Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Re-reading Classic Mysteries

Having wallowed through the darkest winter months reading light, fluffy, predictable cozy mysteries, I decided to up my game just a bit. The very addictive formula for the cozies I had been reading goes like this:
Amateur woman detective who is very nosy and...
Owns a small business...
Or is retired...
And involved or married to a policeman,
Has lots of friends who drop by her cottage or business (herbs, tea, knitting, antiques...)
In her small town or village or small part of a larger city (town within a town)
Somehow gets involved in a murder and decides to solve it herself because:
She is a suspect, or,
Her friend is a suspect and
She doesn't think the police are taking the investigation seriously.
So she annoys the police by interfering and
Puts herself in danger at the end of the book
And stumbles onto a solution and figures out whodunnit by almost getting murdered herself.
These amateur sleuths are not exactly Miss Marple who calmly observes and knows who did it almost from the beginning. These amateurs just stumble around like the unsuspecting teens in the horror films who always go down to the basement in the middle of the night unarmed to investigate the strange noise; we know how that turns out.

This fluffy genre of cozy mysteries is very popular, but after a while I felt like I had dined on dessert one time too many, so I decided to re-read the classic mysteries of the past that these new ones are descended from. What better mystery writer than Dame Agatha Christie herself? I just re-read 'The Murder of Roger Ackroyd' and even though I remembered the plot twist at the end when the murderer is revealed, I enjoyed this even more the second time around. The clues (or 'clews' as it is spelled in the book) are all reported along the way for observant readers; the characters are introduced in a list at the beginning of the book; a diagram of the scene of the crime is included. The whole exposition of the crime moves along at a nice pace with no extraneous dialogue, descriptions or digressions. Hercule Poirot is a professional detective, not an amateur, and is always several steps ahead of the reader in his observations and conclusions about the crime. M. Poirot never blindly wanders around aimlessly looking for clues. The amateur sleuths may be more easy to relate to for many readers than Poirot or Miss Marple, but the reader can aspire to figure out the mystery and compete with the keen intelligence of Christie's detectives.

Related websites:
Cozy Mystery List
Cozy Mysteries Unlimited
Mystery Cozy
Agatha Christie
'The Top Ten Agatha Christie mysteries' article in the Guardian

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