'Nice Dress, Take It Off': Crime, Romance and the Pleasure of the Text

Publication year
International Journal of Cultural Studies

The research here is on crime fiction, touching on the similarities between it and romance, as well as on the similarities between the responses of readers of crime fiction and those of Janice Radway's romance readers:

I found many similarities in how the Sisters in Crime members accounted for their reading habits to the ways in which women justified their romance reading in her research, specifically in relation to the theme of escapism. That I arrive at very different conclusions about the function of both romance and crime fiction reading has to do not only with the perceived differences between the two popular genres, but also with my own position as an engaged participant choosing to use a rather different set of interpretive strategies. (71)


In both the popular romance and the crime story there is a quest for knowledge and closure through the restoration of order. In a romance this is the knowledge that one loves and is loved and the closure thus achieved is at the level of the personal. In the crime story the knowledge that is sought is about the nature of a crime and closure is achieved at the level of the social through some form of retributive justice. This concern with the social order is one of the reasons that the crime story has been considered to be a conservative genre, accused of doing little to challenge the ways things are, or rather the way they should be. The romance, it should be noted, has been similarly criticized for its social conservatism on the basis of the personal being very political, at least in the institution of the heterosexual couple. (75)