Mystery Writers on the Secrets, Riddles, and Wonders in Their Lives
Email this review


An anthology of true-life essays by “mystery writers revealing the mysteries of their lives.”

San Francisco–based screenwriter and playwright Zackheim (The Bone Weaver, 2001, etc.) curates a collection of tales that range from upbeat to depressing. Some of the essays explain in depth how real-life occurrences directly influenced the storylines of the contributors’ published novels; other essays mention such a connection elliptically or in passing. Mystery fans will be familiar with most or all of the contributors, but general readers will find one of the benefits of the anthology to be the discovery of new authors. One of the best-known contributors is Jeffery Deaver. His essay is a straightforward account of how he came to write bestselling mystery fiction despite numerous rejections from publishers and why he needed to internalize a simple lesson from his childhood before success arrived. In conclusion, the author writes, “just as in good detective fiction, the plot twist in which the mystery is solved was right before my eyes the entire time.” The most detailed and creatively constructed essay is Carole Nelson Douglas’ “Godfathers, Nancy Drew, and Cats,” in which she explores her “past as prologue” to her career as a “veteran fiction writer who has wondered from childhood how ordinary people let their lives spiral into unhappiness, even violence and disaster.” Of all the contributors, William Kent Krueger is the most direct at revealing how his real-life episodes influenced his writing. “For readers,” he writes, “stories have the potential to do much more than entertain. They instruct; they enlighten; they encourage; they inspire. For authors, the blessings are much the same.” Throughout, the contributors, which include Hallie Ephron, Martin Limón, Cara Black, Rhys Bowen, Jacqueline Winspear, and Anne Perry, explore a range of difficult topics—e.g., mental health breakdowns, domestic abuse, shattered romance, nightmarish experiences in war zones. The anthology demonstrates both that truth can be stranger than fiction and that truth can also morph into effective fiction.

An adequate collection that will have the most appeal for fans of the contributing authors.

Pub Date: April 21st, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-58005-921-3
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Seal Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2020