Recently I’ve discovered a new author as I was flipping through the stacks at my local library. I was drawn to Ngaio Marsh mainly because of the unusual first name. She writes murder mysteries, was a contemporary of Agatha Christie, and many of her books feature Detective Inspector Roderick Alleyn which span the 1930s to the 1980s. There were several of her books on the shelf so I picked one up and read the back cover. That book was Death in Ecstasy and revolves around the murder during some weird cult ceremony in 1930s London. Could be good.
Immediately I was pulled into it despite a ton of phrases I couldn’t figure out to save my life. Unique situation, unique and slimy characters, drug use (a bit of heroin anyone?), cleverly disguised murder weapon, and a detective who is obviously the smartest person in the room. He’s observant, sarcastic, funny, and charming yet don’t confuse him with a Sherlock Holmes knock off because he’s not arrogant. Also he doesn’t have a Watson type with him and actually relies upon other officers for help with evidence.
First off, I am not the biggest murder mystery fan not because of the murder part rather I am really, really terrible with figuring out whodunits. The fact I figured out the murderer at a friend’s murder mystery party floored me. I’ve realized when I do read murder mysteries it’s not so much about solving the crime, but rather the cast of characters, including the detective, the setting, the exposing of terrible secrets, and the murder method. Even when the murderer is revealed, I’m still can’t go back and connect the dots. And I consider myself a fairly competent, attentive reader.
Since then I’ve devoured another Marsh book and just started a third one. All of this reminded me of the fun it is to pick up a new author or genre. My reasons vary for why I pick up something new: could be a recommendation from friends, my own curiosity, in the mood for something different, being older and having an appreciation for the subject matter, or retrying something I’d discarded in the past. To me it is important as a reader to branch out.
It’s exciting reading a different style, a new voice, new characters, a new genre, a different take on the same story. Not only is this beneficial as a reader but good for me as a writer, too. It gives me a chance to study all of the elements that go into a story and analyze what works and doesn’t work. It can inspire me to learn more if I’m reading a story set in a different time period then what I’m familiar with. It can inspire me to read more in that genre like when I discovered Steampunk. Or it gives me a chance to let my brain zone out. No matter what the reason is, taking the plunge and trying something new, at least literary-wise, is a risk worth taking.