If you’re a mystery reader (or if you blog about your mystery-reading habits), you’ve probably got four or five great books in your hands right now. We at Knopf are always hoping that our newest mysteries and thrillers are among them, and we hope that our books are helping you become a better and even more voracious mystery reader. It’s a rare treat when we get to hear back from satisfied readers, and so when we do get a response, we want to shout it from the rooftops! We recently received this post from Andrew Gulli, the managing editor of the terrific mystery magazine The Strand, in response to the impact authors like Alexander McCall Smith and Stieg Larsson have had on his experience as a mystery reader:
I’ve been reading mysteries as long as I can read and I have to confess that in the late 90s, I felt lulled into a sort of security where when I’d pick up a mystery or thriller I’d know what to exactly expect to the point of boredom. Then Alexander McCall Smith came along with The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, and I was impressed by how daring the publisher was to take a chance on such an unusual book. I felt that in the world of cookie cutter publishing, Smith’s book didn’t stand a chance; I was so happy to be proven wrong. Here was a writer who decided to steer clear of safe nihilistic endings; his books had messages of hope and optimism without the corniness that often goes hand in hand with such books. I think the success of Smith’s books has in many respects brought along a fresh wind in publishing. The unusual mystery has become mainstream [ . . . ] I would say that Smith doesn’t have imitators as much as practitioners of the offbeat mystery set in international settings who are trying to perfect the genre and push the envelope as far as they can.
When my friends at Knopf handed me a copy of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, yet again, I felt it wouldn’t go very far. Here was another book destined to be on the remainder shelves at Borders; wrong again. [ . . . ] There is no doubt in my mind that with his plots, characterization, and ability to keep a reader turning page after page till the dénouement, that he stands as one of the most gifted writers of the last twenty years. Were it not for his tragic death, he would have gotten even better.
I’ll sign off by urging publishers to be daring, take a chance…after all, you might find the next Alexander McCall Smith or Stieg Larsson.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Andrew—and we want to hear from more of you! If any of you out there have a reading experience and want to spread the word, come share your thoughts on the site, and we’ll post it to keep the dialogue going!