Amateurs all!

It’s safe to say I know many amateur sleuths, a gazillion by actual count. Every day, on bookshelves everywhere, crimes are solved by florists, cooks, beauticians, baristas, quilters, nurses, tour guides, ghosts, and wedding planners. Murderers are caught and arrested on cruise ships, in cafes, at concerts, in churches, in haunted and unhaunted houses, and in locker rooms.

Did I mention that amateur sleuths also include retired physicists, miniaturists, college math professors, a postmistress, and lately, a diner owner in Alaska?

I feel I know them all well, inside and out. They’re smart, brave, righteous, and persistent, usually women, but sometimes too stupid to live (TSTL).

I’m constantly defending them:

• Of course, she has the motivation to investigate a murder, even though her day job involves running a community garden and she has no training in criminology—after all, the victim was a bridesmaid at her roommate’s cousin’s best friend’s second wedding. How can she just sit back and not help the police/troopers/sheriff/PIs?

• She’s curious, so Yes! she will drive out to the cemetery in the middle of the night to meet someone who says he has an important clue to the killer’s identity.

• So what if she withholds information from the real police? She has a good reason to—she wants to look into the situation on her own. She is, after all, an independent thinker/investigator.

• Definitely, in case you’re wondering: It is possible that the knitter sleuth found the clue that experienced homicide detectives and a crew of trained CSI techs missed.

Members of my critique groups who do not write amateur sleuths are the biggest skeptics. Who’s going to believe blah blah blah? they ask me all the time.

“It’s a trope,” I answer, because it’s too complicated to explain reasonable suspension of disbelief. As long as the writer doesn’t cheat, i.e., go off on incredible tangents, readers will enjoy the story.

There’s a reason there are so many cozies and a reason they are very popular. We enjoy reading about normal people like ourselves—crafters, grandmothers, administrators, journalists, innkeepers, beekeepers. We like to think anyone can be smart enough to follow a few clues, put the puzzle together and make the world safe again.

How hard can it be?

(Kidding. I’m forever grateful to PDs and all first responders especially in these challenging times.)

Note to readers: Last week this blog was hacked, resulting in hundreds of spam comments in a 2-day period. The only way I could get rid of them was to close comments. I’ll wait a week and then open again. I guess some people don’t have enough to do. I wish I could export a few projects to them!


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