This is the first post of a rolling blog tour on the topic of Funny Mysteries. To read previous blog tours, check out Where’s Papa Going With That Axe?, Favorite Settings, and Writing Rituals. At the bottom of this post you’ll find a link to the next participant in today’s tour.
I love puzzles, so it’s not surprising that I love mysteries, too. I lost my heart to Nancy Drew at an early age, and have never gotten it back.
I’m not a fan of gory thrillers or hard-nosed police procedurals. If I want to be depressed, all I need to do is read a newspaper. Fiction should be entertaining. I don’t mind a few dead bodies, as long as they don’t include children or animals. It’s okay if the book makes me cry, but it’s nice to laugh, too. Someone once said that laughing and crying are two sides of the same coin. Ain’t it the truth.
When Janet Evanovich burst onto the literary scene with her phenomenal Stephanie Plum series, a light-hearted, wacky slant on the mystery genre, I danced a little jig. Figuratively speaking, of course, since I don’t actually know how to dance a jig. But her books made me laugh. Lately they’ve grown stale, but all good things come to an end.
Now there are hundreds of ‘light-hearted’ mysteries on the market, mostly featuring women protagonists, some actual detectives, mostly amateur ones. For some reason, a lot of these books also include recipes. There is an entire genre devoted to ‘culinary’ mysteries. They have cutesy titles like ‘Finger Lickin’ Dead’ and ‘Lost and Fondue’.
More and more authors have jumped on the ‘household and hobby’ mystery band wagon, and now we have mysteries featuring sewers, knitters, shoppers, garage sale enthusiasts, professional dog walkers, shoe designers, bed and breakfast owners, antique collectors, you name it.
Imagine my joy at the thought of working my way through these ‘light-hearted’ novels!
Imagine my disappointment that a lot of them weren’t that good.
I didn’t laugh or cry. I didn’t even smile. The titles were the best thing about them. It was downhill from there.
I don’t like to be critical of other authors’ works. It’s hard to write, hard to get published, hard to stay published. There’s a lot to admire about these novels. But as a reader, I need more. Make me laugh, make me cry, make me feel something.
And that’s just it. I don’t feel anything when I read some of these books. Every writer needs to make an emotional connection with the reader. Not all will, but they need to at least try. Does ‘light-hearted’ mean ‘light on the emotion?’ Did I get a recipe for cherry cheesecake at the end of the book as compensation for a boring story and ho-hum characters?
The most emotional points in my life have included laughing and crying. I cried with relief when my daughter was born healthy. I laughed when I saw how long her fingers were. I cried when my mother died. I laughed with my sister when we shared memories of her at the funeral.
Life is a mystery, full of laughter and tears. Writers of ‘light-hearted and fun’ mysteries need to up the stakes. It’s not about just getting to the end to find out ‘who dunnit’. It’s about the roller coaster journey of emotional highs and lows on the way to the end.
Can you recommend a mystery novel that made you cry but mostly laugh? I’d love to hear from you!
Check out the next stop on the blog tour:
Kathleen Kaska http://kathleenkaskawrites.blogspot.com