By Dixon Hill
There is something innately romantic about a well-wrung mystery, isn’t there?
The intriguing allure of Character entwined with Occurrence, sensuously dancing across the tight-sprung terrain of Setting.
The syncopated gyrations of Crime and Motivation bumping against the carefully mitered couple of Puzzle and Solution . . .
. . . while Suspects and Red Herrings crowd the dance floor or sit this one out.
And, through it all, a Question.
To find some Truth or McGuffin that rented the ball room or cheap dance hall, arranged a rave in an empty warehouse—or perhaps just switched on an inexpensive stereo, in a living room with a small space cleared—and called the dancers together.
It called a time and place, to set all in rhythmic motion.
To me, there is no question about the presence of romance in mystery.
But, is there room for Romance in Mystery, one genre enfolded in another? That’s the question that strikes me, today.
Why? It’s been running in the low hundreds over the past few days. The true heat of summer still waits in the wings, but there can be no question that the short, pleasant, breezy days of balm we call Springtime here in the desert are over. I love the heat of summer, in a painful way I can’t explain. But, during this transitional crux, crossing Summer’s threshold as it were, I miss the biting chill of dark morning, before the rising sun can burn it off.
And this has me thinking Spring thoughts, about Romance sub-plots in Mysteries. Be they short stories, novels, stage plays, radio plays or movies, how often do mysteries seem to contain an element of romance? Does romantic entanglement belong there, or not? Does it work sometimes? Why or why not? Is there some arcane secret formula that allows a writer to skirt the problem of the romance of the Romance clashing with the romance of the Mystery? If so—what is it? And, why and how does it work? These questions and more rebound against the walls of my mind.
All my answers elicit more questions, which thicken the horde of swirling, gnashing unknowns.
Which leaves me asking you, Dear Reader: What are your thoughts on the subject?