So I read a lot of books that have a murder-mystery element, even if the book is primarily a coming-of-age drama, there might be a background murder (or other crime) mystery to spice things up. But you must beware: It requires a lot out of you:
- We’ll expect the hero to care about identifying the killer. The mystery can be in the background, but it can’t be something the hero just doesn’t care about until someone else solves it.
- We’ll expect a satisfactory conclusion. Once you hooked us with a murder mystery, we’ll be deeply unsatisfied if you just end on “I guess we’ll never know.”
- If there’s a murder mystery, the reader is going to get wrapped up in it, and other dramatic questions like “will she forgive her father?” will seem less important.
- Because it will become your primary dramatic question, you’ll have to wrap the book up fairly quickly after the killer is revealed. You can have more scenes to wrap up your drama, but they will feel like epilogue scenes. 40 pages at most, I’d say.
I read a lot of books that try to cheat, including a murder mystery element but not giving it its due. If you want to do it, be aware that you’re taking on certain responsibilities to the reader.