My first mystery novel, Null_Pointer
, debuts at my local, independent bookstore at the end of the month. I'm not positive, but I'm fairly certain there aren't many mystery books out there where the hero is a computer programmer. I may be carving a new niche for myself. Regardless, there were some interesting challenges in crafting a mystery around the premise of killing someone with computer code.
It was the perfect white collar crime. If the killer didn't want to be found, he might never have been. But then we would not have had a story. I came up with the idea for the crime first, then I had to figure out a way to actually execute it. Pardon the pun. This was more difficult to figure out than your average poisoning or "accidental" death, primarily because, technically - it's impossible. I had to string together enough possibilities to suspend the disbelief of the average mystery reader and more importantly, the average geek.
Writing a novel in which the hero is a geek no trivial task. Geeks are smart cookies. I had to make sure what I was doing was correct or my primary audience would be turned off. This was important to me, because I was writing the book as much for programmers as for regular readers. To be fair, I was in many ways, following the sage old advice of writing what I know. For years I have been a hobbyist programmer and so I knew a little bit about what I was trying to accomplish. Still, were it not for the many "real" programmers who were my beta readers, I would not have been able to pull off the crime as I did in the novel.
There were other writing challenges for me on this novel, including getting all the crime parts right and keeping the plot moving fast enough to not lose my non-geek readers. There are some moments in the story when I have to delve into technical issues and I hope that I don't complete turn off most readers. But the way I see it, if you don't like police procedures, it usually doesn't stop you from reading a procedural heavy mystery.
In the end, readers will be the judge of whether I succeeded or not. Hopefully, I've given them a peek into a world where most people have not been before - the world of bits and bytes.