Keep your dirty crypto mitts off my mysteries
I can’t stop crypto from bumbling its way into the modern mystery genre, but I can be annoyed about it
Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock modified by Blockworks
If you read my bio, you will see that one of my favorite things to talk about is detective novels. And if you read the hook for this crypto column, you will see that I have (almost) free reign to write about anything but crypto.
So what happens when one of my life’s greatest passions — the detective genre — somehow absurdly crosses paths with one of my life’s greatest indifferences — cryptocurrency?
In my lifetime, I’d say that I’ve read probably around 500 detective novels. If you think that amount is high, you’ve never seen how fast I can read. I love the classics, so the majority of that 500 were written before I was born, and hence before the invention of crypto (you’ll never find Hercule Poirot or Lord Peter Wimsey solving the case of the missing NFT).
But at a certain point, my classic murdery mystery pipeline ran dry, and I started to branch out to novels published in this century. And now, no matter what I read, I keep bumping up against…cryptocurrency.
It doesn’t matter what book I choose: while before, motives for murder and blackmail revolved around dancing too closely with a foreign stranger, sibling rivalries over who would inherit the family estate, or missing secret documents that could change the course of history, today’s fictional murders revolve around what is essentially a bunch of computer code.
Take Death Comes to Marlowe, set in a cozy English town with a 77-year-old motherly amateur sleuth in the center role. She and her similarly elderly friends are trying to solve the locked room murder of a lord the night before his wedding, when one of these friends begins acting suspicious.
Does she know who the killer is? Is she protecting someone?
Nope! She’s just been hiding her accidentally made cryptocurrency riches, after she realized how “immoral” crypto was. Cue this conversation between the sleuth and her friends:
“If you’re in debt, there are all sorts of organizations that can help.”
“No, it’s worse than that.”
“Worse than being in debt?”
“I invested in cryptocurrency.”
To shake off the taste of this unexpected cryptocurrency red herring, my next new murder mystery was as far from the English countryside as I could go — to the Chinese neighborhoods of San Francisco to read Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers.
This detective, a tea expert obsessed with finding her son a girlfriend, finds a dead body in her tea shop and decides to solve the crime herself. But then, amidst a fascinating, cozy mystery told from the Chinese immigrant perspective, NFTs just have to creep their way in — one of the motives for murder is that the deceased was running an NFT scam, stealing art students’ work to tokenize it without their permission.
I can’t seem to stop crypto from bumbling its way into my genre.
It’s 2023, and when authors are looking for inspiration as to why a character needs to be brutally murdered by a candlestick in the library by Colonel Mustard, NFT scammers are as good of a suspect as anybody. Actually, when you really think about it, if you’ve been looking for evidence that crypto is finally achieving that mainstream adoption everyone wants so badly — this might be it.
Because surprisingly, I haven’t yet seen any of these new detective writers bungle what cryptocurrency actually is. The use of crypto in these murderous plot points, while annoying to me personally, actually gets the technology right. Yes, crypto can still be the punchline, but the complexity of a murder motive being questionably legal art tokenization shows that these authors are really doing their own research.
But just because it’s now socially acceptable to include crypto in your murder mysteries doesn’t mean that I have to like it.
If anyone has any recommendations for a murder mystery that does NOT mention crypto, NFTs or blockchain, my DMs are open.
I don’t care much about tech, I don’t care a whole lot about finance, either. I care about writing stories and watching weird things unfold. And that’s why I’ve ended up in crypto.
But because I’m missing that passion for what crypto and blockchain are all about — finance, tech, privacy, yadda yadda — I’m going to write instead about what I am actually interested in. Everything about crypto that has very little to do with crypto.
That’s what this column will be about. All the tangential stories that come out of the blockchain and crypto space, what I think about them, and how I navigate it all as a skeptical former Russian literature major.
It’s precisely my perch as an outsider that lets me do what I do: Opine on all sides of any crypto issue, no strings attached, no skin in the game.
If you want to talk crypto with me, let’s go off topic.