Did anyone besides me in the whole world read Sharon Shinn’s attempt to write a murder mystery? It was called Wrapt in Crystal,
and it's absolutely bizarre, because the guy “caught” at the end of the book was clearly not the actual murderer.
And I have never been able to figure out
if Shinn knew this or not.
So, the murders were ritualistic and religious in nature - the killer kills a nun from one of a city's two prominent religious orders at set intervals, alternating between the two, and tying a religious relic taken from the last victim around the next one's wrists. As originally established, the murderer would have needed to be a local in order to move around the way they did. The guy the detective caught wasn't from the right planet.
In the only scene in which he spoke, he acted like he didn't know the name of the goddess “his” crimes blasphemed against. His motivation for the assault he was caught in the act of committing was money.
The hero's a guy from another planet (this is basically Star Trek
OC fic, he's a Federation officer) who investigates alongside a nun named Laura, who explains local customs to him, in between waving her tragic past in his face so he'll fall in love with her. He does, and at the end she leaves the planet to be with him.
Laura is obviously the actual murderer.
She'd lived in the city all her life and had the ability to move around it without being paid any special attention or identified later - she even pointed out to the hero at one point that people simply recognized her as "a nun," and didn't pay attention to her face. She was the only character connected to both of the religious orders whose members were being murdered, and she could easily have gotten any of the victims to go to isolated places with her.
She was both the only genuine religious fanatic in the book, and the only character whose devotion seemed to include violence; while she was never shown hurting anyone or herself, she talked about dying and self-harm a lot, generally in conversations associated with her love for her goddess. And while she talked a lot about how much she loved the goddess, she had reason to be feel betrayed by her - the deaths and betrayals of loved ones, her disillusionment with her order.
The final goddamn straw is that she was the last person to have access to the money the ostensible culprit wanted.
way this book makes any sense is if Laura committed the murders herself, then set this guy up when the detective started paying too much attention to her. I feel absolutely certain that she killed him shortly after the events of the last page.
And yet I have no clue whether Shinn intended any of this. It doesn't seem
like she did - but how can you be so bad at writing mysteries that you get your culprit wrong in such a thorough and tidy fashion? I don't think that's possible!
Yet it seems even more unlikely that Sharon fucking Shinn,
of all people, wrote something this sneaky and sharp-edged. So it has to have been accidental. Right?
This is like how Summers at Castle Auburn
was obviously about lesbians, but ended with two straight marriages between people who had previously shown almost no indication of romantic interest in one another. Maybe Shinn sometimes gets possessed by the malevolent spirit of Sarah Waters.
(Originally posted September 24, 2014.