When I was a child, I was given a copy of The Bobbsey Twins of Lakeport by Laura Lee Hope. It’s book jacket claimed “Ghosts! Everyone agrees that the old Marden House is as haunted as a chimney on Halloween, but when there’s a mystery to be solved, the Bobbsey Twins, Bert and Nan, Freddie and Flossie, don’t intend to let a little thing like ghosts stop them.” I became a diehard mystery reader from that moment forward.
Mysteries let me escape from school, chores, piano practice, and my pesky younger sister. Reading the entire Bobbsey Twin series let me be part of solving a mystery at the circus, the beach, the mountains, and by the end, even Japan. I explored more places and felt like the series’ characters became my friends as I read my way through Cherry Ames, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and Trixie Belden. Then, I found Agatha Christie! Not only were the characters of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot addictive, but their reasoning abilities challenged me to read carefully so that I could beat them to figuring out whodunit.
To this day, I relish the plot line in Christie’s The Pale Horse because it stumped me. When I finished the book, I realized that Agatha Christie had hid the clues in the plot’s twists and turns, but I had been so engrossed in the story that I forgot to focus on putting them together. It was at that moment I realized the complex analysis and delicacy of writing that makes a good mystery just plain fun to read.
Throughout the years, mystery writers have entertained and challenged me. They’ve kept me from being bored on long flights, distracted me when unpleasant things are happening, and interfered with my sleep because I was too intrigued in a book to put it down. It is the latter type of books that remind me of the technical skills of word choice, plot, and characterization necessary to write an enjoyable mystery. These type of books are, as Flossie of The Bobbsey Twins would say, “bee-yoo-ti-ful!.”