Friday, May 15, 2015

Who is the Sleuth?

From Merriam-Webster:
Sleuth: Detective; someone who looks for information to solve a crime
Synonyms: dick, gumshoe, investigator, operative, private detective, private eye, private investigator, Sherlock, sleuthhound

Must there be a sleuth in mystery novels? This is something I didn't consider when starting to write mysteries. In fact, I wrote quite a few until I came across a writing group that discussed elderly female sleuths. And suddenly, I realized I didn't have any sleuths at all.

In Who’ll Kill Agnes? Police Chief Donovan is a blithering idiot and his assistant Metson isn’t much better. But Donovan is hell bent in his ways and never follows through on anything. He thinks he knows who the guilty party is and never lets up on it. His wife, however, is the most intelligent character in the novel and has a different take on the title character. 

   In The Groundhog Lounge, Book Three of The Zoo Trilogy, Avery and Pam are sleuths of a sort who try to figure out who the killer is but that’s all they do—just conjecture. In the first two books of the trilogy (The Pig Farm and The Pool Lizards), Avery narrates what he sees going on and misses a lot.

But in my standalone mystery novels, The Chameleon Chase and Death by Salsa, the reader goes along with the story and may (or may not) figure out the plots and whodunits. The private detective in The Chameleon Chase is rather a shady character himself determined to win a big fee. But does he solve the mystery?

 And, should a sleuth always be the main character?


Patricia Gligor said...

Hmm. Interesting question. Should a sleuth always be the main character?
If you write cozy mysteries, I think that's a requirement but, otherwise, I don't know of any hard and fast rule that says he/she has to be.

Palmaltas said...

Thanks, Patricia. My mysteries aren't cozy although I'm not sure what I would call them. They are more dark satire than anything.

Marja said...

I never thought about whether there as to be a sleuth who's a main character. It seems like something that just comes naturally, and yet, you have a good point. Your book haven't been based on a sleuth, and I enjoyed them without that element. Great post!
Marja McGraw

Palmaltas said...

Thank you, Marja. I guess I'm a writer who unknowingly writes out of the box. There are mysteries in my Lea Chan books and I always hope that the reader will be surprised at the end.