Gunshots, Thieves and the Dark Side of Humanity

Piedmont Island is a serene, fictional setting in northeastern Minnesota where trouble outnumbers residents. Sure, the occasional murder takes place there. A dead body is practically a pre-requisite for each book of the trilogy. However, my readers know I write to entertain and they expect ‘cozy’ stories that provide suspense and mystery, but not the harsh reality or brutal truth of the real world.

This past weekend, shoppers in Toronto’s Eaton Centre food court were stunned when a gunman opened fire, killing one person and injuring six innocent bystanders. Averaging more than one million shoppers per week, Toronto’s Eaton Centre is not only a shopper’s mecca, it’s also a tourist destination in a wonderful city known as “Toronto the Good”.

While this event is a tragedy on so many levels, I found one eyewitness account as disturbing as the shooting itself. He reported when the alarm sounded, the majority of people exited the shops and building without a backward glance. A few, however, saw the shooting as a personal opportunity to steal tee-shirts, jeans, make-up, literally whatever they could grab as they darted to safety.

Who does this? Who hears gunshots and thinks “Cool! Let’s commit another crime!

Is this a new phenomenon or are certain individuals ‘programmed’ to seize an opportunity whenever it’s presented? Why do the majority of citizens conduct themselves in a socially appropriate and caring manner, while others stray, intentionally hurting others for personal gain?

I don’t have any answers, but the suggestion this opportunistic behaviour is based on one’s age is misguided. It’s not just teens who take advantage. Ask any investor who’s lost their lifesavings in a Ponzi scheme, and odds are they’ll say they not only trusted the individual who cheated them, they liked them. They had no idea this person could act with such disregard toward others. 

As a law-abiding person I’m nauseated by Saturday’s events and my prayers are with the victims and their families. As a writer, I continually strive to understand the complexities of human nature and figure out what makes people tick. Watching and observing both good and bad behaviour (at arms length), as well as writing and reading ‘cozies’ allows me to cope with the real world.

What about you? What does your reading habits say about you and how do you deal with the darker side of humanity?

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