My mystery book club recently read The Last Policeman, by Ben H. Winters. The first of a trilogy, it’s about a newly promoted detective who stays on the job, even though his colleagues are bailing because everyone is going to die in 6 months when an asteroid hits earth.
Besides being a fabulous book, it raises some interesting questions. Some of the members of book club asked why we had chosen a science fiction book. But is it? Its premise sounds science-fiction-y, given the looming apocalypse, and Locus, the trade magazine of the science fiction community, had featured several articles about the book. I was intrigued, since I love science fiction and also write it under another name.
But this book is more about the investigation into a suspicious death, with the added layers of characters responding to their difficult situation. And the book won the Edgar Award in 2013 for best paperback original. This prestigious award is presented by Mystery Writers of America. So, if professional mystery writers say it’s a mystery, then it’s a mystery. Case closed.
But it’s also science fiction.
I am reminded of another time when an author I know wrote a science fiction mystery and hoped to see it marketed as a mystery. The book ended up being shelved with science fiction, probably because the author was already established as a science fiction writer. Any genre can also contain a mystery (and imo, a mystery makes any book better!), but science fiction seems to trump mystery when it comes to cross-genre.
So I couldn’t wait to find out what my book club of seasoned mystery readers would think of this book. Several of them had been skeptical at first and wouldn’t have chosen to read it, if not for book club. As it turned out, all but one loved it. They focused on the investigation of the case, and the way it unfolded fit their expectations, leaving them satisfied. Not bad at all, I’d say!
What do you say? Do you mind other genre elements in your mysteries?