Praise for the twisted mind of the author

Most of the murders we hear about in real life of pretty straight forward. There are the crazy bastards on a mission who shoot complete strangers with a gun. There is gang violence, again usually with guns. There are school shootings by unstable, disenfranchised, young men (for now), again with guns. Jees, we got a lot of gun violence in this country. Go figure. Then there’s the more intimate domestic violence that escalates from assault to murder, usually with whatever lethal weapon is handy, sometimes just a fist. All of these scenarios are very tragic and regrettable. But there’s no mystery.

Which is why you rarely read about them in mystery novels. In mystery novels if there’s a mass shooting, the assailant is an elusive sniper. If there is gang violence, there’s some underlying criminal motive that needs to be uncovered. School shooting? Well, that’s just a distraction from something more sinister going on within the school. Domestic violence will have an air of vigilantism. See where I’m going with this?

First and foremost, in a mystery novel murders have to have a point to them. They have to have an underlying theme of justification in order to maintain the audience’s attention and get them to go on the journey of suspense and exploration with the characters. The killings can seem senseless at first, but they can stay that way. There has to be a reason.

And for that journey to last tens of thousands of words, the murder will be twisted. There will be lots of background information to uncover, secret relationships, unlikely alliances, dramatic pasts that resurface with irreparable consequences. It’s all meant to keep the characters and the audience constantly guessing and second guessing who actually did the deed and, most importantly, why.

Except in the case of True Crime (a very good, but completely different genre), mystery novels are fiction. They are made up, dramatic literature. Mystery novels are meant to entertain an audience and allow them to escape the real world, where often violence occurs for its own sake and often makes no sense. As I mystery writer, I say “Welcome.”

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