Does Your Mystery Novel Need To Have A Solution? [Mystery Month]

We’ve all read those kinds of books where the ending is left pretty open. Sometimes it’s satisfying, sometimes it’s not. Once in a while it’s okay to leave the ending up to the reader and they can infer on what might happen next. Other times, though, it just doesn’t make any sense.

You know how sometimes you have 20 pages left in a book and you’re either saying to yourself, “How can this all get wrapped up in 20 pages?” or, “It’s over… what else can be said in these 20 pages?”

I’m pretty sure you want your readers asking themselves the former, but are you able to do that with a mystery where a crime has taken place?

Does your Mystery novel need to have a solution? | Mystery Writing | Creative Writing | Mystery Novel | RachelPoli.com

Let the crime go unsolved

In real life, there are plenty of crimes out there that have gone unsolved. It’s the sad truth. In some cases, the bad guy is crafty enough to get away and other times there’s just not enough evidence to convict someone.

This is totally okay to do in your mystery books, but maybe just once in a while. You don’t want your readers picking up your latest book and saying, “Well, I know there’s going to be no clear answer, so what’s the point?”

But here are some points:

1. Allow your readers to solve it themselves

Each and every day someone out there is discovering something new about the Harry Potter series. Give your readers a chance to do that with your mystery. Book clubs will get together and someone will say, “I think this happened because…” and someone else will counter with, “Yeah, but this guy had this motive…” and so on and so forth. You can leave enough evidence to point the blame at a character or two but not give a clear answer. It will certainly give people something to talk about when the book is over.

2. Give them the right answer but don’t convict anyone

There’s nothing more frustrating than knowing the answer and not being able to do anything about it. You don’t want to frustrate your readers, no, but you want them to feel something, right? Frustration for the detective who solved the crime but can’t do anything about it. Sadness for the victim’s family because they’re so close to justice but can’t get it. Annoyance at the bad guy who’s laughing as he crosses over the border.

3. Don’t give an answer at all

I wouldn’t recommend this in case your readers decide to form a mob against you, but you could just not give an answer at all. Don’t even hint at an answer. The crime could be so messed up that the detective goes insane himself. There might be too many red herrings that no one knows up from down and before they know it, the trail runs cold. This would still allow your readers to try to figure things out, but unlike my first point, they won’t have much concrete clues to go on.

So, is it possible to end a mystery without a solution? Absolutely. Should you do it all the time? Probably not.

But hey, writers not only enjoy torturing their characters, we like to tease our readers a bit too.

Do you always give your mysteries a solid ending? Do you agree that you don’t have to reveal the truth? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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5 Quotes By David Baldacci [Mystery Month]

5 Quotes by David Baldacci | Writing Quotes | Mystery | Inspiration | Inspirational Quotes | RachelPoli.com

1. “Why can’t people just sit and read books and be nice to each other?”

2. “Today might not be so good. But tomorrow, you got another chance to get it right.”

3. “Time doesn’t really heal, it just makes you not give a crap.”

4. “It’s not the beginning or the destination that counts. It’s the ride in between.”

5. “Anyone who’s lived has lost somebody.”

Have you read any books by David Baldacci? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Short Story Sunday 214: Number One Suspect [Part 4 – Mystery Month]

Short Story: "Number One Suspect" | Flash Fiction | Creative Writing | Mystery | RachelPoli.com
DID YOU READ PARTS ONE, TWO, AND THREE?

            After talking to Noah, Jayden’s former boss, George and Lilah went straight back to the office to brainstorm more ideas. Things were suddenly looking for Steven. While the motive for killing his wife was still prominent, things were looking shady on Jayden’s end as well.

“Whatever she was up to leading up to her death,” George had said, “had dire consequences that I don’t think she saw coming.”

They even visited Steven is his holding cell and asked for his bank information. Sure enough, it matched the number that Lilah had found written on the notepad on Noah’s desk. When Barney had asked what they were doing there, George simply shrugged his shoulders and told him that there was more to the case than met the eye.

It wasn’t until the following day that George and Lilah went back to the police station to finally piece everything together. They had helped throw an innocent man in jail and now they had to get him back out so justice could be served.

Barney sighed when he noticed his brother and Lilah walking towards his desk through the police station.

“What do you guys want now?” he asked standing up. “Did the check not arrive yet?”

“We’re here to solve Jayden Bell’s murder.” Lilah boasted.

Barney raised an eyebrow and glanced at George with suspicion.

George sighed. “Listen, we believe Steven is innocent.”

“You helped arrest him!”

“I know, I know. And it was a terrible mistake. It’s a gut feeling both Lilah and I had the other day when you were questioning him.” George explained.

“Really?” Barney scoffed folding his arms across his chest. “Because when I interrogated him the other day he had nothing useful to say. If he was really innocent, I feel as though he would have tried harder.”

Lilah glared at Barney. “He had nothing to say because he was scared. And he’s grieving the loss of his wife. Plus, there’s a lot more to the puzzle that Steven doesn’t even know.”

Barney’s face relaxed as he listened to Lilah. “What do you mean? What else have you figured out?”

Lilah opened her mouth, but thought better than to answer. She looked up at George figuring that he would be the best to explain it all.

“I think,” George said, “this conversation would be better if Steven were in on it.”

Barney reluctantly agreed. He sent George and Lilah to Interrogation Room A on the other side of the station while he went to go fetch the suspect.

When they had made it to the room, Steven sat on one end of the metal table while George and Lilah sat on the other. Barney stood behind them with his back leaning up against the one-way mirror and his arms crossed. He didn’t look amused by this turn of events, yet he seemed intrigued by it all the same.

“Steven,” George began, “Thank you for talking to us again.”

“Sure… are you going to be my lawyer?” Steven asked.

Barney snickered behind them.

George sighed. “No, Steven. I told you, I’m a private investigator. I’m not a lawyer.”

Steven looked over at Lilah and she shook her head before he could even ask. His shoulders slouched in disappointment and he somberly looked down at the cold table in front of him.

“I wouldn’t worry too much. I don’t think you’re going to need any representation.” George said in an attempt to reassure him. However, it only seemed to confuse him as he looked up at George with furrowed brows.

“Did you know that your wife was planning to divorce you?” George asked bluntly.

Steven’s eyes grew wide. “What…?” his bottom lip puckered out and quivered. “What do you mean Jayden was going to divorce me…?”

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this, especially under these circumstances, but she was seeing another man.” George explained. “She was going to divorce you to be with him.”

“Wait a minute,” Barney piped up. “I see this more of a drive to kill her.”

Steven gasped in fright and Lilah rolled her eyes. She turned around in her seat and looked up at Barney. “Can’t you tell that he had no idea she was planning on divorcing him?”

Barney shrugged. “He could be a great actor, for all you know. Besides, I’m just trying to play devil’s advocate. We have to know absolutely everything and get everyone’s side on things.”

Lilah relaxed back down in her seat. She knew Barney was right, but she wished they could all be a little more sympathetic to Steven. He did just lose his wife… in more ways than one.

“She was definitely in over her head, though. I’m sure whoever she was having an affair with didn’t care for her back in the way she cared for him. However, I don’t think she knew that.” George stated.

“I’m not sure I’m following…” Steven said shaking his head.

“I spoke with Mr. Noah Lang yesterday.” George said. He turned around to look at Barney. “I would suggest you page someone to bring him down here. He’s the owner of Prevalli’s Restaurant, Jayden’s former boss, and so-called lover. And whoever picks him up; tell them to take a look a notepad on his desk. It should have Steven’s bank account number written on it.”

Barney hesitated, but he eventually left the room to make the call.

Steven leaned forward on the table looking George in the eye. “Jayden’s boss? Why would he have my bank account information?”

“Remember when you originally hired us it was because you thought Jayden was doing something with your money? Your money was mysteriously disappearing from your account? Checks were being written?” George asked.

Steven nodded.

“I don’t know why, but Jayden was giving all that to Noah. I think he seduced her into believing they had a loving relationship and therefore somehow tricked her into giving her your account information so he could steal money from you.”

Steven leaned back in his chair with a disgusted look on his face. “And Jayden was going to leave me for him?”

Lilah narrowed her eyes. That was what he was taking out of this story? He was concerned that Jayden was going to leave him more so than that she was stealing his money and giving it to someone else for them to use?

When Barney came back into the room, George explained one more time what his suspicions were.

“I don’t know what Noah was using the money for, but I do believe he’s the culprit in stealing from their account.” Georg explained.

“Well, it’s not technically stealing if Jayden was giving him permission to take the money out. It was her account as well.” Barney shrugged his shoulders.

Steven’s jaw dropped. “So that money technically isn’t stolen? I can’t get it back?”

Barney nodded his head. “Well, we’ll see what we can do about that. It’s just not going to be easy.”

Steven slouched back down in his chair.

“The charges for the money might not stick, but I’m pretty sure you’ll find that Noah is also the man who killed Jayden.” George continued.

Steven gasped and Barney shook his head. “And what, may I ask, makes you say that?”

“Noah was using Jayden. She had a lot of money and she was attracted to him. So, he played along to get what he wanted, to get what he needed. There are a lot of theories, but my guess is that he killed her.” George explained. “She either figured out what he was doing and confronted him about it, therefore him getting angry and scared. Maybe she told him that she was going to divorce Steven so they could be together and Noah didn’t want that. He panicked. Or, maybe Noah was done using her and attempted to break up with her. Then maybe she threatened to cut him off completely or asked for her money back and… well, he panicked again.”

Barney pinched the bridge of his nose. “Why did this case have to end up this way…? It was so easy before.”

“Hey!” Steven protested. “You’re talking about my life on the line here.”

“Sorry,” Barney shrugged.

It wasn’t too much longer when a few officers came in announcing that they had brought Noah to the station. George, Lilah, and Barney left Steven in Interrogation Room A and went to go talk to Noah in Interrogation Room B.

“You two again? I thought you said you were Private-Eyes, no police work?” Noah scoffed as soon as he saw George and Lilah.

“Don’t worry about them,” Barney said harshly. He sat down at the table across from him. “Jayden Bell was murdered by several stab wounds all over her body. What exactly can you tell us about that? What can you tell us about anything that has to do with Jayden?”

Noah narrowed his eyes at Barney. He looked around at each and every one of the. “Wait,” he held up a finger, “are you suggesting that I had anything to do with Jayden’s death?”

“Yes,” Barney said bluntly.

Noah banged his fists on the table and stood up from his chair. “You have no right to accuse me of such a thing!”

“We have every right to believe you and Jayden were a lot closer than mere boss and employee.” George piped up. He side-stepped towards the door blocking it. Lilah took a step back wondering if George was worried that Noah would try to run. If that was going to be the case, she didn’t want to get squashed.

Noah’s jaw dropped. Lilah had a feeling he wanted to protest, but no excuses were popping into his head at the moment.

“I want a lawyer!” he finally demanded. “You have no right to bring me to the station and interrogate me like this.”

“This is just a routine follow-up.” Barney said calmly. He leaned back in his chair as though there was no chance of Noah leaping over the table and strangling him.

“I think not!”

“Noah, we can get you a lawyer,” George said politely, “but that will just make us believe you have something to hide.”

“We can easily take this thing to court if you don’t cooperate.” Barney said nonchalantly.

“Huh?” Noah said nearly out of breath. He whipped his head back and forth between looking at Barney and George. They were confusing him and Lilah figured that Noah was trying to calculating which was the best option to get himself out of this as soon as possible.

“If you ask for a lawyer, we can give you one. But just know we’re going to assume you have something to hide. Why would you need a lawyer present otherwise?” Barney asked.

“If you’re completely innocent in everything, like you claim you are, then you shouldn’t need a lawyer. As long as you tell the truth then you won’t be in any trouble.” George added.

Noah’s chest heaved in and out quickly as his breathing grew heavier. He finally sat down with his fists balled on the surface of the table. “Fine,” he said through gritted teeth.

“Perfect,” Barney smiled. “Now, were you and Jayden having an affair?”

Noah remained silent.

“You told us she was planning on divorcing Steven because she was seeing another guy. You also told us that you had no idea who this guy was.” George added, “But then we noticed that you had Jayden’s bank account number written on a notepad.”

“You went through my office?” Noah demanded standing back up. “I didn’t see any search warrant!”

Barney too stood up. He towered over Noah and his angry face burned into Noah’s. “Sit down, Lang! This isn’t your territory.”

Lilah pressed her lips together. Barney and Noah seemed to be locked in a staring contest and she wondered if they were going to brawl. After a moment or two, Noah sat back down. She let out a sigh of relief. And he had seemed like such a nice guy when they had met him the day before.

Barney remained standing still glaring at Noah as George continued speaking.

“There was a notepad sitting out on the surface of your desk. The bank account number was written on the first page and we could easily read what the numbers were. Since Steven Bell had hired us to figure out where all his money was going, we naturally recognized the number.”

Lilah knew that wasn’t the case. Sure, the number seemed familiar, but they still had to check on it. Then again, Noah didn’t need to know that.

“Jayden gave you her bank account information, didn’t she? And then you were using the money for yourself.” George stated.

“For the restaurant,” Noah replied harshly.

Lilah looked over at George. She couldn’t tell whether or not he believed Noah. She wasn’t sure if she believed Noah.

“Jayden was a hard worker. She loved the restaurant and she loved me. So, she wanted to help out and invest in the business. I didn’t ask her for the account information, she gave it to me.” Noah turned from Barney to look at George and sneered. “Is that a crime?”

“We’re trying to figure that one out. It was nice of Jayden to give you her information, but she didn’t talk about it with her husband. So, yes, you were stealing from the lead account holder.” Barney explained.

Noah rolled his eyes. “Fine, I’ll give the money back. Can I go now?”

“What we want to know now is,” George piped up again, “did you care for Jayden liked she cared for you?”

Noah narrowed his eyes and Lilah could see his blood boiling again. “What are you talking about now?”

“You just told us that Jayden loved the restaurant and she loved you.” George stated.

Lilah saw Noah’s eye twitch as George continued speaking.

“Did you love her back?”

“Yes,” Noah said with his teeth gritted. “That’s not a crime, though. I’m sorry she was already married, but when you love someone, you love someone, alright?”

Barney shrugged. “Hey, she was going to divorce Steven to make herself and you happy. Not to mention the restaurant was going to be in great shape financially. It’s a win-win for everyone… Well, except for Steven.”

“Yeah, he somehow got the short end of the stick on that one…” Lilah muttered.

“Listen,” Noah continued, “It doesn’t matter anyway. She’s dead.”

“Because you killed her?” Barney asked.

Noah was about to answer, but stopped himself. He glared at Barney, who kept a neutral expression. Lilah could have sworn that Noah was just about to agree.

“Right before Jayden had died, I was at her house. She and I were having a talk about the restaurant and that was when she told me that she was going to divorce Steven so we could be together. I couldn’t have been happier. When I left, Steven was just getting home. So I snuck out the back door. The next thing I knew I heard Jayden was murdered. I assumed she told Steven she wanted a divorce and he killed her because of it.” Noah explained.

“You went out the back door, huh?” Barney asked. “What size shoe are you?”

“I don’t know… 10?” Noah shrugged.

Barney smirked. “Mr. Noah Lang, you’re under arrest as a suspect in the murder of Jayden Bell.”

“On what grounds?” Noah demanded standing back up.

“On the grounds that there was a bloodied footprint leaving the scene of the crime through the back door,” Barney said calmly.

“But the butcher’s knife had Steven’s fingerprints all over it! You guys found him holding it over her body!” Noah protested.

“You’re right,” Barney nodded, “except it’s not public knowledge that the murder weapon was a butcher’s knife.”

“Whatever, it was a knife…” Noah muttered.

“Nice try,” Barney sighed.

Just then a couple of police officers came into the room and hauled Noah away. George, Lilah, and Barney were left in the room together. Neither one of them said anything to each other for a few moments. But then George piped up.

“You never told me about the footprint.”

Barney snickered. “I also didn’t tell you that I thought Steven was innocent this entire time as well. But when you have a job to do and you have no other leads… Well, you know how it is. You can’t let a good lead go. Just in case,”

“But everyone is innocent until proven guilty.” Lilah stated.

Barney chuckled. “Yeah, you’re right. Still, sometimes your job doesn’t always allow that. You have to think both ways. What if he is innocent, but what if he is guilty?”

“I’m sure Steven is going to be more than happy to hear the news.” Lilah smiled.

“Well, this is just the beginning for him.” George sighed. “The poor guy has a funeral to plan as well as fighting with the bank and insurance companies to try to get his money back.”

“How much money was taken out of his account, anyway?” Lilah asked.

“A couple hundred grand,” Barney replied.

“What?!”

“Yeah, I know. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that kind of money?” Barney sighed.

“What does Steven even do for work?” Lilah asked appalled.

“He’s a private detective, that’s for sure…” George muttered.

“And he by no means is a police officer.” Barney chuckled. “Anyway,” he opened the door leading George and Lilah out of the interrogation room. “I guess I’ll head next door and tell Mr. Steven Bell that he’s free to go.”

George nodded his head. “And good luck to him.”

Words: 2,940

I hope you enjoyed the story! Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Kitty Hawk And The Icelandic Intrique (Kitty Hawk 3) By Iain Reading [Book Review – Mystery Month]

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks so much for your support!

Book Review: Kitty Hawk and the Icelandic Intrigue (book 3) by Iain Reading | Mystery | Young Adult | RachelPoli.com

I received a free digital copy from the author’s publicist.

Summary:

Following in the footsteps of her hero Amelia Earhart, Kitty Hawk sets off on an epic flight around the world and arrives in Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik where she finds herself immersed in a beautiful alien world of volcanoes, Vikings, elves and trolls. Before she knows it Kitty is plunged head first into an amazing adventure that sweeps her across a rugged landscape where humans and nature exist side-by-side in an uneasy truce and magical realms seem to lie just out of sight beneath the surface.

Kitty Hawk and the Icelandic Intrigue is the dazzling third installment of the Flying Detective Agency series featuring Kitty Hawk, an intrepid teenaged seaplane pilot with boundless curiosity and a knack for getting herself into – and out of – all kinds of precarious situations.

My Review:

Book Cover | RachelPoli.com

Like the other Kitty Hawk books, I enjoy the art style of the cover. I especially love that there’s a little bit of everything from the novel on the cover. It really gives you a sense of the story and it’s well done.

First Thoughts | RachelPoli.com

I enjoyed the first two Kitty Hawk books so I had a feeling I’d enjoy this one as well.

Plot | RachelPoli.com

Kitty, continuing her Amelia Earhart journey, arrives in Iceland. Staying with a friend of a friend, she learns a lot about Iceland’s food, customs, and even legends as she comes across elves, trolls, as well as a very real volcano.

The plot is similar to the previous Kitty Hawk books. Kitty arrives at a new place and comes across some sort of crime or mystery and noses her way into the business. All the while she learns geography and history of the area educating the readers along the way.

This one had more intense moments and the pace was faster at some points, which I enjoyed.

Characters | RachelPoli.com

Kitty is still a fun character to follow. I’ll admit, there are times I feel like she’s older than she’s supposed to be and other times it feels like she’s younger than she’s supposed to be.

The Icelandic family Kitty stayed with were nice. I feel like I didn’t see them as much as I wanted to. The ending was great with them but I didn’t get as much a chance to really get to know them.

Then there was Finn. Despite the questions about his character (I won’t say due to spoilers), I would love to see more of him even though I know that won’t happen.

Writing Style | RachelPoli.com

This is written in Kitty’s POV. It has a great flow and the pace is good. As I said earlier, there were more tense moments in this one which was great.

It’s easy to read and while it’s a decent length, it’s a quick read. It’s one of those books you just keep going before you realize you’ve spent your whole day reading.

Overall | RachelPoli.com

This was a great installment to the Kitty Hawk series. If you enjoy a little mystery as well as history and geography, give this series a try.

Kitty Hawk and the Icelandic Intrigue by Iain Reading gets…
Book Review Rating System | 4 Cups of Coffee | RachelPoli.com4 out of 5 cups

Favorite Quote:

“We’re used to living with the different whims of nature. Maybe that’s why we feel so much more connected to the Earth.” –Iain Reading, Kitty Hawk and the Icelandic Intrigue (Kitty Hawk 3)

Buy the book:

Amazon

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you enjoyed this post, please share it around!

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Time To Write: Picture Prompt 17 [Creative Writing Prompt – Mystery Month]

Last week’s writing prompt was a general exercise. Check out some great pieces by fellow writers:

Now onto this week’s writing prompt:

Creative Writing Prompt | Picture Prompt | Creative Writing | Writing Exercise | RachelPoli.com

Write a story based on the picture above.

If you use this prompt, please leave a link to your post in the comments below and I’ll share it next week. Please be sure to link back to my blog so your readers know where you got the prompt!

Happy Writing!

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How To Use Red Herrings To Your Advantage [Mystery Month]

Red herrings are fake clues that are left around – either by accident or on purpose – to through an investigator off the trail when solving a crime.

They’re a lot of fun to throw into your mystery novel to throw the readers off track as well. Or maybe they know the truth and they can get frustrated with the investigator when they get thrown off. Either way, they’re fun to write and can sometimes be used to keep the readers on their toes and turning the pages.

How to use red herrings to your advantage | Mystery Writing | Creative Writing | Crime | Thriller | Suspense | RachelPoli.com

What Can Red Herrings Be?

Anything that’s a noun can be a red herring – a people, place, or thing.

Sometimes criminals can leave an object as a “clue” such as a fake weapon. Or, they can murder someone in their home and move the body elsewhere making it seem like it took place somewhere else. That also allows them to sometimes change how the death occurred as well.

Red herrings can also be a person as the culprit can try to frame someone or they may have been a person at the wrong place in the wrong time.

Real Red Herrings and Fake Red Herrings

Of course, I just explained that red herrings are “fake” clues that drop throughout the story. So, how can you have a real one? What I mean is you can have a fake-fake clue or a real-fake clue. In other words, by accident or on purpose.

Real Red Herrings

A real red herring can be a fake clue left on purpose. This can typically be done by the culprit to throw the investigators off their trail. They might move the body after they’ve killed the victim to make it seem like the crime scene was a different spot. They may frame a different person for the crime. Some criminals are crafty, others are not.

Fake Red Herrings

This is an accidental red herring. A clue might be brought in due to lack of judgement or poor deducing skills on an investigator. They might think something about the crime scene is off when, in fact, it’s nothing at all.

How Can You Use This To Your Advantage?

This allows the culprit a little more time to get away. Do we want that? No. But does it add great tension? Yes. Although, it is okay to let the bad guy get away once in a while. Unfortunately, that happens in real life and it’ll really make your readers think.

Using real red herrings is a great way to throw your readers off along with the investigator in the story. It’ll make them think. The same goes for the fake red herrings, though depending on what kind of information you give to your readers, they may know the truth and will yelling at the book wishing the characters could hear them.

Red herrings add a little extra to the story. It really gets the tension high when the protagonist chases after a clue only for it to turn out to be nothing. It wasn’t their time and time is important – especially when you’re looking for a missing persons, for example.

Why Are Fake Clues Called Red Herrings?

I have no idea. If anyone knows the answer to that, please let me know. I’m curious.

Do you use red herrings often? How do you usually go about it? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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A List Of Mystery Resources [Mystery Month]

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks so much for your support!

I’ve gone through many books and websites researching the craft of mystery writing and also just research for mysteries and crime in general. Here are some of my favorites.

A list of mystery resource books | Mystery writing | Creative writing | writing craft | RachelPoli.com

Books

1. Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel by Hallie Ephron
2. The Writer’s Guide to Weapons by Benjamin Sobieck
3. Now Write! Mysteries by Sherry Ellis and Laurie Lamson
4. Police Procedure & Investigation by Lee Lofland
5. Book of Poisons by Serita Stevens and Anne Bannon
6. Forensics by D.P. Lyle

Websites

1. Writing World – They have a great mystery section.
2. Writer’s Digest – A well known site that has articles about writing mysteries and thrillers.
3. Mystery Cozy – Not really updated anymore, but a great place to find other resources.

What are some of your favorite resources? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Writing The Mystery Short Story [Mystery Month]

Writing a mystery is hard, but writing a mystery short story is even harder. Mysteries can take a lot out of you – between the crime taking place, the long investigation process, and so on. It easier to pack that into a longer novel than it is to jam into a short story.

Still, it’s a pretty good feat if you’re able to jam all that information into a short story.

But how do you make sure you don’t leave out any important information? How do you make sure you don’t make the story go too fast?

Writing the Mystery Short Story | Creative Writing | Flash Fiction | Mystery Writing | RachelPoli.com

Every story is written in the same general way. The exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and finally the resolution. Writing a short story is no different than that, it’s just condensed.

So, how do you go about trying to condense it all?

1. Find the problem
2. Access the problem
3. Figure it out
4. Conclusion

Start with the problem

Throw your characters into the action right away. Have them start at the crime scene already and throw in a little background if need be. It adds tension to the story right away and cuts out a little time. Sometimes you don’t need to show how your characters came across the problem. They can explain it throughout the story if they have to, but that information doesn’t always need to be known.

Access the problem

This can go hand in hand with the first and third points I listed above. Accessing the problem can be done during the discovery of the problem and also during the investigation. Things have a way of falling into place.

Figure it out

This is obviously easier said than done and, in a short story, this may be your longest part.

Drop the clues carefully and allow your protagonist – or whoever is investigating – to deduce with logic in an attempt to figure things out in a timely manner for the plot, but faster for the word count of the story.

Conclusion

This would be the big reveal. The investigator explains the problem, how it came to be, and why. Someone is arrested or accused.

See? Easy-peasy. I mean, not really… but then again, I can’t exactly go about telling you how to write your own short story. Still, this is a good start.

How do you go about writing a mystery short story? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Meet Roger Peppercorn, Author [Interview]

Roger Peppercorn | Author Interview | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

Things about myself? Well I’m not sure where to begin. I really don’t like talking about myself  *cough* but if I must pontificate about myself at length I will marshal on. It’s funny because as a writer you are of two minds the narcissist and the demur. I say this laughingly because if you give me a mic and an audience of at least one it’s like flipping a switch.  I like to tell stories and make people laugh. It’s what I am best at. I obviously can’t speak for other writers but I would be willing to bet they too are victims of their own hubris. I was raised as a child during the economic downturn that gripped the Western slope of Colorado.

As a child I often spent a lot of time daydreaming. The stories and events that lived in mind were fantastical in nature. As I grew older I often times would watch others and create elaborate fantasies. I wasn’t really all that popular but I did pretty well of fitting in. I wasn’t the class clown or a real show off but I did a good job of framing heroes and villains in stories.

In my mine tween years I started to craft the ability to tell stories. Particularly during English for book reports. But it wasn’t until I took a writing class at a local community college where I really started to write. I don’t recall how many words or pages you were required to crank out daily but I know it felt like a lot. It’s also where I really started to work out scenes and play around with dialogue.

I’ve said this before but the line between good and bad is not always clearly black hat or white hat. It’s this conflict I’ve always been drawn too. To me stories about crime are far more interesting when the actions and words of the characters slide in and out of good and bad behavior. The procedural stuff is a means to bring the story to conclusion but friction between people is what makes a scene really pop on the page.

When I started this book a long time ago it started with the scene in Pea Green Hall. The main thrust of how it is written today holds true to how I saw it in my mind before I wrote it and how it “wrote” are different.

 How long have you been writing for?

Really long and not very long at all. I’ve had a couple of different ideas for stories and have attempted to write them but for a lot of reasons they just never reached the end. That’s the really long side but the short side is about five years. Like I was just saying this novel started with a scene and from there I started to build a story around it. The difference for me is I always had started a story from the start and had tried to walk it through to the end. One seems like a better way than the other but hey, this one scene is how this book got written and published.

What motivates you to write? How did you begin writing?

Honestly the motivation is to get the words and images out of my head. I lived with the first book for about two years in my head and dreams before I set down to write it. Most of the stuff I produce that I really like comes out of living with it for a while. Turning it over and over. Wash, rinse and repeat. This book came about because I just wanted to get it out of my head and on the page to read.

I really got serious about writing when I started my blog. I know, I know everyone has one and some of them are really not good at all I leave them up for better or worse because it’s a way for me to gauge how I am progressing and maturing in the words and how they fit together.

Do you have a writing routine? If so, what’s a typical day like for you?

Because I’m not wealthy my typical day is just like everyone else’s. Get up and go to work come home, hang with the kids and wife. But when it comes to writing I generally write in evenings after the kids have went to bed. My day job takes me on the road so I spend a lot of time in hotels, airports and behind the wheel. The airports and windshield time is where I do a good portion of scene layouts and dialogue.

On nights or weekends when I write there are a few things that for me are a must. First the room temp has to be around seventy five or eighty. I don’t like cool wind blowing on me when I write so no air-conditioning. I don’t like my arms sticking to the top of a desk so a lot of time I have a blanket or a towel to keep me from sticking to the desk.

Like now I am sitting in a recliner with pillows stacked around me to prop up my arms and my laptop is on top of another one. The only thing missing is some type of drink. Mostly I like coffee when I write but booze works pretty good as well.

What was the first thing you did when you found out your book was being published?

I got an email in late fall of 2016. What I remember most is the grin and the satisfaction of all the hard work and slaving over the words, grammar, spelling and formatting had finally paid off. The compliment I got from Leesa at Wallace Publishing was something I will not ever forget.

But as to your question as to what I did. First I showed my wife the letter and then we both toasted the good news and after that had a really nice evening. The details of which I will leave to your imagination. It was a really good day.

What was the publishing process like? How long did it take?

The editing process takes a while to get through especially as an unpublished writer. Wallace did a great job with the particulars of grammar, spelling and punctuation.

I really did feel for them because when I was in high school grammar and English weren’t high on my list of things to succeed at. My girlfriend at the time used to do most of the English work for me which is exactly what it sounds like.

Overall it took about thirteen months and I think we went through two major edits, one minor and one really superficial final edit. But other than grammar and some rewording of some sentences there was only one paragraph we cut. So what you read today is very close to what went to the publisher.

The thing I liked the most was I was in control and had final say on what went to print. I learned a lot and am still learning a lot about the process of writing and self-promotion.

Are you currently working on anything new?

Why yes I am. Right now I am working on some research and supporting characters for the follow up novel which is titled The Sometimes Long Road Home. It takes place about 18 months after On the Devils Side of Heaven.

Walt is a cop in Fruita and a fulltime single father which he’s never had to be. Not to mention sobriety and just being a responsible adult. For a guy like that it’s a lot to take on suddenly. Ronald is still whereabouts unknown but when he shows up he too is a different character. Jessica is still reeling from her dramatic experience and all in all life in Fruita is a lot different now for everyone. So you get to see how all of this plays out.

Oh and there is a murder or two and some dinosaurs so that makes it interesting.

If you weren’t a writer, what would your career be?

That’s funny.

I wish I was an established writer with the income to go along with it. But I still have one of those “day jobs”. In fact it’s the same job I’ve had for almost twenty years. I work in telecommunications. I travel a good deal which is fodder for the books and occasional blog.

What’s one thing you learned through writing that you wish you knew before you started?

Honestly it’s how much effort marketing and promoting takes. As chic as the title of indie author is you are not the recipient of a larger agency who promote these for you. It takes a long time to build an audience and readership. In the end its worth it because it’s yours for better or worse and no one is a better guardian and promoter than you are.

What is your favorite book, genre, or author?

I have always liked a good adventure and thriller. Books that on its face require you to buy into these worlds where things happen that you know are not believable in reality. Especially in the digital world of today.

James Lee Burke is my all-time favorite author I’ve read just about everything he has written. His world and characters are visceral.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

You have to love the process of storytelling first and foremost. Write the stories you want to read and write for your enjoyment and freedom of movement of the mind and expression. Unless you have the magic ticket to literary freedom and success be prepared for a very long road to getting published. Building an audience and a following takes time, energy and some money on your part. But there are a lot of support on social media that can help. Lastly don’t expect anyone in the “bookstore” business to really help out a lot. You are your own best advocate for your work and your brand

Sometimes stories or scenes just don’t write and when it happens take some time for reflection maybe hit the backspace key a few times and either start again or better yet look for those off beat paths that are adjacent to the one you are working on. But never let it stop the story.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Don’t let anyone tell you not to write. The written word is everlasting and the core of all the arts. Plays, movies and songs don’t exist without words. My fifth grade teacher gave me probably the best advice I still use today. Never use the same word to start a sentence in the same paragraph and take care not to use the word “that” too often.

Other than that no one should tell you how to tell your stories. But when a reader takes the time to give you feedback remove the ego and listen. It will only make you better.

About Roger Peppercorn

Roger Peppercorn has suffered for the better part of his life from wanderlust and this need to see the other side of the horizon has taken him to all parts of the world. The people and backdrop of his travels have served as the inspiration behind his characters and storytelling. As a child, his mother taught him to read and write. His father’s collection of Louis Lamour novels provoked the fantastical images in his mind and the romance of the written word. In the seventh grade, his history teacher brought the characters of a bygone era alive. From that point on, Roger began to hone his skills in storytelling. After high school, Roger took a course in creative writing that was taught by a long haired hippy in a Hawaiian shirt. Roger’s grandmother used to tell tales of traveling across the plains in a covered wagon, the woes of having a son sent off to war, and the larger-than-life man she met at Pea Green Hall who later became her husband. His first two novels “On The Devils Side of Heaven” and “The Sometimes Long Road Home” take place on the western slopes of Colorado, in the sleepy town of Fruita, where he grew up. They center on the strained relationships and sorted histories of three characters – Walt, Ronald and Jessica, and violence that erupts around them. Roger is married and is a father of four beautiful children. He currently calls South Dakota his home.

Connect With Roger Peppercorn

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

 On The Devil's Side of Heaven by Roger Peppercorn | Author Interview | Crime Thriller | RachelPoli.comCheck Out On The Devil’s Side of Heaven

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Short Story Sunday 213: Number One Suspect [Part 3 – Mystery Month]

Short Story: "Number One Suspect" | Flash Fiction | Creative Writing | Mystery | RachelPoli.com
DID YOU READ PART ONE AND PART TWO?

            George held open the door for Lilah as soon as they made it Prevalli’s Restaurant. Lilah walked in first and then stepped to the side to let George walk in front of her. She figured now would be a good time to let him handle all the talking.

“Hello, how are you?” the hostess greeted them right away.

“I’m doing well, how are you?” George replied with a polite smile.

“Great,” she said a little too enthusiastically in Lilah’s opinion. She picked up two menus and looked back up at George. “Table for two? Would you like a booth?”

“No, thank you. We’re not here to eat.” George declined. “Is your manager around?”

The hostess paused for a moment before she finally nodded her head. Her voice shaking she said, “Oh, sure. Let me… Just let me go get him.”

“Please don’t worry,” George squinted at her name tag, “Maria. We’re only here to ask some follow up questions about Jayden Bell.”

Maria let out a small sigh of relief. “Oh, right… Sure, I’ll page him right away.”

“Thank you,” George dipped his head in thanks and then stepped back to give him some space. Lilah followed closely behind.

“So,” she whispered to him, “What exactly is your plan?”

“I want to know what he thinks about Jayden’s death. I want to know whether or not he believes Steven is the killer.” George said simply.

Lilah shook her head. “Why do we care about what he thinks, though? Anyone who would be involved with this case, the money going missing as well as the murder, would be Jayden herself, Steven, and the bank.”

“Lilah, did you ever have a job before you came to me?” George asked.

“I worked at the bookstore part time at my college. Does that count?” she replied.

George nodded. “Now, tell me, did you ever talk behind another employee’s back when they weren’t on duty? Or did you talk about your boss to your co-workers? Maybe you complained about a couple of customers?”

“Of course,” Lilah shrugged. “Doesn’t everyone?”

“And through that gossip, you get close to your co-workers, right? You get to know each other a little better, especially about what’s going on in your life.”

Lilah groaned. “Can you just tell me straight up what you’re trying to say instead of going around the bush?”

“It’s beating around the bush,”

“Whatever,”

“Anyway,” George cleared his throat, “If something stressful is going on in your personal, most people go to work and talk about it. Their co-workers don’t know anything about them outside of work. They’re not friends or relatives with the people you know outside of work. Before I became a police officer I used to talk about the happenings in my family all the time; the good and the bad. Then when I became an officer, I only talked about other things. Everyone knew Barney and my other siblings because we’re all in the same field. I can’t gossip about them at work because it would get back to them. Do you see what I’m trying to say?”

Lilah nodded with a bored sigh. “Yes. It was very long-winded, but yes. I get it. So you think Jayden’s co-workers might know more of what happened because she might have talked about it at work?”

“Exactly,” George nodded.

“Well, that’s stupid.”

George raised an eyebrow looking down at her. “Now what?”

“If Jayden was stealing money from her own bank account, from her own husband, why would she boast about it at work?” Lilah asked.

George chuckled. “Because she didn’t think she would ever get caught… Also, she didn’t think she’d get killed for it. You have to always be careful who you say things to, Lilah. Remember that.”

“You’re being cryptic again…” Lilah said through gritted teeth.

George ignored her and smiled at someone else. Lilah turned her head to see a tall man in a fancy suit walking towards them. His shoulders were so broad she thought they were going to rip right through his suit jacket.

“I’m Noah Lang, the manager here. How can I help you?” the man said as he approached. He stuck out his hand towards George and he shook it.

“George Florence, private investigator.” He said and then pointed to Lilah. “This is my assistant, Lilah Williams.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Noah smiled at Lilah as he shook her hand. She smiled politely back, but Noah had turned his attention back to George before she could say anything to him.

“Private investigator, huh?” he said stroking his chin. “Is everything okay?”

“We just came here to ask a few questions pertaining to Jayden Bell’s death. Is it okay if we speak in a more private place?” George asked.

“Of course,” Noah agreed willingly.

He led them down through the entire restaurant. Lilah was impressed at how crowded it was, even though it was only lunchtime. The lights were dim, the tables and chairs were in great shape, and even the carpet underneath her feet was fancy. It looked so plush she had to do everything in her power to not bend down to stroke it with her hands. Or, better yet, take off her shoes and pretend she was at the beach.

She had never been in this restaurant before. Mostly because it was a little too fancy for her taste and it was also really expensive. Still, as they walked by the kitchen, Lilah got a whiff of a steak and her mouth began to water.

“Here we are. This is my office. Please feel free to make yourself at home.” Noah opened the door and allowed George and Lilah to enter first.

Lilah followed George in and the two of them took a seat on the other side of Noah’s desk.

“So,” Noah began as he sat down, “If you don’t mind my asking, why is there a private investigator involved with this case? The police had already come to question me about Jayden’s death and I’ve heard that they already caught the killer.”

“Well, that’s why we’re here. Steven Bell, the suspect and Jayden’s husband, hired us to help him out.” George stated.

Lilah cautiously turned her head to look at George. She didn’t want to be too obvious that she had no idea what he was talking about. As far as she knew, Steven never hired them.

Then again, this must have been one of those “rules” George was talking about earlier that they were allowed to break.

Noah snorted as he leaned back in his chair and made himself more comfortable. “Well, good luck to you on that one. I’m pretty sure that’s a loss cause.”

“What makes you say that?” George asked.

Lilah turned her attention to Noah surprised. She took out her notebook from her bag and clicked open her pen ready to jot down anything and everything this man said.

Noah shrugged his shoulders. “Jayden was going to divorce Steven and he wasn’t happy about it. I’m pretty sure he killed her because if he couldn’t have her, no one could. It’s happened before.”

Lilah wrote the word “divorce” in capital letters. Divorce had never come up in the case before. Whether Barney knew about it or not, Lilah wasn’t sure.

“Was Jayden afraid of him? Is that why she talked about her divorce?” George asked.

Noah glanced up at the ceiling thinking of an answer. “I wouldn’t say she was afraid of him. She seemed more annoyed with him than anything else.”

“Why did she want to divorce him?”

“She…” Noah sighed. “Well, I don’t know if I should be saying anything at all.”

“Please. Every piece of information helps.” Lilah said.

Noah groaned. “Jayden was cheating on Steven with someone else. She was feeling guilty about it and wanted to divorce him.”

“Do you know the man who she was having an affair with?” George asked.

Noah shrugged. “She never mentioned his name.”

“Excuse me,” Maria knocked on the door and poked her head in. “I’m really sorry to interrupt, but we have some unsatisfied customers. They’re not very happy and demand to speak with you.”

“I’m coming,” Noah stood up from his chair and buttoned his jacket. He rolled his eyes at George. “Time to go put a smile… Please excuse me, I’ll be right back.”

“Of course, take your time.” George replied.

Noah left the office and Maria smiled apologetically to them. “I tried to hold them off, I knew he was busy talking to the police. I’m sorry.”

“He’s at work right now. We understand.” George said giving her a reassuming smile.

Maria nodded and ducked out of the office closing the door behind her.

Lilah jumped out of her seat and walked around to the other side of the desk.

“What are you doing?” George demanded.

“I’m snooping.”

“You can’t snoop!”

“Well, it’s not snooping… It’s peeking.”

“What…?”

Lilah groaned. “While Noah was explaining something to you, I noticed this slip of paper here.” She pointed to a small notepad on the side of his desk.

“Don’t touch that,” George warned.

“I’m not,” Lilah said sternly. “But there’s a number on it.” She started copying the number down in her own notebook.

“What kind of number?” George craned his neck to see.

Lilah ran around the other side of the desk and sat back down in her seat closing her notebook. She stuffed it back inside her bag and whispered, “A bank account number.”

As if on cue, Noah opened the door to his office. “I’m sorry to keep you waiting. Someone’s steak was a little dry and they have to involve me instead of just sending it back to the cook. You know, we put steak sauce on the table for a reason. No cook is perfect and neither are the cows.”

At the same time, George and Lilah stood from their chairs.

“Some people are just rude, what can you do?” Lilah chuckled.

“Well, thank you for chatting with us, Noah. If we have any follow up questions, we’ll be sure to get in touch.” George extended his hand for a goodbye shake.

Noah took it and looked at George suspiciously. “Oh? That’s it?”

“That’s it,”

“Okay, well… have a nice rest of your day.”

George returned the gesture and, after letting Lilah walk in front of him, the two exited the restaurant.

Words: 1,733

I hope you enjoyed the story! Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

Blog Signature | RachelPoli.comPatreon | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | GoodReads | Double JumpSign up for Rachel Poli's Newsletter and get a FREE 14-page Writing Tracker! | Writing | Blogging | RachelPoli.com