Monday, August 17, 2009

The Dang Dunit

Take this situation: you’re settling in your most comfortable reading spot (for me, this is my bed with fluffy cat at my side), you open a new mystery book. The pages are crisp, making you feel like you are the first to discover this story. Happy joy.

Okay, so you begin reading. The writing is nice. The main character intriguing. Then there’s the mystery—it’s introduced quickly, which you like. You’re digging this book, even though you’re only on page one.

You flip the page to number two. The mystery unfolds, aaaaand… you figure out the dunit. You pause. You pet the cat. Dammit, you think. I know the dunit.

You hesitate. Maybe you got it wrong. Maybe the dunit you think dunit, didn’t do it at all. Maybe this writer is so clever, she tricked you into thinking you’ve figured out the dunit, but really someone else dunit. An Ellery Queen twist. It’s possible. Your cat looks up at you, wondering why you stopped reading.

Okay. So do you continue reading?

You hesitate once more. Get up and find a beverage (hot chocolate seems appropriate for this particular drama). Get back in your favorite reading spot, where your cat now looks cranky, since you messed up his nap.

You pick up the book. Read page two once more. No, no doubt. You know whodunit, and even why. You’re pretty sure now, because this particular plot is not exactly original.

You finish your beverage. Then you commit the ultimate reader crime: you flip to the back. You feel a little guilty, but only a little. After all, there’s no point reading 250 pages if you already know where it’s going. Your to-read pile resembles the tower of Pisa after all, so time’s a-wastin’.

On page 230-something, right where you guessed the solution to this not-so-original plot would be, there it is. The dunit, who you guessed dunit, and even the why.

And that was how I sort of read Edgar nominee Torn to Pieces by Margot McDonnell. Sorry, Ms. McDonnell. Your writing is beautiful, for what it’s worth.


  1. Ooh, hate it when that happens. And it seems to happen more frequently for me in cozies. Which I love, but . . .

    In cozies, however, you're usually a bit more into the story before the mystery shows up. But in the case of the last two I read--by the same author, btw--that just gave me more time to know not only the dunit but the doit.

    I guess the good news is that you can get to that next book on the pile now.

  2. That's why I don't like whodunnits too much. Too much rides on that one fact. What I prefer are mysteries about character and place. I guessed what had happened in STARVATION LAKE recently about midway through, but because the rest of it was so strong, and I like the character so much, the setting, the cast, the writing, it didn't much bother me. But in a whodunnit, it's a killer.