Since this is release month for my new series with FOUL PLAY AT THE FAIR, I’m continuing with our look at amateur sleuths.

Why on earth would anyone want to investigate murder? And what makes them think they should?  Last week we looked at a few of the reasons someone might feel compelled to solve a murder.  But not everyone would actually set about doing it.

So what are the qualities that we expect in our fictional sleuths?

Honest and Just Our sleuth must be just and have a strong belief in Justice. As well as a driving need to see justice served and wrongs righted.  “Murder is just plain wrong.”

Psychology Ability to understand people and what makes them tick.

Skilled  Our sleuth doesn’t usually have investigative skills, but life skills or even hobbies that can be converted into tools for solving crimes.

Intelligent She doesn’t have to be a brainiac, but she can be, but more than that, she must be good at reasoning and critical thinking.  Can she follow A to B to Z?  Does she want to?   Can she see the pattern of events, etc. without being hit over the head with them?

Intuitive. This trait has been much aligned, and sometimes rightly so.  “Women’s Intuition” is often dismissed, especially by fictional police and detectives as something to be looked down on, or considered just downright silly.  But intuition doesn’t spring out of nowhere with a full blown answer.  Intuition is what happens when our sleuths’ senses: hearing, seeing, smelling, etc and her understanding of psychology, and her critical thinking merge into an aha moment. That aha moment is intuition.

Curious Something doesn’t seem quite right, but what is it and why?  Something that is there shouldn’t be.  Or should be there and isn’t.  When something is out of her area of knowledge, she doesn’t pass it by, but asks who, what , when , where, why.  And can’t rest until she finds the answers.

 Tenacious Don’t tell my sleuth the case is closed.  Or that the police have done all they can.  Or that she should leave well enough alone.  That will just set her back up and make her more determined to bring the culprit to justice.

Ability to improvise or think on their feet.  Most amateur sleuths won’t consciously put themselves in danger, but if they find themselves in a sticky situation, they will come up with a way to extricate themselves and others.

Let’s see how my latest sleuth, Liv Montgomery fares on the list.

She has a strong sense of justice.   Especially since she’s moved to a new town and adopted it as her own.  No one messes with her new town or her new friends. She’s a town event coordinator.  As an event planner, she knows how to deal with people and being from Manhattan she uses her people skills (psychology) to keep them in line and keep their emotions in check. She’s intelligent.  You have to be to coordinate several events, food services, traffic flow and all the other aspects of a major festival. (critical thinking) These skills and her dealings with people and the necessary attention to detail that a planner must have, combine to make her intuitive about what will work and what won’t in an event and also in catching a murderer.  And because there are so many aspects of event planning that she must constantly juggle to make everything work smoothly, she knows how to think on her feet. And she doesn’t know the word “Can’t” (tenacious) Though she is a little bit of a control freak.

Of course there are other things that make a good amateur sleuth.

What qualities do your favorite sleuths have?

Next week.  Knitting, Cooking and Gardening, Oh My.



  1. Shelley, I think you have hit all the salient points … those we want to build into the character of any mystery novel. But the amature sleuth is the most challenging. After all … it really isn’t their business … they should leave the job to the pros and keep their noses out of things that can get them hurt.

    Yet, they persist. They are driven by the need to know the truth, to ferret out those details the pros long since ignored or had ulterior motives for pushing aside. They become the chapmpions of the innocently accused, the nemisis of the real culprit and the target for various misadventures. I love them dearly as do millions of other mystery lovers 🙂

    • IT kind of affirms are desire to make things right, and to feel that put in that situation we could stand up for justice.