Which is interesting because I just finished Dashiell Hammett's The Dane Curse. Aside from being a tiny bit racist, what with it being written in 1929, it was pretty damn good. I've been reading a lot of mysteries, as you know, what with the fact that I've been writing a mystery, and this one did the least cheating of any I've read.
Murder mysteries cheat, in my book, when any of the following happen:
- The murder turns out to be some random dude we've never met, ala some of Patricia Cromwell's stuff.
- Having mysteries solved by science that doesn't exist, ala CSI. As in, I promise you, the security camera from an ATM cannot catch the license plate of the getaway car by catching its reflection in a passing rear view mirror. Or some such nonsense. Obviously a favorite trick of Ian Flemming. Ian Flemming is allowed because it's James freaking Bond, and if I complain to much, James Bond will kill me by replacing my lipstick with a cleverly disguised scorpion. (Joke's on you Bond. The three days a year I actually think to wear lipstick, I can never find any. Unless you've got an immortal scorpion on your hands... oh hey, I found some lipstick!)
- Have the killer do something obscenely stupid to cover up the murder which, if they hadn't done it, they'd never be caught. Like some episode of Monk where the murderer framed himself so that detectives would discover the fact that he'd been framed, thus exonerating him. Actually, that kind of sounds like every episode of Monk, come to think of it. That's okay, though, his loving portrayal of a person with OCD was, thought not always accurate, really kind to people with mental illness. Ms. Sue Grafton is often guilty of the overly contrived crime, but that's okay as long as Stockard Channing keeps reading the books on tape.
- The dramatic leap ala Sherlock Holmes: There's a boot missing. Therefore there's a dog involved. I try this at home when I can't find the TV remote all the time. Loki is morbidly obese and likes eating plastic. Therefore the remote is obviously in his food bowl. It is never, ever in his food bowl.
To get back to my main point, this novel beat me fair and square. I was sure I knew who did it, sure Sam Spade* was a dupe and in dire trouble. Beat me fair and square and then rubbed in my face. Hard. It was pretty rad.
*No, the main character of this story was not actually Sam Spade. This was another unnamed main character. However, he was damn well Bogey in my head. Smelled like an ashtray and everything.