It’s my favorite time of year, a time when the air turns crisp, everything is apple or pumpkin flavored, TV shows and movies have long-anticipated premieres, and many of the best books of the year hit the shelves. It’s the time when a pumpkin can mean something delicious or something terrifying–yummy scone or something hurled by the headless horseman? That suspense, that not knowing– mystery–is what I love about my favorite books. My tastes are diverse, but a great piece of crime fiction is always going to be at the top of my list. Why?
1. It keeps you turning the page. A great mystery drops a body on you fast, and then takes you along on the journey to find out how it got there. Whodunit? Why? How? Will they do it again?
2. It gives you someone to root for–and against. The reader is usually on the side of the detective/amateur sleuth/private investigator and the victim, and hopes the villain will be caught and punished. If it’s a series of mysteries, the detective or sleuth may become a friend you spend time with for years. Whether you like Richard Castle, Alex Cross, Kay Scarpetta, Myron Bolitar, Alex Delaware, Archie Sheridan, Tess Monaghan, there’s someone there for you, even if it’s someone you haven’t met yet.
3. It lets you feel smart. When a reader can guess who the killer is before the characters do–but not too much earlier–it’s a nice “I told you so” kind of satisfaction.
4. It can be scary, yet safe. Some of the best, scariest mysteries are the most realistic. Like riding a roller coaster, you feel the thrill of danger, but you’re strapped in securely and are in no real danger. I can’t promise you’ll be immune to nightmares, though.
5. There’s (almost) always justice. The crime is solved, the killer is not an innocent party who’s been wrongly accused, he or she goes to jail or is killed during attempted capture. The streets of the fictional community can feel safe again.
For me, a mystery is as satisfying as a piece of caramel apple pie, and I’m thrilled to have two smart female mystery writers on my client list. Happy second day of autumn!