Found an interesting article in The Independent which asked a good question and then spent its entire length not even beginning to address anything close to an answer. The point was made that even though recorded crime has reduced, why is there a surge in popularity in the fiction crime genre?
The piece then became a strange wandering around a New Orleans book show where semi-naked women were more important than dealing with the issue at hand. To be fair, I think that says much about the state of the Independent (it was, where you?) rather than anything to do with crime fiction.
This leaves us with the question: why do people enjoy reading about death, dishonesty and the devil? Hmm. I feel the need to introduce a German word: schadenfreude. We love to watch other humans suffer and crime is all about suffering. An individual has lost something (property, their health, their life itself) and another tries to heal them. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not.
Decades ago, I recall talking with a friend about Stephen King’s non-fiction essay on the horror genre, which focused on the idea that we are all obsessed with death. King and the existentialists were right.