Although I tend to eschew science fiction I am not without a certain appetite for mystery novels—detective stories, murder mysteries, police procedurals, suspense novels—whether written by such classic writers as Agatha Christie or possibly by newer authors I might not even recognize as writing such entertainments. The fiction of mystery and detection is both entertaining and still it massages the little gray cells. True, it’s generally not high literature but sometimes you just need to take a break from James Joyce and Marcel Proust.
Since for me, mystery is the crucial part, and in fact, the only thing I find to have value at this stage in my life—midway around the track.
Mystery is the attractive condition a thing (an object, an action, a person) possesses which you know a little about but don’t know about completely. It is the twiney promise of unknown things (effects, inter workings, suspicions) which you must be wise enough to explore not too deeply, for fear you will dead-end in nothing but facts.
A typical mystery would be traveling to Cleveland, a town you have never liked, meeting a beautiful girl, going for a lobster dinner during which you talk about an island off of Maine where you have both been with former lovers and had terrific times, and which talking about now revivifies so much you run upstairs and woggle the bejesus out of each other. Next morning all is well. You fly off to another city, forget about the girl. But you also feel differently about Cleveland for the rest of your life, but can’t exactly remember why.
—The Sportswriter by Richard Ford, Volume 1 of the Bascombe trilogy.