What Tickles and Irks You When Reading a Mystery?
Updated: Mar 13
By Kathy McIntosh
My experience in book clubs tells me that indeed, readers’ tastes and preferences vary widely . . . and wildly.
My current book club focuses on mysteries, but we all read and recommend outside the genre. What draws me and the readers in my group?
A strong, compelling hero or heroine. Usually we prefer those we can identify with and like, but if the character is evil but fascinating, we keep reading. Flawed characters are in vogue, but when the character has so many problems, they get in the way of solving the mystery, well, that’s a problem for the readers I know. They also get peeved when a formerly wimpy character suddenly exhibits powerful skills never hinted at to save themselves or others.
A problem or conflict that needs to be solved, and it really ought to come up pretty dang soon in the story. In a mystery, the problem’s generally a crime, but it might start out with a minor problem that kicks our main character into action.
A great setting, with a big BUT. Establishing the setting is important, but the story is more important. We recently read a book where we all thought the writer excelled at writing setting with great accuracy, but when the setting became more important than the story, our interest waned.
Details add authenticity, but too many intricate details—perhaps about an autopsy or about how to create a craft item—can get boring.
Too much preaching irks the readers in my book group. Readers are there for the story, not to be lectured.
If it’s too easy to figure out “whodunit,” that can be a problem. A bigger one is when the killer/bad guy is introduced way too late or only for an instant, so the reader can’t conclude that their guilt is obvious once all the clues are in.
So what about you? What do you love—or dislike—about the mysteries you read? What causes you to fling a book across the room, or figuratively fling a Kindle?
A reformed high-tech marketer and former columnist on words and business writing, Kathy transformed her love of words and nature into her fiction. After many years in Idaho, she and her husband moved to southeastern Arizona a few years back.
Kathy’s first two novels, Mustard’s Last Stand and Foul Wind, are humorous romps in the wilds of north Idaho. Her newest mystery, Murder, Sonoran Style, portrays death in the heat of the desert, with a light touch and lots of laughter. Murder, Sonoran Style won honorable mention in the 2019 PSWA writing contest.
Mustard’s Last Stand, Kathy’s first, award-winning novel is free on Amazon today through Sunday.
Murder, Sonoran Style https://amzn.to/2IIwBrw
Mustard’s Last Stand https://amzn.to/33rMZEK
Foul Wind https://amzn.to/2B6Hq2m