During undergrad, I took a detective fiction class to fulfill a requirement for my minor. At that time, I was a newbie to the genre, but after reading an Agatha Christie mystery or two, I was hooked. For me, starting a murder mystery is the same as seeing the opening scene to an episode of Law & Order: SVU: I gotta know what happened and who did it and why!

Recently, I blew through Gillian Flynn’s three novels, beginning with Gone Girl, then Sharp Objects, and finally Dark Places. While they all have mystery elements, Dark Places was my favorite. The main character, Libby, is trying to solve the mysteries surrounding the murders of two sisters and her mother when she was a small child. Soon after the murders, Libby ID’s her brother as the killer, presumably because the lawyers coached her into saying so. Now, several years later, she discovers she might have been completely wrong. I don’t want to give anything else away plot-wise (because you need to read this book ASAP–yes, you!), but I will say Gillian Flynn blew me away with not only her stellar writing, but also the way she weaved so many subplots together, tying them in a neat bow at the end that truly shocked me. I did not see the conclusion coming at all. But once I finished the novel, I thought back on the tiny breadcrumbs of hints she subtly sprinkled throughout. Though I didn’t put it together as I was reading, I loved how I could go back and see Flynn did show what happened, even if I hadn’t picked up on it.

For Christmas, my mom gave me another riveting murder mystery novel. I’m not going to reveal the title because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but it surrounds two dual murder mysteries: one that takes place in the present, and one that took place twenty years prior in the same place. What tied the two cases together was one of the detectives. When he was twelve, two of his friends vanished while the three of them were playing. He was found alive, with no memory what-so-ever of what happened. Now, going by his middle name, he’s on the murder squad, trying to solve the murder of a young girl while also trying to conjure up memories of what happened all those years ago. The stories are so intriguing, and the characters are so compelling that when it’s revealed who’s behind the present day murder, I realized there’s so much more to the story than I originally thought. But my beef with this novel is that, while one of the murder cases is solved, one remains a mystery. Even when I was down to the last three pages, I held out hope the detective would discover the truth surrounding the other one. But this, unfortunately, didn’t happen. As a reader, my initial reaction was anger with the author. I couldn’t believe it! How could this writer not reveal this? How could she just leave me hanging?

But then, I remembered what one of my thesis advisors told me once: don’t be afraid to leave some broken eggs. She was referring to my thesis at the time, explaining that I didn’t have to conclude every single plot point of my novel. In fact, doing so would be boring. And this is exactly what my mom told me while we discussed the ending to this novel: sure, it made me mad not to know what happened, but on the flip side, I’ll probably always remember it. And now that I’ve had more time to think about it, I’m not so angry anymore. I’m not thrilled, mind you, but I can appreciate the author’s decision to leave this case unsolved.

It’s not as if detectives always solve murders anyway. Except if you’re Detective Olivia Benson, of course.

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