By Chester Campbell
I'm reading a book that comes highly recommended, has plenty of glowing reviews, the second book by an author whose first mystery was a best-seller, but I'm still not sure how well I like it. I'm up to chapter five, in the middle forties pagewise, and the real story is just getting started.
The first few chapters have been full of backstory, nicely fleshing out the characters, but not giving much about the mystery. There's been a death, an apparent suicide, but those close to the victim think there may be more to it than a self-inflicted demise.
It makes you wonder about those warnings by agents that we have to grab the reader on the first page. Some even say the first paragraph or first sentence. I haven't read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but from all the comments I've heard and read, the first hundred or so pages get pretty boring. One cover-blurber of the book I'm reading called it a "bullet-fast" thriller. Up to this point, for me the bullet hasn't left the gun.
So how do novels like these get to be best-sellers, indeed, a mega-best-seller in the case of Dragon Tattoo? I work my brain to the bone (there is a brain bone, isn't there?) trying to make that first sentence a great hook that will snare readers. Agents yawn. I did read the opening pages of Dragon Tattoo on Amazon, and he starts out with a mystery about an annual flower delivery. The reviews on Amazon are either "great, amazing" or "boring, awful."
I get the feeling that the key is to go deeply into the characters and don't worry about plotting mysteriously. But where does that leave you with Dan Brown and The Da Vinci Code?
Oh, well, I suppose us shadowy toilers in the midlist ranks will have to go on creating mysteries the best we know how, following the conventional wisdom if it fits our situation. We have the solace of comments from our readers on how much they enjoy our books.