I don’t often enjoy reading books that are really dark, unsettling, and morbid, but this week’s Classic Couple is certainly an exception. Published a little over a decade apart, Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez (1981) and The Secret History by Donna Tartt (1992) both have similar structures as murder mystery novels with a twist.
Answers your question before it is even asked || Both of these novels waste no time telling the reader exactly what death will occur by the end of the story. Rather than reading to see who has died, you’re reading to learn under what circumstances they died. When I first started reading The Secret History a few years ago I was a bit dubious about this format– after all, how interesting could it be if you already know who is going to die? Well, I stand corrected. Tartt’s attention to detail as well as the convoluted, bizarre plot and intriguing characters made the novel even more engaging and interesting than I had initially anticipated. Chronicle of a Death Foretold definitely confirms the effectiveness of this inside-out format with its suspense and ability to pull readers in from the very first page.
Complicates the notion of blame || One of the most interesting aspects of these books is the way they complicate the notion of blame. To a certain extent, one could argue that numerous people are involved with the deaths of Bunny and Santiago Nasar alongside those who literally, physically killed them. A sense of communal blame is especially prominent in Chronicle of a Death Foretold, in which basically the entire community knows that the two Vicario brothers plan to murder Nasar but no one actually tells him. Should these people also be held responsible for the death of Nasar? Should they be considered accomplices in this crime? Or are they simply bystanders trying to do their best to stay out of trouble? These are the sort of questions that make these kinds of novels so difficult to put down.
Still surprising and suspenseful || Despite the large amount of information presented in the beginning, these novels still manage to be surprising and suspenseful. In particular, I was taken aback by how unexpected the deaths felt at the end even though I had plenty of warning ahead of time that they were coming. I think convoluted plots play a role in this surprising feeling (particularly in the case of The Secret History, in which many bizarre events occur), as do the gory details and the suddenness of the event after so much leading up to it. All at once what was a mere story for so long abruptly becomes reality, and the brutal force of the death is hard to swallow.
If you’re ever in the mood for a different kind of murder mystery, definitely check out these haunting, dark, lyrically written novels!
Click here to check out other Classic Couples from past posts.
What are your thoughts on these books? What other books could they be paired with? Let me know in the comments section below!