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  • Shannon Work

Mystery Solved: Why I Think Readers Love Mysteries


I read widely in an eclectic mix of genres—history, westerns, romance and mystery. But if you said to choose just one, I wouldn’t hesitate. I’d choose a good mystery novel every time.

Since the publication of Now I See You, I’ve been asked why I chose to write a mystery. The answer is simple. It’s what I most love to read.

Traditional detectives, amateur sleuths, hard-boiled cops, cozies—I like them all.

Some of my favorite mystery authors are no longer with us: Agatha Christie, PD James, and Mary Higgins Clark. A few favorite contemporaries are Ruth Ware, Ann Cleeves and Donna Leon.

When I pick up a mystery, I know what I’m going to get. There will be a crime (usually murder), there will be good guys and bad, clues and red herrings, an intriguing puzzle that will keep me turning the pages to find out ‘whodunit.’ And in the end, justice will prevail.

Predictable tropes? Maybe. But a good mystery promises the reader a story of action and adventure. We can step into exotic settings and dangerous situations, living vicariously through the story’s characters from the safety of our own homes.

Most of us are law-abiding citizens. We’re not crime-solvers or criminals. But reading a good mystery allows us to step out of our lives for a few hours and lose ourself in stories of danger and intrigue. We are offered a thrill without the threat. We’re given a courtside seat as the hero gathers and sifts through clues, and hunts down the bad guy.

Playwright Oscar Wilde once said: “The suspense is terrible. I hope it will last.”

We know the stories never last. There’s always the last chapter, the last page, the final sentence. But when the story is done, when good has prevailed and evil is punished, when all is right with the world again, that’s when it’s time to scan the bookshelf and grab the next.

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