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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I think police should have drones for suveillance.  But using mechanical devices (incl. robots) against human beings isn't really a scenario I'd approve of as a reader.  And if you're fighting robot against robot, then you lose the point of the contest.

As for human/robot hybrids:  that's where I giggle.

I'm trying to be good, Jack.  My wife and kids tell me I don't have enough friends as it is.  I don't want to lose any more.  

As far as the author goes, I'm of the school there are only two kinds of writing: good and bad. That said, I like crime fiction, and like there to be elements of a crime in most of the books i read. With that in mind, I give the author great latitude in the handling. Richard Price is a favorite of mine. He writes "crime fiction" where the crime and its investigation can take a back seat to other elements of the characters' lives. He'll "solve" the crime, but that's not really what the book is about.

Now, publishers want to put a label on everything. If they think a love scene can justify calling a book a romance, and calling it a romance will increase sales, they'll do it. I understand the need to categorize things for readers--there's a LOT of stuff out there--but some restraint should be exercised.

That certainly sounds like Romantic fiction to me. Did you buy it as a paperback or an e-book. E-books are pretty good as they usually give you a couple of chapters as a preview. 

On the other hand, there's nothing wrong with mixing genres so long as the story's good and the writing's up to it. Although from your post it seem as though the author failed on both counts. 

What's the best book you've read recently?

I'm not sure this is for me, but will go ahead and answer. The book was a library hc. The author is well-known as a hist/myst-author and came, as  I said, highly recommended on the a hist/myst site. For all I know the middle of the book did deal with a mystery, but I was turned off by the fact that the emphasis seemed to be on the romantic experiences of the protagonist. Many romance authors have expanded into mystery, and I haven't found any of those books satisfactory. And that includes Evanovich.

Best book? Nothing stands out at the moment. I like John Harvey, Robotham, Rankin (his latest was probably my most recent "best" though it followed Henning Mankell's resurrection of his protagonist, which was also a "best". Oh, and I'm very fond of Camilleri.

Just recently finished reading a series of novels that started off looking like mysteries with just an element of the supernatural, but by the time I got up to the author's latest, they've become supernatural with a bit of mystery and encompass too much religious symbolism and the like for my taste. Very well written but not quite what I want to read.

I've no objection to romance or history or SF or any of the other things (except romantic vampires, I keep a whole bunch of religious symbols on my person to deter those) but if it's a mystery then most of it should be mystery. I think the other stuff is good to make the characters and background more rounded and interesting.

Having said that, I was a bit nonplussed when I started writing my Debut Dagger entry today and found that my main character has apparently no romantic interests at all. Don't know why, but I just expected him to... I think it's TV that does it. And movies. Everything seems to have to have a love interest of some kind.

Romantic interest? Is it expected? Probably, but I just published my first full-length novel about my DCI Jones and there wasn't a romantic reference in sight. No furtive glances between the hero and the comely junior officer. No off-piste home life to detract my hero from the pursuit of his villains.

I'm probably missing a huge demographic audience, but I write for me. We'll see how it's received. 

You make a good point, as does Kerry. Too often things meant to appeal to a demographic are applied to a story like decals on a car window, and do litle more than pad the story. Some stories and characters lend themselves to a romantic element; some don't. When they don't they should be left out. 

In a series, you follow the protagonist from case to case. Since time passes, one expects the character to have a life.  This includes rather prominently some references to the opposite (or same, if you like) sex, otherwise we wonder about the character. Most likely it includes also other things: a car, a dog/cat, food, drink, dwelling, co-workers, neighbors, parents and siblings, etc. Occasionally, a person's past becomes important.

But all of those things should be secondary to the case/cases.

Absolutely I.J. - couldn't agree more. A past life informs and develops the character. None As someone cleverer than me once said, none of us appear on the planet as fully-formed adults. Our histories and back stories define us and should define our characters too - but the back story shouldn't overwhelm the front story. If it does, you have a soap opera, not a crime thriller. 

Not that there's anything wrong with a Soap - I just couldn't sit through a whole one. :)

I'm with you on this. Too many writers for my taste go heavy on the backgrounds and personal relationships of their characters, which detracts from the stories' missions, I believe. It's why I'm reluctant to read mysteries by female authors, with exceptions, of course; it's almost always as much about the relationships unrelated to the plots as it is about them.

Interesting comment. That's the reason I never use my name on my books - only initials!

I do think a past is important though. It's the past that defines the present - that makes us who we are now. I read something recently - I really do forget what it was - and all the way through I was thinking why? Why is this person behaving in this way? There must be a reason.


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