A decent morning of writing, about 1,200 words, not bad for a day when I need to close shop a little early, get to the gym, then get to campus for office hours and class, and then zip home for an interview. I did an interview yesterday, too, for the Baltimore Sun’s shopping column, Five Things I Want to Buy Right Now. I won’t upstage the writer by revealing what they were, but I will say the list did not include some very basic needs, such as new gym shoes. (And no, Dave White, it did not include the item that I mentioned in an IM to you, the one that left you virtually nonplussed.) The fact is, I hate shopping.
Yesterday, the last of the pre-publication reviews came in, from Library Journal. Very positive, with one cavil: Smart readers might figure out the twist. Hmmm, but Booklist’s cavil was that the twist was a stretch. (Kirkus and PW had no cavils, and gave the book stars.) At any rate, it seems like a good day to talk about twists.
The fact is, WHAT THE DEAD KNOW doesn’t really have one. All the information is there, if you want to put it together. The reader knows more than any character in the book. I planned it that way. Since I published Every Secret Thing, I have consciously allowed the reader to have more information than any one in the book, including the police and, in my series books, Tess Monaghan. I don’t write straight-forward whodunits anymore because . . . I actually think they’re much harder to do well.
But in writing crime novels, I often think about the stunning image at the end of Janet Malcolm’s book about Sylvia Plath. I won’t tell you what it is because the book is one that I think everyone should read, and that final image is its reward, a well-wrought metaphor. (And, okay, also Malcolm’s defense of some of her own journalism, and the uproar she caused when she asserted that all journalists are confidence men, of a sort.) So, to try to paraphrase without stealing the image — everything is there. But can you find it? Can you choose that which is important and eliminate that which is not?
(For some reason, this puts me in the mind of a favorite Oz book, Ozma of Oz IIRC, in which the Gnome King has transformed the Royal Family of Ev into knick-knacks and only Billina the chicken can save them all. It’s a snowy day in Baltimore and I wish I could lock myself in the house and re-read all the Oz books in which the Gnome King features, particularly The Emerald City of Oz. But it’s not to be.)