Every Urban Fantasy Sleuth has a Mystery Backbone

“Investigating the Uncanny: Detectives in Urban Fantasy” showcased panelists Stuart Jaffe, Melissa Olson, Rachel Rawlings, Mel Todd, and R.R. Virdi, moderated by Carol Malcolm, on Sunday at 10AM, Urban Fantasy YouTube channel. All the author panelists included investigators in their writing. Their sleuths were involved in some type of supernatural community and each had different levels of psychic abilities and vulnerabilities. 

Preferring urban fantasy with a core mystery backbone, Olson thinks of mystery as familiar and comfortable with expected pacing, clues and reveals, and solutions. She then disturbs that comfort level by adding a spell or a vampire attack. 

Rawlings also sees mystery as the connective tissue in urban fantasy. The supernatural aspect adds tension, but some kind of mystery element drives the action. Todd injected tension in one instance by adding an entropy spell. The resulting chaos caused an amusing, but highly irritating, chain of events to occur (possibly inspired by YouTube clips illustrating similarly weird moments of chance). 

Jaffe learns the history of an area and finds a hole that he can plug with supernatural mystery elements. He recalled being invited to tour a home, including its creepy basement, that had been a notorious 1920s brothel after lingering in the area to make notes for adding the venue to his work. 

Piggybacking thriller and action onto his urban fantasy, Virdi leans toward mystery with a heavy noir tone. He also maintains a tight storyline, with only one murder and consequent involvement per book. He makes sure his detectives have limited resources and controls how much magic and myth comes in to avoid a deus ex machina. 

Author of the article

Amy L. Herring (Louise Herring-Jones) writes speculative fiction, with a preference for historical fantasy and alternate mystery. Her stories, appearing in fourteen anthologies, include “The Poulterer’s Tale” in God Bless Us, Every One—Christmas Carols beyond Dickens (Voodoo Rumors Media, 2019). Amy is a NaNoWriMo co-municipal liaison. She also coordinates the Huntsville (Alabama) Literary Association’s writers’ group. Visit her online at http://www.louiseherring-jones.com.

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