Isabel Allende disdains mystery genre

Bestselling writer Isabel Allende called 'Ripper,' her latest novel, 'a joke.' 'I'm not a fan of mysteries,' she told NPR. 'I realized I cannot write that kind of book.'

Peter Morgan/AP
Isabel Allende says she wrote 'Ripper' for fun, and draws the distinction between the thriller and her 'serious' novels that focus more on 'character, relationships and research.'

Chilean writer Isabel Allende, best known for her magical realism, planned to retire in 2011. However, she changed her mind and, instead, graced her readers with a murder mystery.

“Ripper” is Allende's first thriller, “an atmospheric, fast-paced mystery involving a brilliant teenage sleuth who must unmask a serial killer in San Francisco.”

"The book is tongue in cheek. It's very ironic," she told NPR. "I'm not a fan of mysteries, so to prepare for this experience of writing a mystery I started reading the most successful ones in the market in 2012".

“I realized I cannot write that kind of book. It's too gruesome, too violent, too dark; there's no redemption there. And the characters are just awful. Bad people. Very entertaining, but really bad people,” said Allende. “So I thought, I will take the genre, write a mystery that is faithful to the formula and to what the readers expect, but it is a joke. My sleuth will not be this handsome detective or journalist or policeman or whatever. It will be a … 16-year-old nerd. My female protagonist will not be this promiscuous, beautiful, dark-haired, thin lady. It will be a plump, blond, healer, and so forth.”

The research for the book involved reading a few books of the genre and attending a mystery writers conference, where she learned about forensics and criminology from detectives, policemen, and from the questions of her fellow students.

“For example, if I inject my victim with a blood thinner and I stab the victim 13 times and then I hang the victim upside down in the shower, would the blood congeal in the bathtub? I would never come up with that kind of question or that kind of situation. But if you ask me now ... I am an expert. I can kill anybody and not be caught,” she said.

Allende also said that she does not like formulas in books, as the characters in such books are more like caricatures. “For a writer like myself, who is so much into character, relationships and research, I needed to write this book in my style and make fun of the genre,” she told Reuters.

But some readers have been offended by Allende’s comments. One comment on the NPR website advised the "The House of the Spirits" author to “stick to what she knows [if she] sees the genre as being beneath her." The owner of the Houston bookshop Murder by the Book, McKenna Jordan, went as far as to send back the 20 signed copies of the thriller that he had already ordered, after hearing Allende’s interview on NPR.

The author added that she loved writing the crime novel, nonetheless. “I loved the process and fun of it, it's nothing transcendent or serious. It's just enjoyment for me and the reader.… But I don't think I will go back to that genre in the near future,” she said.

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