Thursday, August 28, 2014

Does Every Book Needs a Little Mystery?

My guest blogger Carolyn Niethammer poses an interesting question. What do you think?

Every novel, and even some nonfiction books, are better for having some mysteries involved. This is the way that the writer keeps the reader turning the pages – even if the mystery is simply whether the girl will finally get wise and end up with the right guy.
 In true mysteries, like those my host here writes, the focus is on solving something unexplained: a murder, a disappearance, a theft. The mysteries that we love the best and want to follow as series also include enough about the main character to make them real and memorable for us. Once they have solved the problem of the day, we wonder what else might lie ahead for them and look for the next book.
 Frequently, mystery novels involve solving a murder, but not always. Janet Greger’s Ignore the Pain involved cocaine smuggling and the sabotage of an expensive research experiment. Another example is Alexander McCall Smith’s popular series set in Edinburg, Scotland, featuring  Isabel Dalhousie who edits a philosophy journal and lives a pretty quiet life. But somehow important works of art seem to disappear regularly and she manages to get involved and to sort it all out between putting out issues of her journal. 

In a biography I wrote about Navajo politician and activist Annie Dodge Wauneka called I’ll Go and Do More, I had to stick to the truth of her life. But I tried to end each chapter at a point where she had to make a difficult choice or something important either would or would not happen to affect her goals. Little mysteries.
My new novel, The Piano Player, is my tenth book but my first go at fiction. It was great fun making life difficult for my chararacters.
The Piano Player is set in the Old West just before and after the turn of the last century. It isn’t a mystery but there are plenty of questions to keep the reader wondering. Mary Rose, a well-brought up young woman, leaves her plush San Francisco home to seek her fortune in booming Tombstone, Arizona, after her father is murdered on the front porch.                                                                                                                                               
While the main question is whether Mary Rose can successfully transition to Frisco Rosie and make it as a saloon piano player, we also follow her quest to find out who killed her father and why. And also why her fiancĂ© Bradley was seen running from the murder scene and never joined her in Tombstone. It takes Rosie seventeen years and a risky trip down the frozen Yukon River during the 1898 gold rush to find all the answers. In the intervening years she takes a lover who turns out to be an outlaw, plans a risky rescue trip for a friend jailed in Guaymas, Mexico, and beats a notorious gambler at his own card game. 

I agree with Carolyn all books need a little mystery.

Bio: Carolyn Niethammer grew up in the mountain town of Prescott, Arizona, and now resides in a 95-year-old house in Tucson. She has been writing books about the people and food of the Southwest for forty years. You can see her books at her website