When I was a child, I was given a copy of The Bobbsey Twins of Lakeport by Laura Lee Hope. It’s book jacket claimed “Ghosts! Everyone agrees that the old Marden House is as haunted as a chimney on Halloween, but when there’s a mystery to be solved, the Bobbsey Twins, Bert and Nan, Freddie and Flossie, don’t intend to let a little thing like ghosts stop them.” I became a diehard mystery reader from that moment forward.
Mysteries let me escape from school, chores, piano practice, and my pesky younger sister. Reading the entire Bobbsey Twin series let me be part of solving a mystery at the circus, the beach, the mountains, and by the end, even Japan. I explored more places and felt like the series’ characters became my friends as I read my way through Cherry Ames, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and Trixie Belden. Then, I found Agatha Christie! Not only were the characters of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot addictive, but their reasoning abilities challenged me to read carefully so that I could beat them to figuring out whodunit.
To this day, I relish the plot line in Christie’s The Pale Horse because it stumped me. When I finished the book, I realized that Agatha Christie had hid the clues in the plot’s twists and turns, but I had been so engrossed in the story that I forgot to focus on putting them together. It was at that moment that I realized the complex analysis and delicacy of writing that makes a good mystery just plain fun to read.
Authors like Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton, Faye Kellerman, Carolyn Hart, Nevada Barr, Linda Fairstein, Diane Mott Davidson, Janet Evanovich, Mary Higgins Clark, Anne George, Patricia Cornwell, Carolyn Haines, Donna Andrews, John Grisham, Brad Meltzer, Richard North Patterson, James Patterson, Alan Bradley, and Alexander McCall Smith, just to name a few, remind me of the technical skills of word choice, plot, and characterization necessary to write an enjoyable mystery each time I read any of their works. Not only is each a good storyteller, but each utilizes the fundamentals of writing to perfection so that their books are, as Flossie of The Bobbsey Twins would say, “bee-yoo-ti-ful!.”
—-Debra H. Goldstein is the author of several short mystery stories including “Legal Magic” and “Malicious Mischief.” Her debut mystery novel, Maze in Blue, was published by Chalet Publishers in 2011. She still has her original copy of The Bobbsey Twins of Lakeport. — January 2, 2012