Friday, September 18, 2009

A Mystery

Editor’s Note: No editor’s note this week.

Thus far, I’ve stayed away from true genre fiction. I have an unpublished manuscript that could be classified a mystery, but that’s at a stretch. However, if I were to write genre fiction, which I believe I might in the near future, I would write in the mystery genre. As a child, I read the typical teen detective stories and eventually moved into Agatha Christie’s books. There was also Sherlock Holmes. On television, there has been Murder She Wrote, Diagnosis Murder, Columbo, Monk and who knows how many others that have influenced me. I’ve loved them all. There just can’t be too many good detective stories.

The best detectives are always eccentric. Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, Jessica Fletcher, Mr. Monk, they are all eccentric. Not in the same way, but they were all eccentric and they had to be. They don’t face ordinary criminals that the guys down at CSI can catch. These criminals are often your super villain who is smart enough to confuse the evidence and get it to point toward someone else. Columbo is a great character who looked like he would never solve a case unless someone helped him and yet he always knew a little more than everyone else and used his appearance to put the killer off guard.

I love the inverted style of Columbo, not that there is anything wrong with the other styles. It’s just that it is a contrast to something like Murder She Wrote in which it is established that the whole cast of characters have a motive to kill the victim before the murder takes place. That’s fine as long as it’s believable. In the story I’m considering, the murder takes place in a church and the detective is a new church member. I wouldn’t want to make the whole church look bad by establishing that any of them could have done it, but one of them decided to do it first. By inverting the mystery, the church is unscathed in the eyes of the reader, but we still have a mystery because we don’t know why the villain has done what he has done.