Just finished reading a book by a popular, highly-recommended author. It was very well written and hard to put down but I knew 'whodunnit' during the first third of the book. Because it was so well done, I continued on, hoping I would be proved wrong - but no. It was who I thought it was alright. The least likely suspect, but not least like enough, did indeed do the deed.
Agatha Christie remains the champion of tricking the reader - my hero. I've read and analysised most of her books and other writers whom I consider masters of the 'clue' craft.
For anyone interested in creating cluetrails, here's a very simple beginning explanation of how it works:
¨ Mysteries (the way I write them) are puzzles. Clues are the puzzle pieces. Clues can be physical evidence or intangible evidence such as information or dying words.
¨ Physical evidence clues will have two halves: one half is crime scene evidence, and one half is identified with a suspect.
¨ Intangible evidence can be something that the crook knows or does not know, because he is the crook. This information, or lack of, is an unknown clue and will only be recognized when the detective comes across it or, for the sake of suspense, it will be recognized for what it is at the last minute, when the heroine is tied to the tracks and the clock is ticking away and the train's a comin'... With physical evidence the two clue halves will be fairly obvious like fingerprints go with fingers and footprints go with shoes. With clues like dying words, the detective has no idea what the match is... more suspense.
¨ Physical evidence is based on Locard’s Exchange Principle that everytime two objects come in contact with each other they leave something behind and take something away. A clue can be something the culprit left at the crime scene or something he/she took away.
¨ The detective spends the book looking for what the clues are and mean, eliminating red herrings along the way.