Saturday, February 20, 2010

Guest Blogger, Margot Kinberg

Please join me in welcoming author Margot Kinberg as the special guest blogger here today at Thoughts in Progress.

Margot’s latest release B-Very Flat, a mystery. Since mystery writing is her genre, Margot is going to expand on the different types of mysteries available on the market. In addition, she has a treat to share with those commenting on this post.

Thanks, Mason, for giving me the opportunity to guest blog. One of the most exciting things about being part of the mystery novel community is that there’s such a variety of crime fiction out there.

Mystery fans can choose from cozies, spy thrillers, psychological thrillers, police procedurals, noir fiction, and much more. The real beauty of this is that most people can find a mystery novel that they like, almost no matter what mood strikes them. That’s probably one reason that the mystery novel is so popular.

What is it, though, about the mystery novel, that keeps people reading them? One thing is that they keep our attention. We want to know whodunit, so we keep turning pages. Of course, different kinds of mystery novels do that in different ways, but mystery novels keep our attention. Well-written mystery novels also have real-life characters with whom we can identify. We can imagine ourselves in the situations that the characters in the story face, so we have connections to the story.

Some mystery novels also have the ability to transport readers to another place and time. Historical mysteries are especially enjoyable on that score. Whether it’s Ellis Peters’ 12th Century England, Deanna Raybourne’s Victorian England, Lindsay Davis’ Ancient Rome or Walter Mosley’s post-World War II Los Angeles, those novels teach us about the past while we’re solving the case.

Other mystery novels appeal so much to us because they speak out about important social issues. Mystery novels have covered topics such as pollution, racism, sexism, alienation and much more. We care about those issues, too, and mystery novels explore them. Donna Leon’s Guido Brunetti series, Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley/Sergeant Havers novels, Rita Mae Brown’s Mrs. Murphy series and even Agatha Christie have dealt with social issues. When they’re well-written, this kind of mystery novel invites the reader to think about the social issues without preaching.

Mystery novels also give us the chance to experience another culture. That’s the beauty of series like Tony Hillerman’s Jim Chee/Joe Leaphorn series, Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, and Colin Cotterill’s Dr. Sriri Paiboun series. All of these series are based in a culture that we might not know a lot about. The authors teach us about those cultures through the mysteries that the sleuth solves, and the characters we meet.

Since mystery novels are written in so many different languages, we can also learn about another language as we read. That’s what’s so interesting about work like Georges Simenon’s Inspector Maigret series, Paco Ignacio Taibo II’s Héctor Belascoarán Shayne series, and Jo Nesbø’s Harry Hole series, among many others.

So why do I write mystery novels? Because I’m curious. I want to know whodunit, too, and as I write, I get to find that out. I also write mystery

novels because they have such broad appeal for so many people. I admit, too, that mystery novels are my own favorite genre. My background is in higher education, but I’ve been reading mysteries since I was in my early teens, and that was a very, very long time ago. In fact, my biggest influences – Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Tony Hillerman, Rita Mae Brown and Colin Dexter – all created memorable mysteries.

So here’s to the mystery! I’m very proud to be a member of the fabulous group of people that creates them and the wonderful group of people that reads them.

Now it’s your turn.  What is your favorite type of mystery? Do you like cozies best? Spy thrillers? Noir Fiction? Maybe your favorite kind of mystery is the police procedural?

Think about your favorite genre, and leave a comment telling me what your favorite genre is and why. I’ll pick one winning comment to receive a signed copy of my new release, B-Very Flat, which features my sleuth, Joel Williams, former police detective-turned professor of Criminal Justice.

Here’s the synopsis of the story:

Is anyone really safe? Not necessarily. At nineteen years old, Serena Brinkman, an undergraduate violin major at Tilton University, seems to have a very secure future; she's got good looks, money, people who love her, and rare musical talent. She's also got a coveted Amati violin, a musical rival, friends whose secrets she knows, and an obsessed fan.

Serena's dreams are shattered when she suddenly dies on the night of a major music competition. Serena's partner, sure that her death was not an accident, asks for help from Dr. Joel Williams of Tilton's Department of Criminal Justice.

Williams, a former detective, becomes convinced that Serena was murdered, when he learns how unsafe her world really was. As he works with the Tilton Police Department to uncover the truth, Williams finds that Serena's looks, money, and talent, far from securing her future, made her a target

Leave a comment by midnight EST, Saturday, 27 February. I realize that there are mystery fans all over the world, so even if you don’t live in the U.S., fear not. You can still enter.

Thanks again, Mason, for letting me visit your blog!!

Margot, thank you so much for guest blogging today. I tend to just say mystery and group everything together. But there is a mystery suited for any mood you’re in.

For more information on Margot, be sure to check out her blog Confessions of a Mystery Novelist... Her latest book is available at

Now what’s your favorite genre?


  1. Thanks, Mason, for letting me "camp" here today : ).

  2. Great synopsis, Margot! And congratulations on your new release. :)

    I like cozies and police procedurals best. I'll also read thrillers and noir occasionally, too (as long as they're not too graphic....I'm delicate.) :)


  3. Elizabeth - Thanks : ) - on both counts. I really enjoy cozies and police procedurals, too. Both of those sub-genres offer good, solid and engrossing crime novels without, as you say, getting overly gory. Psychological thrillers can be absorbing, too.

  4. I've always loved mysteries - from Encyclopedia Brown, through Nancy Drew & the Hardy Boys, to Agatha Christie, Robert Parker & Janet Evanovitch :)

    Detective mysteries & romantic mysteries are probably my favourites - but it mostly depends on my mood at the time!

  5. Jemi - I'm glad you mentioned Nancy Drew; I read those as a child, and liked them very much : ).

    I think you bring up a good point, too, about mood. One's mood often has a lot to do with the kind of book one wants to read. I've read a few romantic mysteries I've liked, and definitely, I enjoy mysteries that focus on the police detective; procedurals like that are terrific.

  6. Great post. Like Mason, I tend to just say "myster" or "mystery/suspense," but there ARE so many different types! I think my favorite to read would be historical mystery, though I can't read them all the time. I have to break it up with some cut and dry police procedural, some literary mystery (like Michael Gruber). Cozies are my least favorite, but I have been pulled in lately and now really enjoy them! Louise Penny and Elizabeth Spann Craig do an excellent job.

    Ok...Gotta spend SOME of my Sat. AM off the Internet!


  7. Thanks, Mason, for having Margot guest blog. I'm a fan of both of your blogs!

    B-Very Flat sounds intriguing ~ what a marvelous job you have done. Congrats!

    Maybe I can blame it on being a Gemini since I have so many varied tastes when it comes to books. I'm partial to true crime (and especially true crime memoirs) since that's what I'm writing, although my passion for that started a long time ago. As a child, definitely Nancy Drew; as a teen, I read Mary Higgins Clark, Peter Straub, & Stephen King. I'm reading a lot of mystery/crime fiction short stories and flash fiction to learn the craft.
    I guess the draw for me has always been if I can figure out the puzzle of the story. It keeps those pages turning 'til I find out!
    Wishing you all the best with "B VERY FLAT"!

  8. Very interesting synopsis, and well written, too. Wish you all the best with your new release, Margot!

    The Old Silly

  9. Hi all, thanks for dropping by. Mysteries are great reads no matter what type.

    Margot, thanks so much for guest blogging here today. I enjoyed your thoughts on the different types of mysteries available. Wishing you much success with "B-Very Flat."

  10. Michele - Oh, I *love* historical mysteries! Ellis Peters, Deanna Raybourne, the Gears, and many other authors have done such a wonderful job of teaching readers about a particular time and place, while still focusing on a good mystery.

    It's interesting you'd mention cozies. I read them for a while, and then read (unfortunately) a few that focused too much on "cozy" and not enough on a good, solid, engaging mystery. That dampened my appetite for them. In the last few years, I've begun to read them again, and I agree with you that Elizabeth Spann Craig does a terrific job with cozies. I like Louise Penny, too, and it's interesting that you consider her a cozy author. Lots of people don't put her work in that category.

    Kathleen - Thank you : ). I really appreciate your support. Like you, I tend to be most drawn to mysteries where there is an interesting intellectual puzzle to solve. That can happen in just about any sub-genre, too. In fact, I'd say that having an interesting puzzle is one of my "deal killers" when it comes to reading any mystery novel. Is there a solid mystery for me to "dig into?"

    I've read some true crime, and when it's done well, that, too, is intriguing. I am so eager to read yours when it's ready. I hope you'll keep us posted.

    Marvin - Thanks : ). And thanks for the good wishes. It's always a gamble when one's got a new release.

    Mason - Thanks for your good wishes - and the use of your "living room." : ) Both are much appreciated.

  11. I've always loved mystery. I've been reading a lot of thrillers lately. My DH likes thrillers and reads faster than I do (he's on planes a lot), so I've got a stack of them waiting for me to read. But I think my next read will be a humorous mystery.

    Straight From Hel

  12. I admire those who can write mysteries, because my brain just doesn't work that way!

  13. Helen - Thrillers can be a lot of fun. I tend to prefer psychological or political thrillers to spy thrillers (I know, there's a fine line of distinction there). I also have to admit that I'm not crazy about thrillers where there's a lot of gratuitous gore.

    It's interesting that you're thinking of moving to humorous mysteries. I've read several of those, and I admire people who can integrate humor into a murder mystery. I don't do that as well as I'd like.

    Diane - Mystery writing isn't for everyone. It's funny you'd mention brains working in a certain way. I know that my brain doesn't work in a "romance novel," or "comic novel" way, although I sometimes wish that it did. Perhaps we're all "wired" for different kinds of writing. Of course, that can be good, as it allows for lots of variety for readers.

  14. I like suspense thrillers with something out of the ordinary, but not too weird or stupid. Stephen King and Dean Koontz are masters at this.

    Stephen Tremp

  15. A wonderful post which I really enjoyed reading even though I am up to my eyeballs in work.

    I love mysteries--love to read them, love to write them. I like cozy mysteries and I love Alexander McCall Smith, several of his series, and I like well-written children's mysteries.

    I like mysteries where the main characters are honorable polite people, or, if they are not polite, I like them to LIKABLE people in some other way. I hate mysteries where the main characters are all hard, mean, fast, icky people.

    Characters can have faults, but the protagonist(s) should at least have honorable INTENTIONS. I don't mean they can't have sex or make mistakes or anything-I want them to have a good heart.

    I've been reading a bunch of Pendergast mysteries (crime novels) and I was really liking them because Pendergast is SMART and polite and honorable and all the stories no matter how weird had believable reasons int he end, but I just read one that ruined it for me.

    I need realistic explanations, real word--UNLESS I am reading fantasy, which is a different genre.

    I could read fantasy-mysteries IF I knew ahead of time that that was what I was reading.

    I think all of my novels (the ones I'm writing) are either mysteries or have some mystery at their heart. I hadn't realized that until I thought about it--just now.

  16. I read a lot of mysteries... suspense thrillers, lawyer/police procedurals, cozies. I like strong, compelling characters and I find them in different genres. Thanks for visiting today.

  17. Stephen - I know what you mean. Suspense thrillers can be utterly engrossing if they're done well. If they're not, they can go flat and seem as you say, stupid. I agree with you, too about Dean Koontz. He does do thrillers well.

    Mary - Thank you : ). I know what you mean about having an eyeball-load of work, too!

    Like you, I enjoy realistic mysteries, too. They have to make sense. There has to be a believable reason why the characters do what they do. I'm with you, too, about protagonists with at least honorable intentions. Perhaps I'm idealistic, but I like my sleuth to have some good in him or her. That's the way I try to portray my protagonist, anyway.

    I'm so glad you mentioned Alexander McCall Smith, too. I'm a real fan of his No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, and his Precious Ramotswe is a terrific sleuth : ).

    LSUReader - You're right; if a character is strong and compelling, we want to know more. We want to find out why s/he does what s/he does, and we find the story more interesting. Weak or inconsequential characters can have their place in a novel if there's a reason for them, but for main characters, I like them strong and believable.

  18. I am a culinary mystery junkie. I love cookbooks, so it is a real treat to get recipes with my mysteries!

    (Ha! My word verification for this post is cooker!!)

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  20. Janel - You're by no means alone! There are many series (I like Isis Crawford's Libby and Bertie Simmons series) that feature delicious food and recipes. How funny, too, that your word verification code was "cooking!" Somehow, that fits eerily well : ).

    January - I know what you mean about clues and solving things. To me, that's what draws me to a mystery. And there's nothing more fun than getting so lost in a mystery that you forget to "step outside yourself." If you're interested in older books (and you don't mind occasional rank sexism), the work of Ellery Queen provides some fascinating intellectual puzzles. I like the older classics a lot, especially Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers.

  21. Nice to see you blogging over here, Margot!

    I like cozies, especially when they're part of a series. I like returning to characters I've come to know, and while the actual mystery is part of the attraction for me, I enjoy following characters through their various changes and growth almost as much, if not more. Not surprisingly, I'm particularly drawn to mysteries that feature cats!

    Congratulations on your new release - the synposis sounds wonderful. If I don't win it here, it's definitely going on my TBR list.

  22. Ingrid - Thanks : ) And thanks for your interest in B-Very Flat. I appreciate it very much.

    I know exactly what you mean about getting to know characters over time as series develop. That's one thing I like so much about Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. I really enjoy those characters, and it's been good to get to know them as time has gone on.

    When I read your comment about cozies featuring cats, I thought of Lilian Jackson Braun's Cat who...series. The first several books of that series were terrific, and those Siamese were very appealing : ).

  23. Margot; What a wonderful love letter to mysteries! I like them in many forms, but psychological thrillers and historical mysteries are what are most often found beside my bed. The occasional cozy is fun as well - I enjoy the humor and the colourful characters that usually inhabit them.

    Mysteries are wonderful, but it's an added bonus to learn about something else as well, be it a different country, a different culture, or whatever. I have Dick Francis to thank for my knowledge of English horse-racing. Colin Dexter has shown me Oxford. Wonderful.

  24. Elspeth - THank you : ). I hadn't thought about it that way, but I suppose one could call my post just that. Like you, I enjoy historical mysteries and (when they're not gory) pshychological thrillers. I also like the classics. As you say, no matter what sub-genre of mystery one chooses, one can always learn. I'm thinking about how much I learned about Botswana from Alexander McCall Smith, and how much I learned about the politics of early England from Ellis Peters...and the list goes on...

  25. I like reading a variety of crime fiction (plus some thrillers), but my all-time favourite is the police procedural. Several of my favourite authors write them (P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, Ann Cleeves, Martin Edwards, Jo Nesbø, Håkan Nesser and I could go on forever..), and often in series which is wonderful, because when you find a new series, endless pleasures wait for you!

  26. Dorte - I know exactly what you mean. There are many, many wonderful police procedural series, aren't there? You've mentioned some that I like very, very much. I like Carolyn Graham, Conlin Dexter and Elizabeth George, too, among many others. As you say, a series allows a person so many enjoyable hours : ). I love discovering new ones, too. I also love it when a new book is added to a series I love.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.