Earlier this summer, my sons moved into the same room. I put their new bunk bed together piece by piece while they offered to help and the baby tried to taste test the eleven different sizes of screws. Their room still smells like fresh cut pine on warm summer nights.
About the same time, they discovered ten cent mysteries. Every night, they crawl into their beds and listen as dad reads to them. Frank and Joe dash around dark hallways, flashlights in hand and bad guys stay tucked away in the pages of books.
The youngest falls asleep almost immediately. My oldest begs for one more chapter every night. I whisper to my husband through the door that it’s already past their bedtime.
He reads them one more chapter.
My youngest child and his inability to resist the lure of his teddy bear and pillow aside, few among us can deny the pleasure of a formulaic mystery. I take mine set in English gardens, the village vicar catching the villain just in time for a cup of tea. My mom’s came with recipes for Death by Chocolate cake. My husband favors spies dashing from continent to continent.
We always know how the story will end. The good guy leads a life filled with adventure. The bad guy disappears, forgotten by the next serial. The trials and tribulations which should undoubtedly inflict at least a modicum of trauma roll off our heroes’ backs, like rain drops off of Nancy Drew’s yellow raincoat.
Sooner or later, my sons won’t want cars and trucks adorning their bedroom walls. They will be want to be driving them instead. My daughter will start climbing the mountains decorating her walls. And I will desperately wish I could flip ahead to the end, to know it will all turn out okay.
Right now, I can hear my son is bemoaning the end of the chapter to my husband. It seems as if every Hardy Boy chapter ends with either the phrase “fell unconscious!” or “appeared in the doorway!”
“Ugh, not again!” he whines. “Why do mystery book chapters always have to end with a cliff hanger?”
I feel the same way.
But good stories are a dime a dozen. There’s no reason ours can’t be one of them.