*This is an advance review. The book will be available March 17th.*
A smart, practical, and often funny guide for those who aspire to write mysteries, Sleuth reveals the secrets behind the curtain from a bestselling and award-winning master of the genre.
Gail Bowen shows how to map out a plot, how to plant page-turning clues, how to develop fully-rounded characters, and how to create the scene of the crime. She also looks at the psyche, the power of story, and cultural appropriation, allowing writers to communicate the truth about the human condition.
Digging into the works of Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell, Sara Paretsky, Ian Rankin, Louise Penny and a score of others, Bowen explores all the possibilities the mystery genre offers writers with a story to tell.
As a mystery writer, I was thrilled to be approved for this book! I was expecting practical strategies to improve my current writing process. While Sleuth offered valuable insight and examples, it read more like Stephen King's On Writing or Janet Evanovich's How I Write than the how-to guide I was expecting.
Gail Bowen clearly knows her genre and craft. She is a multi-award winning author with several titles that have been turned into movies. The first few chapters are dedicated to how Gail Bowen became an author and the events that led to her personal success.
She is also a college professor which shows in this book. The chapters read like classroom lectures. The information is couched with examples from both classic literature, well-known authors, and Bowen's own work. These can overwhelm her point and leave the reader digging to discover what strategy she is trying to recommend.
If you've studied the craft of writing, many of the quotes used to launch the topics will be familiar to you. Topics such as POV, Pre-Writing, and Characterization are covered on a basic level. For someone just starting out, this would be a great primer, but an experienced writer might have difficulty discovering any fresh wisdom in this.
A great deal of the book is dedicated to examining Bowen's own work. One chapter is devoted to her subplots and secondary characters. A writer familiar with her fiction series might benefit more from this approach. Since I am not familiar with the series or the characters, I struggled to make the connection from this that I could apply to my own writing. I was also put-off a bit by Bowen's assertion that a writer "must" follow the process that works for her. Every writer is different and should find the path that works best for his/her style.
Overall, Sleuth gives a nice overview of writing in general. Very little is dedicated strictly to writing mysteries. Her strategies could be applied across most genres.
I would recommend it to aspiring authors taking the first steps toward a career.