Laurie R. King

Five Things I've Learned About

What Makes Mysteries Great

Presented in partnership with Book Passage

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Join best-selling writer Laurie R. King, and discover the Five Things She’s Learned about the essential elements of a great mystery, and the rewards they make possible for readers and writers.

Online Event Details

  • 120 minutes


  • Single-Class Ticket - $60.00

View the archive of my two-hour class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about the essential elements of a great mystery, and the rewards they make possible for readers and writers.

Why write a Mystery novel?  

I’ve been a published author for thirty years. I’ve won major awards and made all kinds of Bestseller lists. So why do I stay with the mystery genre? Is there something unique that a mystery offers the writer – things I can do within the genre that I couldn’t do in mainstream fiction? For that matter, why have award-winning mainstream novelists like Kate Atkinson or Michael Chabon or John Banville turned to crime?

I’m also a lifelong reader, one of the many who gravitate toward the shelves marked Mystery – and it’s definitely not because I’m looking for a book that I’ve read dozens of times before.

I head to the Mystery section because it’s where I’ll find the very opposite of formulaic. It’s where I’ll discover stories that are playful, or tough, or odd, or sparkling with insight. Stories that are unexpected, or troubling, or goofy, or offer a window into the past (and thus, the present.) Stories that are, from their opening scene to their closing sentence, human. 

I am perpetually fascinated by what my fellow writers manage do with the mystery genre – and endlessly curious about where I might go next with my own mysteries. But one thing for sure: I plan to stay with the genre, because the Mystery

…has structure. Wherever a story may be on the mystery spectrum, from the coziest of amateur sleuths to the most pulse-raising thriller, there are rules and conventions. I see these as the bones of a skeleton, with all kinds of bodies built around them.

…is subversive. A paperback entertainment can deliver weighty social comment. A frivolous distraction in a bright cover may leave its reader with a dose of introspection. Crime can be sneaky.

…has vivid characters. Characters only come alive when they grapple with challenges. A compelling character is one whose struggles the reader has followed—and what challenge could be more powerful than a murder?

…is where a reader and writer meet up. A mystery writer is always conscious of the reader. I deliberately shape my stories to baffle, mislead, and startle the person at the far end of the process. And when writing a series novel, I am very aware I am not the only family my characters have. My relationship with my reader is playful, serious, and (one hopes) long-term.  

…has an end. A mystery must have a solution, be it perky/neat or grimy/noir. The way the story wraps up needs to be intellectually and emotionally satisfying.

This two-hour Five Things I’ve Learned classis built around points of craft, but it centers around the larger question, What is the purpose of a mystery—why do we do the modern equivalent of huddling around the campfire listening to them? 

For the reader, our time together will give a chance to listen to the creator of a string of enormously popular characters reflect on why she’s spent so much of her life telling these kinds of stories.

For the writer, it’s a chance to look over the shoulder of a bestselling MWA Grand Master and hear her talk about how she’s done it: what five key tenets of the genre are, why certain rules came into being, and how you should—and maybe shouldn’t—break them.

I love what I do, and I hope you join me for Five Things I’ve Learned about What Makes the Mystery Great.

Laurie R. King

Laurie R. King is the New York Times bestselling author of 30 novels and other works, including the Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes stories (The Beekeeper’s Apprentice was chosen as one of the “20th Century’s Best Crime Novels” by the IMBA.) She has won the Agatha, Anthony, Creasey, Edgar, Lambda, Macavity, Wolfe, and Romantic Times Career Achievement awards, has an honorary doctorate in theology, and is a Baker Street Irregular. In 2022, she was named Grand Master by Mystery Writers of America. She co-edited (with Lee Child) the new handbook from Mystery Writers of America, How to Write a Mystery, and has a new contemporary series with SFPD Inspector Raquel Laing, beginning with Back to the Garden.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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If you purchase a ticket in time to join the class live, you can view the archive as soon as it’s posted, as often as you like. Look for an email with information about how to access the course archive within 48 hours of the end of the live class. Once you get it, you’ll have all the information you need to access it as you like across any and all devices you own.

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  • Unfortunately, we can only accept cancellations and refunds up to 48 hours before a scheduled session.
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For reasons we hope you’ll understand – the biggest of them the fact that we make a point of compensating the folks who host Five Things I’ve Learned classes as quickly as we can – we can’t accommodate refunds for tickets purchased within 48 of the start of a scheduled live event. We can also accommodate refund requests for the purchase of an archived session only within 24 hours from the time of purchase.

If you’ve purchased a ticket for this online class and you find that for some reason you can’t make the live session, you have two choices:

  • The first: View the session archive. You can view the session archive as soon as it’s posted – or any time, as often as you like. We’ll make an archive of this class available within 48 hours of the live session, and we’ll send every ticket holder details on how they can view it. As a ticket holder, you’re able to view this full session archive any time– as often as you like.
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