I started reading Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series on the recommendation of a mentor in my first career. It must have been around 1997.
“You should read these.” Steve said, “They’ll make the disasters in your life feel small.”
“I don’t read mysteries,” I replied, “I’m really bad at them.”
“You’re not supposed to solve them. Just go along for the ride.”
This advice launched my adult mystery reading career. I’d been an avid Nancy Drew fan as a kid, but that’s another post.
Steve was right about Stephanie Plum, and about mysteries. I went on to devour Evanovich, then all of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series. Parker became a role model for me. If you’re a fan you’ll see some hat-tips to him in my Penny Wade books. There’s also a big nod to Janet Evanovich. See how fast you find it.
Something I love about Parker is that he addressed an important social issue in each of his books and he did it well. He took the time to do research including interviews with professionals such as detectives, juvenile justice workers, etc. He was deeply thoughtful about the nuances of social issues like gangs, prostitution, and drug addiction.
Mysteries are really just novels with some convention of form, many of which authors break. They are generally written at a pace that keeps the reader engaged and wondering. But the goal isn’t for readers to solve them, in fact, the author’s goal is that when the mystery is solved you think “Oh! That makes sense, but I hadn’t thought of it.”
Try Janet Evanovich for light mystery with lots of humor, Robert B. Parker for a sensitive gum-shoe, and Louise Penny for beautiful, glorious, deep and complex mysteries.
…and yes, my protagonist’s name has many reasons, and one is an acknowledgement of my author-hero Louise Penny.
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