“It is difficult to know quite where to begin this story, but I have fixed my choice on a certain Wednesday at luncheon at the Vicarage.” – the opening line from Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
It’s not difficult to know where my passion for crime stories started. I was thirteen years old and read Murder at the Vicarage. My father bought me a collection of stories by Agatha Christie. He was an avid reader and hoped that I would share his passion for books. Up until Agatha, I’d only read a few books for pleasure. Mysteries hooked me on reading.
The Benefits of Crime (fiction, that is)
Mysteries, thrillers and action-adventure tales often attract reluctant readers. They provide an engaging tale, usually a fast pace, and a problem to solve. When these genres are targeted to young readers, they often have a linear plot and short chapters and employ techniques – like cliff-hanger chapter endings – to keep the reader turning the page. I was a slow reader who was compelled to stick with a mystery until the end – no matter how long it took.
I also believe that reading mysteries can help improve young readers’ problem-solving skills. Mystery writers show the detectives’ thought processes – how they accumulate clues, disregard red herrings and logically catch the bad guys. Readers can learn to apply this logical deduction to their non-crime-related problems. Why not engage readers in a whodunit and encourage them to think through motive, means and opportunity? Endeavour to catch the culprit before the fictional detective.
My Life of Crime
Since reading my first Agatha Christie novel, I’ve always wanted to create my very own Marple or Poirot. It’s taken me thirty-five years to develop my first proper mystery. My new series Chasing Danger combines my passion for murder and mayhem with a love for travel. My main characters – two, fourteen-year-old girls – Chase and Mackenzie holiday with Chase’s wealthy, eccentric grandma (my modern-day Marple) at exotic locations where horrible things happen, and it’s up to my feisty female heroes to save the day. I’ve been pleased on multiple occasions to hear from parents that Chasing Danger has captured their reluctant readers’ imaginations.
Creating Your Own Mystery
If you’re interested in a mystery-themed session for your book group, I’ve created a worksheet to help kids write a mystery the Chasing Danger way — www.sara-grant.com/chasing-danger/how-to-write-a-mystery-worksheet/ I’m also always happy to visit book groups and share my life of fictional crime. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we can start to plan our book group caper.
About Sara and Her Books
Sara writes and edits fiction for children and teens. Her new series Chasing Danger is an action-adventure series for teens. Dark Parties, her first young adult novel, won the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Crystal Kite Award for Europe. As a freelance editor of series fiction, she has worked on twelve different series and edited nearly 100 books. Sara was born and raised in Washington, Indiana. She graduated from Indiana University with degrees in journalism and psychology, and later she earned a master’s degree in creative and life writing at Goldsmiths College, University of London. She lives in London. www.sara-grant.com
Sara’s Chasing Danger series – the new book Mystery at the Ice Hotel
After surviving a pirate attack in the tropics, teens Chase and Mackenzie escape to an exclusive resort in the Arctic Circle. But just after they arrive, suspicious accidents begin to occur. It seems like someone’s trying to scare away the guests. When the accidents turn deadly, it’s up to the girls to figure out whodunit … before they become the next victims.
This holiday’s going to be killer!
This guest blog was provided by Sara Grant. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Federation of Children’s Book Groups.
The winner of the competition to secure a copy of both Chasing Danger, and Mystery at the Ice Hotel, is Jane Rew. She has been informed. Thank you to everyone who entered.