Life Offline—An Analog Mystery

It’s not really a mystery

I got a new job on the East Coast which meant I had to relocate from Colorado. Almost the only mystery was whether I could cover the 1600+ miles in three days. I did it, arriving at my hotel at 1 am. (You cannot pick up an apartment key at one o’clock in the morning.) I solved the mystery of whether I could report to my new job by 8 am, a mere seven hours later, when I arrived at 7:45. And I stayed awake all day!

True confession

One thing I did not do, was much of anything on the internet. Between so-so connections in hotels to long stretches on the road, I didn’t have much time for social media or web surfing. Now, I have a confession. (What’s better at the end of a mystery than a confession from the culprit?) I didn’t miss being online. My almost entirely (I did download audiobooks from Audible to listen to while I drove, I used DoorDash to order a meal a couple of times, and I posted a collaged photo of Fruit Loops and a Big Mac—not from DoorDash—on Instagram) analog road trip was a nice break from the constant post-and-response of social media and the clickbait of the web. I felt nostalgia for my pre-digital childhood.

Absence makes the heart grow curious

My three-day digital detox also made me think about how technology has changed crime fiction. I love classic mysteries, those written during crime fiction’s Golden Age between the World Wars. Back then, waylaid letters and cut telephone lines served as plot devices. Nowadays, unless it’s a historical mystery, sleuths zoom, text, post, and tweet just like the rest of us. My sleuth, Gethsemane Brown, had her cell phone stolen at the start of the series. She replaced it by book three. But being without a palm-sized computing device didn’t hamper her much as everyone around her had theirs. Some modern-day crime fiction, like Cate Holahan’s Her Three Lives, hinges on the ubiquity of high-tech. Doorbell cameras and DMs have become the digital age’s plot devices.

Your Turn

What do you think? Would a modern mystery sans tech intrigue you? Or would it be too unbelievable? How could a sleuth be denied internet access these days? Maybe they could be sent on a road trip? Share your thoughts here, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

One comment

  1. Welcome back to the east! (New England, I hope?)

    I write contemporary as well as historical, so hi-tech in the past was a telephone in the home or a new motorcar. In the present, my sleuth can have crappy reception or an old battery.

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