Mystery is the spice of genres, adding dimension to the unknown. It startles, makes you wonder. Why is Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca so compelling? What secret is Maxim keeping? Why doesn’t the heroine have a name? The housekeeper’s meanness adds zip to this tale.
Mystery is the ultimate puzzle, the interlocking of clues. Think of Sherlock Holmes—nothing escapes his notice. Who doesn’t like to flutter their brains to solve a puzzle?
Mystery is uncertainty—a metaphor for a chaotic world. We identify with uncertainty, because the world is chaotic. The disordered years between world wars reverberate in Eric Ambler’s A Coffin for Dimitrios.
Mystery swirls half-truths. Catch them in a butterfly net! Think Agatha Christie.
Mystery is haunting. A death is involved, maybe more than one. What was the essence of the deceased? Why death now? Ruth Rendell mastered telling us about victims.
Mystery is a morality tale. Balance needs to be restored in a world that expects fairness. Most fictional murderers answer for their crimes in one way or another, but certainly not all. Perhaps the killers were traumatized by the victim, and could not do anything other than kill. Or perhaps the killers simply went free, bound to meet their Maker with sin on their hearts. I can think of several mysteries with an unjust ending, but to reveal them would be unfair.
Mystery is passion. To create mysteries, you need a brain that rocks with possibilities. That’s me. My brain seethes with possibilities.