Thursday, January 26, 2017

Double Brain

By the time this post comes up, I will have launched my ninth Alafair Tucker Mystery, The Return of the Raven Mocker, on Tuesday the 24th at the fabulous Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale Arizona. I will have also appeared at three other venues and am looking forward to another two months of talk and travel. Yes, this is the merry-go-round of publishing. I'll be writing guest blogs and speaking to group after group about how I researched and wrote a book about murder during the great influenza pandemic of 1918.

The irony behind all this is that in my head is currently occupied by the tenth Alafair Tucker Mystery, and sometimes I forget which book I'm supposed to be talking about. I call this "double brain".

Raven Mocker is a good book, even if I do say so myself. The next book is going to be even better. (How optimistic we writers are) It is going to have a bang-up ending, if I can pull it off as well as I envision it. A really good ending is wildly important to me, for as I've said many a time, a good beginning will make a reader want to read your current book but a good ending will make her want to
buy your next book.

I learned about the importance of a great end by reading Ellis Peters. She is the woman who inspired me to write the type of historical mystery that I do. She was very good at moral ambiguity, which is one reason I love her books, especially the Brother Cadfael series. The resolutions of those novels are usually very clever and perhaps not what you might have suspected. One of my favorite resolutions was in her novel Monk’s Hood. The victim wasn’t a pleasant man, but he wasn’t evil and didn’t deserve to die the way he did. The killer shouldn’t have taken the action he did. Cadfael figures out who did it and why, and confronts the killer, but in the end … well, let me just say, I was taken aback by what happened. Was it justice? I think yes, and mercy, too.

And that’s the mark of a truly successful mystery. We don’t just find out who did it. We are given a just resolution that satisfies us right down to our toes.

And if the author can pull off a big surprise, that's even better.

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