Red Herrings and Other Genre Conventions

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 12.58.12 PMWhen you pick up a mystery novel, what do you expect?

  • A crime or some other kind of puzzle to be solved
  • A detective as the main character
  • Several suspects with motive, means, and opportunity
  • A suspenseful plot with many clues, including some that are false or misleading
  • A satisfying resolution that makes you feel like you could have solved the mystery yourself

These are conventions of the mystery genre. We know them from a lifetime of experience with books and movies, but kids have to discover them for themselves.

Tracy Barrett’s The 100-Year-Old Secret is a good introductions to the genre. Larrabee pronounced it one of the “best detective stories” he’s read. Blaine enjoyed it too when he was younger.

It’s part of a series featuring two American kids, Xena and Xander Holmes, descendants of the great Sherlock Holmes. In the first book, the siblings are tasked with finding a missing painting.

While Larrabee was reading it, he said, “I think I know who’s in the painting… But I still have a lot of chapters left.” That, my young friend, sounds like a red herring.



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