How Mysteries Have Changed!

Often when I am weeding books from the collection, the books make their way to my house for a read before they go. Recently I finished a Nero Wolfe collection and started an Ellery Queen omnibus. I was struck by how two-dimensional the characters are. The puzzle of the mystery may be interesting, but the characters are predictible stereotypes. ¬†We are lucky that mystery writing has improved so much since The Golden Age (Christie, Stout, Tey, Simenon etc). With my favorite mystery writers now, I feel like the characters are my friends, their environs are places I’ve visited and the time periods are ones I’ve lived through.

I can picture the little town of Three Pines in Louise Penny’s books with the green, the bistro and the “haunted house” on the hill.

I can taste the food that Bruno makes in Martin Walker’s French series.

I can imagine the dirt on the sidewalks, the fancy hotels, the sound of the guns in Jacqueline Winspear’s post WWI series.

The characters all develop throughout these books and learn more about themselves as the series progress. What did Hercule Poirot ever discover about himself? (Except that he didn’t like retirement.)

It makes me wonder what will happen with Spencer Quinn’s delightful Chet and Bernie series with the dog Chet as the narrator. Bernie doesn’t get to grow because Chet wouldn’t notice. What began as a very funny approach could become ho-hum after awhile. A new volume is coming out soon so I’ll be able to see.

I’m sure Eunice would disagree with me about Dorothy Sayer’s Lord Peter Wimsey series. I may have to reread some of Sayer’s books to check out my theory.