Zeddo from Canada Dear Ms. James, I enjoyed The Private Patient as I have all of your previous novels. I do have a question regarding your comment that the reader expects “a solution which the reader should be able to arrive at by logical deduction from clues inserted in the novel…” Although I have heard many mystery novelists say this, I find very few contemporary mysteries in which this would be possible. This is an observation, not a complaint; I’d hate to have figured out the solution before the end of a mystery — what point would there be in continuing to read it?
Still, I can’t help wondering why mystery writers continue to say this, when it seems to me that what they’re actually doing is planting ambiguous actions which they will later knit together to form a plausible explanation for the identification of the criminal. Since ambiguous actions could be explained by many different resolutions, this seems quite different from providing clues which, if perceived by the reader and correctly assembled, would allow the reader to solve the mystery. I’d be interested in your view of the clues in The Private Patient with which the reader should be able to arrive at the solution before the conclusion of the novel.
The answer to that question that James gives is not too satisfactory to me; in my opinion, the clues should be in place so that I can read the novel second time around, knowing how the mystery is going to be unraveled, and see if the clues and descriptions are consistent!