Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Mysteries Engage the "Little Gray Cells"

Tis the season to wish for a few of my favorite things. It’s also the season to recall a few of those favorite things. Included in a list of my favorite things are mysteries, police procedurals, thrillers, and horror fiction.

Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot excelled at exercising the little gray cells. Known as a master detective who closed cases, he did so by paying close attention to details oft overlooked and by connecting them in ways ordinary minds bypass. The brilliant Sherlock Holmes in all his incarnations did the same. Holmes had a sharp memory and was able to retrieve information quickly, using only his mind. He had little need for a resource as amazing as the google.

Readers who love the subgenre known as mystery also exercise the little gray cells. They search the author’s narrative for clues. They try to recognize red herrings and resist being distracted by them. They notice smallest things: a child standing at a window, for example, a window overlooking a crime scene. Could that child be the best and only witness? Will that child identify the killer? When? And how? Mystery readers will read on eagerly to include that child in the puzzle’s solution or discard that clue as a bit of narrative fluff.

What clues exist beyond the glass?
Photo from the decommissioned MO State Penitentiary
provided by Al Griffin.
In other words, and this is the reason I love to read mysteries: authors engage me in the search and exercise my little gray cells.

Reading Challenge:

Before 2015 closes, begin a mystery. Here is a partial list of mysteries that will exercise your own gray cells:

These are but a few authors who deliver a good mystery to enjoy by fireside, a glass of wine on the table nearby.

Writing Challenge:


Write a journal entry in which you describe the puzzle that challenged you more than any other. Your puzzle could be a romantic entanglement, a good book, or a labyrinth into your own psyche.

Connye Griffin is My Writing and Editing Coach.
She also writes for Our Eyes Upon Missouri.