The crime scene holds vital clues in mystery novels. Often, what’s absent, not what’s present, leads to the perpetrator. When the protagonist (the good guy) finds the missing piece of the puzzle, the perp is caught. Mystery solved. But, what about the victim?
In Next of Kin, my cozy crime novel in progress, I’ve purposely added more absences than identifiable clues, and the Jane Doe victim is a mystery until the final pages. Last week, my critique group pushed my fiction closer to reality with these questions and comments.
- I want to know about the victim before she’s killed. What is she doing in the Arizona desert using a fictitious identity?
- Pressure the boyfriend. He knows more than he’s telling.
- Ask the locals. Listen and they’ll tell you about the victim.
- The opening is too blah. I liked the first draft where the sergeant described the naked female in the shower as “trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey”.
My response to these comments parallel Laurel and Hardy 1930s film Sons of the Desert film (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sons_of_the_Desert). My manuscript will not only survive, it will thrive because “honesty is the best politics”.
Thanks to my critique group, I’m back to square one―this is crime fiction, not a cozy mystery.