This is a guest post by Glen Ebisch.
There are several things that make writing mysteries particularly enjoyable. The first is obviously that there is some sort of a puzzle involved. So the writer must come up with a plot that presents a crime that the reader--along with the protagonist--tries to solve. It must be a fair plot, which means that the reader is given all the relevant evidence to solve the crime right along with the main character. There are no last minute surprises or introductions of new characters that make for an impossible-to-anticipate solution. This aspect of the mystery tests the writer’s ability to think in a clear, rational way.
A second requirement for a good mystery is that the main character must be someone the reader cares about. If the protagonist is dull, unapproachable, or dim, the reader will quickly stop caring about solving the puzzle. The ability to develop a fully rounded character poses a new challenge to the writer because he must be able to develop a convincing backstory for the protagonist that makes it understandable why the person is acting as she is in the present. It also requires the ability to emotionally connect with the character and your readers. This can be challenging but also very rewarding to the writer.
Finally, the crime must be solved. Most people who read mysteries want the satisfaction of having order restored in the world by having the criminal caught and punished. In a world where, as we all know, crime all too often does pay, there is a satisfaction about reading about a universe where it does not. I think this also gives a sense of living in an orderly universe to both the reader and the writer.
So I think writing mysteries is particularly satisfying because it challenges the writer intellectually to create a complex but fair plot. It challenges him emotionally to get inside the mind of his protagonist and make her a true to life individual. And finally, it is satisfying morally because it allows the writer to reestablish a sense of justice in the world.
A BODY IN MY OFFICE, my most recent mystery published by Williams & Whiting, is about Charles Bentley, a professor of English at prestigious Opal College, who is forced into retirement when the administration hires an academic star from England to teach his courses in American literature. Not only does the Englishman take his job, he also immediately occupies Charles’ office. After having a heated exchange with him, Charles goes out into the parking lot to cool down. When he returns he finds the man murdered. Quickly becoming a person of interest to the police, Charles must use his academic skills to solve the murder, which forces him to delve into his own past and closest relationships.
The theme of this book interested me because there is not a great deal of mystery fiction written with an older man as the main character. I think it is interesting to explore the advantages a mature person brings to the solving of crime and to consider the issues that arise at this time in life. A BODY IN MY OFFCE is the first book in a series featuring Charles Bentley as a crime-solver.
Glen has been a professor of philosophy for over thirty years. Most recently he retired from teaching at a small university in western Massachusetts. For much of that time he has also written mystery and suspense fiction, starting with books for young adults and moving on to writing for adults. He has had twenty-five books published, fifteen of them in the last fifteen years as time has allowed him to write more. All are cozy in nature and suitable for any reader. He lives in western Massachusetts with his wife. His hobbies include reading (of course) and going to the gym. He and his wife also look forward to traveling to Maine and Cape May, New Jersey for their needed dose of the beach. You can view more at his website.