Five Must Haves in Every Mystery Novel by Sandra de Helen – Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Sandra will be awarding a $25 Powell’s gift card to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

My genre is: Fiction, Mystery, Woman Sleuth, subgenre gay, lesbian. My series is Shirley Combs/Dr. Mary Watson. Shirley is asexual, and Mary thought she was until the second book when she discovers her latent lesbianism. Both books have gay and lesbian characters. The second book features a woman who was raised as a boy.

So, what are the five musts every story in my genre should have? In my opinion:

1. A murder. The victim must have several people in her or his life who would be willing to kill.

2. A complicated, but not confusing, plot. Red herrings should be employed, and actual clues dropped, along the way. The reader wants to solve the mystery, but not too soon.

3. Engaging protagonists. In my case, I have Shirley who is the detective, and Mary who is her sidekick and narrator. At least one of them should be a person the reader might like, and would want to learn more about.

4. Relevance to the reader. I want my stories to resonate with my readers. My audience is intelligent, interested, and interesting. They are a bit left of center in their politics, and are up on current events. They teach me about what they do and don’t want to hear from me.

5. A “B” story. Yes, readers want to know about the murder, its victim(s), and to follow the clues to the resolution. They also want more: character arc, transformation, maybe a love story. Notice I didn’t say sex. Lots of lesbian mysteries do contain sex, sometimes explicit. In The Illustrious Client you’ll encounter some love scenes, but I don’t do explicit. I include only those scenes I think are necessary for the story. I’m not trying to steal from the authors who write erotica, after all.

I like to include information about Portland because I live here. It’s a beautiful place with great people, the world’s largest bookstore (Powell’s), indie bookstores (Another Read Through, Broadway Books, In Other Words, and many more), so many good places to dine, including our thousands of food trucks, even a covered bridge in the city limits. I like to read about other places, other settings. In addition to US authors, I enjoy Val McDermid, Denise Mina, and Ian Rankin (Scotland), Ruth Rendell (England), Henning Mankell (Sweden), Donna Leon (Venice), and Colin Cotterell (Laos and Thailand). This is a small sampling of authors who write about places I’ve been or want to go to.

There are lots of writers here in Portland. I like to think of it as the US version of Ireland. Have you read Chelsea Cain, Lori L. Lake, Bill Cameron, Chuck Pahlniuk, Ursula LeGuin? There are book readings, poetry slams, writing workshops, every week. There is a coffeehouse on almost every corner, not all of them Starbucks. I’ve read a couple of times at the Rain or Shine Coffee House, which is walking distance from my chair. If you can’t come visit me, at least visit Portland in my books.

About the Author:3_19 AuthorPicSandra de Helen’s books as well as short stories are available at bookstores, libraries, and online. Her poetry and plays are published in several journals. Samples of her works are on her website Even though she says she isn’t a “joiner,” de Helen is a member of the Dramatists Guild, Oregon Writers Colony, the Golden Crown Literary Society, and International Centre for Women Playwrights. Like her at, follow her on Twitter @dehelen, and read her blog at She lives with her cat Stanton in Portland, Oregon where they both type.

Website ~ Facebook

Illustrious Client Cover Only CompliantBook Two of the Shirley Combs and Dr. Mary Watson series, THE ILLUSTRIOUS CLIENT, shows us the private investigator and her sidekick sharing an office, and introduces their receptionist, Lix. They are hired to influence a young international pop star, Oceane Charles, to pry her away from her older, richer, player of a girlfriend. The cast is made up of people with various ethnicities and backgrounds, and of course the job soon includes solving a murder mystery. Along the way, Mary discovers her latent lesbianism. Set in Portland, Oregon on a superyacht, in a hospital VIP room, at Rose Festival, and other fun places.

Buy the book at Amazon.


  1. Elise-Maria Barton says:

    Great choices of “Five must haves”, especially murder. That’ll really get the ball rolling! Thanks for sharing

    ilookfamous at yahoo dot com

  2. Thanks for hosting!

  3. Thanks for hosting.

  4. Thank you for hosting me today! And thanks for the comment Elise!

  5. Your five things are absolutely right on.

  6. Interesting list

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  7. Patric Callahan says:

    Great list. Oh nooo… I think I may have learned something new.

  8. Sandy McCarthy says:

    Always love a great new mystery writer! Looking forward to reading your work!!
    Phoenix, AZ USA

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