Why Everyone Should Read Mysteries

By now most of you know I love mysteries. I don’t keep it secret; and in fact, I can go on and on about it if unchecked. I swear I’ve seen eyes glaze over and red flags thrown to the ground.

spider-web-309451_1280Notice I didn’t include the word murder. The Harry Potter Series had a fair share of mystery in it and it’s one of the reasons I love it so. Murder only proves the stakes are high, and that common decency is in jeopardy.

Death taps on everyone’s door, eventually. Not many of us need reminding that death is unjust, unfair, and mostly beyond our control.

However, when it comes to murder in a mystery, the reader understands it’s coming. They know that it will happen early in the book and possibly a second time halfway through. And while most mysteries include one or two murders the focus elsewhere.

Great mysteries don’t just solve a crime. The stories are multilayered and cutting flora-312815_1280bthrough all of it is a thin thread that links all the events together. They take a serious look at the human condition; and not only do they recognize wrongs, they attempt to right them. They confirm the goodness in not only the hero, but the rest of the world.

And they wrap this wonderful story in an unspoken challenge: solve the whodunit before the main character does.

Puzzle pieces must be gathered from page one. They must be visible but not glaring, so we have to think at each stage of the investigation to determine who the wrongdoer is. Over and over again proving or disproving a choice. Then beginning again if hitting a dead endβ€”no pun intended.

With or without the reader’s success, justice will be served by our hero. A hero that can be a stone-hard detective, a young boy at school, or an older woman who knits and listens.

cheer-308040_1280I’ve got a suspicious mind after years of reading these things. I sometimes see clues that don’t exist. Other times, I have two suspects that could do the deed and only one piece of evidence swinging me one way or another.

To me they are the first interactive booksβ€”author against reader. No matter what side you’re on it is fun for all.

Do you read or write mysteries? What do you think?

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52 responses to “Why Everyone Should Read Mysteries

  1. Well said. Exactly why I love mysteries.

  2. Mystery is one of those genres that can (and most the time should) play into other genres. Like you said, Harry Potter has a good dose of it. Shadowmarch, Game of Thrones, Mistborn, and just about every other of my favorite fantasy series have some unsolved riddle that the characters have to tackle. Mastery of the mystery is a good wrench to have in any writer’s toolbox!

  3. I love a good mystery and read them like crazy all through high school. My favorite was Mary Higgins-Clark. She was the master story teller. Her newest stories are good but nothing like her older ones.

  4. I don’t write them, but I like reading them and watching them. In fact, just last night we watched the Hallmark movie version of Charlaine Harris’ Aurora Teagarden mystery, Three Bedrooms, One Corpse. I guessed who the killer was before the end. Sometimes I’m right and sometimes not, but it’s fun to try to figure it out.

  5. So many books can have a bit of mystery in them. Even romances. I have a paranormal-romance WIP that has a lot of action and a few mystery plot lines that unravel slowly. Mystery makes a story so much better. πŸ™‚

  6. I love reading mysteries to see if I can solve the crime before the character does. Most books contain some elements of mysteries, and I think they make them more fun to read.

  7. Cozy mysteries are my favorite. And, as you helped clear up there is another category, the soft-boiled mystery, where you still get some details of the murder, and it can be a central character. My favorite author is Sue Grafton. Mary Higgins Clark says if we are writers and wondering to place our focus, to look at our own bookshelves to see what it is we like to read. I should try writing a mystery play. In fact, I’ll propose that to my writing class next week. I’m teaching 5-12th graders about writing, focus is on play writing.
    (Thanks for all your encouragement on my blog.)

  8. I love reading the spine-tingling thrilling stories!

  9. I don’t think I’ve read very many mysteries–I’d like to try some. Any recommendations?

  10. I don’t really write mysteries or suspense, but I love reading them, especially when there are awesome twists and turns. I recently read I LET YOU GO by Claire Mackintosh and found myself gasping, turning back the pages, shocked and thrilled. Loved it!

  11. I like the mystery aspect of mysteries. I think any story needs a sense of mystery to be truly engaging, but I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of murder and mayhem…unless it’s supernatural. =)

  12. I LOVE a good mystery, some of my favorite reading. I am always hoping to be surprised, unable to figure out the ending until I get there. Happy reading, Anna.
    sherry @ fundinmental

  13. I’ve always loved mysteries but it’s really sad how terrible I am at figuring out the murderer. I’m so terrible that if by miracle I do figure it out I feel like the author probably didn’t do a good job LOL. But I love being surprised so I really don’t mind that my detective skills are pitiful.

  14. I love books that leave me picking out clues and trying to guess who did it. I try to create suspense and mystery in my books, hoping to lead readers astray.

  15. I like reading mysteries although I don’t read them as much as I used to. Reading the Nancy Drew series was my first foray into mysteries. The last mystery I read, though I feel that the book’s genre fell more into the suspense category, was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I’ve yet to write a mystery but I do have three mystery story ideas filed away.

    • I don’t think I read that one. By the time I discovered the story it was a movie series and I watched those instead. I liked it but, no I didn’t feel it was a mystery either. πŸ™‚

      • So I’m not the only one who thinks that, thank you. I’d always wondered why they labeled it as a mystery/thriller. But then I read somewhere that the mystery/thriller genre does better in the market compared to suspense. So I started wondering if that was the reason why, because it really didn’t feel like a mystery. Oh well. I’ve only read book 1 and seen the movie. Not in the mood to read the rest of the series, as the author died before editing and polishing the following two books.

  16. Wonderful post. I’m a mystery lover and you wrote about the fantastic elements of this genre.

  17. I think adding an element of mystery to a story always makes it better, no matter what genre it is.

  18. I love mysteries of all kinds, and all good books have an element of mystery, even if it’s just a slow reveal on a character’s crucial backstory. As a writer, the tricky thing for me is weaving the clues in at the right spots. I have a tendency to hold back too much for too long a time, which makes the story less interesting. You’ve got to put some bait on the line to hook the reader. You can’t just promise them that worms are coming later and expect them to bite!

  19. I’ve always loved a good mystery. I’ve discovered it’s universal, too, Anna. I’m reading my boys a girl’s mystery novel at the moment, and they’re totally engrossed, because at the core is a puzzle. They love it!

  20. I’m with you on loving mysteries. I particularly love it when I’m baffled until the very end.

  21. Yes to both questions. I’ve always planned to read more of Agatha Christie’s work. She was a true master of the game.

  22. I enjoy a good mystery and will read a wide variety of them.

    I love complicated stories that pile a little bit it all in wrapped in a mystery, as you say, not necessarily murder. In some way, a large majority of all stories carry some sort of mystery, but when ask do you read mysteries I think of murder mysteries.

    Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit

  23. Great post.
    I’d never be able to write a murder mystery… but I like to mix mystery into my stories πŸ˜‰

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