Categorizing a film, book, or television show into a particular genre is a double-edged sword. I don't want to shell out nine bucks (or is it ten now?) for a movie about romance in the eighteenth century when I'm looking for a modern day comedy, so I need to at least know what genre The Proposal falls under. But if a movie is called a comedy, I expect to laugh at the film.
Readers have similar expectations when it comes to well-known authors. You wouldn't pick up a Stephen King book and expect a study on ancient Rome or Janet Evanovich's interpretation of Japanese opera. So when I started a Dick Francis book recently, I was expecting a murder. Let me mention that I've only read a couple of Francis' books, but both managed to offer up a body, so that set up the expectation that all of his books have a murder. The back cover of Decider describes how an architect on holiday stops by a racecourse to attend a shareholder's meeting, only to stay longer once the grandstands at that same racecourse are blown up. Fantastic. Sounds great. And though the back made no mention of a murder, I could only assume that while investigating the grandstand explosion, the architect would stumble over a dead guy. Or two.
So I started to read. And I kept reading. The story was interesting, the book well-written, the main character likable, the bad people unlikable. All the makings of an a-one mystery. The stands blew up, the architect investigated. Right, right, keep going. But around page 200, I stopped, suddenly aware that no body had turned up yet. Surely it was on the next page, or maybe in the next chapter. I continued to enjoy the read, but over the next hundred and fifty pages, I felt a certain restlessness, an anticipation of an event that never actually happened. Where was the murder? Nowhere, as it turns out. I still finished the book, felt my blood pressure shoot up during the exciting climax, and liked how the story wrapped up with great explanation and a solid ending. But was I satisfied? No. Because I'd been expecting a murder mystery and all I got was a mystery. Mind you, as mentioned, the summary on the book didn't mention murder, the binding listed the book as merely a "Novel," but I had set expectations that the book involved an untimely death. Thus, I was vaguely disappointed. Will I recommend this book to friends? Absolutely. But I'll be sure to mention the lack of a murder. I wouldn't want them to have any unrealistic expectations.