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Posts Tagged ‘mysteries’

I’ve been an inveterate reader of mysteries since my Nancy Drew days, and Asakiyume, who follows my mini reviews of mysteries and other books at GoodReads, suggested that I blog about what I think makes a good mystery. Maybe other readers of these books will chime in.

I like a book that is literate by normal fiction standards. There should be at least one likable character, several plausible perps, no cliches, and loose ends tied up in the conclusion. You should be able to look back in the story and see that clues were carefully laid, and not just in the last quarter. But the clues should be puzzling as you read along. The reader’s brain should be engaged at all times, trying to figure out where the plot is headed.

I like the bad guys or gals to be caught, not to die a natural death or commit suicide, which always feels like a cop-out.

Some people say that Bleak House was the first detective mystery. Dickens certainly sets a high standard for all the measures I value.

I am often drawn to a mystery because of a locale that’s exotic, at least to me, and I find that many authors, even if they have a weak plot, do research into the setting that I appreciate. Still, I may have to take a long break from this genre as I am getting extremely frustrated with increasing inconsistencies, carelessness about plots, typos, and the hostility to readers that starts to appear when authors feel too much pressure to keep churning out more books.

It’s hard to define what I mean by hostility to readers. I noted it, for example, in Martha Grimes, Walter Mosley, and others I once loved but had to stop reading. It has something to do with throwing favorite characters at the reader in a perfunctory way with no new shades. It has something to do with the bones of the formula being too visible, to the point that you can almost see the writer at her desk with her chart of what has to happen in each chapter. And it has something to do with endings that fail to tie up loose threads. I often feel resentment from an author about the pressure from readers to keep delivering this exact sort of book when perhaps the author would prefer to tackle a completely different genre.

Inspector Bucket in Bleak House, by Charles Dickens.

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