Do you love crime, like me?Young Sherlock Holmes - why we love crime

We’re not alone.

Turn on the TV, go to the cinema, walk into a bookshop – crime is everywhere.

Yet, ironically, crime statistics are going down all round the world. Are we just perverse?

Here’s my theory as to why we love crime stories.

It goes back possibly a hundred thousand years or more to the earliest humans.

The tribe gathers to hear about how one of them managed to escape a sabre-tooth tiger, or discovered a new plant that isn’t poisonous.

It’s a gripping story, for the simple reason that the audience’s lives depend very much on it.

If the story-teller is telling porkies, and you believe them, you may well find that trying to copy them gets you killed.

So, audiences got pretty good at telling truth from lies, and sensing when a narrator is reliable or not. Those who didn’t, probably didn’t live long enough to pass on their DNA.

Sometimes, the storytellers might make something up. They might take all their experiences about sabre-tooth tigers and create a fictional hunt based on how things might go.

But still, the same rules applied.

Fast forward.

Many thousands of years later and the dangers we tell each other about have changed.

Instead of tigers and poisonous plants, they tell of murderers and fraudsters (and, OK, maybe a few deadly plants too).

The fears we face in modern society are reflected in our novels and movies: failing to partner up and procreate (romantic comedy and tragedy), falling short in society (drama) … and becoming a victim of crime.

They also include other, more invisible, fears.

– Threats like alcoholism, failing marriages, and the like.

And this is where it gets particularly interesting.

We still need to learn how to be brave, but differently. To learn such skills as how to deal with addiction, have relationships, or manage feelings such as fear, anger, etc.

So we love crime stories with inner dimensions.

Our heroes don’t just grapple with physical enemies but also inner demons. They tackle crimes – but they also get drunk, violent or divorced.

And just like those Neanderthal audiences, we learn quickly to detect whether the storyteller can be trusted, is talking from true inner experience, even if the story itself might be fiction.

Because, in many ways, whether it’s the Bible, Hamlet or Poirot, our lives still depend on it.

Do you love crime? Feel free to give me your own theories. Or tell me about your favourite crime stories – or indeed unfavourites.