Recently I ran across an article that links crossword players with mystery readers. This made me wonder if it were true. In a recent post I asked the question of mystery readers, do they try to solve the mystery as they read. In other words, do they become sleuths along with the actual detective or amateur sleuth. My guess is those kinds of readers also work crossword puzzles.
My mom is one of the most avid mystery readers I know. She reads all kinds of mysteries–cozies, police procedural, detective, everything. And, she reads the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine every week. As a child I leafed through that magazine all the time. I found it in the bathroom, den and wherever a reading spot might be. But, my mom does not work crosswords, and she dislikes doing so.
Clearly a sample of one or two tells us nothing. As a mystery writer, I want to know more about the mystery readers out there.
If so, I need to be more circumspect with my clues. In fact, I read a mystery by a colleague a few months ago and the killer was so obvious, I lost interest in the book. That’s not something we writers want.
Crosswords are great fun because they force me to think in a different way. Some clues are obvious; others are more hidden. The hidden ones cause more trouble, but they are the most fun to solve. When the answer comes, I am delighted and that’s what keeps me working crosswords. If the designer of the puzzle cheats me–gives a clue that doesn’t really fit–I don’t want to work those crosswords again. I put that puzzle maker aside. This, too, is the case with me in reading. If the author cheats (in my view that was true of Gone Girl and one of the many reasons I disliked the book), I’m done with that author.
Indeed we must give clues.
One way to keep the reader guessing is to have a number of possible suspects and other events that might, just might be the answer. We call those red herrings. They lead the reader astray. Again, too many of these are distracting.
But, I’d also love to hear from the readers. Do you try to solve the mystery as you read? Do you work crosswords? What kinds of mysteries keep you reading?