I read a lot. I study the New York Times Book Review each week in search of books I might like. Goodreads sends me stuff once a month. I study book club lists. All in hopes of finding books to enjoy.
I’ve gotten picky. The words “war, violence, slavery, torture, suffering, strife” don’t compel me anymore. There was a time when I was drawn to that, but not now.
Instead, I look for kinder, gentler stories. Stories that I can climb into and yes, that clichéd word, “identify” with. I like that.
Henry James said many years ago: “The purpose of a novel is to help the heart of a man to know itself.” That’s what I’m looking for.
For some reason, at least for me, Swedish and British mysteries fall into that category. I think it’s because the protagonist is almost always a pensive, brooding, thoughtful person who is trying to figure out his/her own heart.
He or she is usually smart. I admire that.
He or she is usually a loner. I get that.
Sure, there’s a murder or two but they’re just props. Tools for the characters to develop and act accordingly.
In the process of solving the crime, the detective finds his family among his co-workers and friends. Each has a role and they form the whole to solve the mystery. They are independent and interdependent. They are the sum of their parts.
I like to figure out where I might fit in. Where I could help. I try to climb into the heads of those who are part of the group and wonder why and how they think that way.
In the process, they let me discover something about my own heart. Just like Mr. James said they would.