Sleuth: Gail Bowen on Writing Mysteries

Gail Bowen. Univ. of Regina (IPS, U.S. dist.; UTP, Canadian dist.), $14.95 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-0-88977-524-4
Bowen’s slim, useful guide expertly takes writers through the craft of writing mystery fiction. She is the author of 17 novels in the Joanne Kilbourn series (including A Colder Kind of Death, which won an Arthur Ellis Award), and her three decades of experience make her an insightful mentor. Drawing on her own work as well as novels by Raymond Chandler, Gillian Flynn, and Rex Stout, Bowen discusses the importance of research, elements of plot and characterization, and the extra work that goes into creating a series. What makes this guide rise above similar ones is Bowen’s appealing personality. For every note of solid instruction, there’s a memorable aside: “A fly in the soup doesn’t spoil the soup, but it does spoil the experience. Don’t spoil your reader’s experience. Don’t stint on the research.” She takes pains to stress that there is no magic spell to creating a great mystery; it’s a process that she follows for every single book but remains fascinated by. “I’ve had 5,580 pages in which to discover my protagonist,” she writes. “I still think I don’t really know her.” Writers will benefit from her advice if they are willing to put their shoulders into the effort she describes. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/05/2018
Release date: 03/01/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
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