Mystery Challenge: The Mystery Without A Solution

~by David H.

One of the central tenets of a mystery is the solution. As a reader, we know that at some point, the main character will discover it and expose the criminal behind everything. But some books take a different approach. What if the central point of the book is the mystery itself, not the final solution? In this column, we’ll take a look at some books where that final solution is left to the reader, not the characters.

Night Film in the SPL catalogA recent example of this type is the novel Night Film by Marisha Pessl. In it, the central mystery is the death of a young woman, Ashley Cordova, who appears to have committed suicide in an abandoned warehouse in Manhattan. Our detective is investigative journalist Scott McGrath, who sabotaged his career investigating Ashley’s father, a reclusive filmmaker named Stanislas Cordova. Cordova’s films are dark and disturbing, barely seen by the public, and inspire a cult-like obsession in his fans. McGrath is convinced that Ashley’s death is linked to those films. Accompanied by a pair of unconventional assistants, who are almost as mysterious as Cordova, our protagonist’s search for the truth culminates in a nightmarish journey through the locked gates of Cordova’s mansion. Continue reading “Mystery Challenge: The Mystery Without A Solution”

Mystery Challenge: Science Fiction / Fantasy / Paranormal

~by David H.

The mystery story is one of the most flexible of stories, because a mystery can take place anywhere. The time and place don’t make any difference; all that’s required is a crime and someone to solve it. So what happens when a mystery takes place in the depths of space or on an alien world? What if the crime was committed using magic? Or what if the killer is a vampire, or a werewolf, or something much worse? Well, here are some books whose authors decided to answer those questions.

The Naked Sun in the SPL catalogScience fiction has always been a home for mystery stories. Isaac Asimov, one of the best known of the genre’s founding authors, wrote a trilogy chronicling the cases of Elijah Bailey, a human police officer, and R. Daneel Olivaw, a humanoid robot. The second novel The Naked Sun is an especially clever take on the locked room mystery: how did someone commit murder on a planet where the inhabitants can’t stand to be in the same room with each other? Tied to both Asimov’s Robot stories and his Foundation trilogy, these books are wonderful for fans of classic science fiction. Continue reading “Mystery Challenge: Science Fiction / Fantasy / Paranormal”

Mystery Challenge: Noir

~ by David W.

If you’ve been taking our Mystery Challenge, you’ve tried many different types of whodunits across a spectrum from cute to bleak, but all these stories have had one thing in common: justice has prevailed in the end. But what happens when there is no justice, or when even justice seems unjust? Noir happens. Continue reading “Mystery Challenge: Noir”

Mystery Challenge: Professionals – The Police

~by David W.

Someone’s been murdered: who are you going to call? A haughty genius and his devoted doctor sidekick? A persnickety little Belgian whose egg-shaped head is punctuated by a tiny moustache? A wisecracking shamus in a dingy office, drinking rotgut and polishing his gat? Of course not: YOU CALL THE COPS!

Continue reading “Mystery Challenge: Professionals – The Police”

Mystery Challenge: Professionals — Private Eyes

~by David W.

So far in our mystery challenge, we’ve invited you to cozy up with some amateur sleuths, explore the world, and travel back in time to enjoy great puzzlers from the Queen of Mystery and the World’s Greatest Detective. Now it’s time to get some professional help, as we turn up our collars, put on our gumshoes and enter the world of the private eye. Trouble is their business.

Back in the 1920’s as mystery buffs clamored to match wits withingenious Lords and spinsterClick here to find Red Harvest in the SPL catalogs to solve increasingly elaborate whodunnits, a brash new breed of American pulp writers dragged murder out of the drawing room and back into the mean streets. Nowhere is this new hardboiled approach to crime clearer than in Dashiell Hammett’s landmark 1929 novel Red Harvest, in which a two-fisted detective (whose name we never learn) metes out cruel justice on a gritty town so corrupt the locals call it Poisonville – “an ugly city… set in an ugly notch between two ugly mountains that had been all dirtied up by mining.” Inspired by Hammett’s own stint breaking strikes for the Pinkerton Detective Agency, this was a whole new breed of anti-heroic detective.   Continue reading “Mystery Challenge: Professionals — Private Eyes”