Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Writing or the Detecting?

Mysteries, along with history and biography, are my preferred reading.  My grandmother had a bookcase full of Agatha Christie novels and I can still remember the pleasure of discovering the Queen of Crime.  She inspired a love of the English detective novel that has never waned.  I do read current authors, including Laurie R. King, Kate Atkinson, Tana French, Charles Todd, Deborah Crombie, Christopher Fowler and Phil Rickman.  But in my heart, I'm a vintage crime lover.

I've been discovering new authors from the past over the last few months.  Some of them have been marvelous writers and some have left me cold, but I have learned one thing about myself.  If I have to choose between good writing and a fairly-clued seamless plot with a shocking twist on the last page, I'll take the writing.  Sure, I'd like to read the perfect mystery every time I crack a book, but that doesn't happen.  Give me polished, well-written, efficient prose and I can overlook all other faults.  


  1. I agree with you. I will forgive clumsy plotting or transparent clueing if the writing keeps me interested and reading to the very last page. Sense of humor also is a big plus in crime fiction for me. So much of modern crime fiction is drearily serious not too mention obsessed with violent description and I shy away from those writers.

    But I have also abandoned many a vintage mystery that was badly written. I have a post coming up soon called "Digging Myself Out of the Depths" devoted to some of the worst of the genre I suffered through this past winter. None of them qualify as alternative classics, BTW.

  2. I'll look forward to that post. Glad to hear you share some of the same feelings about the issue. I thought I might lose my Junior Vintage Mystery Reader badge by admitting the detection didn't always have to be brilliant.