I've see a lot of so-called mysteries lately that really meant to be something else. Only about an hour ago, I discarded a book by a writer who came very highly recommended. It was a historical mystery set in ancient Egypt. This isn't really my field and I have no interest in Egypt, besides I rarely read historical mysteries (though I write them), but I did get this one because of the great praise for the author that I read on another site.

Here is what I found: First person narrative by a young female of royal blood who strays among the common folks during a Nile flood, gets swept away along with a crocodile, and saved at the last moment by a handsome and virile young courtier. At this point, I was disgusted and checked the end of the book. (Checking the end of a mystery for me always means death to the book.) Sure enough, there is a happy end: she is in love and marries. As it turns out, she marries another man, but apparently after a romantic relationship with her savior. This makes this book a romance, as far as I'm concerned. The fact that there might have been a mystery somewhere in the middle doesn't change the fact.

So here's my topic: given the fact that many authors seem to write in more than one genre at the same time to reach the largest possible readership, do you find this a good thing, or are you as disappointed as I was? Crossing between romance and mystery may be the most common example, but we also have mysteries linking to horror, secret agents, vampires, SF, fantasy, and other subgenres. 

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Motivation is key. No doubt about it. You can have a character shoot a rifle into the sky and it make no sense in less you know a) he's a hunter out for grouse or b) he's a nutcase thinking the Martians are attacking. Each works, but not without the reader knowing the motivation.

The only Dennis Lehane novel I've read is Mystic River. The book was 50/50 background/action. I think it would've been much more readable if it'd been something like 20/80. He's a best selling author, but I doubt I'll revisit his writing due to the continuous digressions.

Give me Peter Robinson or Tony Hillerman any day. A better balance of personal life/history and the current case. Seems to me the current case is the reason to pick up the book in the first place!

Absolutely Richard, a 30/70 split background to story should be the maximum digression from the story. 

We read crime fiction for the crime, no?

I also read Sci Fi, fantasy, historical novels and ... no that's about it. :)

Me too. I grew up on the sf classics - Wyndham and Heinlein. Spent many years involved in the fantasy sub-culture and only moved more into crime recently.

Hillerman is an excellent example. Robinson is getting too long-winded. And I don't much care for Lehane either.

Lehane's private eye series (Gone Baby Gone and others) I liked better. His characters are very well done, IMO.

Good to know--thanks for that.

The original five Kenzie-Gennaro stories are great; the one he appended several years later (Moonlight Mile), not so much. 

I thought The Given Day was a great book, but his second historical novel (Live By Night) was okay. It had its moments, but I didn't finish it and feel as though I' just read something special, as I did the The Given Day.

Never tried The Given Day. It's around the house, too. My wife -- a fan of the early series work -- didn't like GD much. Was it depressing? She hates depressing. 

Yeah, it was kind of depressing, but in a "makes you think about things you might not have otherwise thought about" way we were discussing on another thread.

Feeling reassured about main character's lack of love interest. Who knows? Maybe in book 5... :D

Agree with the good writing/bad writing - I've even read full-blown romances if the author writes well. When I lived in Dublin the local bookshop had a big thing for Maeve Binchy so I read hers.

On the other hand, if you like crime novels and you want to read one, finding something else between the covers can be a bit - well, I'm glad I got this from the library and didn't pay money for it.

I liked Janet Evanovich for the first three million, uh, sorry, the first ten books or so but I didn't think of them as mysteries, I thought of them as cross-genre novels and accepted the romance as part of the package. What finally put me off was the stagnation on both sides - the mystery part, her job and so on became repetitive and poor Steph was stuck in an endless triangle with her two inamoratos, unable to go anywhere and seeming to have no reason for her indecision apart from the fact that the author didn't want her to pick one guy or the other.

Kiss of death for me when I start to think seriously about why the author might be doing something - apart from the odd mental comment about nice phrase, overusing that word, etc.

I guess that brings me back to the idea of the love interest - probably not a good idea to have it just because it's expected or because everyone else does.

As far as history goes, it's quite possible to create a decent historical background without giving lectures on every page - it's all in the details. I like Lindsey Davis. You feel Rome all around you and the character even has a family and so on but you very rarely feel you've stopped moving through the plot to dwell on something else.



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