I’ve always considered myself a fairly omnivorous reader when it comes to genre: besides focusing on literary fiction and/or classics for the duration of my English lit degrees, I’ve always read fantasy (I’m a Harry Potter kid as much as anyone from my generation) and science fiction (I wrote my MA thesis on Samuel Delany, after all). I’ve gotten super into comics and graphic novels the last four years or so and I’ve even been known to enjoy some (queer) romance and erotica. But mystery is just something I’ve never read. Why was I missing out on an entire genre? Had I rightly assumed that mysteries just “weren’t my thing,” or had I never really given mysteries a chance?
So I decided to read, what I think, are my first two real mysteries. I’ve certainly read books with an element of mystery in them—like Sarah Waters’s Fingersmith for example, but as far as I know I’ve never willingly and knowingly picked up a book from the mystery section at my library or at a bookstore.
One of the things that really struck me while reading Mosley and Christie was that even this obviously small sample of a genre involved a different way of reading. What I mean is, that with both books—which are very different kinds of mysteries in many ways—I found myself going back to re-read scenes I had already read for clues. Suddenly, based on new information I had got farther on in the book, a seemingly innocuous previous scene acquired new significance and I had to go back to it. I don’t think I’ve ever done this in any other genre that I’ve read. It was a very non-linear way of reading that was totally novel to me.
Another thing that I noticed was that the kind of enjoyment readers get from mysteries is very different from what people get from other genres. What I’m talking about is the intellectual puzzle that mysteries present. While I was reading these books, I kept thinking of the people I know who like doing crossword puzzles and Rubik’s cubes. Solving a mystery in a book struck me as a very similar brain activity. With both Mosley and Christie, I felt at times like I wasn’t quite smart enough, or at least smart in the right way, for their complex, multi-layered plots. But I have little patience or interest in Rubik’s cubes and most crosswords, so maybe that makes sense.
Overall verdict? I am intrigued, but as of yet not converted into a mystery reader. I feel like it’s a possibility, though, which is more than I could say a few weeks ago. Mystery lovers: where should I go from here?