I currently have two published novels that fall into the “who dunnit” category. There’s plenty of romance, but the plot revolves around discovering the bad guy before he ramps up his reign of terror. If the author chooses not to let the reader in on the villain’s identity, she has to play by a few rules.
1) The villain cannot come out of nowhere to be a complete surprise.
2) Clues must be left along the way.
3) The reader should be able to figure out the bad guy’s identity, but not until the end of the book.
So, how hard can it be? Actually, it isn’t as difficult it may seem. I pick a cast of possible suspects and give them all opportunity. Each has to have a few issues to be believable bad guys, which leads to motive. Sometimes I keep myself guessing until I’m absolutely positive I know who the real culprit is. The key is to keep all possible suspects in play in the beginning. As the book progresses, the author narrows down the field. By the end, there should only be a couple of strong contenders left. You want your reader to have that ah ha moment when they know they’ve figured out the villain’s identity. If your reader is completely shocked and surprised, you haven’t done your job of laying a trail of clues.
One catch – it’s easy to fall into a habit of creating similar bad guys. I used to read a famous mystery writer who shall remain nameless. After reading a few of her books, it became a game to determine the villain based on the book blurb. I was nearly always right. So, get creative. Invent new and unique personalities for each bad guy. Most importantly, have fun and readers will too!
In the heart of the redwoods, a madman waits...
Recovering from a broken engagement and determined to start over, Brooke Wakefield flees to her grandmother's home deep in the redwood forest. Discovering her teenage crush lives next door is a less than auspicious beginning. The last thing she needs is another man to break her heart, but every time Dillon glances her way, her heat level soars.
Dillon Tremayne isn't looking for a relationship. With a young son, an eccentric grandfather, and a logging company running him ragged, he can't afford any romantic entanglements. But Brooke's humor and strength are hard to resist.
When a woman from his past is brutally murdered and another disappears, Dillon is heartsick--and terrified the killer will target Brooke next. Can Brooke and Dillon find love in the heart of the forest? Or will a madman's twisted dream destroy their chance at happiness?
Victim of Desire
Ex-soap star, Rachel Carpenter, is a single mom coping with the daily problems of raising three daughters and operating her bookstore in the Napa Valley wine country. Kane Lafferty is a burned out police detective struggling with his own demons. The attraction between the two is immediate, though they both have reasons to avoid a relationship. At a wilderness camp in the High Sierra, their passion grows. But someone is watching. A man obsessed with Rachel since her soap star days is determined to have her at any cost. Danger mounts as the stalker’s reign of terror escalates. Kane risks his life to protect Rachel and her daughters, but can he uncover the predator’s identity in time? Or will Rachel have to sacrifice herself and her relationship with Kane to save her family?
Today I’m giving away a PDF copy of one of my romantic suspense books – winner’s choice. Please leave a comment or email me at jannine @ janninegallant.com to be eligible to win. Who are some of your favorite suspense authors? If you’ve read mine, did I do my job and keep you guessing?