I’m working on that final confrontation scene in my book and this morning, I woke up with some questions about my killer’s motivations and who one of the victims was and why that victim was different from the others. I know some of the whys of that, but not all. And I need to figure out the rest of it. Pot and I have been kicking some ideas around and so far nothing is really gybing. So I have a question for all you readers of mystery and suspense: does it tick you off when you don’t have the essential pieces of the puzzle until the end of the story? I mean, in this case, it’s information that the investigators don’t have either, so it wasn’t like it was deliberately withheld just to taunt you as a reader. I tend to like mysteries (because I reread them) that seed clues all through the book so that if you’re astute and paying attention, you can figure things out (but not the ones where it’s just OBVIOUS from the beginning–like Nora Roberts’ Angel’s Fall…I knew it was him from the beginning…normally I don’t have that problem with her work). When the clues just weren’t there, I don’t tend to like a story as much. I was undecided about Nora’s High Noon. There was simply no way to guess who the bad guy was until the end because we didn’t know him as a character. I liked the book, but not as much as some of her others. So what do you say, readers? Inquiring minds want to know.
Do you prefer mysteries/suspense where the clues are seeded along the way?
Or would you rather be kept guessing until the last page?
I’m not a straight mystery reader. I’ve liked things that have the clues seeded throughout so that you could figure it out, but when you’ve got other things going on and the mystery is only part of the plot, usually there doesn’t seem to be enough time and space to throw in enough red herrings, and seeding in the clues often takes away the surprise.
If the thrust of the book seems to be figuring out Whodunnit and the author withholds some vital piece of info, that ticks me off. But if it’s a suspense and it’s a case of the killer’s identity being a shocker or plot twist, I don’t mind that and kind of like it.
What I’ve come to like is a book that keeps me guessing. Not guessing in terms of solving the crime, but guessing in terms of “how is she going to write her way out of this one?” This sometimes comes in the form of a mystery, but also in getting the characters out of a difficult situation, or, my favorite, overcoming what is set up to be an “impossible relationship” (cop and criminal, past betrayal, forbidden lovers, etc.). That’s my personal taste.
Don’t know if that’s helpful at all.
I really love the little clues spread out all along, that if I’d just paid attention, I could have figured it out. The masters will give several different options who may or may not be the real bad guy. Of course, the risk is that the astute reader will figure it out too easily and then be led down.
There is something to be said for knowing up front who the bad guy is–especially when it’s someone very close to the protagonist, who has no idea. That suspense, wondering when they’ll figure it out, can be great.
So I probably didn’t answer your question at all!
Clues are necessary. The reader should be able to look back and say, wow, I remember that, and so forth. The best books really do this I think. Jeffrey Deaver is one of the masters of this genre. You should read Greg IIles.