The Perfect Crime

The Perfect Crime

Posted on April 26 by Steve Burrows
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The perfect crime is possible. In fact, my next book opens with one. But you can’t sustain a mystery novel with just a perfect crime for very long. A perfect crime, by definition, is one that leaves no clues, and clues, as we all know, are the lifeblood of mysteries. If the contest between writer and reader is going to be a meaningful one, then the clues need to be sufficient, and sufficiently cryptic, to give a quick-witted reader a sporting chance of solving the mystery. The best mysteries are the ones where the author successfully tiptoes along the tightrope of exactly how much information to provide, and when, without spoon-feeding the solution to the readers.

One thing that helps in this regard is to have a story that straddles different realms; let’s say, just to pluck completely random examples from the page of my first novel, the realms of birding, academia and the environment. If we think of these realms as the spheres a Venn diagram, in the first, there are our birder readers. I can include clues from the world of birding and these readers should be able to pick up on them without too much trouble. However, on their own, these will almost certainly not be enough to unlock the mystery. In the second sphere are readers whose background encompasses the world of academia. Any clues I offer from this realm will be their domain. However, if some of these academics also happen to be birders, they now have a double set of clues to help them on their way. Enough to solve the mystery? Probably not. But we are getting closer. Move to the third sphere, and those with an interest in environmental matters will latch on to any clues I provide in this area. But if they happen to be Renaissance People, much like you, I imagine, gentle reader, well-versed in birding, academia and environmental matters, then I think I have given them a pretty fair chance of solving the mystery. The rest is up to them.

Steve Burrows

Posted by Dundurn Guest on October 30, 2014
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Steve Burrows

Steve Burrows has pursued his birdwatching hobby on six continents. The first Birder Murder Mystery, A Siege of Bitterns, won the 2015 Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel. The other books in the series are A Pitying of Doves and A Cast of Falcons. Steve lives with his wife, Resa, in Oshawa, Ontario.