Pitch #8 of 10: The Curious Adventures of Professor Wyn.

One of the oldest mystery subgenres is the “fair play” mystery, in which the reader could reasonably be expected to figure out whodunit themselves, based on the evidence that the rest of the clues laid down. In the other major variety, the “clueless” mystery, the reader has no such hope. But every so often I’ve run across a third sort, the cryptic mystery, in which there are clues to the answer, just in places you wouldn’t expect. (Graeme Base’s The Eleventh Hour, at right, is a strong example of the genre that delighted my brother and me in the days when I was reading him stories.)

Think panel borders, codes hidden in dialogue, negative space, color cues. While the highly tenured mathematician Professor Wyn solves a series of challenging crimes by hunting for clues in the evidence, you the reader get a chance to figure them out by hunting for clues in the format.

The general theme I envision for these mysteries is “privileged people behaving badly,” the better for Wyn to deflate their egos. His long-held position in an Ivyish institution means that he occasionally mingles well outside his tax bracket, thanks to the handful of his old students who found his irreverence a refreshing delight. In fact, the more it outrages their self-important peers, the more likely they are to extend him invitations, and Wyn lives by one guiding principle: “There is no such thing as a free lunch that I’ll refuse the chance to eat.”

Of course, pissing off the rich and powerful carries its own dangers, and Wyn’s old military training has to save his bacon now and again, sometimes even from people who aren’t guilty of the crimes he investigates. But the upper crust’s talent for sweeping things under the rug means that it’s rare their misdeeds will command the focused attention of a CSI team. Aside from the occasional intern shadowing him, Wyn has to do his detecting pretty much on his own… and that’s generally the way he likes it.