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The Butler Did Not Do It

With a serious nod to my mystery-loving friends, I am reading as many of that genre as I can while the summer weather is here and the heat has finally found its way to Reno. I’ve just posted a review of Benjamin Black’s A Death in Summer now that the review is out in the Clayton Pioneer. In the meantime I read Black’s Christine Falls, which actually should have been read first, and because I had already read about some of the CF characters in A Death in Summer, I experienced a bit of jà vu  The importance of reading a mystery series in chronological order is generally a bit of a crap shoot. I recommend starting with #1 only because that first book will give you a fair idea of who the characters are and a good feel for the sort of mystery the author writes.

I’ve asked a lot of readers who only read mysteries, why? What makes them so desirable? Usually the answers have something to do with the love of puzzles and the fun of trying to figure out who did it. I should clarify something that just occurred to me, and that is that I’m talking about murder mysteries. Those readers are right, it is fun. I’ve also learned as both bookseller and reviewer that murder mystery aficionados are, on the whole, a pretty demanding lot. They don’t care for sloppy sleuthing and their tolerance for blood, gore, violence and sex is generally dependent on age and possibly what time of the month the book is being read. What’s great about mystery reading is that no matter what your special interest is, believe me, there is a mystery book revolving around that interest. I cannot think of a topic that has not been the theme of a well written mystery. For those authors who specialize in mysteries about books, cooking, music, car racing, military, paranormal, parenting, transportation (air/land/sea), espionage, and just about any other special interest, they can write with the assurance that they’ve carved out a niche with a handy built-in readership.

Tahoe Hijack by Todd Borg was my last mystery read and reviewed. That review will be posted shortly after it’s in print, but before putting mysteries aside, it occurred to me that mystery readers are not so very different from every other kind of reader. Borg’s book was about an unsolved murder, but then it was also about the California Gold Rush , Chinese immigrants in the Gold Rush era, the ecology of Lake Tahoe, a smattering of travel in its mentioning of restaurants, bookstores  (Bookshelf Stores, their Truckee store is one of my favorites), the care and loving of Great Danes, and even the lack of techno-educational opportunities for inner-city girls. I’m of the opinion that mystery-only readers should try other genres from general and literary fiction, including sci-fi and fantasy, to almost every area of nonfiction. Most of those genres are about life, and the last time I looked around, life was a puzzle to me.

If trying to figure out exactly who killed the butler is what gets you turning pages, pick up almost any other kind of book, fiction or nonfiction — murder isn’t the only thing that is fun to figure out. And to those readers who think mysteries are below their reading tastes (I’m betting there are a lot of closet mystery readers out there) I heartily suggest they give that genre an honest chance;  after all, Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddie said it best, Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life.

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