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?