The mystery I'm reading right now doesn't have it. The descriptions are artful, the plot moves along, the situation is unique and interesting. But I feel the author's hand on my shoulder, pushing me along, trying to make me believe what she needs me to believe in order to get to her conclusion.
Characters say things that sound, well, out of character, and I hear her yell, "THAT'S A CLUE, READER!" People explode with anger, blurting out their secrets when they should be cautious and subtle. Several minor characters can't seem to decide what their own personality traits are. The protagonist has already told me twice how beautiful she is ... and I'm supposed to like her?
Finally, everyone in the book except the protag, her ethnic sidekick, and the wrongly-accused client is nasty and not afraid to show it. I can't help but think that if there were that many overtly mean-spirited people in one spot for long, the earth would open up and swallow them in pure self-preservation. I also hope the people of this author's state don't read her books: the Chamber of Commerce would cringe at her slamming of the whole state's morals, legal system, and inhabitants.
Will I finish the book? Probably. Will I read another by this author? Probably not. Good authors paint images that make us believe the people and situations are real, no matter how outre they may be. Second-rate authors try to force us to accept their view of the world, and their characters are cartoonish stereotypes, spewing bad dialogue and doing unreasonable things to move a clunky plot along. Second rate doesn't get a second chance from me; there are too many good authors out there.