All my mystery novels have featured amateur detectives. The main reason for this is that I have always enjoyed mysteries with amateur sleuths, ever since I discovered Nancy Drew at the age of ten. I like the idea of an ordinary person stumbling into mysteries and then solving them. Critics often denigrate these books because they are deemed unrealistic. After all, how many ordinary people regularly encounter dead bodies?
The answer is, ordinary people don’t, unless they are spectacularly unlucky or they are undertakers. They would soon come under suspicion from the police. Thus I will quickly confess that, in this regard, my amateur detective novels aren’t realistic. They aren’t meant to be, in that regard. They’re meant to entertain, and I hope that’s what they do.
Readers have enjoyed books with amateur gumshoes for over a century now. Ever heard of Miss Jane Marple, for example? I happen to think that readers enjoy amateur sleuths because they are reading about people like themselves who don’t walk the mean streets of the city every day. I always enjoyed Nancy Drew and the other teen detectives because I could safely go adventuring in their shoes – though I certainly wouldn’t relish being hit on the head as many times as Nancy was.
The issue of a constant supply of corpses aside, I do try to ground my characters in their own reality. They have jobs, responsibilities, families – and I aim to capture this as I chronicle the lives of my characters as the series progresses. Most readers want to care about the series heroes and heroines, and I have to care as well, otherwise I wouldn’t want to spend the time necessary to write a 72,000 or more word book. Thus when readers tell me they love Charlie and Diesel, I am thrilled. Making – and sustaining — that connection between readers and characters is the key to keeping a series going.