Friday, April 19, 2013

The Mystery of Mysteries

There are many sources of advice for those who write or want to write a mystery. I am not about to offer any. I have published several cozy mysteries and written others that will never make it that far, but there is always more for me to learn.

Once you write, you learn as much by reading others as studying books. I recently finished China Trade by S.J. Rozan. It is one of the Lydia Chin/Bill Smith series, which is set in New York City. Lydia has been hired to trace porcelain that was stolen from a museum near Chinatown. Rozan deftly creates a story of Chinese gangs, art collection, and sibling friction that takes more turns than a mountain road. Rozan's books are often a good study in how to weave a distinct culture into a plot, and there is a lot of humorous dialogue.

Tana French imbeds Irish customs in her Dublin Murder Squad mysteries. French's stories take a slower pace than Rozan's, and there is a lot more internal dialogue. I've read In The Woods and The Likeness, which are the first two in the series. Each has some of the same characters, but the first is from Rob's point of view and the second from Cassie's--each a detective, each very different from the other. If you want a thriller, these books are not for you, but they will especially appeal to someone who wants a more 'literary' mystery.

Back to learning. One book that is a useful overview for mystery writers is Writing Murder, an anthology by fifteen authors with Midwestern roots. Anthologies are meant to be a mixed bag, but not all pull the pieces together as well as this one, which was edited by S.M. Harding and published by the Writers' Center of Indiana.

I am piecing together ideas for the sixth book in the Jolie Gentil series, so I am especially conscious of learning from good writers. Fortunately, there are many from whom to choose.

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