WOE BE TO the novel protagonist that finds out a loved one is complicit in a serious crime. At such a moment, a wonderful gap opens in both the character and reader. This is someone the protagonist cares deeply about, and that someone is in big trouble. Worse, now that the main character knows about the crime, she might be in trouble too. While enjoying such a story, I typically try to massage the law in my head. I hope to prove to myself that the protagonist’s knowledge of the crime and not coming forward about it is not, in fact, a crime itself. I try remembering past episodes of Law & Order, search my mind for fictional or even real examples of characters or people escaping prosecution despite full knowledge of the offense. These are moments fiction writers strive for. The reader so deeply empathizes with the protagonist that she actively engages in the story. Such legal math seems integral to the pleasurable reading of crime fiction.
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