May 27 – June 2: “Favorite examples of mysteries that question conventional wisdom or the status quo?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5This week authors and ITW Members R. G. Belsky, Heather Gudenkauf and J. H. Bográn are discussing mysteries: What are some examples of your favorite mysteries that question conventional wisdom or the status quo? Can you guess the answers? Find out by scrolling down to the “comments” section. You won’t want to miss this!


R. G. Belsky is an author of crime fiction and a journalist in New York City. His latest thriller BELOW THE FOLD, releases on may 7th. Two of Belsky’s thrillers from the ‘90s – LOVERBOY and PLAYING DEAD – are also being re-released by HarperCollins in December and January 2018. His book BLONDE ICE (Atria- 2016), part of the Gil Malloy series – featuring a New York City newspaper reporter, was a Finalist for the David Award and a Silver Falchion nominee this past year. Belsky himself is a former managing editor at the Daily News and writes about the media from an extensive background in newspapers, magazines and TV/digital news. He was metropolitan editor of the New York Post; news editor at Star magazine; and most recently managing editor at


Heather Gudenkauf is the critically acclaimed author of several novels, including the New York Times bestseller The Weight of Silence. She lives in Iowa with her family.



J. H. Bográn is an international author of novels, short stories and scripts for television and film. He’s the son of a journalist, but ironically prefers to write fiction rather than facts. His genre of choice is thrillers, but he likes to throw in a twist of romance into the mix. He currently divides his time as Resource Development Manager for Habitat for Humanity Honduras, teaching classes at a local university, and writing his next project. He lives in San Pedro Sula, Honduras with his wife, three sons and a “Lucky” dog. His motto is “I never tell lies, I only write them!”


  1. I love novels that challenge my thinking and are able to give me a glimpse into different perspectives, ideas and realities. The best writers are those who bring us unique, multi-faceted characters who through their words and actions challenge readers to look at the world in a new way by starting important conversations.

    I was introduced to Attica Locke’s stunning writing through her novel BLACK WATER RISING. It was the first thriller that I’ve read that was written by a person of color a woman and I was transported to 1980s Houston and into one man’s search for justice and equality. Attica’s novels, while compelling mysteries are also a commentary on equality and social justice.

    Sometimes the book is one that introduces a protagonist that we don’t see much of in literature like in Robert Galbraith’s (JK Rowling) Cormoran Strike series. Strike is a private detective who also happens to be a veteran and an amputee. As the mother of an amputee, it was so refreshing to meet a character that faces some of the real-life challenges that my son does.

    I also loved THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME by Mark Haddon. Told through the eyes of the brilliant and autistic Christopher Boon, the reader is able to step into the mind of a gifted, misunderstood young man who tries to solve a mystery using the same tactics of his favorite detective, Sherlock Holmes.

    How about you? What are some mysteries/thrillers that you’ve loved that challenge the status quo?

    1. I like the Cormoran Strike series, and admire J K Rowling for initially hiding behind a pen name to give the series an unbiased reception.
      Although she may be listed as young adult or fantasy, I strongly believe the Harry Potter series were in fact a mystery, or a series of them. Heck, book one opens with a double murder!

  2. People may hate me for this, but I consider Agatha Christie a rule breaker.
    With Mrs. Maple she gave us the most unlikely sleuth, but also, the Beresford couple in Partners in Crime, Tuppence is an equal to her husband in both wit and cleverness. Now, keep in mind it was first published back in 1929!

  3. If we’re talking about rule breaking in writing, I’d argue that there are no rules. Good writing always trumps adhering to “the rules”

    I recently read (and wrote about for The Big Thrill) If She Wakes by Michael Koryta. Much of the book is told from the POV of a woman protagonist deep in a vegetative coma who can’t react in any way except her mind. Bad idea for a thriller novel, right? Except it works! It’s a helluva exciting story told by a woman in yes…a coma.

    Jeffery Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme is the same – a quadriplegic detective who breaks every rule about what an action character should be.

    Preston and Child’s hugely popular Agent Pendergast also breaks the traditional hero mode – he’s been described as “corpse-like” and looking like an undertaker.

    And if we’re talking about breaking rules, I’d nominate Amy and Nick Dunne from Gillian Flynn’s blockbuster Gone Girl – two unpleasant people who violate every rule ever taught in a writing class about creating sympathetic characters your audience can relate to.

    Finally – just using a TV show for an example – someone once came up with what should have been the worst idea of all time: give away the answer to the mystery in the beginning, and then spend the next two hours watching a bumbling detective work the case. Talk about breaking rules! That show, of course, was Columbo.

    Which is why I say the rules don’t matter.

    The only thing that matters is creating great characters…

    1. Absolutely, rules don’t matter.They are most guidelines. However, I feel obliged to point out, specially for novel writers that may read this Roundtable, that breaking rules is okay, but only if you know the rule that you’re breaking and you’re doing it on purpose. Otherwise I feel it doesn’t quite work.

  4. Yes, RG – it’s all about the characters! I love your examples. I think I would also add THE LOVELY BONES by Alice Sebold ~ the story told by the ghost of a murdered girl.

    I love that mainstream mysteries are beginning to reflect what we are seeing in society. I recently read an advanced copy of Jason Pinter’s fabulous upcoming novel HIDEAWAY, that features a lesbian police detective. I hope we see more of this.

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