Is your mystery novel playing fair?

One of the best parts of a mystery novel is its interactive feeling. Readers attempt to solve the puzzle alongside the sleuth. So, as authors, we must play fair and provide the reader with real genuine clues. But what exactly does “playing fair” mean?

For starters, it means providing genuine clues that point a finger at the true murderer. Those clues reveal the murder’s motive, means and opportunity, and are strategically inserted within the plot. They can be subtle. They can be overshadowed by red herrings. They can be shuffled within meaningless information. But, they must be present. And when the murderer’s identity if finally reveled, the reader must be saying, “Of course!” The reader must feel that if she had picked up on that discarded scarf left at the crime scene, she too would have solved the mystery like your sleuth.