Relationships in the Mystery Novel

GUEST POST: STACI TROILO, author of Mystery Heir

The Role of Relationships in the Mystery Novel

I was blessed to get to create a novel for the Mystery, Ink. line. Mystery, Ink.: Mystery Heir is in Naomi’s point of view because she was the one I could relate to the most.

  • College professor (her currently, me formerly)
  • Moved a lot (her as a child, me as an adult)
  • Martial arts background
  • Strong familial ties

Most of my fiction has a strong relationship component. The original title of this novel was Daddy Issues because of the powerful and poignant father-child dynamics explored. Just a few of the issues addressed are abandonment, atonement, neglect, and unrestricted love.

Abandonment

Naomi’s best friend growing up, Hannah, came from a broken home. Being raised worrying about money was bad enough, but not having the love and support of a father was even more difficult. Seeing how difficult things were for Hannah stirred in Naomi a fierce desire to obtain justice for children with deadbeat dads.

Atonement

At some point, deadbeat dads may realize what they missed. In addition to guilt, there’s an acknowledgement that needs to occur. In Mystery, Ink.: Mystery Heir, one such character realizes his mistake. He tries to atone for his actions, but it proves to be too little, too late.

Neglect

Some fathers start out as wonderful parents, but through extenuating circumstances find themselves no longer part of their child’s life. Mystery, Ink.: Mystery Heir explores the effects neglect can have on a family.

Unrestricted Love

Some fathers are just destined to earn Father-of-the-Year awards every year. There is an example of this devoted father in the novel, as well. In addition to depicting the benefits of a healthy father-child relationship, the story also examines what happens when that love is snatched away.

Relationships and Mysteries

A perusal of old mysteries, like Murder, She Wrote and Perry Mason, shows mysteries to be simply a matter of clue assessment before revealing the solution.

There is little in the way of interpersonal relationships. And that worked for stories of the past. Relationships were confined to coworkers and the occasional friend. Not much was known about family-lives or histories of these detectives, and not much was done to explore those of the suspects either.

Times have changed.

Granted, many readers don’t like to mix genres. Sure, maybe a little suspense thrown into a thriller or some fantasy in a romance is fine. But diehard fans of certain genres don’t want to see an amalgam of other story types entering their form. They are purists.

But even plot-driven stories depend on characters to propel the action.

Mystery, Ink.: Mystery Heir is a mystery. Plain and simple. There is no romance (although there’s innuendo). There are no sci-fi or paranormal elements. It’s a story that’s grounded in reality.

And the reality is that relationships define characters as much as their reactions do.

Relationships are here to stay. And I’m grateful for it.

Available on Amazon

Stacia

CREATING SKEET BANNION

GUEST POST:  LINDA RODRIGUEZ, AUTHOR OF EVERY BROKEN TRUST

Creating Skeet Bannion

When I write fiction, I always begin with character. For me, all story and plot arise from character. I knew I wanted to write about urban, mixed-blood Indians. I am one myself, and so are many of my friends all around the country. In fact, there are more Indians living in cities now than on reservations. This is, in large part, due to the BIA’s big urban relocation program of the 1960s and 1970S when they moved whole families from the reservations far away to cities where they knew no one and were culturally isolated. We’re seldom written about. When non-Indians write about us, they want to write about Indians living ancient traditional lives on reservations or about urban Indians who are drunks and drug addicts. Neither is an accurate portrait. So I wanted to write about an urban mixed-blood Indian professional living in Kansas City (because I know the city), and I made her Cherokee because I’m Cherokee.

I also wanted to write about a university setting, but I didn’t want to do it from an academic perspective. I wanted an insider who was yet an outside of sorts. I thought of the campus police forces, which most people don’t realize are actual police forces with arrest and investigative powers. I thought of how their chiefs often are recruited from nearby large urban police forces. So I decided to make my Cherokee Kansas Citian a campus police chief.

I couldn’t make the university one in Kansas City, however, because I’d been an administrator at the major Kansas City university for decades, and I didn’t want people to treat my book as a roman á clef, trying to find real-life figures behind each fictional character. Thus, I created a small university town right outside of Kansas City with various features I liked in a variety of small towns around the metropolitan area. That brought me face to face with the question of why my Cherokee cop left a successful career (it had to be successful, or they wouldn’t want her as a police chief) to live in a small town and head a campus police force. So I dug deeper into my character, Skeet Bannion, and discovered her alcoholic, verbally abusive cop father and her unfaithful cop ex-husband who doesn’t want to let her go. Suddenly, Skeet had excellent motives to flee Kansas City—and not incidentally, a load of emotional baggage to deal with, as well.

As I dug deeper and deeper into her character, I discovered Skeet was estranged from her mother, and her Cherokee grandmother had been the most formative influence on her. So had mine, consequently I gave Skeet my own beloved Elisi who died when I was thirteen, but I had Skeet’s Gran still living as Skeet hit her mid-thirties. I discovered Skeet’s best friend and surrogate mother, retired psychologist Karen Wise, who owned Forgotten Arts, the fiberarts shop I’ve always wanted, and raised angora goats and Romney sheep for their fiber on her farm just outside of town. I discovered Karen had brought Skeet into her circle of women friends who now became Skeet’s friends, as well, and Miryam Rainbow and Annette Stanek were created. I discovered that a neighbor teen took care of Skeet’s yard and pets and that his father had deserted him and his mother, that his mother was a victim who had hooked up with a con-man stepfather. And suddenly, I had a murder and we were off to the races in the first Skeet book, Every Last Secret.

Linda Rodriguez’s second Skeet Bannion novel, Every Broken Trust (St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books), was September’s selection for Las Comadres National Latino Book Club. Her first Skeet novel, Every Last Secret, won the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition, was a Barnes & Noble mystery pick, and is a finalist for the International Latino Book Award. For her books of poetry, Skin Hunger (Scapegoat Press) and Heart’s Migration (Tia Chucha Press), Rodriguez has received many awards and fellowships. She is president of the Borders Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime, a founding board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of the Macondo Writers Community, Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, Kansas City Cherokee Community, and International Thriller Writers. She spends too much time on Twitter as @rodriguez_linda and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LindaRodriguezWrites.  She blogs about writers, writing, and the absurdities of everyday life at http://lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com.

Available at Amazon.

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LADY JUSTICE

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LADY JUSTICE

The concept of “Lady Justice” is that justice is blind and therefore cannot be influenced as she weighs the evidence. Since the 15th century, statures of “Lady Justice” are often, but not always, depicted wearing a blindfold, which represents objectivity and impartiality. (One famous and frankly brilliant exception to this is in the novel, Raintree County by Ross Lockeridge Jr., where only one eye is covered.) With the scales in her left hand, she measures the strength and opposition to the case. The double-edged sword in her other hand symbolizes the power of reason and can be wielded for or against either party.

Justice in Mystery, Ink. Novels

For the type of mystery novel we write at Mystery, Ink., however, Lady Justice must carry the full weight of this objectivity, because justice is the all-compelling concept that draws you, the reader, to this mystery sub-genre.

In our readers’ lives, reality is often messy, cluttered, and frankly unfair. Readers come to the mystery novel for a reprieve from such chaos. Within the pages of a well-crafted Mystery, Ink. novel, you begin the story with the concept that all the elements will wrap up at the end and that, in some manner, evil will not win. This is the satisfaction that causes you to close the book with a sigh.

Tension

Of course, it is the conflict of the story, the power of suspense, that glues you to the plot. The page-turner aspect cannot be overstated. Edge-of-your-seat-tension is, therefore, a hallmark of Mystery, Ink. novels.

Expectations

Even so, it is the expectation that, in some clever way in the hands of a professional writer who uses mystery techniques which make it difficult to discern how all the elements will blend together, that somehow—even if it is within the realm of fiction—that at least somewhere “Lady Justice” will prevail in the end.

Lawrence Walsh

Managing Editor

Mystery, Ink. Novels

Goldminds Publications (Nashville, Tennessee)