By Wendy Lyn Watson
Like most writers, I was a reader first, so the prospect of sharing “good reads” with the mystery-writing community thrilled me. But the minute I said “yes,” the enormity of my task hit me. How on earth could I whittle down my mental list of killer fiction into a handful of recommendations?
I decided right off the bat that I couldn’t make recommendations in my own genre (cozy mysteries), because I’d have to start with “Hey, if you like cozies, you should check out my new Mystery a la Mode, SCOOP TO KILL, which is out TODAY!” That would be plain ol’ tacky. And then I’d have to recommend all my talented friends, and I’d be sure to leave someone off the list, feelings would be hurt, words exchanged ... you get the drift.
Looking farther a field into the darker realms of mystery and crime fiction, my first impulse was to share a book I’ve only recently discovered: DECEPTION, by Denise Mina (published in the UK under the title Sanctum). The book isn’t new (2005), but I found it as I was plowing eagerly through Mina’s backlist. It was new to me, and perhaps to you, too.
The premise is delicious. Forensic psychiatrist Susie Harriot stands convicted of murdering serial killer Andrew Gow, whom she was treating in a Scottish prison, and Gow’s wife. Lachlan Harriot, Susie’s stay-at-home-daddy and would-be-novelist husband, narrates his own investigation into Susie’s shadowy relationship with Gow, an investigation that allows Lachlan into his wife’s most private space (her office) against her wishes.
The cherry on top, though, is Mina’s use of my all-time-favorite literary device: the unreliable narrator. As readers, we depend on Lachlan to perceive and pass along the information we need to suss out the real story of what happened between Susie and the Gows. Yet Lachlan is not neutral in this tale. His relationship with the crime is complicated by his complex relationship with his wife. We are left to untangle whether the story he tells is fact, delusion, or outright deception.
If you haven’t read Denise Mina yet, I highly recommend her entire catalogue, but Deception holds a special place in my heart.
Wendy Lyn Watson writes deliciously funny cozy mysteries with a dollop of romance. Her Mysteries a la Mode (I Scream, You Scream, Scoop to Kill, and A Parfait Murder (June, 2010)) feature amateur sleuth Tallulah Jones, who solves murders in between scooping sundaes. While she does not commit--or solve--murders in real life, Wendy can kill a pint of ice cream in nothing flat. She's also passionately devoted to 80s music, Asian horror films, and reality TV. Be sure to check out her web site. Wendy also blogs with the Killer Characters on every 3rd of the month.