Roller Coasters and Mysteries

Literary fiction has never really appealed to me as a reader. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate the hard work of writing it or value the dimension it brings by adding breadth to the available reading options, but I simply don’t enjoy reading it. While I will definitely dabble in reading the occasional romance, I lean toward those with a twist, those that fall on the intrigue end of romance novels. Thrillers, mysteries, cozies, steampunk, paranormal? I cannot get enough.

It’s the puzzle. I need the puzzles that are so beautifully crafted in a good mystery or thriller. The highs, the lows, the sharp turns and free falls provide a readerly version of the best roller  coasters and the spinniest carnival rides. As a reader, I crave all of these elements. When I read paranormal fiction, it’s paranormal mystery. The romances are intrigues, and so on, but my favorite stories are the ones packed with twists and turns, the ones where I find myself racing to solve the mystery before the author unmasks the villain or truth.

Perhaps that’s why I so adored Agatha Christie and the Sherlock Holmes stories growing up; Christie and Doyle craft amazing puzzles, subtle, twisty, devious puzzles that I can read over and over again. Luckily for me, there are so many wonderful books to choose from, I can’t possibly run out of options! Our own Cynthia Kuhn crafted a delicious mystery set in the sometimes cranky/often inspiring/always competitive world of academics, Semester of Our Discontent, and I’m already planning to re-read it. In Kait Carson’s Hayden Kent Mysteries, she deviously ups the ante by adding a whole new environment to the puzzles: water with her scuba diving heroine! Patricia Briggs adds new life to the paranormal genre with her Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega series, and they are seriously addictive.

Oddly enough, my every day life has to be quite orderly, with as few surprises as possible. I’ve been working on mental flexibility–trying not to be annoyed when things don’t go as I’ve planned them. I’m making progress, but I’ve got a ways to go (at least, that’s what my family tells me!). However, I do still love to spend hours working on a solving puzzles, whether crossword or jigsaw (I’m going to do one of those paint can ones someday; you know, the ones that are all one color?).

What draws you to a good mystery?


Author: Pamela A. Oberg

Pamela is a portfolio manager at an educational assessment company by day, writer by night. Founder of Writers on Words (a discussion and critique group), Pamela enjoys spinning tales of murder and mayhem, with an occasional foray into the world of the paranormal.

10 thoughts on “Roller Coasters and Mysteries”

  1. I’m with you, Pamela. I can appreciate the beauty of literary fiction, but it’s not what I prefer to read. For me, it’s the characters of genre fiction. Then yes, I like the stories – the puzzles. I’ve read Murder on the Orient Express so many times I’ve lost count – and I enjoy the puzzle every time even though I know how it’s going to turn out.


  2. Lately I’ve been reading series with a sense of humor, dark as they may be, such as Adrian McKinty’s The Troubled Series, Eoin Colfer’s Plugged and Screwed, and Rebus, which I just started so I could work on that those slow times while all my friends and favorites are publishing their next books.


  3. Literary fiction is a different sort of read, and I do enjoy it for those different reasons. Ah, but mysteries! They’re pure entertainment and escape from the real world. Because of that escape element, I prefer not to be troubled by the overly dark. But because of the entertainment aspect, they will just as likely suck me into their story.


  4. I enjoy literary fiction every once in a while, usually when I’m in the mood for a complex introspective read, but I tend to read genre fiction more. I love mysteries for the puzzle, and cozy mysteries for the escape. When the tough gets going,I like to cozy up with a purely entertaining read that will take my mind off of things 🙂


  5. Funny you should mention this. I have been reading Lianne Moriarty this year. I definitely like her brand of women’s fiction because she writes mysteries. I was actually thinking of doing a post on it.


  6. Oh, Pamela, thanks so much for the kind words! And I love the puzzle aspect of mysteries too–as well as characters that are interesting. (And if there’s humor, that’s a hat trick…ha ha.)


  7. I enjoy both mysteries and roller coasters. I think it’s all about the thrill, the ups and downs, and the potential danger with the underpinning of safety. I real mysteries almost exclusively. I am in a book club at the library, so I do read the literary award winners and classic novels that the librarian selects, but truthfully, I just don’t really enjoy many of them. Mary, I have always loved “Orient Express.” I even watched the old movie version a couple of weeks ago. It just never gets old. sambohrman, I recently discovered Lianne Moriarty as well. I “Big Little Lies” got me hooked. I like her version of “suspense.” She writes not just about the “event” or crime, but about the people around the event and how it changed them.

    Pamela, I agree. A great mystery book has many things in common with a puzzle. You know how it will look in the end, but it’s all about putting the pieces together, time after time.


  8. Thanks for the shout-out Pamela! I do like literary fiction, but in small doses and it often has a bit of mystery or thriller to it. I’m thinking of the Guernsey Potato Society (there is more to that title, I can’t remember it) that took place during WWII, and others like it. Overall it’s words with a twist of challenge and mystery that I’m most apt to read, and that I enjoy reading.

    I too am a puzzle addict. Love, love, love the Sunday NYT crossword. If I’m in an airport for any reason, I’m buying a puzzle book to pass the time. I miss those Penny Press ones that had a variety of puzzles. They were great for a long flight.


  9. I’m drawn to crime fiction because, unless it’s literary, I trust that in some way justice will be served. Genre fiction makes a promise that literary fiction doesn’t.

    Also, while some literary fiction is truly lovely, a lot of it is just pompousness on steroids. Get over thyself already!


  10. Great comments everyone! And yet MORE books to add to my TBR pile. I love it. Sorry for not being able to check in today–crazy week at work. Anyway, fab thoughts! (Peg, you cracked me up. . .love it.)


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