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WHY WE READ MYSTERIES

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 6, 2010

I awoke to the news there had been a home invasion robbery and murder in my town. Although we’re a western suburb of Fort Lauderdale, our city doesn’t experience violent crime all that often. So when it does occur, it’s scary. What’s even more scary is that I just got a call from a mystery writer friend of mine, and it happened right across the street from her. I hadn’t even connected the addresses. She can see the CSI folks out her front window.  sleuth

This incident brings home the fact that a random act of violence can happen to anyone. All we need is somebody to follow us home because we drive a nice car, or a nutcase to obsess on us, or else we’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Often these cases end badly. No wonder we want to read crime novels where the villain is caught and justice is served. I’d say this is Reason #1 why we read this genre. Stories may reflect on social ills and grapple with weighty issues, but they still reach a satisfactory conclusion, unlike real life.                                      

An HEA ending (i.e. Happy Ever After) makes us less afraid. These stories force us to confront our fears, especially in psychological thrillers or romantic suspense. In my case, I prefer to read lighter fare, humorous mysteries where no one likes the victim and the amateur sleuth catches the crook. I accept that these are fantasies, because in reality, murder is a somber and sad business. Survivors mourn the dead. The killer may never be caught. So what do you say? Do you get your thrills from gritty crime fiction, true crime, or stories rife with forensic details? Or would you rather confine reality to the news and read a book with an HEA that leaves you with a smile?

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8 Responses to “WHY WE READ MYSTERIES”

  1. Nancy, how awful! I’m sure you’ll be double checking your doors and windows at night. I will be, too, because this can happen anywhere. I read for escape, and I prefer stories where justice prevails and honor is rewarded. I’m reading a historical mystery now that includes some gruesome details, but I know the culprit will be caught and punished!

  2. Linda Pearl said

    Since I first read Nancy Drew, in elementary school,I have been hooked on mysteries,and you are right, the conclusion is satisfying, when they get theirs! I do have to say though, I also go over to to the dark side, with mystries that make your hair stand on end…depends on my mood. Here’s hoping Marla ends up on my bookshelf again soon..

  3. Gram said

    Truth is scary. I’m glad you and your friend are o.k. but it does point out that no one is safe from someone who really wants to hurt you.
    I like light mysteries, cozies, etc. the scary ones give me nightmares. I do like to follow forensic specialists in books of fiction or fact. In both cases the bad guy is brought to justice.
    There is enough bad news on TV and in the papers to make me want to escape in books.

  4. Linda, I’m working on getting Marla out there again. Or rather, my agent is working on it. Gram, I agree with you in that there’s enough bad news on TV. I read to escape into another world. That’s why I like Allison’s books!

  5. Mary said

    Agree with you – I like humorous cozies where the baddies get their come uppance and especially where the underdog gets justice. I do think good ultimately prevails, so the happy endings reinforce that in spite of our seeing the negative all around us [I’ve pretty much given up on the news except for NPR very occasionally.]

  6. I read mysteries mostly because of that old saw “there’s a beginning, a middle, and an end.” I like the crime to happen fairly quickly, the characters to be likable, and the resolution quick and realistic. I don’t like a lot of introspection and long paragraphs of description. The story and the action are what’s it’s all about for me—and I read across the gamut of crime fiction (until something supernatural rears its head, but that’s another story!).

  7. lynnbyer said

    I read about and hear about too many bad things … so I like to escape from reality into HEA romances, cozies, and light fantasy.

    What a sad story that was about the professor. He was sooooo well liked at NSU and was brilliant in his field. Heartbreaking!

  8. Unfortunately from an author’s viewpoint, this is a bad time to be selling a cozy mystery. The market is down while thrillers continue in popularity. I used to read books by Alistair McClean and Clive Cussler but outgrew them and now prefer amateur sleuth stories with strong female protagonists, historical or futuristic romances, and occasional sf/f. As you all agree, there’s enough bad stuff in the news.

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