Double Indemnity Release Party: Maggie Kavanagh on Mysteries, and a Giveaway!

January 27, 2015

I grew up on Nancy Drew and quickly graduated to Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie as a teenager, but it wasn’t until I was an adult reader that I really started to appreciate the crafting that goes into these complex stories. Tomorrow I’ll be talking at The Novel Approach about some of my favorite mystery novels, but in this post I thought I’d talk a little more about what draws me to write in this genre.

To put it simply, I write what I like to read. I prefer mysteries when I’ve connected some, but not all, of the dots by the ending. While I appreciate having my suspicions validated when it comes to whodunit, I really love those revelatory ‘ah-ha’ moments where you see something you overlooked or a piece suddenly falls into place. I also prefer mysteries where the protagonist is personally involved and invested with solving the crime, either because it affects him/her or someone he/she loves directly.

My favorite protagonists are unlikely detectives—this is one of the reasons I made Sam a wannabe reporter rather than an expert. Because he’s learning how to investigate, the reader is drawn along on his quest and experiences the unravelling of the mystery in real time along with Sam. I also prefer my protagonists flawed and complex rather than perfect, just like my villains (though it is fun to read the occasional evil mastermind).

In a romance/mystery, the two genres have to balance one another, but the romance needs to remain central throughout. For me, romance becomes even more tense and exciting when one of the leads is suspected of the crime(s).

What are the things you look for in a romance/mystery novel? Do you care equally about the plot and romance, or could you care less about the mystery so long as the romance is satisfying? This is a question I’ve thought a lot about, and I’m interested in hearing from you.

Anyone who replies to this post will be entered to win a free eBook copy of Double Indemnity! Please respond by 10 p.m. EST. I will contact the winner soon after the deadline. 

24 Responses to “Double Indemnity Release Party: Maggie Kavanagh on Mysteries, and a Giveaway!”

  1. H.B. says:

    When reading a mystery novel like an equal amount of romance and plot. If one is less prominent I usually find some fault in it. In rare cases I think if the romance is spectacular I just let it slide but that doesn’t usually happen.

  2. maggiemkavanagh says:

    @H.B. That’s the balance I prefer myself, though I know some people can be more forgiving :)

  3. Antonia says:

    I like a good balance in a book that is both romance and mystery. I need a satisfying romantic story line, but I want an enjoyable mystery too.

  4. Therese Woodson says:

    I actually took a college class on detective stories a few years ago. And it did count toward my degree! Anyway, I like a good balance between the mystery and the romance.

  5. Angela says:

    I also like a good balance but i think i rather prefer a good mystery/crime without romance to a story that is only romance.
    The ideal book for me is a book with lots of character development and there has to be something going on for example a crime-mysterie plot or some other plot.
    Instant love stories are nice for a short quick bedtime story but they mostly lack in the character development. i love it when a book got me hooked from beginning to end.

  6. maggiemkavanagh says:

    @Antonia. That sounds like the perfect balance to me :)

  7. maggiemkavanagh says:

    @Therese, sounds like a fun class!

  8. maggiemkavanagh says:

    @Angela, That’s really interesting—character development is key for me as well :)

  9. I’m a long-time fan of the mystery/romance, even better when they’re historicals. For years, I’ve read the Amelia Peabody mysteries, set in late 19th century Egypt. Elizabeth Peters (aka Barbara Michaels) always wrote a great romantic mystery, but they were mostly mysteries with a little romance on the side. Now there are many more choices, include the K.J. Charles stories, and those by Josh Lanyon and Jordan Hawk, to name just a few. I like the opportunities that have been opened up by the independent presses. For too long, the big New York publishers had a stranglehold on the creative instincts of writers (I even had one editor tell me that she absolutely couldn’t sell a book in which the hero had red hair – nobody would read it!). Now writers are free to follow their inspiration. A friend told me that every book will find its readership, given a chance.

  10. maggiemkavanagh says:

    @Kezia, I totally agree about the publishing opportunities available now. While it’s a huge pond with more fish every day, the publishing world is opening to people who wouldn’t ever have gotten noticed when the large companies were the sole gatekeepers. Thanks for the Amelia Peabody rec; I’ll have to check that out. And then you go and name three of my favorite m/m authors. :) (As as a side note, I love red-haired heroes (and heroines!) Thanks for stopping by.

  11. Kay Walker says:

    I have to admit, I don’t read a lot of mysteries, but that’s something I should rectify because I always enjoy them when I do. As a reader, I love the a-ha! moments when pieces of the puzzle start to come together, especially when the writer has been so clever in dropping the clues along the way.

    Congrats again on your book release! :)

  12. Trix says:

    I usually like an equal balance between mystery and romance, though if the characters are fantastic that sort of trumps everything. The kind of mystery can make a difference, too…if it’s a murder, I don’t want it too gory, and while I enjoy “long con” plots I tend to lose track of the minutiae really quickly. (I’ve always enjoyed the suspenseful plots of Eden Winters’ DIVERSION series, since they pick a topic most people don’t really know–black- and gray-market pharmaceutical smuggling–and delve into it in a way that’s informative but doesn’t overwhelm the characters.)

  13. maggiemkavanagh says:

    @Kay You should check some of Josh Lanyon’s stuff out if you haven’t yet. I really enjoyed the Adriene English series, but for a lighter read the Ghost Wore Yellow Socks is really cute :)

  14. maggiemkavanagh says:

    @Trix Whoa that sounds like a cool series. I’ll have to check it out. Yes, characters are the most important element for me as well.

  15. Carolyn says:

    I read mysteries for years where romance was a subplot. So, if the mystery was engaging and the characters were done well, then I didn’t need the romance to be in every crevice, so to speak. However, the ones I reread most are for their romance, even while still enjoying the mystery that’s already solved for me. Obviously, the characters have to be ones I care about and worry for or the whole thing falls apart.

  16. Su says:

    I do read and watch quite a lot of mystery stories, sometimes where the romance is incidental but it is also a well written mystery with strong characters you can empathise with. I do enjoy ‘whodunits’ as I liked to work through all the clues given as they come, including red herrings, with the characters and the developing plot. Throw in a angst ridden romance, maybe one character is under suspicion and the other (detective maybe) has to trust and believe in them for the romance to become fulfilled. An interesting mystery romance I read recently had added another dimension by revealing the darker thoughts of the perpetrator/killer, as well the main characters thoughts, so you were forewarned of impending trouble as the good guys followed a clue into danger!

    Congratulations on your new publication

  17. maggiemkavanagh says:

    @Carolyn, So true distinguishing books you reread vs those you don’t. My favorites are always the ones with compelling characters and a good dose of romance.

  18. Waxapplelover says:

    I like for stories to have a balance of romance and mystery. Despite a childhood reading Encylopedia Brown, Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys, I’m not really a huge mystery reader. At the core, I’m a romance reader that loves the HEA/HFN.

  19. Abi says:

    Congrats on the release! Commenting, because. >.> /brain is fried.

  20. maggiemkavanagh says:

    @Su, that sounds like an interesting book, what’s the title? In any case, we seem to share similar taste when it comes to the qualities of romance and mystery!

  21. maggiemkavanagh says:

    @Waxapplelover: I definitely want romance in mine as well!

  22. maggiemkavanagh says:

    @Abi haha sometimes the brain is just fried. Thanks so much! xo

  23. Juliana says:

    I think the mystery needs to be fleshed out, and integral to the plot. But the romance can’t be in the back burner. I also really like it when both MCs work together to solve the mystery! Or when one MC needs to save another!

  24. maggiemkavanagh says:

    @Juliana, I love when the MCs save each other—this one of my favorite tropes ever :)

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