Magic Carpet Ride by Saralyn Richard

Photo by DESIGNECOLOGIST on Unsplash

At a recent interview, I was asked whether I’ve always been attracted to mysteries, even as a child. That’s not the first time I’ve answered the question, but the more experience I have as a mystery writer, the more I’ve seen the power of mysteries, and I want to share my thinking.

I’m an eclectic reader and teacher of literature. I like to read all genres and nonfiction, plays, poems—you name it. But mysteries draw me in more than any other genre, and I think that’s because in no other type of book are the reader and writer so closely connected.

The intellectual puzzle of a mystery novel is a carefully planned path laid out by the author and followed by the reader. The steps, the clues, the evidence, the red herrings—all are set forth in a grand treasure hunt, and the reader is invited to join in. In accepting the invitation, a reader becomes complicit with the scheme. He enters the story as an ally or a sidekick of the sleuth, and he solves the mystery along with the character.

In order to enjoy the mystery fully, the reader must pay attention, not only to the intellectual puzzle, but also to the emotional puzzle. How do the characters relate to one another? What motivates one or more of them to commit a crime? How will the truth be discovered, and how will justice be administered?

The mystery is less about the actual killing of a person and more about the process of decision-making and problem-solving that will restore order to the world of the book. Yes, bad things happen in life, but clever people can overcome these bad things and find stability again. And if characters in books can achieve successful outcomes, people in real life can, also.

When I’ve read a good mystery, I feel I’ve connected with the author’s heart and soul. I know she’s an upright person who believes in doing the right thing. She’s taken me along with her on the journey, and, even if she’s dazzled and bewildered me, even when she’s twisted my thinking into knots and tossed me around the landscape of the novel, she’s held my hand throughout, and she’s taken pleasure in the fact that I’m still with her at the end.

I know these things because my favorite part of being a mystery author is doing those same things with my readers. The writer-reader connection is central to the mystery, and that’s what makes both reading and writing so much fun. Let’s hop on the magic carpet together and go for a ride.


Saralyn Richard writes award-winning humor- and romance-tinged mysteries that pull back the curtain on people in settings as diverse as elite country manor houses and disadvantaged urban high schools. Her works include the Detective Parrott mystery series, two standalone mysteries, a children’s book, and various short stories published in anthologies. She also edited the nonfiction book, Burn Survivors. An active member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, Saralyn teaches creative writing and literature. Her favorite thing about being an author is interacting with readers like you. If you would like to subscribe to Saralyn’s monthly newsletter and receive information, giveaways, opportunities, surveys, freebies, and more, sign up at

16 replies
  1. Debra H. Goldstein
    Debra H. Goldstein says:

    We often hear that reading is a form of escapism, but the point you make is more accurate. The escape comes through the connection between the reader and the writer. When the link works, both are satisfied.

  2. Barb Eikmeier
    Barb Eikmeier says:

    What a great way to look at the reader/writer connection. And you do a good job of it in your mysteries. Nice post.

  3. Paula Gail Benson
    Paula Gail Benson says:

    Saralyn, this post is so beautifully written and really expresses the connection between writer and reader. I want to keep a copy of this message close at hand to help remind me of what I am striving to create. Thank you!

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