The past couple nights I’ve stayed up late reading The Virgin of Small Plains, a book I first heard mentioned in Writing the Breakout Novel. The other week I was writing at the library, near the mystery section as usual (it’s right next to the SF section), and I thought I’d pick up a mystery along with the Hugo nominees I was planning to get. I looked up some award lists and The Virgin of Small Plains jumped out at me.
There’s a big emphasis on high tension and fast pacing these days, and I don’t argue with that, but…
I sometimes feel, reading popular books, that I’m on vacation in a new city, trying to hit all the must-see points in one day. A tour guide is grabbing my hand and tugging me from museum to cathedral to monument with hardly a break for lunch or even to admire the sites I’ve come to see. At the end, I can say that yes, I’ve visited the city, but my feet hurt and I don’t have any solid lasting impressions of it.
The Virgin of Small Plains is not like that. The book has a mystery at its heart that pulls me through the story–but not in the annoying way that thrillers and suspense books often do. The tour guide isn’t pulling me along while I crane my neck backwards. They’re driving a bus that stops at all the sites, giving me time to take it in, and then speeds off to the next one. It’s still fast, but more comfortable, and I get to enjoy the city along the way.