One of my pet hates is reading about a killer who just, um, kills. There are no reasons given as to why he’s become this axe-wielding maniac. The reader simply has to accept that he has. Maybe he was born evil. We don’t know. We’re not told.
I like my own fictional killers to have valid reasons. The motivation can be lust, greed, love or a dozen other things. They can, after suffering years of some particular torture, be driven to kill. Or perhaps events during their childhood have damaged them beyond repair. Whatever, I need to know why they kill.
One of the most notorious killers in the UK was Harold Shipman. Shipman was a family doctor who, at one time, practiced about 5 miles from my home. (Yes, I’m SO glad I didn’t book an appointment with him. :)) He was found guilty of 15 murders and was believed to have been responsible for around 250 more. Many of his victims were elderly, most were women. He was sentenced to life imprisonment but hanged himself in his cell on the eve of his 58th birthday.
So what made this man a killer? Why, when working in a profession that exists to save lives, was he compelled to take lives? I don’t have any satisfactory answers and that really bugs me.
His family were Methodists and he was very close to his mother who died of lung cancer when he was 17. She was given morphine by the family doctor to ease the pain, something Shipman witnessed, and, years later, this is how Shipman killed his victims. He administered lethal injections of diamorphine, signed the patients’ death certificates and then altered their medical records to indicate that they’d been in poor health. But why? Was witnessing his mother’s slow and painful death reason enough to turn him into a killer? I don’t know.
What about you? Do you need to know why a killer kills? Or can you just accept that he/she does?
(Oh, and don’t forget that there’s still time to enter our Independence Day prize draw. There are lots of books up for grabs, including my Dylan Scott mystery, DEAD END, that was released on Monday. All the details are here.)