Saturday, July 10, 2010

Whodunnit or It Was Done?

Funny Pictures of Cats With Captions

I've been reading quite a bit of mystery books lately, and have a question:  do you prefer a "whodunnit" or an "it was done"?

We all know what a whodunnit is:  a traditional mystery where the protagonist tries to solve a mystery.  An itwasdone--the term, at least--comes from the one time I tried to watch Gosford Park.  On the special features of the DVD, the director, Robert Altman, said he didn't want to create a whodunnit; rather he wanted to make the movie an it-was-done.  Which goes a long way to explaining why that is one of the worst, boringest movies I have ever sat through in my life.

ANYway, I like whodunnits.  I like solving mysteries, I like guessing who the murderer is, and I like reading about a character who is smart enough to solve the mystery before or at the same time I do.  However, some mysteries don't seem to want to be mysteries.  Instead of focusing on the crime and the journey to solve it, they use it as a mere excuse to focus on the setting or social issues or something along those lines. 

Now, I enjoy a great setting as much as the next person, but I think a book that self-identifies as a mystery novel needs to be primarily about a mystery, just as romance novels need to be primarily centered on a romance, or an erotic novel needs to focus on sex.  If I didn't want those things when I picked up a book, I would just read general fiction!

How particular are you about genre classifications?  Does a mystery novel have to be centered around a mystery for you to enjoy it?

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