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So You Want To Commit Novel: Why Mysteries?

Originally published August 2010

 Why did I, a fantasy writer, choose to write a cozy mystery?  Because I read cozies for fun.  Reading science fiction and fantasy can be fun, but it’s also part of my job.  I have to approach it with a different mind set.  Mysteries I can gobble whole.  After indulging in hundreds of them I thought I had to turn my hand to the genre.

Which leads me to another thought: mysteries almost always involve a murder, a heinous crime.  Even though we don’t see much violence on stage in a cozy, the threat is there.  By reading mysteries are we endorsing violent crime and the death of another human being?

I don’t think so.  Part of the formula of a cozy is that the villain always gets caught and pays for the crime.  Well almost always.  But in the few cases where the perpetrator gets away with it, the author paints the victim, and the person who takes the blame as truly awful people who need to be removed from society.  I’m sure there are police procedural mysteries, or hard-boiled detective mysteries where the murderer remains free.  But its cozies that attract me.  The ordinary citizen with an insatiable curiosity who solves the puzzle.

That seems to be the key: puzzle.  Whether it’s a jigsaw, crossword, or jumble of stereo wires, the human mind seems to want to make order out of chaos.  There is a thrill to finding the elusive piece that finishes a big section of the jigsaw, or remembering an obscure word, or getting the right arrangement of components and wires.

And that is why I wrote a mystery.  I needed to lay out all the pieces and put them together properly so a reader can follow the convoluted path of discovery along with me.  And I have to admit, I didn’t know who done it until half way through the first draft.

I hope you enjoyed the journey with me.

Phyllis Irene Radford is a founding member of Book View Café and blogs here irregularly.

Four of the Whistling River Lodge Mysteries are now available on the Cafe. You can join Glenna McClain and Craig Knutsen in their adventures as various groups visit the lodge.  “Whistling Down the Wind,” “Whistle While You Plow”, “Whistling Bagpipes,” and “Ghostly Whistles.”

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1 thought on “So You Want To Commit Novel: Why Mysteries?”

  1. The mystery genre seems to me to be the modern descendant of the Medieval Mystery Plays with much of the same sort of coreography.

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