The Case of the Missing Corpse

When I submitted my new mystery manuscript to Billie Johnson, the publisher of Oak Tree Press, I was a bit nervous about something missing from the plot. Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery doesn’t have a dead body. It’s a mystery novel without a murder. No murder? How did I think I could get away with that? Doesn’t the reader expect somebody to get offed?

Well maybe most mystery readers expect murder most foul every time they curl up with a cozy, but it turns out Hooperman is not alone. Murder may be the most nefarious thing that can happen in a plot, but it’s not the only crime that needs to be solved, and murderers aren’t the only perps who need to be brought to justice.

Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone, published in 1868, is considered by many to be the first detective novel in the English language, and the crime in that complex plot was not murder, but theft. Theft was also crime solved by Detective C. Auguste Dupin in Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Purloined Letter,” published back in 1845. We still honor Mr. Poe with the Edgars given out every year. The 1800s also gave us bloodless mysteries by a couple of literary giants, Jane Austen (Northanger Abbey) and Charlotte Bronte (Jane Eyre); although to be honest I never thought of these two novels as mystery stories. But the Sherlock Holmes stories were certainly mysteries, and many of them did not involve murders.

Moving forward into the Golden Age, we find that some of the greats wrote one or more bloodless mysteries. These include Agatha Christie (The Secret Adversary), Dorothy L. Sayers (Gaudy Night), and Josephine Tey (Brat Farrar).

More recently we find many popular contemporary authors to have written at least one non-murder mystery each, including Donald E. Westlake, Janet Evanovich, Dick Francis, Laura R. King, Hallie Ephron, Ellis Peters, Carola Dunn, and the list goes on and on.…

ARC_Front_Cover_Hooperman copy

I don’t imagine myself to be in the ranks of any of these great writers, but I’m glad to know Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery is in such good company.

Anyhow, murder or no murder, Hooperman is very much a mystery. Why? Because it has a crime to be solved: somebody’s stealing a massive number of books from the store. There’s a closed circle of suspects: the bookstore staff. There’s a hero: an amateur sleuth named Hoop, hired to snoop. Tension and the threat of violence: the bookstore is fire bombed twice. There’s a love interest, and of course the woman Hoop falls in love with is a prime suspect. There are red herrings, clues, even a weapon. There’s a showdown, the thief is brought to justice, and our hero is rewarded.

So, unless you’re incurably bloodthirsty, I think you’ll enjoy Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery.

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4 Responses

  1. S. S. van Dyne, in his classic list of 20 rules for writing a mystery, said, “There simply must be a corpse, and the deader the better.” He also banned any romantic element. Many of his rules are ignored today, so I wouldn’t be bothered by a mystery that doesn’t involve a murder.

  2. John, great article. But I think there is a murder in Brat Farrar. Maybe you were thinking of The Franchise Affair by Tey?

    • You’re probably right, Carole. I confess it’s been decades since I read Brat Farrar. I based my statement on (unreliable, it appears) Internet research. My apologies, and thanks for correcting me

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