Mysteries are best in the first or third omniscient voice?

In my reading group, there has developed a school of thought that claims that the best ever mysteries are in the first voice, private PI type thingy. Personally, I go with PD James, Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie,  Their Third voice omniscient has produce far more intriguing plots than any other. I also think the best Thrillers and suspense novels are in the third voice, Silence of the Lambs, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Frankenstein, and the like. This may be a matter or preference, but I am sensing there is something to it. What do you think?

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Chandler wrote only in first person in his Marlowe books. His POV character was the one seeing the shadow, for example.

One contemporary author who sometimes writes in omniscient (though I don't read him anymore) is John Grisham. He'll dip in and out of the minds of multiple characters in the same scene.
It's certainly ok to quote when you mention the author. :)
My rule of thumb is third person close unless you're able to develop a voice in first person that's extraordinarily compelling. Two of my favorite authors (Chandler and Wodehouse) use first person about as well as it's possible to use it, and they do it in a way that really defines their particular genres. I'm not that good at voice, so I stick with a more neutral narrative presence (though I'm perhaps not as invisible as someone like Elmore Leonard, say).

The big advantage of third/close is that it allows you to switch POV if you have to, allows you to show the reader things that your protagonist may not be able to see/hear, and allows you to be in more than one place at a time. It's nearly impossible to do suspense (in the classic Hitchcockian way, at least) in first person. First person is comparatively rigid in terms of time/place--you can only be where your POV character is, and only see and hear what they see and hear. I've seen and tried to read a couple of attempts to blend first person and third/close, and felt that they failed miserably.
Ugh. I dislike stories that blend first and third/close. It's jolting to me.

I write first person suspense, and it's possible to do it, but as was mentioned earlier in the thread, your narrator has to be a good reporter/storyteller, and have a strong, compelling personality to get away with it. A lot of the suspense has to come from the protagonist's perceptions, and not from the fact that the reader can see someone creeping up on the shower, knife in hand.
I haven't been too bothered by what Robert Crais has done in the later Elvis Cole books - where he put a little prologue in third person (usually objective omniscient, but sometimes in the badguy's pov). I think he may have even put little interludes from the badguy's pov throughout one of them (but I might be remembering one of his third person, non-series books).

But that worked because they were somewhat separated from the story. They were like interstitials, or ad breaks or something. It's not something I would want to try to do though.

And oh, yes, how I love Wodehouse. He used both types of narrator - Bertie Wooster was in the story and you experienced everything from his point of view, but he also had the wonderful omniscient narration of Mr. Mulliner who told stories about his various nephews and nieces, and the "Eldest Member" who told the golfing stories.

I do enjoy writing first person when I get the right narrator. Sometimes that's what creates the story. I started my mystery westerns when I realized that the dopey young sidekick in a script I wrote was an observant and subtle guy. And as soon as I started writing in his point of view, the stories just popped right out.

On the other hand, I really wanted to turn one of the characters in a story I'm writing now into a narrator, and she has a perfectly wonderful voice, but she won't do it. She needs to be unselfconscious when her parts of the story are told, and she probably should be present for others.
I was about to mention Crais. I've also seen him do it at least once in an action scene, so the reader can see and know things Elvis doesn't. It was done well, and was an effective way of ratcheting up the tension. (I wonder if part of that is a subconscious feeling on the part of the reader that, once we switch into third person for an action scene, Elvis may actually be in more danger than you can get away with in first person, since the first person narrator can be assumed to survive to tell the story. (I know this isn't true 100% of the time, some first person narrators do die--Joe Gillis in SUNSET BOULEVARD, for example--but it's damned hard (an rare) to pull off.

James Lee Burke has done some of this recently, to give the reader information before Robicheaux gets it, and it works well.
I enjoyed the way Crais mixed a first person protagonist (Elvis) with occasional third-person POVs. Like Dana says, every time the tension or conflict was ramped. I liked it so much I stole it, to the point my last manuscript was darn near a 50/50 split between two characters, one in first person, the other in close third. Tough, because the reader has to really like both.

Carolyn Wheat talks about this in her book on craft, KILLER FICTION. By telling the reader things your protag doesn't know, the writer can make the reader start screaming "Don't go in that house, you fool!" That's suspense. Like Jack B, says, that's the way you write a thriller, Ms. Wheat says. Multiple points of view.
So the bottom line is the story. Like Stephen King said,"... if it works, write it."
And then there's Rumpole! A masterpiece of 1st person narrative!
And Archie Goodwin. An excellent first person narrator.
OK, maybe technically. I just never liked the books. They are entirely formulaic and repetitive. I suppose that would include the voice.
I really love Archie. I hadn't read Stout for years, and then went back to them five or six years ago and I was blown away by the technique.

Archie is a perfect narrator because that's what he does as a part of the story itself. He experiences the outside world FOR Wolfe, and then he reports with such great precision that Wolfe can reliably draw conclusions. And he reports to us with that same thoroughness.


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