In the US, my books are described as mysteries. Here in the UK, they’re crime novels. Either way, my books always have someone - either a police department or a private investigator - trying to solve a crime. Usually, but not always, this will be a murder.
To this end, I’ve always believed that one of my most important jobs as writer is to outwit the reader. I don’t want them guessing whodunnit - or even whydunnit - on page 5. The joy for the reader, or so I’ve always thought, is trying to spot the clues and solve the puzzle before the sleuth.
I recently read The Insect Farm by Stuart Prebble.
From the publisher: A cleverly plotted mystery of love,jealousy and suspense, Stuart Prebble's eagerly awaited new novel - The Insect Farm - will linger long in the mind of its readers. Brothers Jonathan and Roger Maguire each has an obsession. For Jonathan, it is his beautiful and talented girlfriend Harriet. For Roger, it is the elaborate universe he has constructed in a shed in their parents' garden, populated by millions of tiny insects. But Roger lives in an impenetrable world of his own and, after the mysterious death of their parents, his brother Jonathan is forced to give up his studies to take care of him. This obligation forces Jonathan to live apart from Harriet -- further fuelling his already jealous nature. Their lives are abruptly shattered by a sudden and violent death, and Jonathan is drawn into a cat-and-mouse game with the police. Does Roger know more than he is letting on? A cleverly plotted mystery with a shock ending, The Insect Farm -- Stuart Prebble's awaited new novel -- will linger long in the mind of its readers.
Jeffery Deaver said this about the book: Only rarely do a gripping psychological crime story and a literary writer’s insight and masterful style coincide. But The Insect Farm has that distinction. You’ll read this book fast, so compelling is the story, then - I guarantee - go back and read it again to savour the author’s gift for rich, lyrical writing. A tour de force.
I couldn’t agree more. This book is the best I’ve read this year. (I don’t know the author and only dowloaded the book because of a great review I read). The story lived on in my mind but, weeks after I’d finished reading it, I saw that one reviewer had described the book as “predictable”. It was only then I realised that, yes, I too had been one step ahead and had worked out the who and the why very early on. No spoilers here, but there’s a fire and I didn’t guess the mystery surrounding that. But knowing the killer’s identity - did it spoil my enjoyment of the story? Not one iota!
So in future, I’m planning to relax a little. Maybe I don’t have to lose sleep over the red herrings and the misdirection. Maybe, just maybe, it’s not the crime of the century if the reader has her suspicions…