I love mysteries…reading them, that is. Mysteries make up the vast majority of my fictional reading, especially if the category’s expanded to include “thrillers”.

Eventually, the bodies begin to pile up a bit too high because almost every mystery has a murder. Then, as day follows night (why does night never follow day, which it does in real life and might be more apropos here??), once there’s been one murder, another is certain to push its way in, perhaps two or even three. If people were murdered at this rate in real life, population control wouldn’t be an issue. Then there’s the ramped-up version—the serial killers—popularized on TV by “Criminal Minds” and the “CSI” shows and clones. All these “unsubs” combined could decimate the population of any major city in a matter of a few weeks!

If it were “just” a murder or two, I could deal with that (fictionally speaking). People do kill sometimes and, too often, usually for one of the tried-and-true reasons—money, sex, power (or lack thereof) or some combination of those. But in order to make their books “different”, “modern”, or my favorite, “edgy”, authors push the envelope. The envelope has been pushed so far it can often be spotted on the moon along with Elvis and JFK. The envelope has become grimmer, grosser, more graphic. There’s more of the “yuk” factor these days than ever before.

Sex is the other envelope that gets pushed and this envelope is rocketing through space at the speed of light. I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t need or want pay-for-view (or read-for-titillation) sex. I don’t want the Kama Sutra manual or to be invited, or to peer uninvited, into anyone’s bedroom. To me, sex is private, even in a book.

One difference I’ve noted between many English and American authors is that the former generally assume that if you know about sex, you can figure the action out for yourself if you so desire. If they say people had an affair, you know what’s up (no pun intended.) If the couple “closed the bedroom door,” that leaves you outside with whatever imagination you want to put into it, not a step-by-step description. American authors evidently tend to believe that more is better in letting you know what’s going on sexually.

At some point, I reach saturation level in either area or both. I start to feel a bit grimy; I need a mental shower, a dose of some sort of reality.  I’ve even glanced through books by new authors and felt as if I need hand and mind sanitizer after the little bit of the story I glimpsed.

My fictional “shower” might still be found in a mystery, but something along the lines of Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Margery Allingham or Patricia Wentworth’s Miss Silver books. Whatever I choose will generally have people I like and, for preference, humor, such as Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody books. Benny Harper might show up or any of Helen MacInnes’ or Mary Stewart’s characters or police inspector Guido Brunetti.

As an antidote for too many mysteries that have pushed the envelope too close to the edge, my “shower” might be filled with the foibles of normal people who have problems that many of us might have, daily issues such as what to have for dinner, who and how to love; people I find in books by authors who unfortunately are no longer around to write but who are, fortunately, being reprinted—Elizabeth Goudge, Georgette Heyer, Rumer Godden.  Good teen, but timeless, books such as those by Rosemary Sutcliff or Arthur Ransome definitely qualify as well, but no vampires, no ghosts, no paranormal things, the stuff of teen fiction today.  To me, these last should only be published as e-books because I hate to see all the trees wasted to make the paper to print them.

At some point, I’m always ready for another mystery, but wanting to avoid feeling the need to “shower” too often is why I’m very selective about what I read and what I leave on the shelves and why I very often am not reading “best sellers.” I want to like the people, hopefully respect and understand them. They don’t have to be perfect, (who is?), and there doesn’t always have to be a happy ending, but there has to be more than just graphic murder and/or sex. To me, even a wonderful plot doesn’t make it worth the time spent and emotion invested if that’s all there is.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, that or the other thing.

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