Did everyone get to listen to my Internet Voices Radio interview? (see previous entry). I’ve been told by various friends and relatives that it’s fun, and it’s still available for several more weeks. The ironic thing is that I haven’t heard it yet. Mercy, I hate to admit this, but I can’t get it to play. I click on the “play” button, and nothing happens. I’m such a computer idiot. If anyone has any ideas, feel free to let me know.
I notice that since I’ve been blogging over at www.typem4murder.blogspot.com every Saturday, my entries on this site seem to be getting shorter. It’s difficult to be regularly witty on one site, let alone two. But we persevere.
I’d like to write a little bit about mystery writing today, but before I do, I simply must mention that I picked up Carolyn Hart’s new book, Death Walked In, today. It’s another Annie Darling mystery, set on one of the South Carolina barrier islands, featuring mystery bookstore owner Annie and her husband Max. In each of these books, Annie hangs five paintings of scenes from mystery novels in her bookstore every month. Then at the end of the book, after Annie has solved her own mystery, she gives away copies of the novels depicted to whichever of her customers figures out what books the scenes are from. Imagine my delight when I saw that in Death Walked In, one of the paintings portrays a scene from one of my books! I’ll leave you, Dear Reader, to figure out which scene and which book. I love Carolyn Hart, both as an author and as a human being. She has really been good to me as I start out in this business. She’ll be here in the Phoenix area (Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale) on May 1, and I’m going to be privileged to introduce her and MC her appearance.
On April 12, I’ll be going down to Sierra Vista, AZ, (southeast of Tucson) to conduct a historical mystery workshop for their chapter of Sisters in Crime. Consequently, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes a good mystery novel. Of course, the point of a mystery is the puzzle – figuring out whodunnit. But the thing that makes a mystery novel different from an existential novel is that justice is done in the end. I think that is one of the reasons that fans like mystery novels, because unlike real life, things usually turn out the way they are supposed to. Of course, that doesn’t always mean that the killer is punished. Sometimes it’s more just when the killer gets away with it. Remember Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express? I did something similar in The Old Buzzard Had It Coming. The killer may or may not be punished, but justice was still done — when the victim was killed! Dorothy Sayers had Lord Peter allow the killer to take the gentleman’s way out on an occasion or two. Ellis Peters was very good at moral amibguity, which is one reason I love her books, especially the Brother Cadfael series. The resolutions of those novels are usually very clever and perhaps not what you might have suspected. One of my favorite resolutions was in her novel Monk’s Hood. The victim wasn’t a pleasant man, but he wasn’t evil and didn’t deserve to die the way he did. The killer shouldn’t have taken the action he did. Cadfael figures out who did it and why, and confronts the killer, but in the end … well, let me just say, I was taken aback by what happened. Was it justice? I think yes, and mercy, too.
And that’s the mark of a truly successful mystery. We don’t just find out who did it. We are given a just resolution that satisfies us right down to our toes.