What comes to your mind when someone says mystery? For me, I think of Agatha Christie, the queen of cozies, or maybe the Sherlock Holmes of Arthur Conan Doyle stories. The first murder mystery is said to be written by Edgar Allen Poe, The Murder in the Rue Morgue. But the mystery genre overflowed into the crime fiction genre, and cozy mysteries featuring amateur sleuths who put the puzzle pieces together in an unofficial capacity began to take center stage in the mystery genre.
This month I’ve been learning right along with you. As a youth, I lavished in the cozy amateur sleuth mysteries of Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. In my teens, I was fascinated and maybe a little haunted by The Hound of the Baskervilles with its hints of paranormal. As I grew older, I found that I enjoyed the Dr. Allen Gregory series, by Stephen White, and the Alex Delaware series, by Jonathan Kellerman, which are cozies with a touch of psychological thriller to them, but by that time, Stephen King had already stolen my heart as favorite author and I was veering more toward horror, so admittedly my experience and knowledge in the mystery genre is limited although much of what I read has some kind of mystery element to it. My one attempt at writing it resulted in my paranormal mystery novella, Hidden Secrets, which you can get free when you sign up for my newsletter.
When we come across a mystery, there’s something in the human mind that just won’t let us let go of unanswered questions, so we automatically start trying to put the pieces together to bring a conclusion that makes some resemblance of sense. We can’t seem to help ourselves. So it shouldn’t be surprising that Agatha Christie is the number one all time best selling author in history. I mean, who doesn’t love a good whodunit or locked room mystery?
However, as with all genres, this one has changed with the times. Contemporary mysteries include detective novels that cross over into the crime fiction realm, such as the Carson Reno Mysteries of Gerald Darnell, suspense mysteries such as those of my “Chatting with the Pros” author guest, Gilly Macmillan, murder mysteries like Murder on the Horizon, by M.L. Rowland that take us into the world of search and rescue, and paranormal mysteries like Broomsticks and Burials, by Lily Webb, that lead us into the world of fantasy or folklore. We even find mysteries in short fiction form, as are found in the murder mystery anthology Death Among Us. Mysteries today seem to delve into the realms of other genres or sub-genres, creating an interesting mix of stories. The cozy is alive and well, but it is found in a vast array of variations that weren’t available in the days of yore.
August has been an educational and entertaining adventure into the world of the mystery genre. I hope you’ll join me next month too as I delve into Christian fiction when my “Chatting with the Pros” author guest will be Christian inspirational author Angela Hunt, and I will also be interviewing murder mystery author Gerald Darnell. My Christian fiction book reviews will include two Christian romances in the Thanksgiving & Blessings collection, Texas Tears, by Caryl MacAdoo, and Mail-Order Misfire, by Davalynn Spencer. It looks to be a good line-up and I’m excited to be moving into September with this exploration of the Christian fiction genre. Until then, happy writing!
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Murder on the Horizon, by M.L. Rowland is a cleverly crafted murder mystery set in a rural resort town 100 miles east of L.A. For Grace Kinkaid, aiding in an evidence search out in the blazing desert sun is all in a day’s work. But when the Timber Creek Search and Rescue Team turns up a pair of severed hands, her view of her rural resort town and the surrounding area is about to change. Her curiosity and circumstance lead her toward the answers, and she won’t stop until she learns the truth, even when she herself becomes a target.
I truly enjoyed this story. Rowland made me feel as though I knew Gracie and her friends, and she drew me into the story, causing me to keep the pages turning. In addition to being a good mystery, it addresses social issues such as prejudice and bigotry which are so prominent in today’s world. I give Murder on the Horizon five quills.
Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.
Death Among Us – An Anthology of Murder Mystery Short Stories, compiled and edited by Stephen Bentley is a curious collection of stories, indeed. As I’ve mentioned before, the problem with short fiction lies in telling a complete story in a condensed form, with beginning, middle and end, and it’s one of my peeves when I walk away from a short story and it doesn’t feel complete, or it feels as if it ended too abruptly, as if the author was in a hurry to wrap things up. Some of the stories in this collection are like that, and some were more telling than showing. A few I didn’t feel really fell into the category of murder mystery at all, but for the most part each one kept me engaged despite all that. (That’s another thing about short fiction; you don’t have to keep your reader engaged for a long period of time, but that also means that you have less time to hook them and reel them in.) And there were some stories in this collection, which I’ll talk about in a minute, that were really well written and I was able to immerse myself in from start to finish.
Of particular note, Michael Spinelli’s No Man’s Land is the tale of a desert manhunt for a gruesome serial killer. It’s well-crafted, and built tension and suspense all the way up to the surprise ending. The two stories by L. Lee Kane, A Deadly Lady and Stop Me If You Can, are really two parts of one tale of abuse and revenge, crafted so that the first part offers the motive for what happens in the second. And Justin Bauer kept me fully engaged clear through Sales Meeting, although I felt the ending was tied up a little too neatly. This is not to say that the other shorts in this collection weren’t good, but these three are the ones that stick out in my mind the most.
I will also mention that there are three stories included by Writing to be Read team member, Robbie Cheadle, in this murder mystery collection: Justice is Never Served, An Eye for an Eye, and The Murder of the Monk. Robbie’s stories are each inspired by factual historic events that have to make one wonder and tell the tales the way she imagines them to have happened.
Overall, this anthology was entertaining, (and, after all, isn’t that the point?). I give Death Among Us four quills.
Clockwork Dollhouse, by Jordan Elizabeth is a short steampunk tale which may give readers the chills. Robert has many secrets, but Jane’s clockwork dollhouse sees and reveals things Robert would rather stay hidden. But what is really going on? Who’s winding the dollhouse after all these years and setting the stage? Is it Ainsley, his niece, the ghost of his dead sister, Jane, or is the dollhouse haunted? And can it be stopped before the truth comes out?
A brief story which captivates. Clockwork Dollhouse is a tale of murder unraveled in short fiction format. Perfect for YA audiences. I give it five quills.
As head of security for the recreated Saints and Sinners, it’s Luca “Lucky” Luchazi’s job to keep the brass and the clients alive when a series of mysterious accidents befall the casino, starting with the death of his friend and mentor, Charles Vega, the previous owner of Lucky Sevens. But Luca isn’t feeling so lucky anymore. The casino has changed hands, changed its name and changed everything, the woman he loves won’t speak to him, and if things don’t change, he’ll be out of a job, or maybe out of his life.
Many of us have visited Vegas and seen Sin City with the cast of neon to dazzle our view. Lucky Sevens, by Cynthia Vespia, tells the story from the inside view, the angle few of us ever see. It’s the story of those that make keep the cogs moving any way they can and try not to get caught up in the machinery. When it was Lucky Sevens, run by his friend and mentor, Charles Vega, it seemed like a pretty good place to be. Now, he’s not so sure. The new boss is connected and has big corporate money behind him, the mysterious deaths that have occurred in the hotel lately all seem to be connected and black magic seems to be in the air. It’s up to Lucky to uncover what is really going on, but the question is whether he can do it before his luck runs out.
Lucky Sevens is an entertaining read that offers a different perspective on the Vegas scene, showing that it isn’t all bright lights and cash flow. Everyone wants to come out with the winning hand, even behind the scenes where the stakes may be higher than anyone realizes. Take a walk through the Vegas underworld with Lucky Luchazi, but tread carefully. You never know who’s lurking around the next corner, who can be trusted or who’s going to come out on top.