Was I Right About You Girl or Was I Wrong?*

Confessions of a Mystery Novelist...

SecondGuessingFor fictional sleuths to be at all credible, they have to have some reasonable skill at ‘reading’ people. After all, a protagonist who had no ability to assess people wouldn’t be able to solve cases and wouldn’t really be believable. But at the same time, a sleuth who’s too entirely sure of her or his judgements about people is off-putting and more than likely to be wrong a lot of the time. Besides, that question of whether a sleuth has been right about a suspect/witness can add a lot of tension to a novel. So it’s no surprise that authors use that plot point.

For example, there’s an interesting scene in Agatha Christie’s Cards on the Table that addresses exactly that question. In that novel, the very eccentric Mr. Shaitana hosts an unusual dinner party to which he has invited eight guests. Four are sleuths in various capacities (including Hercule…

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