The Mystery of the P95 Book

Manila Bulletin, August 28, 2004 | Go to article overview

The Mystery of the P95 Book


Byline: SUSAN A. DE GUZMAN

BARGAIN BOOK fatigue can hit even the most voracious reader, especially now that the on-sale bins at the bookstores never seem to get depleted anymore. There are times when you just avoid the pile of hardbound volumes that are pegged at an amazingly low price of R99, or breeze past your favorite used-book haunt when normally youd go over the shelves with a finetoothed comb.

But happily, those moments pass, and before you know it, youre back rummaging through those seemingly unwanted piles. What motivates you is that, once in a while, you stumble on a find that makes up for bending over, crouching and browsing through dozens of self-help titles, cookbooks and unauthorized celebrity biographies that have been improbably put together.

It was in one of those jumbles that I came across a large, inch-thick book that had the Mona Lisa on the cover. Leonardo da Vincis muse is smiling, alright, but there is a red dot on her right bosom and from it trickles a crude depiction of blood, flowing on to her carefully posed hands.

This wounded Mona Lisa serves as the apt cover of "The Fine Art of Murder" (The Mystery Readers Indispensable Companion), edited by Ed Gorman, Martin H. Greenberg, Larry Segriff with Jon L. Breen.

I was immediately interested, and not just because it was priced a mere R95, but because I grew up as a fan of mystery books and stories. During my pre-teen years, like most girls at that stage, I devoured the Nancy Drew series and with bated breath followed the plucky heroines every adventure. I also found myself reading the Ellery Queen mystery magazines that my brother would buy at discounted prices, trying to figure out in each story "whodunit".

And how could I not have been enthralled by Arthur Conan Doyle and his incomparable Sherlock Holmes, who with just one glance, could tell the persons quirks in walking or handwriting and even if hes been at war. How does the great detective do it? As hed often say to his trusty sidekick, "Elementary, my dear Watson."

Later on, I became an Agatha Christie fan, taking a particular liking to the shrewd spinster Miss Marple as she solved one murder after another in her supposedly quiet village of St. Mary Mead. Christies bemoustached Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, I found smug and pompous but nevertheless, I liked how he employed his "little grey cells" to put the clues together to send criminals to jail. "Murder on the Orient Express," in which Poirot has to figure out the culprit on a train filled with unlikely suspects, remains one of my all-time mystery favorites.

So you can imagine why I was so thrilled to get a hold of "The Fine Art of Murder." Its a compendium of articles penned mostly by mystery writers themselves, in which they analyze a multitude of aspects relating to their profession from coming up with a plot to dealing with bad reviews. Even with my exposure to this kind of fiction, I was blown away to learn that mystery really is an industry on its own, with sub-genres as varied as the poison or weapon that can be used to kill a victim.

Each chapter in the book is devoted to the subjects and categories covered by the mystery field, including American Mysteries, Traditional Mysteries, The Black Detective, Religious Mysteries, Private Eye Mysteries, Gay Mysteries, British Mysteries, Dark Suspense, Womens Suspense, Police Procedurals, Hard- boiled Mysteries, Young Adult Mysteries, Short Stories, True Crime and Television Mysteries.

There are so many fictional detectives out there, and whats fascinating is that they, along with their creators, have apparently earned respectable followings. But theres no assailing the record set by amateur sleuth Nancy Drew who, through several generations, has fascinated young girls all over the world.

I was happy to find an article in "The Fine Art of Murder" devoted to the real "Carolyn Keene" who originated the beloved series. …

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