A Case for the Mystery Novella

Mystery novelette

 Editor’s Note: This post was written by P.I. Tales author / editor Michael Pool

Busy lives and short attention spans. That pretty well sums up the modern world we live in. We have unprecedented amounts of media and technology vying for our time, not to mention careers that blur the lines between home and work more and more via email and text. Especially during the current global pandemic.

It’s harder and harder to carve out the time to curl up with a good mystery novel and lose ourselves in the narrative.

Maybe that’s why the number of Americans who report reading a book within the last year continues to drop. With the rise of streaming services there are so many other options to take in a good story beyond books. And let’s be honest, humans will always love a good story. Stories tell us not just who we are, but who we might become. They highlight the best and the worst of what it means to be a human being, inspire us, and allow us to live hundreds of lives other than our own.

In short, stories are integral to what it means to be a human being. But so is written language, which is why I’m going to posit something oddly radical in the modern context. It’s not just important that we take in stories, it’s important that we read at least some of them.

But who can find the time? you might say. Though I think it is important for brain health and general intellect that we all carve out the time to read a book, I won’t get bogged down with that pie-in-the-sky vision here. For this post I want to concentrate on what might make reading for pleasure less time consuming and thus more available.

Given that short stories never quite seem to catch on with larger audiences (though I personally love them), I believe that an oft overlooked story length may hold the answer to the modern novel reader’s time crunch.

I’m talking about the novella. As a writer, I’ve had the opportunity to write two projects in the 20,000 word length over the last year, and I have to say I’m enamored with it.  

Novellas have all the same punchy, fast-paced advantages of short stories, paired with an adequate length to really draw out a mystery in a way that lingers. More than this, novelettes don’t allow much room for exposition or other forms of side plot, they go straight for the goods, producing a fast pace that makes them difficult to put down. A good novella picks up fast the same way a short story does, but provides more room to stretch out. It generally won’t let off the gas as it pounds through the story, often to an explosive and satisfying ending. Novellas have many of the core advantages of both short stories and novels all wrapped up into one compact package that can be read in a single sitting.

I’ve discovered that they’re not only fun to write, they make a damn fine read as well. Every novella I’ve read this year has absolutely dragged me kicking and screaming through its narrative, leaving me unable to put the story down until I reached the conclusion. A great novel does the same thing, of course, but I can never truly find the time to spend an entire day curled up with a book anymore. And a great short story makes for a fun read, but often leaves me wanting a bit more.

With novellas, all I need is a good hour or so of reading time and I can take in the story. I love them, and I’m betting that other readers will love them too, once they get the chance to try more of them.

Which is how the idea for the P.I. Tales Double Feature Series came about. One novella of this length is too short to put out in a paperback format, but two novellas paired together are just long enough to make a book. The relatively short length of that book means lower printing costs that allow the book to come in at under $10 for a paperback, and under $4 for an eBook.

The first P.I. Tales Double Feature will be out February 2, 2021, and features a short case titled Crimson Smile from my own series PI, Rick Malone, paired with a fantastically entertaining novella from debut author Hunter Eden, whose story The Path of Jackals will kick off his Egypt-set Fennec Suleiman series , which blends the detective genre with aspects of the occult and supernatural.

Both are lightning-fast reads, and each is the perfect gateway into a larger novel series. The eBook is available for preorder here, and the trade paperback will be out on February 2, 2021. Don’t sleep on it, assuming you still have time to sleep anymore. That was a joke. But I do think you’ll love what you read. Oh, and by the way, here are a few other series built around the novella form that I love:

A Grifter’s Song Seasons 1-3 from Frank Zafiro (My own novelette, Rocky Mountain Lie, will be featured in Season Three)

Guns + Tacos from Michael Bracken

BookShots by James Patterson

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