In most reviews of my books, one of the important aspects is figuring out whodunnit as the reviewer reads the book.
"I figured out who did it early in the beginning," seems to rate a negative point.
"I didn't figure it out until the middle when such and such clue was revealed." That's gets an okay, but means I need to be more obscure with clues next time.
"I was totally surprised at who did it. Never would have guessed." This is a definite thumbs up.
And that is my goal. It's a mystery, after all. It should stay mysterious until the end.
But I understand the need to know. I was a journalist before I became a novelist. As a reader, I cast about for the villain even though I don't want to know. (I think it's my earliest mystery reading. Agatha Christie, of course. How she could lead me away from the true killer is still a mystery.)
Does it spoil the ending when I guess right? Sometimes it does, but then, like all readers I hope for a surprise. That begs a question: do I really want to be wrong?
I've been hosted by many book clubs and the members vary in their desire to unmask the bad guys, or girls. Some just enjoy the read. One woman said, "I don't want to know." Another woman said, "I almost always figure out whodunit in the first pages." She says it's because the villain has to appear in the first pages and so it becomes a process of elimination. Well, that's her way, but in today's mysteries the villain often does not come into the story in the first pages. In some not until the last half.
Today it's all about character and character-building. If I can spot a cardboard villain in the first part of the book, I'm likely going to lose interest. Most mysteries are set in the here and now, and so to unmask a villain early is poor writing, or an overlooked clue by the author.
For my reading pleasure, the bad guy needs to keep his killer self under wraps until he no longer can - and that's at the end.
Go enjoy a book today. It's always World Book Day.
Best to all,
Gerrie Ferris Finger