Why Mysteries Matter

By my reckoning, this is my last blog post until January 2016 (with TKZ’s regular winter hiatus coming up) and I thought it was important, especially given recent tragic events, to end the year on a more hopeful note – focusing on why, for us as writers and readers, mysteries still matter, perhaps more than ever.

When I talk at book events I’m often asked why I chose to write a mystery. My answer is that I actually never originally set out to write a mystery but rather a hybrid of a range of genres with historical fiction at the core. However, before I sold my first book, my agent felt the book really fell squarely within the mystery genre and that is how we pitched the book to potential publishers. I’ve since found the mystery/crime fiction genre to be an ideal vehicle for my work – providing a framework which enables me to explore characters, history and events in a way that also keeps me focused on keeping the reader engaged.

As a reader of mysteries, thrillers and crime fiction, I also enjoy being transported to different eras, places and the deeper (often darker) aspects of humanity that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to experience. Mysteries provide me, as a reader, a vicarious means through which I can try and comprehend the world – in terms of the good, the evil and the grey areas in between. So why do mysteries matter, especially when faced with the complexities and tragedies of our modern world?

Here’s what I think:

  • Mysteries provide readers a means to explore and possibly understand a complex world often in its darkest terms;
  • They usually adhere to rules that enable a reader to make sense of the events that occur and gain the satisfaction of seeing justice done or, at the very least, a satisfying resolution;
  • They expose us to situations which most of us (hopefully) will never experience and lift a a mirror up to society’s ills, frailties as well as its horrors;
  • They may be one of the few ways we can explore, understand or make sense of situations that in the real world seem incomprehensible; and
  • In my case, they can illuminate periods of history in a way that is engaging and exciting (which sadly history as it’s often taught, isn’t)

So what do you think? Why do you write and read mysteries?Why do they matter to you?

Here’s wishing you a safe, joyous and book filled holiday season.



12 thoughts on “Why Mysteries Matter

  1. I think you’ve nailed it…we write what fascinates us, what scares us and intrigues us, and perhaps, we write to try to make sense of the illogical.

    • I think that’s why I need to read mysteries – to try and make sense of the incomprehensible things that people do. Stephen King (I think) is the one who said he wrote what scared him the most.

  2. Mysteries seem to address the real issues of the day more than any other type of fiction. “Literary” fiction is busy examining its navel, romance doesn’t speak to me, but mysteries take on issues of race, violence, economic injustice, and more.

  3. I agree with your list too, Claire. I’m especially fond of mysteries because they are the most generous genre in terms of being able to delve into any kind of social or psychological issue with well-rounded characters in an accessible way. When well-written (such as those by this esteemed group of bloggers), they not only never bore, they excite, inspire thought and sometimes teach.

  4. I absolutely fell into writing mysteries by accident, I’m ashamed to admit. I had a friend from college who remembered that I was a huge Nancy Drew fan as a kid. She went into publishing, and years later, became the editor for the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy mysteries for the book packager that was producing them at that time. She invited me to submit a story idea, it was accepted, and so I started lurching down the writing road. Before that time, my ambition had been to write nonfiction. You never know where you’ll end up in this world! Probably I’d be more successful if I’d had a dollop of something called ambition about the whole thing, lol.

  5. Pingback: Top Picks Thursday 12-10-2015 | The Author Chronicles

Comments are closed.