Damaged characters, murder mysteries, and dealing with the past
by Patrick Linder
I’m often asked how much of what I write about is real and how I come up with plot ideas. These are interesting questions for a writer of murder mysteries to consider, especially given the common advice that you should “write what you know.” Spoiler alert: I’ve never actually murdered anyone.
I write about murder, but I consider myself first and foremost an emotional writer. Perhaps a better way to say that is that I am a writer most concerned with the emotion(s) of the story. That’s one big reason why I love mysteries—to solve a murder you have to also solve what the motivation was and what the repercussions have been, and these are almost always tied to emotion(s).
If you take a step back and think about a mystery as this fantastic combination of crime, motivation, and repercussion, the emotional path often leads directly to any number of damaged characters. I love the emotional baggage that damaged characters bring with them. I love the mystery of why they are limited and how those limitations shape where and who they are in the present. And I love having a detective who himself (or herself) is also battling limitations and emotional baggage.
My novel Ghost Music: A Marcus Brace Mystery combines all of these elements. My detective is flawed, not a superhero. As Marcus gets closer to finding the murderer, he is forced to deal with his own emotional limitations and face a family legacy that he would rather remain buried. Understanding his own history becomes key to understanding and solving the murders taking place in the present.
It’s this type of multi-layered mystery and emotion that I love. I’m working on the sequel to Ghost Music and once again find myself creating a story that answers not just why the main crime was committed but also why the characters are damaged. To solve the crime, you have to solve the damage that each character brings to the story.
So, what do you think about mysteries that include a damaged detective? Is your favorite sleuth appealing because he/she has been forced to deal with some type of damage, or because they already have everything together?
Ghost Music summary
Seattle Detective Marcus Brace is falling apart, both professionally and personally. Before he can put his own demons to rest, a brutal homicide and an unusual summons from family long-forgotten force Marcus to confront everything he’s been running from. With the killer targeting those closest to him, Marcus is on a journey to not only find a murderer but also solve a family mystery that was hidden for decades.
A fast-paced murder mystery that looks at how past and present interact, Ghost Music was awarded Third Place for Unpublished Fiction by the Public Safety Writers Association and has garnered critical praise since its publication.
“If I were working on a 5-star rating system here at Haunted Book Case, I'd give this novel 50. I definitely look forward to anything further this author puts out. He's a fantastic writer.”
--The Haunted Bookcase
--The Haunted Bookcase
Patrick Linder was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas. He graduated from the University of Kansas with degrees in English and American Studies. Awarded a Mellon Fellowship in Humanistic Studies, Linder earned his PhD in American Literature from the University of Washington. Linder is a regular contributor to the online journal Rebelle Society. He lives with his two children in Snoqualmie, Wash., and is currently at work on the follow-up to Ghost Music, again featuring Seattle Detective Marcus Brace. Stay in touch with Patrick at www.patricklinderbooks.com or by emailing him at: patrick (at) patricklinderbooks (dot) com.
Thank you for visiting me today, Patrick. I loved what you had to say about your book.