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?