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As I wrote in my August 27th post, I’m taking a course on international murder mysteries. So far we’ve read books set in Italy, Mesopotamia, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and France, and we still have several more weeks of class.  Yeah!

One of the handouts that our instructor, Nancy Rawson, gave to the class is a piece by John Ydstie, a host on National Public Radio. Mr. Ydstie talks about the “spoiler alert,” something I’m sure we’ve all come across in reading reviews of movies, books, plays, etc.

Basically, Mr. Ydstie says that researchers have found that good writing trumps plot and that people who read stories where they know the end enjoy those stories just as much as people reading the story for the first time. I agree and disagree at the same time, if that’s possible.

I’ve taken to reading only the first third or half of movie and books reviews, fearful that the reviewer is going to tell me more than I want to know.  That has happened on more than one occasion, and it did spoil the book/movie for me; if it’s a movie I want to see or a book that’s new to me, I don’t want to know the ending.

That being said, once I’ve read a mystery and (hopefully) have been surprised, I’m very willing to read that book again at a later date, perhaps more than once. I’ve read all of the books in my Golden Oldies section more than once; indeed, I’ve read a couple of them more than twice.  And I’ve enjoyed each one each time I’ve read it.

So I guess I do agree with the psychologists who say that knowing the ending of a book doesn’t spoil it for the reader; it all depends on whether or not the book is well-written.  And sometimes the second reading is better than the first.


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