Why Do You Read Mysteries?
















I read mysteries. I have always been attracted to mysteries.

But why?

A tornado stormed through Kilgore when I was still a small boy growing up on a farm. We had known for a long time that bad winds were coming, and they struck with a sudden fury and vengeance. Hit and Run. Here and Gone. Oil derricks lay twisted in the streets, and we read that a fifteen-year-old boy had died. He wasn’t just any fifteen-year-old boy. He was the son of a friend. He was my friend. We went to the same church together. The tornado had left town, and Bruce walked out into the yard to inspect the damage. He stepped on a fallen electrical line, and the charge took his life.

It was a mystery to me.

I wanted to know why it happened.

I was led down the hallways of New London School to start the second grade only a decade or so after an explosion ripped through the classrooms, and a little oilfield town lost a generation. The death toll reached toward three hundred. The broken bodies of students and teachers alike lay beneath rubble and debris as a chilled March rain touched their lifeless faces. Families were in a panic. They dug in the mud with their hands. They raced from hospital to hospital. They walked silently through makeshift morgues in gymnasiums and warehouses. All were searching for a lost child. More than lives were lost that day. Some families, and I knew a few of them, would never be healed or made whole again.

It was a mystery to me.

I wanted to know why it happened.

I had just started to work as a police reporter on the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and the headlights from a car, in the dark of the night, fell on the corpse of Mildred May, lying on an embankment on the east side of town. It was not the good side of town. It was a place where a fine woman like Mildred May would have never gone, especially not after dark. She had driven to the movies that night. That’s what her family said. Many saw her walk out of the theater. No one ever saw her again, not alive anyway. The police retraced her steps. I retraced her steps. No one ever found the man, and surely it was a man, who had strangled Mildred and left her torn and twisted on an earthen dam.

It was a mystery to me.

I wanted to know why.

And maybe that’s the reason I read so many mystery novels.

All of life is a mystery.

And I want to know why.

I don’t care who did the crime.

I don’t care who solved the crime.

I don’t care how the crime was solved.

I simply want to know why it happened.

Why do you read mysteries?

Author Caleb Pirtle is author of the Christian thriller Golgotha Connection, which is filled with mysteries.

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  • Such sad and awful tragedies you’ve witnessed over time. I agree with what you said about mystery novels. I read across many genres, but mysteries are one of my favorites. I want to know why, but I also want to know who. The journey to reach those answers is what makes a good mystery in book form. I also like applying deductive reasoning and intuition to see if I can decipher the riddles before the author reveals the answers. Normally when an author surprises me with an ending I didn’t see coming, I enjoy it even more!

    • If an author doesn’t surprise you with a really good ending, then he’s failed. I always enjoy hearing from another mystery lover.

  • Jack Durish

    Why did I marry my first wife? Now there’s a real mystery.

    • You and she obviously share the same mystery.

  • Like you, I am attracted to mystery. I want to know the why behind everything. All of life is a mystery. There was a detailed article in the last year or two in Texas Monthly about the New London explosion. The horrors of that incident were endlessly tragic. So then there is the mystery of why there are tragedies. I think because humanity has free will combined with the law of polarity, there always will be. Where there is life, there is death. Happiness, sadness. Comfort, pain. Where people are responsible, there are those who are negligent. Tragedy is a life lesson. Some learn and go on to make things safer and better, some never do. Some grieve and learn to overcome, some don’t. A well-written mystery is always a great read for that very reason. We all want to know why, or at least, why not.

    • Jo: Your are correct. Tragedies are life’s lessons, and tragedies change life. Most investigators believe that the school exploded because of natural gas collecting in the basement. The fields around New London were thick with oil rigs, and oil companies, trying to be helpful, piped the gas straight to the school’s heating system. Because of the explosion and tragedy, a law was passed, declaring that sulphur be added to gas so people could smell it. Until then, gas had no odor at all, and no one knew that it was leaking beneath the school. Ironically, the New London received a letter of condolences from Adolph Hitler, who had just been named in 1935 as Chancellor of Germany. The letter is on the wall of the little museum in the community.

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