I'm in Mexico at the moment, sitting in a lounge chair beside something called an infinity pool. The water in the pool appears to drop soundlessly to the Pacific Ocean below. I've poked around behind this baby and think I understand the artifice at work here but it doesn't stop me enjoying the illusion.
I realize that's the same way I read mystery short stories and novels. I may understand the tricks the author is employing but it doesn't stop me enjoying the tale. I suspend my disbelief and allow the writer to carry me along, a more-than-willing dupe. That doesn't mean I don't get yanked out of the story occasionally. And actually, it happens more often than I'd like.
Sometimes it's an "oh please!" moment when the author tries my disbelief to such an extent I can't go along with it. Perhaps a new element is introduced into the story right at the end and the solution to the puzzle depends on us having known about it all along. Sometimes it's the situation my writing group refers to as the heroine climbing the proverbial stairs to investigate a noise in the attic, carrying nothing more than a flickering candle and a bewildered air. More often lately it's a jarring author intervention. You know the one where the author steps out of the story long enough to tell the reader a thing or two about what's wrong with the world, by gum.
I'm sure all of us have our own list of things that pull the rug out from under us when we're reading a novel. What are some of yours?
Sue Pike has published a couple of dozen stories and won several awards including an Arthur Ellis Award for Best Short Crime Story. Her latest, Where the Snow Lay Dinted appeared in the January issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. Sue and her husband and an opinionated Australian Shepherd named Cooper spend the winter months in Ottawa and the rest of the time at a mysterious cottage on the Rideau Lakes.