I sat next to him on the sofa looking at the final draft of my book cover. We talked a bit about the excitement of writing a book and actually getting it published. Then he said, rather slowly, “You know, I’m a little shocked.”
And I knew by his tone what he was thinking. So I said, “I know; how could a nice Christian lady like me write a book about murder with a cover like this? Right?”
He chuckled. “Yeah, that’s what I wondering. It’s kind of shocking.”
Don’t think I haven’t posed the same question to the mirror. I mean, shouldn’t I be writing gentle devotions, morality plays, children’s poems about Jesus, and inspiring essays instead? Well, I’ve done all of that and with some success. But let me explain about mysteries, murder mysteries in particular, and why I write them.
First of all – murder is awful. The worst thing one person can do to another is to wrench life away. Furthermore, it’s not even remotely funny. And yet, here I’ve written what I myself term “a comic-cozy.” How does this square with a basic belief in love and life. Well.
It begins with God. Yeah, God. One of the big questions I have for Him is this. Of all the things you allow us to do why is one of them that we can kill each other? It seems like that should be the province of you alone. I find it mystifying and horrifying and it piques my interest more than it should. I have not yet received my official letter from the Man about the issue, so I, and maybe you, are left to wrestle with it. We have been given minds after all. So I suppose it comes down to this . . .
Humans have the ability to kill each other. Out of the whole population most of us don’t and the rest of us are astounded when it happens. After the shock and dismay wear off we breathe deeply and look around. And what’s the first thing we want to know when a murder is committed? We want to know why. Ordinary people have ideas, theories, and conjecture and hope that if they can find the answer to “why,” it’s good enough to satisfy. But where does an ordinary person go for that answer?
We go to the police detective, the sleuth, the private eye and sometimes another ordinary person – the rank amateur. The one like us who might even put a similar theory to ours into play. Together you and she tackle the foul deed and bring the vicious killer to justice. The safest way to do that is vicariously – in a book.
Between the pages of a novel, we can work our minds around horrifying acts and imagine the problem solved to our satisfaction. The cozy mystery writer takes us right into the middle of daily circumstances and uses the objects and people at hand to meet the enemy head on. Inside the pages our detective, our sleuth, or rank amateur can face something awful and attempt to make sense of it – to find out why. And we’re right there helping them do it. Chances are it will never translate to anything real in a reader’s life, but somehow it helps.
I write mysteries. I infuse them with humor to help mitigate the horror. To show that the ordinary and the chilling can meet on the same battleground and the weapons we have at our disposal, including the occasional goofy Rashawna moment, will be used to bring justice.
It ends with God there. At justice, not resurrection, but at a just resolving of the dastardly deed. We are the only tool he has on this earth and those of us who choose to use our abilities for combating evil will always have his ear. That’s where we find what we need to help solve the mysteries of this life, including the murder mystery.
Tom, thank you for asking the question. God and I are working on a better answer, but for now I hope this helps.
PS: If you don’t know what a “Rashawna moment” is, you haven’t read my book. If you have, I hope you enjoyed every one of them.