No, no! I don’t mean actual murder! I mean murder mystery stories… That’s the kind of murder I love. I’m not nearly so insensitive to the ills of the world. In fact, I actually started this post a couple of weeks ago and then I ended up laying it aside after the shooting deaths in Charleston. It just didn’t feel right to publish it right at that time, no matter how gently I broached the topic.
Some people say murder mysteries are formulaic. They contend that by the time the reader is 1/3rd of the way through a mystery book, someone has died by the hand of an unknown suspect. When it’s finished, the perpetrator is revealed and usually brought to justice. I do agree, that’s the skeleton of the basic set up. The plot gyrations though to get from ‘A’ to (maybe) ‘B’ are endless. Red herrings can abound. Additional people may die. There may be more than one perp. The villain may or may not be caught. He/she may or may not be punished for his/her crime. Finally, a happy ending isn’t a guarantee (unless we’re talking about a cozy mystery).
Compare murder mystery novels to romance novels. Now lets talk about books are formulaic in plot. Romance novels, without fail, follow this formula:
- Somebody meets somebody
- Good or bad, sparks fly
- Something or someone gets in the way of the couple having a romantic relationship
- All is resolved and they live happily ever after
Now, don’t get me wrong; I have absolutely nothing against romance novels. I’ve read many. My own mystery series introduces a new mystery with each new book while at the same time taking the reader along on the continuing romantic journey being experienced by the two main characters. That sort of flexibility is one of the things I love about the murder mystery genre. During a time of unspeakable horror , the investigator still has a life apart from all of that. Too, the stories easily cross genres. You find murder mystery elements in lots of sci-fi and it’s not at all unheard of in fantasy fiction, historical fiction or even in literary fiction. Lots of mysteries incorporate romance into the mix as mine do. Enterprising companies like Harlequin have commissioned authors to write romantic stories incorporating soft mystery (attempted murder but not actual murder in the present). They see the value of appealing to cross genre female (and some male) readers.
What’s not to love about stories where every one is a surprise from cover to cover?