Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Give me a good (fictional) murder

I'm a big fan of mysteries (as reading material). It's always a challenge to find a good mystery writer because there are so many writers who take the easy street.

To wit (whit?), there is the old "I know something relevant, but for some perverse reason, I'm not going to tell anyone" gambit.

If the person (in the book) actually spilled the information they are withholding, the mystery would only last for 100 pages instead of 274, or whatever.

I hate that one.

Then there's the old, "I knew I was missing something (or had just heard something really relevant), but I just couldn't think what." The character then moves on to sleep, or do laundry and the little something niggling the back of their brain magically disappears until the end of the book.

I know that when I can't think of something, I never let it keep me from sleeping or anything.

I don't buy that one.

Over the weekend, I was reading a mystery by Mary Higgins Clark, a very famous writer.

She employed both these devices, and more. Gee, I know they are relevant, but I just can't think of them right now. Oh, well. I'll think about it tomorrow.

I was very annoyed, especially since these lapses are frequently displayed by a female protagonist.

Personally, I like Ruth Rendell, or her alter ego, Barbara Vine, although even she seems to be on a downswing. My favorite of late is The Chimney Sweep's Boy.

I have been working on a mystery/suspense book for about 12 years now. It's not easy to avoid using these plot devices (or the one used by Patricia Cornwell, where she does not introduce the person who is the killer until nearly the end of the book).

What I can't do is write all that filler - what the sky looks like, what everyone is wearing (heavy cream silk blouses are popular) and other stuff like that. My eyes just gloss over the fluff, anxious to get back to the action.

Except in the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich. Her fluff is usually pretty funny.

If you're still shopping for someone who's a mystery buff, stick with Rendell (Vine), Evanovich, or Sue Grafton. Old P.D. James is also stellar.

If you have some favorites, let me know. I need my good mysteries as much as I need my lattes.

Goodnight and have a socially relevant day tomorrow.



Anonymous said...

I like James Paterson, especially his Alex Cross series and the Murder Club series.

They are a quick read and not very deep but I enjoy them.

Dick Monahan said...

I should be able to say something intelligent here, because I read almost nothing but mysteries for recreation until about 10 years ago. Somehow, I got off onto non-fiction, and have read very few of them recently.

Trying to remember some of the authors I particularly liked, I thrashed around a little on Wikipedia and found this page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Top_100_Crime_Novels_of_All_Time.

Look at the two lists under "External Links". I agree with the top few on each. I've read almost everything at the top of the lists, mostly long ago.

I started with Sherlock Holmes, because we had a "Complete" set in the house. I read a bunch from the library, among which were the Christies. Those really hooked me, leading me to "specialize" in British authors.

Now that I'm thinking of it, maybe it's time I went back to the classics. I'm intrigued by the thought of running down those two lists.

But, I have a whole shelf of unread books behind me, and I'm sure I'm about to receive some more from my Amazon Wish List. Life is full of hard decisions. :-)

Sarah Swart said...

Denise Mina. I think there's a trilogy out by now. I ADORED the first book in that trilogy. The characters are so wonderful that I don't even remember how the villain was identified.