At the end of my post "Mini Lessons From My Summer Reading," I said that reading THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET had clarified for me why I don't generally like reading mysteries.
It seems to me that in a mystery, the author and the detective character are working together to solve the mystery. As the reader, I'm in on lots of the clues, but often, I doesn't have access to all of the clues that it takes to solve the mystery. It frustrates me to no end when the mystery gets solved with information I never had access to. Because I know that the author will make it impossible (or nearly so) for me to solve the mystery based on the clues provided in the book, I don't really try. I disengage as a reader. For me, reading a mystery is like watching a movie -- I'm on the outside looking in, an observer but not a participant.
In a novel like JACOB DE ZOET, it feels like the author is working directly with me, the reader, to make sense of the story. Every (non-mystery) novel is still a kind of a mystery because the author gives me all the clues or information I will need to make sense of the story. However, I'm working with the author because it's up to me to pay attention to the clues s/he gives me, to follow the bread crumbs that are dropped for me to follow so that I can construct the story together with the author. The author trusts me, the reader, to be clever enough and observant enough to make sense of it all. I like the kind of book where I collaborate with the author to make meaning and solve the puzzle of the story s/he is telling.
What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Is there some joy in reading mysteries that I'm missing?