Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Red Herring

RE: Dearly Depotted by Kate Collins

I finished Dearly Depotted today at lunch. As I got closer to the end of the book I figured out 'who done it', even though the author used what is commonly known as a red herring to lead me off the scent. Very clever of her!

Wikipedia has a nice explanation of the term red herring, as I have quoted here:

"In literature, a red herring is a narrative element intended to distract the reader from a more important event in the plot, usually a twist ending.

The term "red herring" originates from the tradition whereby young hunting dogs in Britain were trained to follow a scent with the use of a "red" (salted and smoked) herring (see kipper). This pungent fish would be dragged along a trail until the puppy learned to follow the scent. Later, when the dog was being trained to follow the faint odor of a fox or a badger, the trainer would drag a red herring (which has a much stronger odor) across the animal's trail at right angles. The dog would eventually learn to follow the original scent rather than the stronger scent.

In literature, the most commonplace use of a "red herring" is in mystery fiction. One particular character is described or emphasized in a way that seems to throw suspicion upon that character as the person who committed the crime: later, it develops that someone else is the guilty party."

Here is the link: