Technology and writing crime

How has technology changed writing crime

A couple of weeks ago I went to the BAD, first crime writing festival here in Sydney and sat in on an entertaining session with Catherine Overington and Megan Goldin. Both are former journalists, now turned crime writers. I’ve been mulling over something Catherine said especially in light of finishing Did You See Melody? about technology and crime.

She said technology makes it harder to write mysteries and crime now because basically there should be cameras about and people have cameras and video cameras in their hands every day – and she’s right.

Did You See Melody? is an example of this, I think – the first half is pretty entertaining and the author uses Youtube to get readers and the “main” character up to speed on the Melody Chapa case there. The author uses the Youtube vidoes quite well I thought, and Cara as the main character was entertaining enough for me to stick with the book and get through Part 1 — which is in essence a massive (and entertaining) info dump about the case driving this book. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Things got unstuck for several reasons in part 2 for me, some detailed in my review. But most of all was Cara’s use of technology — especially at a tense moment when she should actually have been focused on getting mobile instead of getting a message out to her family through Instagram, which as she successfully does get mobile and does return to the spa where all this is going down anyway, why did she stop to write a message to her daughter? Surely there could have been easier ways to get her family into the book.

The situation was awkward and it didn’t make sense because Cara escaped anyway, so the consequences of the message could have been gotten in an entirely different way, than having her stop her escape to send a message via Instagram. Instagram. It wasn’t even a message, it was a post on one of her kid’s pictures… and it befuddled me, and it befuddles me still. I wondered if in the rush to use technology, the author found herself in the most awkward of situations.

The other thing I wondered was, where were the cameras in the spa?? Why didn’t anyone want to check them out to find other characters? Shouldn’t a spa have cameras?

But then I got to wondering — is it me? Am I too conditioned to think of technology like that that these situations seem strange? Has tech changed who I am as a reader?

What experience have you had with technology in the books you read?



  • What a fun event to go too – and interesting topic. I haven’t really thought about it much, but I suppose you’re right. Technology has definitely changed a lot about how crime goes down. It seems like there are cameras everywhere – and if they aren’t in a book, it should probably be mentioned.

    • Verushka says:

      It was heaps of fun, and held in a very atmospheric spot, so that added to the whole feel too. I hadn’t really thought about it this intently before because tech is so much part of our lives. Gave me interesting food for though, that’s for usre.

  • I like it when books include technology, yet not to the point where it’s just to include it. The world is as the world is and although some people dislike seeing current tech (like Instagram, Fb etc) included in books I really think it SHOULD be … Tech is so relevant!

    I think current technology should make writing crime even MORE interesting! But yes, harder on authors.

    • Verushka says:

      You’re right, the point is not to include it for the sake of including it, which is what the Melody book felt like. I think we’re at the stage when if a contemporary book (if it calls for it) doesn’t include it, at this point, it feels weird not to have someone do something on their mobile, or computer for instance. I sometimes think if you are only limited by your imagination you can create tech to do anything, authors just have to sell it well lol!

  • I would imagine with technology being so much a part of our lives these days, writing would harder. Especially crime novels. I haven’t really come across anything that stood to me and bother me so far.

    • Verushka says:

      This was the first one that actively bothered me. I wondered if it was because I’d been to the festival and saw the authors speak.

  • I avoid books that overdose on technology that I don’t use as that kind of thing bores me! If the MCs are constantly on social media and using gadgets all the time I just tune out! I guess I don’t usually read the genres that are more likely to have this stuff in it. When I read I want to get away from the real life over dependance on tech and so on to enjoy new adventures based on plot and good characters. Maybe that’s why I love books where tech is broken and gone in an apocalypse!

    • Verushka says:

      You have a good point — there is no tech in an apocalypse! Books that overdose on tech is definitely a big no for me, but if they’re going to use it, they do need to use it well.

  • Angela says:

    What an interesting topic! It must be kind of hard to incorporate all these technological advances, because they seem to rely a lot on visuals, so it may be difficult to get that across to the reader. A lot of books now incorporate text messages or emails, which I don’t mind much.

    • Verushka says:

      Texts and emails are par for the course, so those I don’t mind. It must be hard, yeah, but things like security cameras and the basics I would hope are easier to incorporate when the truly flow within the narrative. In the Melody book it really didn’t, unfortunately.

  • I would imagine it must be getting harder to write crime novels since I imagine it’s harder to pull of crimes in real life, what with all the technology. That insta thing does sound weird though :-/

    • Verushka says:

      That’s what the authors were saying — the tech does make it harder to pull off crimes, but the smaller stuff like the instagram was just weird. IT’s like why put it in there if it doesn’t add anything to the story?

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