Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Mysterious Setting

There is a real talent to getting the setting right in a mystery. And really, there’s no single “right” way. But a setting can help define your characters and how they relate to what’s going on around them. It helps your reader “see” where the story is taking place.

I love Stephanie Plum, out and about in Trenton, NJ, having messy adventures, solving the whodunit as she goes along, and losing a car most times around. I’ve been known to laugh out loud, even as my brain cells are trying to process the clues so well laid down by Ms. Evanovich.

But I’m just as intrigued by the stripped-down lifestyle of Jack Reacher in a Lee Child’s novel. A stark farmhouse set in the midst of fields, a NYC apartment – it’s gritty, it’s tough, and the laughs are few and far between. But it suits Reacher to a tee – Mr. Child knows his hero understands the underbelly of man’s (and woman’s) motivations, and his settings reflect that.

However, I also love to wander the early twenty-century English villages and countryside of Agatha Christie mysteries – as great on a re-read as they were the first time around years ago. The details of life, the struggles, the joys and the search for the truth – for me, all surround the central mystery and add to the enjoyment of trying to figure it out. And it doesn’t matter if it’s Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple or Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, the mysteries are fun to try to unravel.

Like horses? Carolyn Banks’ novels with Robin and Jeet Vaughan are surrounded by equines as Robin solves the mysteries of who did the killing…and there’s always a smile or two as you canter along on the wonderful rhythm of Ms. Banks’ writing.

Want more horses? Tami Hoag gives readers some ugly crimes in the “beautiful people” and moneyed set of the Wellington winter horse circuit. From lonely canals with predatory alligators to private clubs with predatory men.

So…what’s your favorite mystery setting – the big city, a lonely farm setting, a Victorian mansion, a dressage barn or a childhood neighborhood? Whatever it is, enjoy the mysterious mood set by your favorite mystery author.

Libby McKinmer
Romance with an edge


Anonymous said...

I like a good mystery/thriller in almost any setting. I LOVE Jeffery Deaver's books. His whodunits are exceptional and he writes in all different settings. His book The Blue Nowhere takes place in the cyber space overlap between physical reality and computer hackers controlling that reality thru cyberspace. Great read.

Morgan Mandel said...

I like Mary Higgins Clark, especially her first book, where it's a very normal setting, then something bad happens.

Morgan Mandel

Marilyn said...

I like a contrast between a normal setting and a spooky setting--or a normal setting that becomes spooky.

Marilyn Meredith

Mark said...

When it comes to setting, Joe Lansdale nails East Texas, from tornadoes to rabid squirrels to fat juicy bugs smacking your windshield. After reading Lansdale's Hap and Leonard books, I don't venture into East Texas without an armored car.

Anne Carter said...

One of my favorites is wine country. I've read a couple of romantic suspense stories set in vineyards, preferably with a big vino-soaked family of various generations (i.e., "Falcon Crest").

Then there's always the spooky, abandoned lighthouse...with a ghost or two in residence... LOL.