In The Writer's World

One of the expectations I have as a reader is for the author to deliver the goods. It seems a modest expectation, but all too often, particularly in mystery fiction, the author is not up to the task.

Last week, for example, I returned a mystery to the library half read. As mysteries go, it was only so-so. However, since the author had 16 published novels to her credit, I figured it at least would be a decent read. And I could learn something–if only what gave this author such an edge in the mysterious world of publishing.

At the end of the first third of the book, the third-person narrative temporarily was given over to a dog. For the moment, I chose to ignore this. After all, the best book I read in 2012 featured a philosophizing crow named Moses (Mink River by Brian Doyle). Then a  cat showed up at the dog’s owner’s house. When the dog and cat started talking to each other it was all over for me.

My dog and cat have resided together under the same roof for five years, and it was only last Sunday that Omar finally allowed Sadie to sniff his butt without going berserk. At some point in a mystery novel–at least the mystery novels I read to the end–there has to be some credibility!

Tastes do vary. This author obviously has a following, as does the one who led me on a merry chase through more than 200 pages with a detective searching the English coast for a missing child. Only in the end, the mother had already found the child. She just hadn’t bothered to tell anyone. There was no mystery at all, and I felt royally ripped off.

Authors! Don’t mess with your readers. I, for one, do not want silliness disguised as adult fiction.  I will always have a dog in my novels, but as a reader I do not want talking dogs, cats, burros, or gerbils. I want and expect real mysteries with high stakes. I want a sympathetic character in a butt-load of trouble. I want a fair and reasonable solution, even if it is not a happy one. As a reader, I want the respect of the author for her audience.

How about you, readers? Have you ever been cheated by an author?

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  • Lynn Greenwood says:

    Well said! Skip the talking gerbils and give me Barbara Havers any day!

  • joy kelley says:

    Well said. I love a mystery and it needs to be just that! And, certainly not with talking animals as characters!

  • Margie Hurle says:

    Angel Rock is a book written by my husban’d nephew, which is the only reason that I persisted to the end. It was a child-disapperance mystery, and the setting was well done (north coast of New South Wales), but it took the long way round to get to a hard-to-understand end. The climax, the discovery of the child, was in such convoluted circumstances that I’m not sure what actually happened, but by that time I didn’t care anyway.

    I’ve struggled with the concept of introducing some degree of fantasy into my writing, and have concluded that you can have fantasy as part of your framework, but within that your story has to be solid and believable. Harry Potter is probably the ultimate example; the characters are consistent, and there is a limit to the magic. Conversing companion animals would be a mite too much in an otherwise straight tale.

  • Leigh says:

    I’m getting a kick out of your writing. I enjoyed the square dance posting.

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