While dealing with my recent logjam of writing ideas, I’ve been reading a very good novel, “The Black Ascot” by Charles Todd. Inspector Ian Rutledge is working on a murder case, but I can’t call it a “whodunnit.” I’ve seen enough of the crime to know Rutledge is on the right track.
This crime happened ten years before the investigation, though, as the early pages explain. So this is not a “whodunnit,” it’s a “Will he get away with it?” or a “Where is he?” (I’m only halfway through the book.
When I went outside this evening, my mind seemed to go for a longer walk than my feet, and I started to think of other things to call a “mystery” story — the ones that aren’t asking “Who did this crime?” (I can’t keep up the ungrammatical “Who done it?” every time.)
I put “mystery” in quotes following one of my foremothers in detective writing, Dorothy L. Sayers, who referred to her excellent Christian theological writing as her mystery stories and her tales of Lord Peter Wimsey as detective stories.
So other types of plots might get categories like these:
“He’ll kill us all!” — Agatha Christie‘s “And Then There Were None” and similar stories
“Wait, where’d he go?” — following an escapee (which may turn out to be what Rutledge is doing in “The Black Ascot”)
“You’ll never get away with this!” “Oh yeah?” — another kind of search plot, with two viewpoints
“But that’s physically impossible!” — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles” and others
(I’m hoping to finish the present book and dip into “The Hound” for the umpteenth time over the weekend. Great stuff, especially this time of year.)
Thinking of Holmes gets me thinking of one final possibility for this list:
“Who’s going to solve this one, anyway?” — from Holmes getting the better of Scotland Yard to my own team of student Daisy MacDonald and Sergeant Mike Hossa, which of the “solvers” will come out the best in the story?
Back to the books!
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