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.
Notice 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 through 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 end—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.
I’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 books—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?