Monday, January 3, 2011

Welcome to the New Year!

And a lovely one it is, too. Don't you just love a brand spanking new year? It's all shiny and clean, and you haven't had time to blow your resolutions yet...

I spent most of New Year's Eve day finishing the first draft of my latest mystery. On New Year's Day, while recovering from my excesses (of writing!), I found myself wondering why I like the genre so much. I write fantasy, as well, and even the odd science fiction short story. But I do *love* a good mystery.

The fabulous Kristine Kathryn Rusch, who writes the Smokey Dalton mysteries under the pen name Kris Nelscott, has given a lot of thought to why mystery novels appeal to so many readers. She believes it's because a mystery brings order to chaos. And she's right, of course. By the end of the mystery, the bad guy has been caught (or at least identified) and it's safe to resume our normal lives.

Rusch taught a course on the mystery genre last year that broke down all the sub-genres of mystery and looked at the factors within each sub-genre (character, setting, tone, voice, etc.), and I realized what was important to me.
Character, character, character.

Now, I'm partial to setting, too, but setting isn't enough to keep me reading. However, if the protagonist is interesting, I will follow her or him to the end of the book to find out how they restore order to chaos. Years later, I may not remember the storyline, but I WILL remember the character, and I WILL be interested in reading more about said character.
Some of my favourite recent fictional characters are Kris Nelscott's Smokey Dalton, Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache and Christy Evans' Georgiana Neverall.

Now, how about you? Who are some of your favourite fictional mystery protagonists?

13 comments:

Toni Anderson said...

Hmmm, I also think characters are the main reason we become hooked on certain books/stories. I love the characters in PJ Tracy's books. I love JD Robb's Eve Dallas and Roarke characters. I think our interest in characters also extends to our fascination with survival stories. What is it in some people that enables them to beat incredible odds?
I have been meaning to read Louise Penny. Must do that. :)

Susanna Fraser said...

Not recent at all, but my all-time favorite mystery protagonist is Lord Peter Wimsey.

In current series, I'm partial to Lindsey Davis's Marcus Didius Falco and Julia Spencer-Fleming's Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne.

Wynter Daniels said...

Mine is not recent either, but I love Agatha Christie's Miss Jane Marple. It does all come down to character.

Shirley Wells said...

There are too many! I love the old ones - Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple - but I'm also a sucker for Ian Rankin's DI Rebus, Val McDermid's Tony Hill and many, many more.

I like to think I bring order to chaos. What I like most about reading a good mystery is solving the puzzle before the fictional sleuth.

Great post!

Marcelle Dubé said...

Thanks, Toni, Susanna, Wynter and Shirley! Excuse me as I scribble madly... there! I haven't read PJ Tracy, Lindsey Davis or Julia Spencer-Fleming yet but will go looking.

MaureenAMiller said...

Happy New Year, Marcelle.

I too, dig deep into history for my favorite character. Heathcliffe Earnshaw. He's just a guy you never forget.

But you're absolute right. It's about the characters. If we don't like them, even the most riveting of plots is tarnished.

Claire Eamer said...

Fat Andy Dalziel and Peter Pascoe in Reginald Hill's books. Joanne Kilbourn in Gail Bowen's series. And Peter Robinson's Alan Banks.

Elise Warner said...

Marcelle, thanks for the intro to some new authors. My favorite is Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse-I know now I'm not the only member of the group with a crush on him. I like the spin-offs Inspector Lewis and Sgt. Hathaway very much. and Clare, I'm a fan of Reginald Hill's Dalziel and Pascoe too. Then there's Tony Hillerman with Jim Chee and Tony Leaphorn and Elizabeth George's people-villains included.

Marcelle Dubé said...

Ah, Heathcliff... I had such a *crush* on him when I was a young girl. Thanks for reminding me of him, Maureen.

Hi Claire! How could I have forgotten Joanne Kilbourn; she's a favourite character, too. I love how we follow her as she ages.

Thanks for sharing your list of faves, Elise!

Shelley Munro said...

Good post. I like Stephanie Plum for her humor *grin* and a new find for me is a historical one - Lady Julia Grey (Deanna Raybourn). I'm also quite fond of Inspector Barnaby from Midsommer Murders as well as Hercule Poirot.

Happy New Year.

Janni Nell said...

For me it's Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. I love the dynamics of their relationship. Elvis, the wise-cracking everyman, and Joe the guardian-angel-like guy who saves Elvis when he gets in trouble. I was inspired by their relationship when I created Allegra and Casper.
I also love Mr & Mrs Darcy in Carrie Bebris' mysteries.

Marcelle Dubé said...

Shelley, I love Inspector Barnaby, too. And I hadn't heard of Lady Julia Grey but will look her up. I like historical mysteries.

And Janni, I'm embarrassed to admit I haven't read ANY Robert Crais books. But I will now!

Clare London said...

Oooh, I love Lord Peter Winsey as well. And I recently read a series of 6 murder mysteries by Patricia Ryan (PB Ryan) set in Boston, they were marvellous, purely because the characters touched me so deeply.