I’ve been reading through this book for the last week and a half (long book + slow reader [me] = 2 weeks). It was billed as a mystery when it first came out a few years ago, and although I’m not a die-hard fan of the genre I do enjoy an element of mystery in all kinds of books, including romances.
Since I haven’t yet finished it (20 pages to go!) I’m not here today to give it a review, although I can safely say I’ll be giving it a mostly positive one. It’s certainly held my interest, and the translation is excellent. But few books can satisfy every reader, so I’ve noticed a few nit-picky things that I’ll save for my GoodReads review.
Instead, I’ll talk about the element of predictability. I must admit that when I figure out what’s going to happen next, I have a very mixed reaction. One hand is busy patting myself on the back for my own brilliance while the other is either scratching my head wondering if the writer meant for me to figure it out or else is pointing an accusing finger at said author for not doing a good enough job at surprising me.
Well, as an author myself I must admit I don’t mind if a reader figures out one my twists ahead of time. I purposely include foreshadowing, or hints, along the way so whatever happens in the future won’t seem to come from outer space (i.e. anything outside the bookworld that I’ve created). I like to direct the reader to a satisfying conclusion.
But I’m not a mystery writer. I know critics will pan a book that’s “predictable” but as I’ve said this isn’t always bad in my estimation, if it’s satisfying. (This book, by the way, enjoyed critical acclaim and best seller status.)
Part of my generosity over predictability may be because I’m such an avid romance reader. I’ve been trained to expect the HEA (happily ever after). Maybe if I’d raised my reading self on mysteries I would join in the critic’s chorus and boo any book with a predictable ending.
But somehow I doubt I’d be very vociferous against most predictable endings – because of my preference over that for a satisfying ending.
What about you? Can you be satisfied with a predictable ending? And what do you consider predictable? For example, I didn’t figure out what would happen next in The Shadow of the Wind until a short time before each twist happened – so it wasn’t predictable from the start. Does that make a difference in a story’s success for you? Or, like this book for me, if the characters are interesting (even if not entirely likable) and the writing style engaging enough, does the element of being predictable matter as much?
Something to think about the next time you pick up a book billed with an element of mystery!