Jul 19, 2014

Silent Partner Guest Post

Are You a Detective or is that Raincoat the Only Clean Outfit you Have?

We’ve all grown up watching mysteries and detective stories. In fact, the 30-minute and 60-minute television plot has been burned into our brains. We expect certain things to happen at certain times, and we also expect the detective to act a certain way. What I’ve just said also holds true when you read mystery novels and detective novels. I’ve thought about these things while writing Silent Partner, my paranormal mystery that Pen-L releases September lst. The book also will be available at your neighborhood bookstore or through Amazon.

What’s a little challenging is that critics as well as readers expect mystery writers to follow the well-traveled path. Let’s start with the basics. The detective follows a noble code. While he (or she in the case of Silent Partner) is on a mission to fight evil, detective heroes are willing to break the rules and even the law in the name of something far nobler. To make matters even more difficult, the detectives who do not work alone like the private eye often have a partner who is not as serious when it comes to pursuing the truth and fighting evil. Also, the detective’s superior officer often is an obstacle that must be overcome. Often times the boss is susceptible to political pressure or just someone about to retire who doesn’t want anything that might have a negative effect on his retirement checks.

Mystery readers know that the first suspect and even the second suspect usually are red herrings, attractive targets but generally later shown to be innocent. The mystery writer must play by a set of rules that include having the detective use solid investigation techniques and the powers of deduction to finally nab the guilty wrongdoer. Readers can play along by examining each clue at the same time the detective does. What is definitely not allowed is a deus ex machina, a new character who pops up at the end of the book and turns out to be the guilty party.

I ran into that issue when I added a paranormal element to Silent Partner. My spirit apparently can see what could happen but is bound by rules established by a much higher power since people have free will to make their own decisions for better as well as for worse. One literary agent told me that a paranormal figure couldn’t possibly work within the framework of a detective police procedure novel. I’ll leave it up to my readers to decide whether it works or not.

Finally, most fictional detectives are male. Frankie Ryan, my heroine, is a female detective in a very male world. Having once worked within a police department, I can vouch for the scarcity of women, particularly in leadership positions. It has always struck me that women have many innate abilities that they can harness in order to become excellent detectives. Besides female intuition, they generally read people better as well as pay attention to very small details. How many men ever notice the stain on their shirt or tie unless a woman points it out? How often is it the wife who tells her husband that she has a bad “feel” about someone they just met only to have that person later prove to be untrustworthy?

As far as the paranormal element goes, why do spirits have to be frightening? Does every novel have to read like something Stephen King wrote? If you’ve ever wondered whether it’s possible for you to have a guardian angel and what that might mean, Silent Partner could answer that question.