When writing fiction, the writer always knows more than she shares with her reader. The unknown is what makes a story compelling. A writer carefully doles out information, one bite at a time.
As a mystery writer, the one thing I absolutely cannot, must not, will not do is cheat. I have to play fair with my readers! You pick up a mystery novel because you want to try to solve the crime, and it’s my duty to make that possible.
Not easy. . . but possible.
I’m Kate Carlisle, and I write two ongoing mystery series, The Bibliophile Mysteries and The Fixer-Upper Mysteries. (You may recognize the latter from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.) My latest book is A Wrench in the Works, and I bet you can guess from the title which series it’s in.
By the time the murderer’s identity is revealed, you must have all of the information you need to identify the killer. It’s fine if you say, “How did I miss that?” after making a connection you didn’t make before—but only if you had all of the information you needed to be able to make that connection. I can’t spring something on you in the final scene. I can’t suddenly reveal that the murderer is someone who wasn’t even a suspect. Characters can lie, but I, as the author, must be truthful.
I create several viable suspects, each with a strong motive for doing the deadly deed. Mystery readers are incredibly smart; you pay attention to the minutest of details. I love that! It means that I can toy with you. I can plant red herrings (clues that lead you in the wrong direction) and hide the real clues in plain sight. And then it’s up to you to weigh all of the evidence to see if you can figure out whodunit before the answer is revealed.
In A Wrench in the Works, home contractor Shannon Hammer’s younger sister returns to Lighthouse Cove with a film crew in tow. Chloe left Lighthouse Cove years ago under mysterious circumstances. She took her construction skills to Hollywood, where she’s the star of a home renovation show. The show’s producer has such a toxic personality that several local homeowners and almost all the film crew members have good reason for wanting her dead—especially Chloe.
My favorite compliment from readers is that I kept them guessing right until the end, and I think that happens because of the work I put into creating suspects with truly powerful motives for murder. The police aren’t wrong to suspect Chloe, but Shannon knows her sister is innocent and will do whatever it takes to save her from a life behind bars.
When you’re reading a mystery novel, do you read along and just try to remember clues as you go? Or do you take notes and really try to puzzle out who is the killer? Do you stop before you reach the end and think of all the suspects?
A WRENCH IN THE WORKS
Lights! Camera! Homicide! Contractor Shannon Hammer must sift through the suspects when a popular TV show comes to Lighthouse Cove and brings murder with it…
Shannon Hammer’s younger sister Chloe left Lighthouse Cove after high school to make it big in Hollywood. And she did it! Chloe is the co-host of a popular home repair show on the Home Builders Network. Now, after ten years, she has returned to their quaint, coastal hometown to film several shows featuring her sister Shannon, along with some special mini-segments on Victorian style and design.
But Shannon quickly realizes that things are not exactly blissful in TV land. Bree, the executive producer of the show, has a knack for stirring up sticky situations and when she’s found dead, Chloe and the entire crew are under suspicion. During the investigation, Shannon, her thriller-writer boyfriend Mac, and their crime-solving friends unearth the real reason Chloe left home. Is that ten-year-old secret connected to Bree’s death? And can Shannon track down the real killer before her beloved sister becomes the next victim?