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By Linden Peach (auth.)

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Thus, even in the accounts of rural crime, the discourses circulating in accounts of city crime are often all too evident. An example is Ruth Rendel’s Road Rage (1997), which involves the building of a by-pass that will destroy an important natural habitant close to Kingshampton. The way this leads to a narrative about environmental terrorism is typical of the Chinese puzzle box structure of much of this type of crime writing, where the emergence of one element of modernity is often a trigger for another which is more serious and more dangerous and has its roots in urban modernity.

His work challenges the pathologising of crime which sees it in absolute terms, associates it with imagined, alien criminal types, and takes it out of specific social and economic contexts. It is, therefore, worth bearing in mind in contradistinction to the emphasis in criminology and crime writing upon urban criminality. It reminds us that alongside the representation of urban criminality, that is easily traceable to Dickens and social realist fiction, there is an alternative, albeit thinner, preoccupation with criminality in the countryside from which emerges a permeable boundary between the urban and the rural.

If the urban badlands are the negative ‘realities’ that mock modernity, in which the criminals are performers in a satanic masque, the rural, at its most romantic and idealised, appears to lie outside modernity. But the rural, perceived as an ‘escape’ from the urban metropolitan, casts modernity itself within a negative paradigm. That particular view of the countryside is often inverted by those, especially the young, who live there and long for the excitement and anonymity of the metropolis. 21 When officially unrecorded crime is taken into account, the countryside and rural communities in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries are often revealed as far less idyllic places in which to live than we might assume.

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