Thursday, November 03, 2005


I recently ran across review of my book, The Company You Keep, on a blog. The reviewer commented that they thought the clues were obvious and was able to figure out who the killer was. My answer to this would be: Good for you! I love when people tell me they were able to figure out who dunnit. That’s the whole purpose of the clues. If you can figure it out it means you were on your toes, you paid attention. I’m not trying to make it impossible to solve, though I do admit to being pleased when people tell me the killer surprised them. That’s when I know my red herrings worked. But mysteries are puzzles and I want people to figure out the puzzle. I’ve always thought of clues as puzzle pieces that need to be put together to get the whole picture. If there’s one thing I hate is reading a mystery novel where the clues lead to nowhere and the author pulls the killer out of thin air. I feel cheated when that happens. I certainly don’t want to cheat my readers. When the killer is finally revealed in the end, I want readers to realize they’d been given the answer all along. I want them to be a detective too. Isn’t that why we read mysteries?



Dee Savoy said...

I agree with you Angela. I write sensual suspense for BET and Dafina and my goal is to keep people guessing. However, once readers are presented with the culprit, I want them to have an "oh yeah" moment where the killer makes sense to them. If they figure out who the bad guy in the first half of the book, that's not good, but enough clues should point to the culprit that those paying attention should be able to make a guess.

Angela Henry said...

Dee-Hi! I'm glad you agree. I think some writers try and make it so hard for readers to solve the mystery that they end up ruining it for them. As a mystery reader myself, I love following the clues to see where they lead. I feel so smart if I can figure it out.

Sylvia Hubbard said...

I like leaving those clues for my readers.

When I wrote Stone's Revenge I didn't realize i was writing a whodunit until i completed the first draft and the dropping clues became instinctual. Most people tell me a lot of things came to full circle and how my writing style kept then guessing to the end, but once they found out the real killer, they loved going back through it and seeing the clue dropping that was used and how the little things could mean a whole lot.

What bothers me is the writers that don't do that. They can not weave a sub-story around a main story and still get the clue dropping. Once i read a novel where all the clues were dropped in the second to last chapter and you really didn't have to read the ending. Matter of fact, the only chapter you needed to read was that one. It made me upset because i enjoyed the characters and the writer missed on wonderful opportunites for the reader to really love the story if they had taken the time to do a great job.

Angela Henry said...

Sylvia-Some writers think all a mystery needs is a dead body. No clues, no red herrings, no misdirection, no subplots. But we know that there is so much more needed to make a good mystery ; ).

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