Portraying evil. The serial killer motif in the contemporary European detective fiction (selected works)
The article discusses the serial killer motif in the European detective fiction, the distinctive features and basic psychological factors which make up the general image of a serial killer. The article looks at the literary — and thus artistic, fictional — portraits of serial murderers, either based on real psychological research and forensic science or drawing on popular stereotypes. The study deals with the European literature, especially Scandinavian, French, German, and Italian. The bulk of the Polish literature of this kind makes it suitable for separate examination. The distinctive features of serial murderers, as found in their literary counterparts, are: high IQ, almost exemplary social background, and their family’s negative effect on their conduct. Combined, they arouse murderous instincts. Certain modifications of reality can also be found, such as female serial murderers — often featuring in literary fiction, but rare in reality. The article attempts to shed light on the popularity of the serial killer motif in Europe, especially among its northern societies and cultures — seemingly secure and not threatened by crime. Against such a background a disturbing, traumatic picture of an intruder, a serial murderer, can be drawn — and seen as a transgressive element. The serial killer theme receives a surprisingly generous treatment in the European literature. Artist visions show serial killers as alienated individuals, crossing the boundaries of the established order.