Saturday, 25 June 2011

Just Desserts

The closest my mother would get to science fiction was Star Trek. Most science fiction, in her opinion, was nihilistic and depressing. I tried to persuade her otherwise - with no success. There were no guarantees that she wouldn’t find the book too scary. Yet she surrounded herself with murder, mayhem and deceit - in a word, mysteries.

I grew up surrounded by my mother’s collection of mystery books. Some of the books by Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, and Ngaio Marsh had come with her from England before I was born. Other authors, like Ruth Rendell and Rex Stout she discovered since emigrating. I fed her addiction by introducing her to Sue Grafton and Charlotte Macleod, but I never really understood it until I had a few more years of life experience under my belt.

Unlike science fiction, you know a solution will be found in a mystery. No other genre of fiction guarantees that. Life sure as hell doesn’t!

Perhaps that is why, as much as I enjoyed reading them, I didn’t have the urge to write mysteries until after my mother died and I was dealing with the slow demise of my sister and poor health of my father.

There had always been an element of mystery in Under A Texas Star, but with my new-found enthusiasm for mystery-writing, I went over the manuscript making sure that it fulfilled the needs of a mystery. Were there enough clues? Enough red herrings? Was the investigation plausible? When the villains got their just desserts, was it satisfying?

That’s the true delight in a mystery - seeing the justice served in what often seems like an unjust world. And who doesn’t enjoy dessert?

Alison Bruce

What is your favourite example of "just desserts"?


  1. Summer Sisters, Judy Bloom. Hands down. Especially satisfying because the book is so not a mystery. Sue Grafton always wraps things up in a way that brings me closure.

    But I'll take a dessert with fresh berries anytime!

  2. Sue Grafton in satisfying, isn't she? And how about a mixed berry Pavlova? Berries, meringue, whipped cream... yum!

  3. Seeing justice served is satisfying, but I think that what I love most about mysteries is the valiant attempt to right a wrong. Someone (usually the protagonist) sees a horrible problem (usually a crime) and tries to do something about it. "Right a wrong" isn't exactly what the person is trying to do, the dead cannot be brought back to life, but in some way the world seems to be healed through the pursuit of justice.