Monday, February 11, 2013

MYSTERIOUS MONDAY: Pet Peeves in Mysteries, Part Deux

by Libby Sternberg

Last week, we featured comments from mystery writers and readers about their pet peeves in mystery stories. The post was very popular, and even after it was up, I was still receiving "peeves" in my email. So -- drum roll, please! -- here's Part Two of that post, with a few more comments on what gets mystery writers, in particular, riled up when reading or watching stories in their favorite genre. Enjoy....and know that some time in the coming months, I will feature a post on the opposite topic -- what do mystery writers and readers particularly like about mystery stories, and what kinds of storytelling help them look past their peeves and keep turning pages.

Convenient time-eating explanations
"An annoyance. The book is told in first person. At the end, the killer has the protagonist at knife/gun point and is planning to kill her/him, but goes into three of four pages describing how he/she executed the crime -- giving the protagonist just enough time to reach the paperweight with which to bash the criminal over the head.  (Also)...The protagonist receives a phone call from someone who says that he/she has an important clue but can't divulge it over the phone, so the protagonist must come over to her/his place AT ONCE.  When he/she arrives -- SURPRISE! -- the caller has been killed."--Mary Devine, from the DorothyL mystery readers/writers group

The discarded weapon
"I hate it when the protagonist throws away a weapon (usually a gun) and says, "EW!," generally carelessly leaving it where the perp (even if dying) will grab it and shoot the protagonist & kill a beloved secondary character who in a better novel or movie would have gone on to be an enjoyable secondary character."  Brenda from the DorothyL mystery readers/writers group

Confusion masquerading as complexity
"One thing that bugs me is when the author makes the set-up super complex, just to hide the fact that it doesn't make sense. I think this happens a lot in spy thriller/mystery movies -- often I have this moment where I realize that the reason I don't understand everything is not because I failed to follow the story correctly; it's because it really makes no sense." Hannah Sternberg is the author of the young adult novel, Queens of All the Earth

The day job with lots of time for sleuthing
"Amateur sleuths who have a job, or even run a business, but seem able to take unlimited unscheduled time off to sleuth." Carola Dunn is the author of the Daisy Dalrymple mysteries
"Cell phones that go conveniently dead just as the bad guy is zooming in on the protagonist. Darn those cell phones, anyway. They make it a lot harder to get the sleuth out of the shop to investigate, and to get her into trouble she has to work her own way out of." -- Leslie Budewitz is an award-winning mystery author and a lawyer who blogs regularly about how to write accurately about criminal law and courtroom procedures at the Law and Fiction blog.

Pets and children who fade away

"Characters who have pets that are only seen for a comedic moment but never mentioned again, even when the character is home." Pat Brown is the author of a series of L.A.-based mysteries.

The unmistakable and villainous car
"My most irksome peeves involve cars. I lose all suspension of disbelief when our hero is on the run in an unmistakable car, the special-order British Morgan sport car in the case I'm thinking of, and doesn't think to DUMP THE CAR until it's too late. Also, I hate cases of The Sinister Car, where the glimpses of a certain make or model of vehicle provide the only tension for great lengths of narrative. But, most of all, I hate when women in danger carrying guns just FREEZE and can't use it before the villain disarms them. Please. I'm not buying mothers needing assault rifles to take down gangs of terrorists storming their housefuls of cowering children, but one woman and one gun can do a lot of self-defense if necessary." Carole Nelson Douglas has been published in several genres, including suspense.

Oh, baby...
"My most hated (peeve) is when the female protag suddenly zeroes in on the magnificent pecs straining the cop or detective's shirt. OMG! You were just mugged or cheated, honey--this is not kissy time!" Star Lawrence is a member of DorothyL, a mystery readers/writers group

The cliched detective
"I personally am sick of the alcoholic, depressed detective. Yes, characters should be flawed, but I'm tired of this cliche. I also dislike the clever ending that is unbelievable but chosen because the author wants to come up with something that no one will guess. I have a couple of books in mind with that flaw." Susan Oleksiw is a member of DorothyL, a mystery readers/writers group

The cliched pantry...
"Add me to the list of those who are annoyed at protagonists who have refrigerators with moldy cheese and pantry shelves with crackers that have no snap left and--maybe--coffee. OR their cousins who eat junk food all day and gain nothing." -- Radine Trees Nehring, is a mystery author, and a 2011 Inductee: Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame

So much to do...except solve the mystery
"One of my pet peeves is 'the stall'-- when a character gets a promising clue but has to delay following up or else the mystery will be solved too soon. I know this happens in real life because I put off doing things I ought, but in a mystery I find it annoying. It usually goes something like this: sleuth is given phone number for pawn shop that deals in stolen
 goods, but can't call because she has a yoga class in fifteen minutes. Then after yoga class, she gets asked to go for ice cream by cute cop and by then it's too late to call, but she will the first thing next morning except that her dog has a vet appointment and then her cell phone battery dies. Three chapters later she finally calls the guy, who immediately gives her a name or Big Clue and case is solved. Or else she never calls, is in danger, but saved by cute cop who did follow up on the lead. On the other hand, there are authors who do 'the stall' so well that I only realize there was a stall in retrospect. I really admire them." Jeanne of the Bristol Public Library

The bridge to nowhere
"I read a lot of historicals, and it really irritates me when I come across something that I know is an anachronism or distortion of fact that isn't otherwise explained in an Author's Note. Example: going under the Veranzanno Narrows Bridge in 1936, when I know it wasn't built until the 1960s. Something like that destroys the entire 'suspension of disbelief,' and takes me right out of the story." -- Roberta Rogow (who has "fudged" a date or two, but nothing quite so horrendous as that!) is the author of several mysteries

Hacking away
"The super hacker buddy (mentioned in previous Pet Peeves post) was going to be mine, as well. And it's not just cops; it's P.I.s and reporters, etc. They all know someone who'll be able to hack into something and get them the exact piece of information they need. Happens on TV, too, though there it's usually just easily found computer information instead of hacking. Everything is found with a few clicks of the keys." Jane Joregenson is a member of the DorothyL mystery readers/writers group

But what about the mouse?
"Jane's peeve reminded me of one of mine that I see on television shows a lot -- when the crime-solving computer whiz starts clicking away at the keyboard to bring up pages of info. Usually those kinds of searches don't involve keystrokes as much as mouse clicks. Nobody uses the mouse. They type away as if they were Googling on an old Remington." Libby Sternberg is editor-in-chief of Istoria Books and an Edgar-nominated author


Istoria Books's "Mysterious Monday" program features posts about mystery writing, reading, bookselling and more by writers from beyond the Istoria stable. Stop back on Mondays for insightful posts on the mystery genre. Check out Istoria Books's mystery offerings here.

Mysterious Monday posts from the past:
Coming up: Authors Gary Alexander and Joyce Yarrow talk about favorite characters and favorite character types in mystery, and book blogger and reviewer Marlyn Beebe shares her thoughts on what she likes in mysteries
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1 comment:

  1. Interesting, I rarely read crime/mystery fiction but I've never noticed these kinds of pet peeves. A nice list you have here! I totally agree with most of your points, it really annoys me! By the way, I wrote a post about my own fiction pet peeves on my blog so I hope you will read and comment with your own opinion telling me what you think!