Why do we love a good mystery? Shirley Wells

I love to write about murder and mystery and I eagerly await every blood-spilling episode of Dexter. Many years ago, I was hooked on Columbo and loved nothing more than seeing the shambling detective catch the perpetrator. I enjoy all types of mystery, from Ian Rankin’s Rebus series to the gentle tales of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple.

Mystery fiction seems more popular than ever and as an author I’m delighted about that, but why, exactly, do we thrive on the genre? After all, if we switch on the TV news, we can find more than enough horrors to occupy our minds. Real life is different though, isn’t it? We’re quite happy for a fictional family to be torn apart by a crazed killer but it has to stop there. Fiction can’t be allowed to spill into the real world.

I suppose it’s because a good mystery gives us so much more than real life. In fiction, we know that good will triumph over evil. No matter what heinous crimes are committed, our sleuth – whether a hard-nosed police detective or an elderly spinster busy with her knitting – will bring him to justice and restore order in our world. It makes us feel safe.

Also, while our sleuth is hard at work, we can sit back and enjoy the puzzle. While we root for him, we can mentally urge him to look in the cellar or double-check an alibi. We can pit our wits against him before he runs out of time.

In my latest mystery, DEAD SILENT, private investigator Dylan Scott is trying to unearth the truth behind a young woman’s disappearance. Curious? This is the back cover copy:

Ten months ago,  Samantha Hunt set off for work… and was never seen again.

Despite the statistics of cold cases, Dylan Scott wants to believe the young woman’s alive – and not just because her father, his client, is desperate to find his missing daughter before he dies of cancer. By all accounts Sam was a lovely girl, devoted to her younger stepsisters, well-liked at her work, in love with her boyfriend.

But as usual not everything is as it seems in sleepy Dawson’s Clough. Sam’s boyfriend has a violent past. She may have been having an affair with her boss. And Dylan can’t shake the feeling that her stepfather is hiding something. Meanwhile, someone is trying to scare Dylan off the case.

Who wanted to silence Sam, and why? The truth turns out to be worse than anyone expected…

What’s your take on this? What is it about a mystery that draws us in?

Multi-published author Shirley Wells was born in the Cotswolds and lived in Cyprus and Orkney before settling in Lancashire in the UK where the stunning Pennine Hills provide the inspiration for her popular mystery novels. She and her husband share their home with two dogs, two cats and any other strays who fancy a pampered life. Connect with Shirley via her website, Twitter or Facebook.

DEAD SILENT is available now:

Carina Press


Barnes & Noble

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15 comments to Why do we love a good mystery? Shirley Wells

  • “We can pit our wits against him before he runs out of time.”

    You hit the nail on the head with that quote, Ms. Wells. For one brief moment as we read a mystery novel, we become master sleuths, capable of assisting, if not solving the case ourselves. And alas, at the end, we sit back and say, “hmmm, well I would have figured that out eventually.” LOL

    Congratulations on another great Dylan Scott novel.

  • Hi Shirley,
    I think you are right, there is immense satisfaction in figuring out the bad guy, and even getting into his / her shoes and frame of mind in the process. Mysteries are a safe place for doing this – after all it’s only fiction, right? *smiles innocently*

  • It’s the old morality tale, isn’t it? Allowing us to live dangerously at one step removed. Have to say I love the cover of Dead Silent. And, as with Presumed Dead, I will be adding it to my library.

  • Oh yes, have to work out who the baddie is! Congratulations on the new release. I’m off to buy it right now.

  • IvyD

    For those who haven’t read PRESUMED DEAD, the first in the excellent Dylan Scott series, it’s currently on sale for $0.99 @ Carina Press. Great buy and a great series..

  • Maureen – thanks for the congrats. I love the idea of being a ‘master sleuth’. That’s it exactly. And hey, it doesn’t matter if we get it wrong. No one dies, right? LOL!

  • Hi, Elpi. Yes, of course it’s only fiction. 🙂 It’s great fun seeing the bad guy get his just desserts though, whether in fiction or real life.

  • Avril – thank you so much! I love the cover too. Carina Press produces the most amazing covers ever. Really awesome.

  • Wendy – hi, and thank you so much. I hope you enjoy it!

  • IvyD – Thank you so much for your kind words. *blushing here*.

  • Just placed on my TBR list. Sounds like an “I can’t put it down read.”

  • Elise, thank you. Hope you enjoy it!

  • In real life justice isn’t always served, but in mysteries the baddie is always caught and the goodie exonerated. Everyone gets what they deserve. I like that.

    Love your covers. I’ve read the first Dylan Scott book and look forward to reading the second. 🙂

  • IvyD

    Janni, I love your Allegra Fairweather series too! The Dylan Scott books are great mysteries..

  • Janni – thanks so much!
    Yes, I love the way we can create a perfect world. I’m always saying I’d like to be Prime Minister for the day. Dishing out justice to fictional baddies is the closest I get.

    Like, Ivy, I love Allegra Fairweather. And we should all have our own personal Casper! 🙂