Watercolor picture of leafless elm silhouetted against sunset sky

The Mystery: Crime Is Only the Beginning


Do you love a good mystery? One that will keep you guessing “who done it?”

My go-tos for keeping my mind active are crime stories, mysteries, and thrillers.

The problem is that after reading or watching enough crime and mystery stories you get pretty good at unveiling the murderer.

So finding a writer who can offer something new in the genre gets harder and harder.

If you are looking for new authors and great plots, here are a few to try.

Tana French for Crime and Mystery

In The Woods

Tana French has got everyone beat as one of the best crime story writers around. And she’s one of the first writers I know of to be brave enough to not tell you everything.

In fact, her first novel won’t resolve a central question in the story, unless you are willing to read very closely and put the clues together all by yourself.

In other words, the characters will not narrate the answer like they do in virtually every other crime story you read.

Are you intrigued? Grab a copy of In the Woods and piece together the clues all by yourself.

This year I also enjoyed French’s more recent offerings,The Witch Elm and The Searcher.

The Witch Elm

The Witch Elm starts with a bang. Our main character’s apartment is burglarized and he is severely beaten. In true French style, additional crimes accumulate to fill out the story and introduce new characters and motives. A body stuffed in an elm tree, some nasty cousins, and an eccentric uncle become prime suspects.

Or is the killer the artist, the gallery owner, the other brothers or their spouses? There is plenty of guilt to go around.

The Searcher

Description is one of French’s strong suits. Her description of the austere and blustery Irish countryside makes the perfect setting for her story about a man searching for and realizing the value of human connections.

It’s a perfect story for the pandemic in which we’ve found ourselves immersed. It’s a story about what really matters.

Then She was Gone, A Mystery by Lisa Jewell

I stumbled on author Lisa Jewell’s writing this summer and found it perfect beach and bedtime reading – stimulating stories, great characters, but not frustrating enough to keep me awake at night.

It’s hard to call Jewell’s genre mystery, because in most of her stories you know who the perp is right away.

What makes Jewell’s writing intriguing is that the reader slowly learns the motive for the crime as Jewell unravels the threads of her narrative. Very interesting stuff.

The exception to Jewell’s plot style is her latest book, Then She was Gone.

Here, the killer is not revealed early and neither is the motive. What we get is the fact that a woman with a young child is desperate to escape from the child’s father, and suddenly she suddenly disappears.

Seems simple enough; but the story is more intricate and compelling than a simple missing persons tale. And, unlike many contemporary crime thrillers, this one has a satisfying ending.

The Guest List, A Mystery by Lucy Foley

Although I was able to piece together the clues before the killer was revealed at the end of the book, I do admire Foley’s complex plot in The Guest List.

This novel follows her first thriller, The Hunting Party.

And this latest story is much, much better than the first.

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