I’m coming clean. I’m a mystery junkie. Ever since I picked up my first Nancy Drew book in the fourth grade, I’ve been hooked. At that time, almost all my babysitting money went to feed my addiction. I was devastated when the price went from $1.75 to over $2. Didn’t the powers that be understand how long it would take me to get those extra quarters? All the same, I continued to feed the monkey. Just had to wait a little longer between fixes. I supplemented my Nancy Drew diet with a little Trixie Beldon, but her adventures were never quite as hair-raising as Nancy’s. I would always return to the titian-hair sleuth in the end.
In analyzing my attraction to this genre, I’ve identified two main elements that keep me coming back for more. The first is the puzzle aspect intrinsic in the story. A good mystery sprinkles clues throughout the book. Part of my enjoyment of reading one involves discovering these hints and putting them together before the main character does. It’s an ego-boost to be able to say “Ha! I figured all this out on page 123!” when the perpetrator is revealed on page 289,
Solving a mystery is also a great way for women to show off their brains, skills, and courage. Not all have well-to-do-lawyer fathers who never seem to be too concerned about the number of murders and other criminal activities in his small town, but they all revea
l the same strong characteristics I first discovered in Nancy Drew. They are women who run toward danger when everyone else is going in the opposite direction—even though this will be fifteenth time they’ll wind up in a basement with a ticking bomb. I know they’ll make it through somehow. After all, I have volumes sixteen through forty to go.
My addiction has manifested itself in my own writing as well. My debut novel, Saving Hope is a thriller set in post-Soviet Russia. While a thriller is different from a mystery, there’s still some questions that are not solved until the end of the story. In particular: will the heroine be able to save her daughter and the world?
Anyone else out there like to share about their mystery addiction? What appeals to you about these stories? Read one lately you’d like to share?