Why a Mystery Writer? It’s the Maze.
I want to say I write mysteries and suspense because of a deep-seated need to see justice done in the world. I really want to say that. But it’s not true.
I love to read and write mysteries because they are clever. They force me to use my brain. Who is the killer? Can I come to the same conclusion as the detective, at the same time, following the same trail of clues?
Traditional mystery novels are like a chess game. In writing the novel A Purse to Die For, I discovered that mysteries must be plotted carefully, strategically. It is a convention of mystery writing that the reader receives the information at the same time as the detective. Anything else is considered cheating. Clues must lead to the solving of the crime. The reader must be able to go back and see the trail, once he/she has finished reading the ending. But the ending can’t be too obvious – that’s no fun. So it’s the clever mix of laying several trails like those of a maze that intrigues me as both a writer and reader. The trick: only one leads to the fateful conclusion.
A good mystery with a bang-up ending – logical, but original – gives me a kick like no other book. I marvel at the cleverness of the author. In short mystery fiction, I devour that twist at the end. In my own short fiction, you can count on a twist ending.
I love the wonderful delight that comes from stumping the reader…in making them say “Ah! Didn’t see that coming.” I’ve given them a challenge, and hopefully at the end, a smile. There is no greater high.
Melodie Campbell is the author of 40 short stories and three novels, including A Purse to Die For, co-authored with Cynthia St-Pierre. She has won 6 awards for short fiction, and was a finalist for both the 2012 Derringer Awards and the Arthur Ellis Awards.