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THE ART OF READING DETECTIVE FICTION

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message 1: by Diane (new)

Diane Holmes (diane_holmes) | 10 comments This is SUCH a good blog post! Love your 5 questions. They're actually pretty genius. ;-)


message 2: by Reacherfan (last edited Oct 23, 2016 07:10PM) (new)

Reacherfan | 84 comments Interesting approach to the nature of mysteries. It's author vs reader, which is true. But I've found if you binge read any author, you get a feel for their 'tells' and often know not only who will be murdered by who the killer will be and why.


message 3: by Jame (new)

Jame DiBiasio Fun post. I'm more into thrillers and hardboiled than whodunits, but the principles are similar. One author I encourage you to read with this in mind is Keigo Higashino. He writes technically brilliant murder mysteries, but his puzzle for the reader is not to untangle the identity of the killer - that is often revealed early in the book - but the motive. In other words, it turns the reasoning in Gary's book on its head. Give Higashino a try! "Malice" and "The Devotion of Suspect X" are available in English translation. You won't be disappointed.


message 4: by shanghao (new)

shanghao (sanshow) | 122 comments Jame wrote: "Fun post. I'm more into thrillers and hardboiled than whodunits, but the principles are similar. One author I encourage you to read with this in mind is Keigo Higashino. He writes technically brill..."

Yes, Higashino's works are very enjoyable. Usually, when he writes a book with a whodunnit element, the murder technique isn't made into a puzzle, and vice versa. An example of his whodunnit that I really like is Ryūsei no Kizuna (The Meteor Connection, roughly translated). As with his other works, the motive is a main element although the real puzzle here is the identity of the murderer. The tone of the book is also much more optimistic than his other works. Hopefully it will get translated to English soon.


message 5: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Reacherfan wrote: "Interesting approach to the nature of mysteries. It's author vs reader, which is true. But I've found if you binge read any author, you get a feel for their 'tells' and often know not only who will..."

I would agree with that thought, Reacherfan. There are some authors that you can almost bet will make the villain the last person you expect it to be, so you start looking for that person.

The one thing that really bothers me is when authors leave out key information which is revealed, along with the villain, in the last few pages thereby not giving the reader a chance to figure out what is going on.


message 6: by Richard (new)

Richard T. I have written a Sherlock Holmes story -- that's sort of a mystery -- I enjoyed your post and would be interested in any feedback should you care to read it. It's called "The Vatican Cameos: A Sherlock Holmes Adventure."

Thanks,

Rich


message 7: by Richard (new)

Richard T. Thanks so much. Your post intrigued me but I don't think mine fits neatly into the genre


message 8: by Richard (new)

Richard T. I think part of the appeal of Holmes is the economy of Doyle's writing hound is less than 60,000 words. It's tightly written. In some ways very reminiscent of the prose of Hemingway


message 9: by Jame (new)

Jame DiBiasio Just finished "White Butterfly", an Easy Rawlins mystery by the great Walter Mosley. I thought the plotting was brilliant. Mosley saves the big reveal for the near-end, and it's poignant. Other classic LA noir writers have a surprising villain behind the original murder - Chandler and Ellroy always had either corrupt tycoons, their families, or high-up politicians ultimately behind the crime. Mosley sticks to the recipe without being formulaic. It took a little while for me to process the full implications of the murder and its motivation, and it's a punch to the gut. Recommended.


message 10: by Michael (new)

Michael Santos | 8 comments Great post! I'm an avid "whodunnit" fan and one of those readers who buys a book because I want to try to solve the author's puzzle. It really is like playing a game, as Sherlock puts it.

Loved your points about the reader : detective :: author : villain dynamic. Always admired the way Conan Doyle maintained that relationship, even if not every story can be considered a true fair play mystery. Something I'm striving for as I write my own crime fiction.

My favorite modern day murder mystery is David Baldacci's novel, Hour Game. It has a very complex puzzle, a wide cast of characters with intriguing motives, and detailed forensic and procedural info (if you like that, too). Hope you check it out!


message 11: by Danyal (new)

Danyal Fryer (danyalfryer) | 5 comments Fantastic post! I second Michael above me. "Whodunnits" and, to a larger degree the whole genre itself, are interactive.

Some insightful ideas that would benefit authors and readers alike - will definitely be recommending this to my students who are taking their first steps in the Creative Writing world.

I would be interested in discussing this further, my Twitter is @DanyalFryer if anyone wants to talk (or here if more convenient).


message 12: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Willis (stephenjwillis) | 63 comments What an interesting blog post! I think your five points are very clever, and I am going to try it out on the next mystery I read. Tbh I have never been very good at working it out before the detective, so I shall now give it a renewed go!


message 13: by Deb (new)

Deb Jones (feisty56) | 99 comments I read through your entire piece, even though I'm often a "passive" reader when it comes to whodunits. Now, though, armed with your suggestions I can decide if I'm going to race the author to the punchline or play along with the story's detective. It's always good to have choices.


message 14: by Justin (new)

Justin (justinbienvenue) | 211 comments I say there is an art to reading it just like reading any other genre although the way one goes about reading detective fiction differs from others.


message 15: by Tony (new)

Tony (flintflash) | 84 comments What a GREAT post! I have just started getting into the "Whodunnit" type mysteries and just read a couple Agatha Christie books. LOVE THEM! Picked up some Sherlock Holmes and will be checking out many of the other suggestions here! Thanks so much!! :)


message 16: by David (new)

David Chill (usciceman) | 11 comments Interesting essay. As a writer f detective fiction, I never viewed myself as the real criminal, but rather a scout that leads the reader down various paths, some worth venturing forth on, others not.

But it is true that I always challenge the reader to try and solve the crime before my protagonist, Burnside, does. The alert reader sees the breadcrumbs to follow, and then has to decide if they'll lead them to the culprit.

I obviously throw in some surprises and diversions to keep things interesting. If I'm successful, I will outwit the reader so that when the villain is revealed, often hiding in plain sight, the reader will go "Of course! Why didn't I think of that!"

Easier said than done, of course!


message 17: by Chris (new)

Chris Porter | 1 comments Wow, I never even thought of such a perspective. I have done many investigations, though I was never a policeman or police detective, so as a reader I have always enjoyed watching a well crafted investigation unfold, with all it's blinds, dead-ends, and actually useful leads, or at least tried to do so, and then watch all the usual features fall into place during a "reveal," which is the only way to enjoy a Sherlock Holmes style story where most of the key evidence is kept from the reader until the reveal, which is why Doyle could be so sparing in his word counts! If I figure something out ahead of the investigator in the book, that's great; if not, I may look at the reveal and ask myself why I didn't, but it's not a big deal to me! As an author, I try to show that investigative process, with both its successes and its pitfalls, while keeping the reader interested and entertained! I don't try to conceal anything, but I only present evidence that the sleuth would reasonably come up with by doing whatever he or she is doing!


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