The Mystery about Mysteries

I am, I admit it, a serious fan of mystery stories and recently I’ve found the books by Stephen Dobyns (also a poet) especially satisfying. I think I mentioned on Goodreads that I’d read Is Fab Bob Dead Yet? and loved it. Now I’ve finished The Burn Palace and again I could not stop reading. The plot is extremely convoluted but I was never lost. “Faith, hope & clarity!” I cared about the characters and got great satisfaction from the setting, a small town in Rhode Island. (Have I mentioned that I’m working on a novel set in Providence?) If you Google Brewster, RI, you find nothing. It’s fictional, but it’s surrounded with a real landscape that I know is highly credible. That’s a good thing. The characters are distinct and complex, the endings–it seems to end about three times–satisfy.

So at the risk of spoiling anything, I just want to say why I love mystery novels, although I couldn’t write one if you threatened me with a tarantula in my bed. Here’s what goes on: I get involved in the action if it’s not arbitrary gore, I care about the characters’ courage and their flaws, but mostly I’m lulled into believing that the good guys win and the bad guys go to jail or die alone and no one misses them. Wouldn’t it be a relief if that were the way life goes off the page? Instead we get politicos threatening to shoot people on the street, men sent to jail for crimes they didn’t commit or for sentences out of proportion with the original offense, kids who disappear permanently, the bad guys getting rich and the poor getting nothing. Mystery stories are like a holiday meal, nourishing and sweetly satisfying at the end. I just hate it that they are fiction instead of the daily news. Sigh, if only, huh?

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