Why are we fascinated by stories of crime and mystery?

Why is the crime and mystery genre so popular?

I don’t have any original suggestions, but I guess it’s because…

We are fascinated by mysteries. This may be built into us through evolution since it gives us a survival advantage to find answers to mysteries. Knowing something gives us an advantage over not knowing it.

Stories tell us something about life. Being drawn to and fascinated by stories helps us learn something about our culture, about people, about life, and ourselves. This too gives us a survival advantage and may well be built into us through evolution.

Stories can help us get in touch with different sides of ourselves. Just like a dream, all the different characters, settings, and dynamics in a story reflect something in us and our life. This is inherently fascinating, even if we are unaware of this aspect of it.

It’s part of our current western culture. We may have childhood memories of watching, reading, or listening to mysteries and it feels familiar and comfortable.

It’s comforting to see fiction crime solved. It gives us a temporary sense that everything, or at least something, is right with the world. (There is a reason there is a resolution to nearly 100% of crime and mystery stories. It feels more satisfying to most people.)

If it’s part of a series with recurrent characters, the setting can feel comfortable and familiar.

If we experience our life as generally safe and predictable, it can give us a temporary sense of suspense and mystery. It balances out our daily life.

It’s a distraction from our own life. It’s fascinating. It’s not our life. So it helps us temporarily “forget” about our own life with our all-too-familiar challenges, boredom, or whatever it may be.

Image: From NRK’s radio drama Jernvognen.

The seed for this article: During a recent illness, I got back into listening to old classic Norwegian radio drama from NRK.

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