Why Murder and Mayhem?

by Kassandra Lamb

I’ve touched on this subject before, but I find myself once again questioning why I write murder mysteries.

I’m a pacifist at heart, who believes violence is only justifiable in self-defense. And I’m an optimist. For me the glass is always half full and I’m savoring the half I’ve just consumed.

My favorite kind of half-full glass ;)  (photo by cellar door films, WANA Commons)

My favorite kind of half-full glass 😉 (photo by cellar door films, WANA Commons)

So why do I write about the darker side of humankind?

The simplest answer–the one I give at cocktail parties–is that mysteries are what I like to read, so it’s the genre I’m most familiar with. But why do I read mysteries, to the exclusion of almost every other genre?

With the book I will soon be releasing, I found myself really struggling with whether or not it was too depressing. It features a young woman with bipolar disorder who commits suicide. (Or does she?) My early readers and my misterio critique partner on this project, Kathy Owen, have all reassured me that the story is not too dark, that the depressing elements are counterbalanced by humor and lighter subplots.

Good! That was my goal. But still this book is making me contemplate again my choice of genres.

I know one of the reason I read and write mysteries is that I love solving puzzles.

(photo by CrazyPhunk CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

(photo by CrazyPhunk CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

Jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, murder mysteries–I love them all!

I think I get that love from my maternal grandmother. She had a passion for crossword puzzles. She said they kept her brain stimulated. (I still have the unabridged Webster’s dictionary she kept by her favorite chair.)

Mysteries definitely stimulate my brain. I can get all comfy and relax my body while letting my brain flex its muscles by solving a riddle or two.

Of course, all good stories, regardless of genre, must have realistic characters one can relate to. We live vicariously through those characters. Some people might love to vicariously fall in love in a romance or explore uncharted worlds in a sci-fi story, but my favorite vicarious experience is the thrill of a mystery.

The stakes are high for the characters, perhaps because they themselves are suspected of the crime or because the murderer comes after them at some point. I can live through the danger with them, my heart pounding as they confront a killer, but without any risk to myself.

I guess I’m an armchair adrenaline junkie. 😀

Reading for me is also about learning. I love finding out more about other vocations than my own, other geographical locales, other periods of history, etc. all while being entertained by a good story.

As the saying goes, a reader lives a thousand lives. We can broaden our experiences so much through reading, regardless of the genre. But for me, the best experiences have to do with murder and mayhem.

How about you? Do you read mysteries mostly, or is it only one of several well-loved genres? Why do these genres appeal to you?

Psst!! Here’s a sneak peek at my cover. Available soon for preorder ~ Ta da… Suicidal Suspicions, Book 8 in the Kate Huntington series.

SuicidalSuspicions FINALPsychotherapist Kate Huntington is rocked to the core when one of her favorite clients commits suicide. How can this be? The woman, who suffered from bipolar disorder, had been swinging toward a manic state. The client’s family blames Kate and they’re threatening to sue for malpractice. She can’t fault them since she blames herself. How could she have missed the signs?

Searching for answers for herself and the grieving parents, Kate discovers some details that don’t quite fit. Is it possible the client didn’t take her own life, or is that just wishful thinking? Questioning her professional judgement, and at times her own sanity, she feels compelled to investigate. In the process, she stirs up her decades-old ambivalence for the Catholic Church. Is her client’s death somehow related to her childhood parish?

When she senses that someone is following her, she wonders if she is truly losing it. Or is she getting dangerously close to someone’s secrets?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington mystery series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

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10 thoughts on “Why Murder and Mayhem?

  1. Vinnie Hanse

    I’m with you, Kass. No surprise there, since I also write murder mysteries. However, I think all good books contain mystery and puzzles. What is To Kill a Mockingbird but a courtroom drama? What is Snow Falling on Cedars but a whodunit? Ordinary Grace, one of my recent favorites, is labeled a novel and I found it on the literature shelf of the bookstore, but it is a murder mystery through and through.

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb

      I agree, Vinnie. Most good books have some degree of mystery and suspense. It’s what makes the story interesting. I’ve got To Kill a Mockingbird on my re-read list for this summer.

      Reply
  2. Shannon Esposito

    I wouldn’t say Suicidal Suspicions was too dark. We’re all fascinated by the human mind and the struggles that come when it goes wrong… or at least I am. As for why I write mysteries, I think it comes down to control for me. I’ve had a close call with two serial killers in my life (well, one just lived in my neighborhood, but that was close enough for me) so I’ve always been fascinated/terrified of the monsters humans can become. I like having control of the ending for those monsters and serving up the justice they deserve.

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb

      Wow, you like to face your demons, don’t you, Shannon? Most people, after such experiences, would likely be curled up with something fluffy to read to escape thinking about such things. But that’s a good insight, that writing mysteries gives us control over the bad guys. We get to be caped crusaders from behind the scenes, bringing them ultimately to justice.

      I read a book awhile back in which the bad guy won at the end. It made me nauseous, and I vowed never to read that author’s work again.

      Reply
  3. nancy reynolds

    Loved your views on why you write murder mysteries. From a GREAT big ol’ Kate/Kass fan, I am sure glad you do!!!! I LOVE reading what you write. I love the Kate books!! I also love all forms of puzzles, so that may be why I love mysteries. If I read a book where the bad guy won, I also wouldn’t want to read any more books by that author. I want my books to be a good mystery but also I want good to prevail over evil in the end. Thank you, Kass, for your thoughts and for your books. Thanks for sharing!!!

    Reply
  4. Kassandra Lamb

    Thank you for your kind words, Nancy! They talk about how romance readers demand an HEA (Happily Ever After) ending. We mystery readers want a JIS ending. Justice Is Served!

    Reply
  5. Jess Witkins

    Hey Kassandra,

    Stopped over from Susie’s drop and hop! “Armchair adrenaline junkie.” I like it. Sounds fun! Especially for winter, which for this Wisco gal will be here well before I want it. Have you read Eeny Meeny? That one’s on my to read list.

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb

      Yes, “armchair” is the only way to be an adrenaline junkie in the winter, for sure! Hadn’t heard of Eeeny Meeny but went and looked it up. Now it’s on my tbr list. Sounds awesome!

      Reply
  6. Barb Taub

    I don’t think it sounds too dark at all. Or rather, I think that the slightly darker tone will make a nice addition to the often lighthearted or tender content of some of your other work. I can’t wait to read Suicidal Suspicions!

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb

      Thanks, Barb! I hope you enjoy it. I have a backlog of your delightful blog posts to read once I get this final proofreading done.

      Reply

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