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About Marilyn

April 5, 2014

All at once, the world’s best-selling author is everywhere!

I’ve been asked many times to choose the mystery I’d take with me to a desert island, if I could take only one.  It’s a no-brainer for me, something I don’t even have to think about.  It’s And Then There Were None, a.k.a. Ten Little Indians, by Agatha Christie.  To my mind, it’s her most perfect puzzle, illustrating mastery with every re-reading.

Three times during this last week I’ve been reminded that although Mrs. Christie has been dead for more than thirty-five years, there is no decrease in her popularity or in her name recognition.

The first was a quote in the Boston Globe late last month, when a blizzard dropped nearly a foot of snow on various towns on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  In a sidebar to an article noting people’s reactions to the storm, a woman at a Cape resort said, “It’s like being in an Agatha Christie novel, that feeling of being cut off from society.”  So nearly four decades after her death, Agatha Christie’s novel still is referred to when the idea of complete isolation comes to someone’s mind.

Second was a documentary on PBS television last week about Mrs. Christie, outlining her childhood, her marriage to Archibald Christie, their separation, her mysterious disappearance for ten days (still not completely explained), her divorce, her marriage to Sir Max Mallowan, and the films and multiple television series featuring her creations Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple.

And third was the daily Kindle deal of March 30, featuring three of her novels.  Really, can there be more proof of this author’s longevity? 

Mrs. Christie was an original member of the Detection Club, a group formed in London in 1930 to promote detective literature and to persuade authors to “play fair” with the readers by not holding back any information that would help them solve the mystery.  While I assume that all the members were well-known at the time of the club’s founding, only a few names still resonate with dedicated mystery fans–Dorothy L. Sayers and G. K. Chesterton, most notably.

But how many readers today can recognize these writers or have read their books–Arthur Morrison (Martin Hewitt, detective), John Rhode (Dr. Priestley, scientist), Jessie Rickard (various detectives)?  Their books, along with those of many of their literary colleagues, may possibly be found far back in library stacks, but certainly they are not available at airport bookstores.  Over two billion of Mrs. Christie’s books have been sold, according to the PBS program.  Only the Bible has sold more copies.

I’m constantly pushing friends to read Agatha Christie’s books.  Sometimes a response is that they don’t read “old mysteries,” that if a book doesn’t feature cell phones and GPS devices, they’re not interested.  But I maintain that a true devotee of the genre has to read the very best, and that best was written by the Queen of Mystery.  Take it from me.






February 1, 2014

As I celebrate the beginning of my fifth year writing this blog, I feel overwhelmed by the embarrassment of riches it has brought me.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the idea of writing to the authors of the books I reviewed had never occurred to me.  When my husband first proposed it, about a year or so after I started blogging, I told him there was no way an author would be interested in hearing from me, an unknown woman writing her opinion of his/her book.  But Bob persisted with his idea, saying that if I didn’t try it I’d never know, so I finally gave in and started letting authors know that I had written a review of their most recent book.

Sure enough, I began getting responses.  I’ve never tabulated it, but I probably hear from at least seventy-five percent of the authors to whom I write.  Some write a quick ‘thank you so much for your kind review,’ while others write longer notes.  I notice that first-time authors usually take the time to write, which of course isn’t surprising.  At the beginning of their careers they have received fewer reviews than established authors and are eager to have their books reviewed.  That said, I have truly been surprised and gratified by the “big names” who have taken the time to express their appreciation of my posts, even those authors who regularly appear on the best seller lists.

Recently something else has been happening.  A few authors have written to me saying that they’ve asked their publishers to send me a copy of their latest book to review.  The first time this happened I was absolutely amazed, overwhelmed, and “gobsmacked” (as the British say).  And even though it’s been occurring more often now, I am still delighted and somewhat surprised when an advance reading copy or a newly published novel arrives in my mailbox for my reviewing pleasure.  As I write this, there are five such mysteries waiting for me to read and review–heaven!

Can you tell how much I enjoy writing this weekly column?  It’s been four years of writing posts for Mystery Reviews, Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and About Marilyn.  I’m looking forward to another exciting year starting right now.




December 7, 2013

Majority rules?  Or one lonely voice?

I recently started reading three mystery novels, each of which had glowing endorsements on the front and back covers.  “Wonderful”– “thrilling”– “a writer to watch”–you get the idea.   And not only were the endorsements glowing but, to continue the metaphor, they were written by stars in the mystery field.  And yet I couldn’t get past fifty pages in two of the books, and when I finally finished the third one I was extremely disappointed.

So now I’m wondering what happens when a well-known writer is asked by a friend/a friend of a friend/his or her own publisher/for an endorsement, reads the book, and doesn’t like it.  Does the “star”admit that she/he didn’t enjoy the book?  Give a less-than-glowing endorsement?  Bite the bullet (particularly apropos for a mystery) and write something positive, if not totally truthful?

Or is it me, unwilling to believe that my own opinion could be so diametrically opposed to those who actually write books as opposed to reviewing them and that I could be wrong?

I am certainly aware of valid differences of opinion; I’ve blogged about a book that I’ve enjoyed, only to have a close friend tell me that she didn’t like it at all.  I’ve read mysteries recommended by others that I decided not to review because I didn’t think they were worth it.

But when it comes down to putting my own opinion against those of authors I admire, my confidence slips.  Am I being too judgmental, too harsh?

I’ve decided to keep giving my own opinion, flawed though it may be at times.  After all, this is my blog, so my readers know that the thoughts are my own.  If they want to they can read other columns and blogs to get the ideas of others about books, and I’m sure many do.

After nearly four years of blogging, I definitely know what I like.  But if you don’t agree with my reviews, feel free to let me know.





October 5, 2013

All mystery readers know that there are three things that police and district attorneys in novels look for when they accuse someone of a crime.  Does that person have the motive, opportunity, and means to commit the crime?

I’ve recently read two novels in which motive was nearly completely absent.  The books were really well-written and suspenseful, and I was looking forward to blogging about them.  But when I finished the final chapter in each book, I had to go back and re-read it.  I must have missed something, I thought.  There’s no reason that this person would have committed these crimes.  Because in both cases, there were multiple murders.  But why?

In both books, there was absolutely no reason for the follow-up murders.  There was an original crime, for which there was a reason, but then the author continued the killing spree.  Perhaps the thinking was that if there were a series of murders, then the reader would be so overwhelmed that he/she wouldn’t notice the the missing motive/s.

Unlike real life where sometimes we never know what caused someone to murder someone else, in a book it’s a cheat to disregard the motive.  It leaves the reader both unsatisfied and dissatisfied, feeling that the several hours spent reading were wasted.  Giving the reader multiple crimes to read about doesn’t make up for this.

In real life, it’s my understanding that the prosecution doesn’t have to provide a motive for the defendant in order to try him/her for a crime.  But I imagine it would be hard to convince a jury to convict someone without some sort of plausible motive brought forth.  It could be greed, jealousy, fear, even mental illness, but there must be a reason for the crime.  While in real life the reason that caused the crime may be undiscoverable,  that doesn’t, or shouldn’t, hold true in mysteries.

In books, it’s the author’s job to give the reader a believable motive to commit a crime, especially the crime of murder or multiple murders.  Without such motivation on the criminal’s part, the novel falls apart.  I don’t expect to come across many more books like the two I mentioned at the beginning of this post, at least I hope not.






August 3, 2013

It’s a funny thing about novels.  They sweep you into their worlds so that you forget you’re reading something that came out of the author’s imagination.  If it’s a really good book you are part of it, inside it with the characters that the author has created.

Kate Atkinson, author of One Good Turn (reviewed on this blog), has a new best-seller, Life After Life It’s a fabulous book, not a mystery but a tour de force about the many lives of Ursula Beresford Todd.  Ursula was born in England in 1910, the third of five children of Silvie and Hugh Todd.

She was born with the umbilical cord around her neck, and she never drew a breath.

She was born with the umbilical cord around her neck, but the doctor was able to cut it off and she lived.

She was born with the umbilical cord around her neck, and her mother cut it off because the doctor hadn’t been able to arrive in time for the birth.

Do you see a problem here?

Life After Life tells the many (possible) stories of Ursula’s life, assuming that she didn’t die at birth.  She never marries, she marries an abuser, she goes to Germany and marries a Nazi officer, she doesn’t have children, she has a daughter.  It all gets a bit confusing.

The stories of Ursula’s life are engrossing and wonderfully told.  She’s a young child during the Great War and a grown woman, married/unmarried, in England/Germany during World War II.  There are episodes that made me gasp with surprise or dread or sorrow.  But then I would remind myself that none of this happened because on the previous pages something totally different had occurred.

When a reader enters the mind of a novelist, of course there’s a suspension of belief.  We know these things haven’t really happened, we know that it’s all made up and that the author can make anything happen the way she/he wants.  But, at least for me, all the different paths of Ursula’s life kept me at a distance.  I kept reminding myself that because all these things couldn’t have happened to Ursula, none of these things did.

It would be like reading a mystery and finding out that the crime wasn’t solved, as if the author laid out all the clues and left it up to the reader to figure out who did it.  If there are any mysteries like that out there, I don’t want to know about them or read them.  There’s a contract between an author and a reader–the author writes a complete story and the reader gives it his/her complete attention and (hopefully) belief.  If the author doesn’t fulfill the first part of the contract, the reader can’t be faulted for not fulfilling the second part.

All the statements on the cover of Life After Life are true:  “Extraordinary,” “Excellent,” and “Smart, Moving, Powerful” are just some of them.  Life After Life was on the best-seller list for months, deservedly so.  But for me, and perhaps only for me, because of the many narrative paths in this book, a little of the magic of entering the writer’s make-believe world was gone.


June 10, 2013

Writing after death–good idea or bad?

In The Boston Globe on May 12, there was a fascinating article by Zac Bissonnette entitled “Robert B. Parker is Dead. Long Live Robert B. Parker!” It may seem a strange headline to the non-mystery reader, but to those of us familiar with Parker’s works and his death in January 2010, it makes complete sense.

Robert B. Parker was the author of nearly seventy novels, many of them in the Spenser series. His family, particularly his wife Joan, was faced with the question that has faced the families of other writers in the crime genre. Should a series, or perhaps more than one series, be ended with the author’s death, or should another writer be found to continue it?

Obviously, this is a decision that each family must make for itself. There are arguments on both sides. Readers of a popular series are reluctant to “let go” of their favorites, and they may be ready to accept another author’s similar, if not identical, version of the protagonist and the people with whom he surrounded himself. Other readers are perhaps more loyal to the author than to his creation; they don’t want anyone else’s fingerprints on the characters that the deceased developed, even if those fingerprints are barely detectable.

According to his widow, Parker never discussed his wishes regarding whether or not someone else should continue writing about his three protagonists: Spenser, Sunny Randall, and Jesse Stone. It apparently was hard for Parker to discuss his mortality, even though at age 77 it should have been obvious that his writing life was considerably closer to its end than its beginning. But, says Joan Parker, “He was convinced he’d live to be 100. So that was not in the scheme of things at all.”

Speaking only for myself, I vote to let the characters go quietly. I agree with the estate of the late, great John D. MacDonald, author of the Travis McGee series. “It is because I have never seen a really good imitation, be it art, literature, or music, that carries that poignant echo of the original artist,” MacDonald’s son Maynard has said. Travis McGee died with his creator, which is one way of handling the situation.

Another is for the author to write a novel in which the character dies. Agatha Christie did this very successfully with Hercule Poirot, so much so that Poirot became the first and only fictional figure to have a front-page obituary in The New York Times. Although Ms. Christie wrote Poirot’s final book in the 1940s with the plan of having it appear after she died, she changed her mind and Curtain was published in 1975, a year before her own death.

Tired of writing about his popular hero, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle threw Sherlock Holmes to his (apparent) death over the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland. “I must save my mind for better things,” Doyle wrote to his mother, “even if it means I must bury my pocketbook with him.” But, as we all know, the public refused to accept Holmes’ death, and the author was forced to bring him back.

So apparently there is no perfect answer to the question of whether the character should live after the author’s death.  And although I read Ace Atkins’ novel Lullaby and enjoyed it, I would have preferred to have Spenser disappear when Parker died. As the New Testament has it, let the dead bury the dead. Amen.


April 13, 2013

Back in December I wrote about the first annual New England Book Fair’s Gala Mystery Night.

I live near the Book Fair, which is in Newton, MA.  The Fair has been under new ownership for the past couple of years, after having been owned by one family for decades.  The new owner, naturally, is interested in putting his own stamp on his business and has been offering presentations by authors for the past several months, something that had not been done before.

When I went to the Gala in December, I had the pleasure of meeting two writers about whom I had blogged:  Len Rosen, author of All Cry Chaos, and Steve Ulfelder, author of Purgatory Chasm and The Whole Lie.  While talking to Len Rosen, he introduced me to another writer, Daniel Palmer.  Daniel was extremely gracious and promised me an advanced reading copy when his latest novel was published.  Frankly, I wondered whether, when the book came out, he would remember his promise; after all, he didn’t really know me, and we had only spoken for a very few minutes.

But to my delight, in February Daniel sent me a copy of Stolen, a nail-biting thriller about stolen identity and its aftermath.  In addition to this About Marilyn column, I’ve written a review of Stolen, which will appear on my blog next week.

My thanks to Daniel Palmer for his kindness in sending me this mystery.  I enjoyed it immensely and feel certain you will too.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Reads blog at this web site.


February 2, 2013

This About Marilyn column starts the fourth year of my blog.  I’ve written over 180 posts, including About Marilyn columns, Authors‘ biographies, and columns for Past Masters and Mistresses, Golden Oldies, and of course Book Reviews.  It’s been a delight to write these weekly posts, and I look forward to continuing to write in 2013.

Up until now I haven’t reviewed more than one book by the same author.  One of the reasons I chose to feature a different author with each post is to force myself to search out new authors rather than returning to reliable favorites as soon as they published new mysteries.  But, of course, this meant that I didn’t review excellent novels by authors I’d previously written about.  So this year I’m going to blog about whatever books I feel are worth reading, whether or not I’ve written about the authors before.

Please feel free to send me your thoughts about your favorite books at the Reader’s Recommendations section of the blog.


Check out the complete Marilyn’s Reads blog at this web site.

December 22, 2012

I’ve just realized that subscribers to my blog receive each post via their e-mail addresses rather than being directed to the blog itself.  Thus, when I said you can find the new Reader’s Recommendations on the title bar, that was misleading; that bar doesn’t appear on your e-mail but does appear on the blog.

So, if you want to see the form I wrote yesterday asking for your recommendations about books and authors, please do this:  click on “Marilyn’s Mystery Reads” just above the post’s date.  That will take you straight to my blog.  You’ll be able to see the title bar, which includes “Home,” “About Marilyn,” “Book Review List,” “Authors’ List,” “Past Masters and Mistresses,” “Golden Oldies,” and now “Reader’s Recommendations.”  For those readers who’ve never seen my whole blog at once, please do this–it’s easy to navigate and you can see links to each section.

I hope this is clear; if not, please e-mail me and I’ll help you get where you want to go.

Happy Holidays!


December 22, 2012

You may notice that there’s an addition to the title bar on this blog.  It’s called Reader’s Recommendations, and it was my friend Kate’s idea.

She suggested that there should be a place for readers to recommend books and authors they like, in hopes that I would blog about them.  I thought it was a great idea, so with the help of Andy Woznica at flyte new media (, Reader’s Recommendations is debuting this week.

If you have a suggestion about a favorite book or author, just complete the form under Reader’s Recommendations.  When you click the Submit button at the bottom of the form, it will come directly to my gmail address and will not appear on the blog.  That’s to insure your privacy.  I will acknowledge every recommendation so that you’ll know I received it.

I will make every effort to read all recommendations, although I can’t promise to blog about every one.  Thus far, in my more than one hundred and fifty posts, I have not reviewed two books by the same author.  My thinking is to broaden my own horizons in the mystery genre as well as, hopefully, yours.  So if you suggest a book by an author about whom I’ve already written, I may decide to postpone blogging about that second book.  However, that doesn’t mean I won’t eventually get to it, although books by authors I’ve not written about will get first preference.

That being said, I very much wish to hear from you about your favorite authors and books.  As many books as I read each week, I know there are still  authors out there whom I haven’t read, and with your help I would love to find them.

Again, my thanks to Kate for her suggestion.  I welcome your reading recommendations.


December 1, 2012

Several months after I began my weekly blogs about mysteries, my husband suggested that I write to each author after I reviewed his/her book, letting the author know that the book had been reviewed.  For quite a while I argued that the authors didn’t know me; why would they care?  But Bob persisted, and so I finally wrote my first e-mail to an author.  Much to my surprise, I received a short note thanking me.

Since then I have sent an e-mail to every author whose book I’ve written about, and most have acknowledged my e-mails and posts.  Some responses are short, with not much more than a “thank you,” and that’s fine; I’m simply glad that they read my post.  Others have responded with much longer e-mails, telling me how much they appreciate my piece and complimenting me on some part of it; some have even linked it to their Facebook page.

The New England Mobile Fair, in Newton, Massachusetts, is holding its first annual Gala Mystery Night on Thursday, December 6, from 6 – 9 p.m.

When I found out that two of the writers I’d corresponded with would be there, I wrote to them–Len Rosen (All Cry Chaos) and Steve Ulfelder (Purgatory Chasm)–and said I also would be at the Book Fair and hoped to have an opportunity to meet them.  Within twenty-four hours I heard from both, saying that they remembered me and my review and that were looking forward to meeting me.  The feeling is mutual.

If you missed my reviews of their novels, they’re here on the blog.  Steve Ulfelder now has a follow-up to Purgatory Chasm; it’s The Whole Lie and it’s a terrific read.  And if you live in the Newton, MA area, come to the Book Fair and meet both men on Thursday.

There are also thirty-eight other mystery authors who will be there.  You can find out more about the Gala at this web site:

I expect it to be an awesome night.


October 6, 2012

I must confess that I totally missed the brouhaha in the media about RJ Ellory reviewing his own book. When I read about it in the October 1/8 double issue of Newsweek, I was stunned.

It appears that Ellory, a well-respected mystery writer, had been posting positive reviews of his own works on various sites while simultaneously writing negative reviews about other authors’ works. Jeremy Duns, a writer of spy fiction, alerted his followers on Twitter to this deception, which Ellory has now admitted and for which he has apologized.

But why, you might say, would Ellory do this?  The author of more than a dozen thrillers, awarded prizes by prestigious groups, what would make him write a review calling his own work a “modern masterpiece” while trashing the works of Stuart MacBride and Mark Billingham?

As news of Ellory’s trickery spread, dozens of well-known mystery writers decried the practice of “sock puppetry,” defined as writing reviews under pseudonyms. Linwood Barclay, Lee Child, and Laura Lippman (all reviewed on this blog) were among those who quickly condemned the practice; in fact, it would seem incredible for any reputable author to say or believe otherwise.

But “sock puppetry” does bring up another facet of deception, although a much less egregious one.  I’ve chosen many books in libraries and bookstores, as I’m sure you have too, based on the quotes on the front and back covers from writers I admire, only to be surprised and disappointed by the quality of the book in question.

There’s obviously room for disagreement among readers on whether a book is first-rate, second-rate, or even third-rate, but I wonder how much pressure is put on a well-known author to praise another writer’s novel, even if he/she thinks it’s not worthy.  Especially if the writer requesting the endorsement is a friend, what is the proper, ethical response?  The book has already been written, so no input will improve it.  It’s a conundrum similar to having a friend ask you if you like her new outfit/his new car/the movie that was produced by her brother.  What should you say?

However, that in no way excuses those authors who decide to praise their own books under false names while savaging other novels.  It’s a deplorable practice, and kudos to Jeremy Duns and others for revealing it.  Let’s hope to see the end of this sooner rather than later.


August 3, 2012

Sometimes it’s painful to revisit old friends.

I’ve been listening to Goldfinger, by Ian Fleming, on my car’s cd player this week.  I was a big fan of the James Bond books and films; I believe I’ve either read or seen all of them. They were light and fluffy, utterly unrealistic, what we’d call today a “beach read,” and lots of fun.   A couple of weeks ago I took Goldfinger out of my local library to enjoy while I was driving.

Well, it turned out enjoying was the wrong word.  I have been absolutely taken aback by some of the words coming out of the mouths of James Bond and other characters.  They express emotions that are anti-Semitic, anti-woman, anti-homosexual, and racist. Given the totally unappealing looks of Auric Goldfinger, Bond’s contact at the venerable Bank of England thought that of course “he was a Jew,” although it turns out he isn’t.  In Bond’s view, woman have become masculine and assertive, men have become passive and quiescent, and both have become “pansies” since World War II, much to the detriment of society.

And Bond’s view of Japanese and Koreans cannot be printed here; it’s an incredibly stereotypical, negative portrait.

It’s hard to know whether Fleming’s views were truly those he believed or those he thought would resonate most closely with his reading public.  Vast sections of the book were changed in the movie, which came out five years after the book was published.  It must have been obvious to the producers that the depiction of Bond as a racist and mysogynist would not go over well with an international audience.

Either way, whether it was Fleming whose views were accurately displayed in the book or Bond’s, it’s disturbing to see such animosity when reading a book that is supposed to provide entertainment. I’d like to think that this book would not have been publishable now, whether because no reputable author would espouse those beliefs or because he/she knew they would greatly diminish readership.  Let’s hope I’m right.


June 2, 2012

I’m not sure who said it originally, but variety is definitely the spice of life.  And that’s one of the reasons I so enjoy reading mysteries.

Just taking a look at the books I’ve reviewed recently, I’ve gone from present-day Los Angeles to nineteenth-century New York City to twentieth-century China to nineteenth-century Scotland. And all without leaving home, unless you count my trips to the local library or book store.

Last month I attended a panel discussion that featured an author of several novels, two of which I’d read and thoroughly enjoyed.  She spoke passionately and eloquently about her latest novel, which indeed was excellent.  During her talk she mentioned that rarely had she read a mystery novel and never had finished reading one.

I could hardly believe her.  It’s as if she had said she’d never read a non-fiction book or never seen a foreign film or never gone to an art museum.  I’m certain she never would have said any of those things, so why did she think it was alright to say she’d never finished a mystery story?

The funny thing was that after she had said that, she kind of laughed and said that perhaps her latest novel, the one  she was discussing, was kind of a mystery. And indeed it was, I thought.  There was a crime involved, a person who may or may not have been guilty of that crime, and a violent ending to the story.  But it wasn’t about a murder or one that featured a private eye as its protagonist, so perhaps it didn’t fit into her definition of a mystery.

Did she not read mysteries because they scared her?  Because she felt they were not serious literature, only entertainment?  Or was there some other reason?

Of course, her decision is exactly that, her decision.  And although I didn’t question her during the question-and-answer session or approach her after that to ask for her reason, I felt like telling her that there are as many different kinds of novels in the mystery genre as in any other genre, and she was missing a lot of wonderful, well-crafted stories featuring funny heroines, dissipated private investigators, burned-out police officers, and a hundred or so other protagonists, written by authors who have a good tale to tell.

I admire her writing but not her closed vision. It’s her loss, but as I left the talk I felt sorry for her.


April 7, 2012

What’s missing and why do I care?

I’m taking two courses at Brandeis’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute this semester, and in one of them a classmate asked an interesting question.  Why, she wanted to know, had the author not included a particular piece of information about the protagonist and his/her history that she wanted to know? She felt it would have greatly enriched the story if she had more information.

After some discussion around the table, the group leader noted that no matter how long any work is, it cannot encompass everything about the characters in the story. It doesn’t matter if the novel is 400 or 4000 pages, he said, something would be left out.  And perhaps, he added, what’s left out is as much a part of the story as what’s put in.

I totally empathize with my fellow student.  I too want to know everything about a character–his family, his past, his goals. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy reading mystery novels rather than the genre’s short stories.  Even if a book doesn’t completely satisfy my curiosity about the detective, I can hope the picture will get clearer in succeeding novels.  But I know that won’t happen to characters in a short story.

Although, of course, as there are exceptions to every rule, there’s an exception to what I just wrote.  Somewhere in the Sherlock Holmes canon there’s a throwaway line about his being distantly related to the French artist Emile Vernet, but there’s really almost nothing else about his family.  It’s not until “The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter” that the reader discovers that Sherlock has an older brother, Mycroft.  And aside from telling the reader about Mycroft’s eccentricities, there’s nothing in this story sheds light on Sherlock’s family or his background.

But because Doyle wrote so many stories about Holmes, if you read one after the other, it’s almost as if you’re reading a novel, so there’s the very slight possibility of learning more about Holmes and Watson as you continue to read about them.  But it’s a rare author who has written as many short mystery stories about one character as Doyle had; in fact, I’m sure no other author has.

Given this information gap, does that give the reader permission to, in effect, write his own history? As a friend in my book club has said on more than one occasion, we can only discuss what’s in between the covers of the book.  Anything else is our thought, not the author’s.  It’s only in fairy tales that the story closes with “And they lived happily ever after.”  For everything else we read, we don’t know how things will work out after we close the book, and we simply have to deal with that.