Published online by Cambridge University Press: 14 April 2022
In this chapter we argue that a predominant concern in many contemporary European crime novels is the consolidation of a democratic culture that protects the rights of citizens and upholds the rule of law. Drawing on a wide range of literary texts from across the continent, we analyse this overall ambition via three of its major manifestations: democratization as seen most clearly in post-dictatorial transitional societies, the treatment of immigrants as an indicator of inclusiveness and social equality and the honest discussion of the national past as the foundation for a healthy democratic culture. What these three themes have in common is that they embody our greatest social aspirations while at the same time being vulnerable to horrific criminal aberrations, which is why crime fiction is a particularly apt medium for analysing and understanding them. This duality forms the basis of one of the master narratives of European crime fiction: the story of how the unsettling and often dangerous process of uncovering crime is the precondition for a more perfect democratic society.