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Book Review: Guide to Writing the Mystery Novel

Guide to Writing the Mystery Novel. Barbara Gregorich. Chicago, IL: Philbar Books, October 1, 2014, Trade Paperback, 230 pages.

Reviewed by Cronin Detzz.

This “how-to” book is intended for mystery/detective writers, but much of the advice crosses genres. The book covers murder-mystery specific insights into planting clues, setting the scene of the crime, and where to place focus when it comes to motive, means, and opportunity. Better than that, the book also covers cross-genre topics like point of view, pacing, and dialogue tips.

A detailed chapter is devoted to proper naming of characters. Writers are cautioned against common pitfalls like naming characters with similar names, for example. Other topics helpful for any writer include motivation of major characters, developing subplots, and outlining. There are many nuggets of advice that will benefit any type of writer, including some of Gregorich’s personal lists used in crafting her stories. She also includes a map of one of her fictional worlds. 

I especially liked the examples where Gregorich provides examples of points of view (POV), including first-person and third-person singular, multiple, and plural. She invites the writer to think of their work as a Hollywood director, similar to deciding camera angles ahead of time.

A majority of the examples given come from Gregorich’s prior books. She took the time to rewrite some of her chapters to show the difference as to how a scene can unfold or how her story would read if written from a different point of view. If you are already a fan of her prior works, the examples provided will be meaningful.


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