It’s February 2nd as I write this. And the Broncos ALMOST won the Superbowl! Almost, you see, because they were one of the two teams playing. Almost, you see, is a tricky little beast, a squirmy, wiggly kind of word. What is it, exactly, about almost that is so, so tempting?
It can be tantalizing, teasing, tempting. He almost kissed her, she almost ate the whole dessert, they almost won the game. Almost suggests that if the smallest of details had fallen into place, victory would have been achieved.
My favorite mysteries are the ones where the villain almost gets away with the crime, the stories that have the reader on the edge of his or her seat, reading frantically to make sure–because surely the author would not let the villain get away with this!–to confirm that the villain is caught and punished as is just and right. Because the story is where things can be tied up neatly, no stone left unturned, no avenue left unexplored, and where the messy realities of real life are a distant thought.
Except when the author, those terrible, wonderful, tricky authors leave us just enough of a suggestion, a hint, a tiny breadcrumb of a clue that maybe, just maybe, the story isn’t quite finished. Which, of course, can cause a reader to go swiftly to the nearest bookstore or website to order the next book by this terrible, wonderful, tricky author, and go on another journey where the author lets the villain get away with the crime.