Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Father Brown…These are not the men I’d first approach at a cocktail party. At least that’s what I used to think.
And yet, I love a story that begins with chilling horror, often the loss of human life, followed by a clue chase in the morbid, tragic, or haunting variety, ending with an accusation guilt.
Why? I ask myself, does this have such a strong appeal?
As a little girl, I watched Masterpiece Theater with my family and witnessed beautiful worlds torn asunder by theft, death, and disappearances. My favorite sleuth was Hercule Poirot, the man both charming and wickedly smart.
I my high school reading, I fell in love with Father Brown, the humble little priest who solves the crime and offers a profound, gentle insight into the state of the criminal’s soul.
A few months ago, I caught my breath watching Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’s TV remake of Sherlock Holmes in modern London with thrilling mysteries solved by a socially awkward genius in brilliant and sharp humor. (I wrote a two-part post on the humanity of Sherlock’s character)
So why does a nice girl like me have an addiction to bloody, frightening, sometimes heartbreaking mysteries?
Because I want to untangle the threads. I want to unmask the evil from its hiding place. The hunt sends shivers and adrenaline through my nerves, and this creates the addiction.
A mystery is a puzzle begging to be solved, a cry from deep in the victim’s blood that seeks justice. The code lies all too often in the details of the ordinary.
I love mysteries because they whisper that insight floats at my fingertips, waiting to unlock, if I will only tilt my head and see them there.
Are you a mystery fan? What detective is your favorite? Have you ever tried to write a mystery?