If there’s one thing I like best, it’s a good MYSTERY.
This affair of the heart started way back with Nancy Drew (see my other post on that here). I can’t seem to get away from my fascination with whodunnits, crime shows, and anything else that takes place in the shadows. I just heard today they’re doing a reboot of Twilight Zone with Jordan Peele and I went “squee” out loud because, well…yeah. And although there’s a great big canyon between a cozy British mystery and some murder show on cable and the creepy weird that you can find in the coolest Twilight Zone eps or reruns of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (another oldie but goodie)…
These shows all have one thing in common: these sorts of stories get the little hairs on the back of my neck twitching AND they get my brain buzzing. And there are a bunch of grown up mysteries I love more than anything, too: Minette Walters, Elizabeth George, Ruth Rendell, P.D. James. And yeah, Agatha Christie. Her too. It still makes me smile that she is known as, “the world’s most successful novelist, outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare.”
But back to what makes mysteries so marvelous. It’s the clues. It’s the red herrings. It’s the thrill.
It’s the chase. It’s the absolute unknown. It’s because they make me feel like I am part of the best-ever game that’s being played right under my nose.
Naturally the mystery game Clue was my favorite as a kid–it still is–and there’s truly no better feeling than being able to surmise early in the game who did it, where they did it, and with what odd weapon they used. And who doesn’t love going from the conservatory to the lounge in some secret and invisible passage?
There’s so much to love and admire and YET. Here comes the BUT in the title of this post.
I am desperately insecure about actually writing a mystery. I know all the tricks of the trade. I know what makes me jump, but I wonder if I can make a reader cry out, “Ohhhhhh!” or “Eeeeeeek!” (Wait. Does anyone in real life actually ever say “Eeeeek?”)
Despite all reservations, I am undertaking my own challenge. This summer I began (finally!) working on a manuscript that I hope will make the little hairs tingle on the back of my reader’s necks. My new story has all the ingredients for a mystery: an apothecary stuffed with spells and charms, a basement filled with antiques, dark and forbidden graveyards, a wide open shoreline which holds the hidden wreckage of sunken ships, fabulous secret passages, and angry ghosts. And while, sure, none of that is very specific, right now I am in the phase of writing that i like to call “the explosion phase,” (aka brain storm or tornado) when everything comes out in a big swoosh and I’m left splattered with ideas. I’m knee-deep in plot and getting VERY excited about introducing you to some of these new characters…but enough!
Now comes the hard work of puzzling over details and getting the mystery to make sense. My lip is zipped.
In the meantime, here’s a far less tingly but totally fun little mystery which I wrote for last year’s holiday edition of American Girl magazine. It’s a “Mystery at the Blue Hills Diner.” You’re invited to stop in. Don’t forget to have a slice of Miss Ella’s pie…
Note: have made valiant effort to include links and secret captions and all sorts of “mysterious” blog add-ons.
I’d love it if you’d add your own FAVORITE mystery book/TV show/movie. I love hearing from you! Comment below. Cue the mysterious music.