While I’ve been on my couch and not writing, I’ve been watching British mystery dramas. I grew up with David Suchet’s Poirot. I’ve watched Midsomer Murders through as many casting changes as Law & Order. I missed Inspector Morse the first time around, but I love the spinoffs, Lewis (the future) and Endeavour (the past). There’s so much comfort in knowing, at the end of the show, the detective will solve the crime.
My parents read mostly Agatha Christie and Colin Dexter, but not me. I read Enyclopedia Brown and the occasional Sweet Valley Twins Mystery, but it was pretty quick that I switched to coming-of-age stories and literary non-fiction. I read a lot of memoirs when I was a teenager. I tried to find myself in other’s life stories.
Mystery novels weren’t–still aren’t–my thing, but I love mystery dramas. Even the annoying one like Poirot, where the clues are never laid out for the audience, where the final twist is hidden until revealed in the drawing room, where Poirot is only the smartest person in the room because he won’t share with the class.
It’s the comfort which comes from knowing there’s a “right” answer, and even more, that it’s someone else’s job to figure it out. I get a rush of pride and achievement when I figure it out first (often in the final moments before the star detective figures it out, but first!). I don’t get that same feeling from other stories.
There’s no “right” answer in a romance novel. The reader may not HOW they’re going to get together, but we know WHO will get together. That’s the opposite of a mystery. We get to see most of the HOW before the detective even shows up. We see the murder happen, and we must figure out WHO. In a romance, we see the WHO and must figure out HOW they’re going to make it work.
And that’s not about famous detectives, veteran inspectors, or rookie constables. That’s just people.