Saturday, January 30, 2016

Why Do Perfectly Normal People Like to Read About Murder? By Denise Rodgers

I must confess. In addition to writing murder mysteries, I am an avid mystery reader. If you did a
body count on all the victims in the stories I’ve read, the total would be in the hundreds, maybe edging up into the thousands.

And yet, I’m a totally nonviolent, even squeamish person. I don’t like killing bugs, unless they are large and ugly and have invaded my home. I don’t even look when I have a blood draw at the doctor’s office. For the record, I don’t like looking at other people’s blood either. I’ve been known to irritate friends by walking out of particularly violent movies. Yes, I am a delicate little flower.

So what gives? Why am I perpetually reading a mystery? A murder mystery, at that. Well, one reason is I tend to read cozy or cozy-style mysteries. To me, that means all the violence and even the explicit sex, for that matter, are off-screen. These things happen; we know they happen, but we don’t see or read about it in detail. So that helps.

But still, delicate flower that I am (not really), why all the bodies? Why all the victims? What is it that is so satisfying about this genre?

Believe it or not, despite all the violence—or implied violence—the mystery novel presents a more perfect world. Yes, there is a murder. Yes, there is conflict—because without a healthy dose of conflict the book would be unbearably boring. But what all mystery books also have is resolution.

Not only does the bad guy or gal get caught, as readers we get to find out why the perp felt compelled—and justified—to commit such a heinous act. Justice is served, on a silver platter. Peace reigns. And all is right with the world. Well, that might be overplaying it a bit, but you get the idea. The bad guy gets his, and it just feels right.

Not only that, but in a particularly good series, as a reader, you get to know the characters, and each succeeding novel is a chance to visit and see the main characters grow and change. Sometimes there is a budding romance. Sometimes, there is a love triangle. Sometimes, in my humble opinion, a love triangle persists through way, way too many novels in the series. (But that is the subject for another blog post.) The point is that it’s fun to return to the world the author has created and enjoy the setting and the characters, once again, without having to re-read the same novel over and over. It’s fun and addictive, which explains the popularity of mystery series. (It also explains all the books in my collection. The photo is but a tiny sampling that obviously does not include my Nook and Kindle titles and more.)

So here I am, a perfectly normal person. Okay, a relatively normal person; just ask my relatives, and I can’t wait to get back to my current read. Among my currently favorite mystery authors are: Denise Swanson, Diane Mott Davidson, Earlene Fowler, Jana DeLeon, Laura Levine, Duncan Whitehead, Amy Metz, L.L. Bartlett, Joanne Fluke, Leslie Meier, Alan Bradley, Deb Baker, Louise Penny… and so many more. I told you there were a lot of bodies!

Denise Rodgers is the author of Deadly Diamonds, and the soon-to-be-released Murderous Emeralds, the first of her growing Jeweltown Mystery series. She is the author of two poetry books for children, and many of her poems have been anthologized as well as published in educational textbooks around the world.

As a lifelong metro Detroiter, she spent many of her early adult years working in her family’s retail jewelry business. She lives in a suburb near Royal Oak, Michigan, with her husband and two small dogs. Her two sons and their families—including three of the most beautiful, intelligent, and talented grandchildren on earth, and one more due in February—all live nearby.

She can be reached at deniserodgersbooks @ (no spaces) or visit


  1. Denise, you are so right about how wonderful it is to return to series characters and settings. I love authors who create whole communities that are so real, each new book feels like visiting old friends. Sally Goldenbaum's Seaside Knitters series comes to mind, or Louise Penny's lovely Three Pines. Your Jeweltown series sounds like great fun!

  2. Denise, I am going to use you as Exhibit One when I refer the next time to Louise Penny as an author who writes Cozies with an edge, and people look at me as though I was speaking in oxymorons.

    ~ Jim

  3. Cozies with an edge are the new cozy. Looking forward to reading about gemstones and learning more about the jewelry business.

  4. Cozies with an edge. Cozie Noir. Cozies are trying to take over mystery fiction. Well, they'd better watch their backs other subgenres are starting to notice.

  5. Denise, you could have been speaking for me. I am totally nonviolent except for killing mosquitoes or annoying flies or feeding slugs to my hens - but maybe not quite as squeamish as you. Maybe because I'm older and live on a small farm. And yet I'm an avid mystery reader reading the types of books you do, and I write cozies with a slight edge and murdering my victims on the page even though sometimes I feel terrible about them dying.

  6. As soon as I could read (unfortunately late, since I had trouble learning to read) I started reading mystery stories. Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, the Bobsey Twins, etc. I discovered Agatha Christie early--an aunt read them, and let me borrow them. My father severely restricted what we were permitted to read (I don't think he realized Nancy Drew, etc, were crime-related.)

    As an adult, I went on to other authors, and especially enjoyed series.

    Then I started working in a state prison. I have to say I never had anyone try to tell me he hadn't done whatever it was he was convicted of, but I got lots of detailed stories.

    For those years, crime fiction of any kind lost its appeal for me. I was hearing the real thing on an almost daily basis.

    After the budget cuts that decimated the program in which I was working and cut my hours to part time (which I couldn't afford, with children in or preparing for college) and I went into public school teaching, I began to enjoy crime novels, especially the edgier cozies, again.

    And I have years of reading I can fall back on!

  7. I appreciate each and every comment. I didn't realize that "cozies with an edge" are practically a new genre. : )
    Julie, I will have to look into "Seaside Knitters." I will be looking up your books, Gloria. And Warren, I will definitely watch my back for those other genres, whatever they may be.