cover image How to Write a Mystery: A Handbook by Mystery Writers of America

How to Write a Mystery: A Handbook by Mystery Writers of America

Edited by Lee Child with Laurie R. King. Scribner, $27 (336p) ISBN 978-1-9821-4943-7

More is less in this uneven anthology for the aspiring mystery writer, edited by Child (the Jack Reacher series) and featuring contributions from over 50 authors. “Mystery writers,” Child writes, “is a noble and evocative term, but we shouldn’t think it limits us,” and the entries that follow are a mixed bag of quick hits and worthy advice. Marilyn Stasio’s “How Not to Get Reviewed,” for example, is a single sentence offering: “Send multiple copies of your book to the reviewer’s home and keep bugging her by email.” Louise Penny’s “Building Your Community,” on the other hand, is a standout. In it, she recounts how she built an audience by opening up to her fans, prompted by advice to promote herself because if readers “like you, they’ll probably buy your book, and will probably like it.” Jeffery Deaver’s “Always Outline” urges against “pansters” who “write by the seat of their pants,” while Child follows with a plea to “Never Outline.” The most valuable insights come on the craft level: Jacqueline Winspear’s tips on setting mysteries in the past and Catriona McPherson’s on incorporating humor, for example, hit as practical and insightful. Budding authors looking for pro tips will find some useful tidbits, but this is ground mostly covered. (Apr.)