What I learned from reading 38 Mystery Books in One Month


Why?

February was a surprising reading month from me. I read 38 books during the 28 days of the month and they were ALL mysteries. Its like a Mono Diet with book genres.

I didn’t go into February aiming to read a certain amount or planning to read only mysteries. I am very much a mood reader, and I think being in tune with what kind of reading moods you have is important for building and maintaining a habit of pleasure reading.

For background on my reading, I’ve been an avid reader since my childhood. I would say after elementary school, I read mainly fantasy books until recently. In the past 3 years I have really branched out with my reading tastes. And within the last 2 years, I have read primarily mysteries and adult romantic comedy novels.

My February 2022 started with a mix of my old favorite genre and my new favorite genre, a Paranormal Cozy Mystery! The Vampire Knitting Club is a paranormal mystery series where an American woman inherits her grandmothers knitting shop in a cute English town, finds out that underneath the shop lives a hideout of Vampires who have their own knitting circle at the shop once a week, continuously gets pulled into solving murders that happen around her in the town and…..she discovers she is a witch. I loved it! I actually binged through the entire series on Hoopla through my library. But that series was not what I believe got me so addicted to mysteries in February.

The book that did that was The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson! This is part of the Truly Devious series, a Young Adult mystery series, and the first book Truly Devious is actually the book that opened my eyes to mysteries when I read it in 2019. So it should have been no surprise to me that the 4th and recently released book in the series triggered such a huge an appetite for more!

Now, to be quite honest, none of the other mysteries I read in February could fully measurable to the The Box in the Woods but I enjoyed almost all of them. And through the good, bad and “meh” mystery books I read last month, I learned a lot more about what I do and don’t like in a mystery and about mysteries as a whole!


What I learned:

I DO NOT like ambiguous endings.

The book that inspired that was Sadie by Courtney Summers.

Now, I would argue that a mystery with an ambiguous is not a mystery book at all. However, Sadie was categorized as a mystery and recommended in my search for more mysteries like Truly Devious. The mystery aspect of Sadie was in the form of discovering the story piece through the eyes of the main character, Sadie as she runs away from home and goes on a journey to find someone, as well as the memories and observations of various characters who knew or interacted with Sadie as they are interviewed by a podcast host who was brought in to find Sadie after she runs away. It was a really good book, it was sad and thrilling and I really enjoyed it…but It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for.

I don’t prefer unreliable narrators.

The book that inspired this insight was Little Monsters by Kara Thomas.

Many mystery novels like to make the main character and unreliable narrator. Which means that, even though the story is told through their eyes and their inner thoughts may be driving the story, you never know if they are actually telling the truth about how the events played out. You go through the mystery constantly wondering, “but did they do it?” While many people really enjoy that in a mystery and find it exciting, I prefer main characters who are investigating the mystery but I know aren’t a viable suspect. Which leads me to…

I prefer the investigating main character to have a certain level of separation from the crime.

The book that inspired that insight was People Like Us by Dana Mele.

In People Like Us, the main character gets pulled into a revenge plot sent to her posthumously by the victim. The book becomes more about her following through with the revenge plans than the main character investigating anything. In general, this book had many flaws which I may have to elaborate further on in a review but it helped me narrow down the type of mysteries I enjoy the most. Later in the month, I discovered a book that helps solidify this preference, The Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson! I had heard many rumblings on book-twitter about this book and I couldn’t believe I went to long without reading it! The main character in this book is trying to solve a 5 year old murder case that she is sure was pinned on the wrong person by investigating it under the guise of a high school capstone project. Much like Truly Devious, it has a nice mix of the main character being an amateur detective who starts out investigating an old crime but gets pulled into current mysteries around them that seem to be linked. It was a great read and I immediately put the second book in the series, Good Girl, Bad Blood on hold through my library . In an amazing stroke of luck, the book later became available the next day and I was able to read it. Sadly, the third book was released recently so my hold on that one is taking much longer.

I prefer Cozy mysteries to Thriller-style mysteries.

If you don’t know what a Cozy mystery is, its usually set in a small town, the main character is usually female, and the murder/violence is all off screen. They don’t have any gore, cursing, sexual content, etc. in them; possibly alluded to but that’s as far as it goes. There are some light drama/danger scenes usually at the end of the book as the heroine figures out who it is and [stupidly] goes to confront them but they are light, fast and non scary. And that’s how I like it! Examples: the Hannah Swensen mystery series by Joanne Fluke or many of the Agatha Christie series.

I also really like Young Adult mysteries!

I find they fit in between a Cozy Mystery and a standard Adult mystery/thriller when it comes to how tense and suspenseful it feels and how scared I get while reading. So if I want a mystery with more thrilling elements than a Cozy, I’ll look for a YA mystery, however, I feel like I am quickly running out! So Lastly….

I want to write a cozy mystery!

Cozy mysteries tend to be quick mysteries but part of a larger series with the same central and side characters. They have a specific template that they all follow while adding their own twists and character into. I might write a post dissecting what makes a Cozy Mystery because it is a subject I have become very intimate with this year. Because each book tends to be shorter and require less world-building/description and set-up, I think it would be a great challenge one day for me to write without being SUPER complicated. Maybe….

Anyway, moral of the story is, I read wayyyyy too many mysteries in a row and I think I’ll try and read some other genres this March so I don’t burn out on them…until my hold for As Good as Dead by Holly Jackson comes in!


Let me know what your favorite genre to read is. Or if you like mysteries, what kind?!

Thanks for reading!

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