside the safety nets of community existence, conditions often leading to crime and criminality.


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