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  • Writer's pictureSusan Rowland, Author

2.The Mystery of Novels; Words are Spells

So I am the apprentice, but there is still “Mystery Writer” and “spellbook” to pars. Where I am from (UK), “mystery” is less used to describe detective fiction. Perhaps this is because of the extraordinary influence of Agatha Christie, whose books have recently been terms “clue-puzzle” by critic, Stephen Knight. In this internet era, there is a useful distinction between a “puzzle” and a “mystery”. While the former refers to a problem where all the components of a solution are available, “mystery” means that there is something forever out of sight. After all, in these days of near infinite sources, no one can study every available aspect of a task or challenge. It is therefore easy to say that if a genre offers the reader a plausible range of suspects for a crime, the story is a puzzle not a mystery.

I don’t agree. I don’t agree specifically about Christie and generally about detective fiction. I see mysteries of informational, psychological, moral and spiritual kinds in Christie’s novels and in all the diverse variations of the detecting genre today. This blog will address these issues, some of which pertain to gender as well as literature. Ultimately they are part of bigger cultural and psychological questions.

As for “spellbook” let me introduce this term as an honoring of words in writing as potent, transformational, and traversing boundaries of time and death. Yes, words are spells, and written words are spells that spin off into the internetosphere to trouble the universe, or, to be read by a couple of curious folks before the site crashes and is no more! Words are spells and part of their mysterious quality is that they are also apprentices who cannot be trusted to do the will of any master. Written words too are liable to wander the byways and haunt those who inscribe or imbibe their ghostly presences.

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