It’s A Mystery To Me

Book+glasses_OpSomeone recently asked me why I chose to write in the mystery genre, and the answer is simple: Because I love to read them. I love to try to figure out who wears the white hats and who wears the black. And my favorite mysteries are manned by characters who are flawed and irreverent and strong and aware of their weaknesses all at the same time.

I look for characters with depth. People who try to solve other folks’ problems and blunders while grappling with their own. And I want characters who fall down and cry – or refuse to shed a tear – but who get up again and do their best to learn and grow and climb one hurdle, then dust themselves off and move on to tackle the next. In my favorite books, it’s not just the perp who gets revealed.

In truth – in my opinion – every book is a mystery, because when we read the opening paragraph we have no idea where the story will take us, what we’ll learn from it, or what’s at stake for the characters who populate the pages. And the authors who create the most alive characters are the authors whose books we return to again and again.

You can’t hold back the bad things that happen in the world, not in real life. You can’t pre-determine positive outcomes, you can’t program a happy ending. We all know that. But when you read, you can wrap yourself up in stories of imperfect people who come out okay. And you come out thinking you’ll be okay, too, and that things can turn out great if you work really hard, if you believe in yourself, if you trust the universe.

That’s the kind of story I want to write. That’s what I’m working towards. I want to be one of those authors whose characters resonate with readers, and when they read the last page of one of my books, they know they can have that kind of awakening, or that kind of man or woman beside them.

I recently joined KDP Select for the first time ever. Amazon’s new Kindle Unlimited program convinced me. It’s great for avid readers, and it’s free to sign up for the first month, so I just couldn’t say no. So I’ve left Mark of the Loon, the first book in my series, on other platforms and on Amazon for 99 cents, and added the second two to KDPS. You can hop over to Amazon and borrow The Last Fairytale and Paint Me Gone for free.

TypewriterMorguefile_OPIf you’d like other reading suggestions, here are my three all-time favorite mysteries and writers:

Susanna Kearsley
I’ve written about my absolute adoration of Kearsley’s book The Winter Sea, which remains my favorite book ever and my fave of all her titles. But everything she writes is wonderful and I recommend all her work. Kearsley does not pen straight-arrow mysteries, preferring to bend genres – which I love and envy – by combining mystery with romance and historical fiction plus a bit of the paranormal. Delicious.

Robert Crais
Most of you probably know Crais’s Elvis Cole character, he’s an icon. Personally, I’m in love with Elvis big-time and I’ve read every single book that Crais has written about him. I love that Cole is funny, quirky, loves his friend Joe Pike, and has flaws and feelings that transcend his chosen profession. There’s no graphic sex and not much gore in an Elvis Cole novel – Crais relies on old-fashioned great writing to keep the reader engaged, with just the right amount of description to bring characters, locations and scenes to life. This is my all-time favorite detective series. And check this out! Here’s a insider’s view of Crais’s office.

Tana French
You can see by a skim of the reviews that French’s novel Faithful Place was not received consistently well across the board, but I thought it was brilliant. French seems to do something different with every book, and I’ve had trouble getting into other works of hers that I’ve picked up. But Faithful Place is a fabulous piece of writing, and I absolutely was riveted by this story. It’s about a Irish cop whose first love disappeared. He thought she ran off without him, and the rejection left him unable to really love again. Then, much later in his life, he finds out she was murdered. When he solves the crime, he’s freed on many levels. GRAND!

Readers, what about you? Who are your favorite authors and books? Please leave a comment and share!

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22 Responses to It’s A Mystery To Me

  1. M. L. Doyle July 28, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

    I enjoy lots of mysteries but by far, my go to guy is Dick Francis. He’s gone now, but he left a large body of work that I tend to read over and over. His son has taken up the cause but unfortunately, his new offerings havn’t quite lived up to the mastery his father had. Of all my favorite Francis books, To the Hilt is my favorite. Whip Hand is a close second.

    I agree with your Tana French choice. She’s awesome. I met her at a writing conference and she was very nice too and even agreed to read my manuscript.

    • Molly Greene July 28, 2014 at 1:55 pm #

      Thanks Mary (I checked your website to find your first name!!) for the suggestions, I’m always ecstatic to hear about authors I haven’t read (yaaay!) and envious that you met Tana French. Agreed to read your mss? Now I’m really jealous 😉 Thanks so much for your comment!

  2. Ruth Harris July 28, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

    Ditto on Robert Crais & Tana French (haven’t read Susanna Kearsley) but don’t forget Robert B. Parker, George Pelecanos and Dennis Lehane! I also agree with Mary…love Dick Francis.

    • Molly Greene July 28, 2014 at 2:47 pm #

      Love Robert B. Parker but his “first” books are better – once Susan came along and just ate lettuce leaves it got old. Same with Janet Evanovich, LOVE the first dozen “Stephanie Plum” books but they got boring for me when she never gained any sort of expertise in her job! I think I’ve tried Lehane but couldn’t get into him – will check him out again. THANKS, Ruth!

  3. Belinda Pollard July 28, 2014 at 2:51 pm #

    I’ve tried to get Robert Crais from my library after your previous recommendation, but they didn’t have any Elvis Cole, only other books by Crais. Must remember to try again.

    I love a good mystery and read lots of different authors. My enduring faves are PD James and Elizabeth George. Very dense narratives, and character-driven.

    And I even love Agatha Christie, right down to the ridiculous “everyone in the library for the reveal” scene at the end. 🙂

    Plus, of course, Molly Greene. 😉

    • Molly Greene July 28, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

      Ha ha, thank you Belinda! I should really have said that all the Crais books are good – The Two Minute Rule isn’t an Elvis Cole novel but it’s good and so is Suspect and his other stand-alones.

      Here’s where we take a different path, though, I’ve read a couple of Liz George’s books and she is a fabulous writer but too much description makes my attention wander. I like the fast-movers. I like the authors who get their characters in the car and down the street and in trouble, all in a single paragraph. Evanovich is a master at that, and so is Crais!

      Kearsley is almost the only writer who keeps me turning pages with more description – I hang on every word. I think it’s her ability to evoke emotion. But what do I know?? Bottom line, read whatever Crais you can get your hands on.

  4. Cyndi July 28, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

    I’m with you, Molly! Figuring out the puzzle and finding there IS some kind of solution gives me a smidgen of hope that life will work out, too.

    My favorites? Sue Grafton, Martha Grimes (love a Scotland Yard yarn!), PD James sometimes (after her THIRD poison-pen mystery, I gave up), JA Jance,…but like you said, almost any good book has an element of mystery.

    • Molly Greene July 28, 2014 at 3:31 pm #

      Thanks, Cyndi! I am going to have a huge long list of authors and books to keep me company the rest of the summer!

  5. Anna Celeste Burke July 28, 2014 at 3:46 pm #

    A great post…that’s why I read them and started writing them too! There are so many wonderful mystery novels. I especially love series. That includes a lot of contemporary, well-known women authors like Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton, Janet Evanovich, Dorothy Gilman. But I also like a couple lesser known authors Jonnie Jacobs and Rebecca Forster, both have series with interesting female protagonists. And of course, there are all those classics that never grow old as evident by the return of David Suchet to TV as Hercule Poirot! Isn’t it interesting how many unique voices there are that write about murder & mayhem? Cheers to you, Molly Greene, and to riddle lovers and puzzle solvers everywhere.

    • Molly Greene July 28, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

      Ohhhhh, Anna! I’m cruising my library catalog online right now for Jonnie Jacobs and Rebecca Forster. THANK YOU so much!!

  6. joybelle2012 July 29, 2014 at 12:37 am #

    Tell them its the way your mind works and that you like solving puzzles. Also mention that mostly stories just happen and can be triggered by something someone says, a news headline, or something you read in a book.

    • Molly Greene July 29, 2014 at 8:11 am #

      Exactly! Solutions. Mystery readers and writers are solution-oriented, and our ideas come from EVERYwhere! Thanks, Joybelle.

  7. David J. Rogers July 29, 2014 at 4:03 am #

    Molly, a nice, stimulating article as always. To be honest, I haven’t read that many mysteries, but I do like the old Raymond Chandler’s and the Hammett’s. According to Chandler, the main attraction the detective holds for readers is the detective’s commitment to finding the truth and his/her competence in finding it. Thanks.

    • Molly Greene July 29, 2014 at 8:13 am #

      David, that’s great insight from Chandler and thank you so much for sharing!

  8. MM Jaye July 29, 2014 at 6:52 am #

    Your article was very well-worded and spot on in that it’s characters who deal with their own problems while solving other peoples’is what’s truly intriguing! Mystery is not my go-to genre, but what I enjoy in your series is that it’s character-driven and although there’s the big “whodunit” questionmark (in most books) the heroine’s character development often takes the driver’s seat and offers a great ride throughout the books. What can I say? I love Gen Delacourt!

    • Molly Greene July 29, 2014 at 8:07 am #

      Thank you so much, Maria! I prefer character-driven books, too, which is why I love Kearsley so very much. She twines a love story through all her books, and although I don’t have a similar writing style to hers, she’s definitely influenced me. Thank you again for your lovely comment!

  9. Kristopher July 29, 2014 at 9:34 am #

    I completely agree with you on Tana French. Judging by early reviews of her new book, this could be the one that makes her a house-hold name. I can’t wait to dive into the ARC of The Secret Place, but I must wait until closer to release date (September).

    • Molly Greene July 29, 2014 at 9:41 am #

      ACCCK! Kristopher, so jealous you get a preview of Tana French’s latest. Are you willing to pass the ARC copy on when you’re done? 😉

  10. Judith Cranswick July 30, 2014 at 3:23 am #

    I few months ago, I conducted a survey to find out why mystery writers chose to write crime. Surprise, surprise! We all came up with the same answer – it’s what we like to read especially with a flawed protagonist.

    As it a Brit, I tend to favour British writers. Dick Francis is a great favourite as is Zoe Sharp, Ann Cleves, Val McDermid and Nicci Francis plus a great many more whom I’ve been privileged to meet in person.
    Social media has widened my horizons to a great many writers the world over. I wonder if that’s true for us all? You meet some great people on Facebook and Goodreads and, of course, following blogs like yours!

    • Molly Greene July 30, 2014 at 7:57 am #

      Great to know I’m not alone in this, Judith! I haven’t had the privilege of meeting any famous trad-published writers yet, but I have *met* a lot of very successful self-published authors via social media – and that has been wonderful. And I’ve also been introduced to many authors’ works that are new to me – there’s a couple in your list I’ll add to my TBR pile. Thank you so much!

      • Judith Cranswick July 30, 2014 at 8:54 am #

        We are so lucky in Britain. There are writing conferences up and down the country throughout the year (including several devoted only to crime, Harrogate and Bristol) and every major town, including Swindon where I live, has an annual Literary Festival so no matter where you live you tend to be no more than a couple of hours drive from one or other of them.
        I’ve lost count of the famous names I’ve met. I sat with Colin Dexter (Inspector Morse) for dinner at the Winchester Conference and Robert Godard, another great favourite of mine, The Queen of British crime, P. D. James, came to last year’s Swindon Festival.
        Several authors, like Zoe, who I first met at the Writers’ Holiday in Wales, that I now read avidly I came across through conferences.

        • Molly Greene July 30, 2014 at 9:40 am #

          Oh my gosh – that IS inspiring! There are lots of conferences in the US, but aside from a couple in San Diego (which I’ve never attended) they’re a much longer trip than a couple of hours. But Judith, I probably need to get out of the house more and socialize in the real world. Susana Kearsely was at the RWA conf in San Antonio last week – meeting her would have been worth the trip!