I enjoyed thinking about my top-ten list, but it’s time for this blog to start living up to its name. My ‘to-read’ pile has been teetering precariously for months now, and hopefully blogging will encourage me to tackle it, but I don’t really want to do regular reviews. There are plenty of excellent mystery review sites out there, and many of the books in the pile are there because I read an online review, so adding my own opinion to an existing forest of reviews would be a bit pointless. I’ll still do a few reviews, but they’ll most likely be for computer games, or for books which I haven’t seen reviewed anywhere else.
So what am I going to fill the blog with? Well, ignoring spoilers gives me a lot more freedom than those review sites have. One of the things it allows is proper analysis: does a mystery work or not and why? Why are some clues are more effective than others? How can people who want to write their own mysteries learn from the successes and failures of other authors? None of these can be properly discussed without talking about mystery solutions and I intend to write lots of posts on these topics in the near future.
But it also allows some interesting investigation from the perspective of a mystery solver. What clues get noticed? Which clues seem unfair, even after the solution is revealed? Why are some solutions unsatisfying, even though they’re completely fair? Do people generally go about solving mysteries in the same way? Reviews often touch on these topics, but the need to avoid spoilers usually prevents any kind of elucidation. There are a ton of things to cover here as well, but only one which also will make a dent in my ‘to-read’ stack. Presenting: Solve-Alongs!
Each week I’m going to take a mystery I know nothing about and try and solve it. I’ll write a brief synopsis of the plot as I go along, but the focus will be on what clues I’ve picked up on, what theories I have about whodunnit, and how these theories change as the story progresses. Hopefully it will give an insight into what goes through a reader’s mind. If you’re into gaming, then think of it as a “Let’s Play” but for books. If you’re not, then don’t.
The absolute ideal situation is that you also pick up a copy of whatever I’m reading each week and try and solve it with me. But since that seems spectacularly unlikely, I’ll try to cater for as many people as possible. So if you’ve already read it, never intend to read it, or just don’t mind if it gets spoiled then follow along and see how well I do. I’ll try and do a brief summary of the plot as I go so it’s not impossible to follow, even if you’re completely unfamiliar with the book or have forgotten everything that happened. Of course since they’re mysteries and I’ll be typing as I go I may make a bad decision about which points are important and which are just window-dressing. So do bear with me if I suddenly have to shoehorn a whole lot of plot into a few sentences.
If you’re just interested in my take on the solution then skip to the “Post Mortem” section at the end of each post.
Here’s a list of all the Solve-Alongs I’ve done so far:
#1: Cat of Many Tails by Ellery Queen
#2: The Devil’s Star by Jo Nesbø