I hear from readers who are confused or irritated by unresolved storylines in The Gilded Hour. Specifically two storylines seem to raise the most questions.
- The Russo children (where was Tonino, and where is Vittorio?)
- The identity of the individuals who were responsible for the deaths of at least six women.
Here’s an email from Nancy.
Dear Sara I just finished your new book the Gilded Hour. I have a question. On page 696,after looking for a killer through most of the other 695 pages Oscar says, no reasons to give up now, in reference to finding the killer. Then there is not another word in the remaining 36 pages about finding the killer. What???? Who was the killer??? It turned out to be a very disappointing read I must say.
I am hoping for a reply .
This next email is from Sandra, who is also curious, but in more general terms.
I have never written to an author before but I had to write you. I loved The Gilded Hour and was heartbroken to finish it. When I saw on your webpage that “a new series was launched” I assume that means you are going to write more. Whew! I just have to know what happens to all these people. I am in love with them and am imagining futures for each one of them. I want to read more about Anna & Jack, Sophie & Cap, Rosa & her siblings, Ned, Aunt Quinlan, Margaret, Elise. I feel like I know them now so want to follow their lives.
My first thought: It’s really uplifting to hear from readers, even when they are irritated. It means the story got under that reader’s skin. My second thought: I hate disappointing readers. Then back to the first thought: These are people who have read the book I wrote and felt strongly enough about it to write to me. That’s good. That’s what I focus on.
There are only a few things I can say to this kind of letter from a reader: I’m sorry that the story didn’t work for you, and/or: I’m writing as fast as I can, and I hope that the next novel will both answer your questions, and be worth the wait.
But there’s also one thing I need to say about the nature of storytelling. As I see it, good storytelling never tells it all. A well done novel leaves questions open to be considered and answered by the reader. So it is true that you haven’t heard in detail about what Tonino went through, and you don’t know where Vittorio is; his adoptive family is gone. You may never know some of those things; in the end they may be for you to decide.
The question about the murders is, of course, far more pressing. Some people raced through the last part of the book because they just had to know who was responsible … And then were disappointed. Really disappointed. One star irritated. [Edited to note that this question comes up in the comments, below.] An old friend pointed something out to me that I hadn’t considered: in the mystery genre, it’s pretty much expected that you’ll know who the guilty party is by the end. I don’t read much mystery, or I would have realized that. If I had been aware of that expectation, I’m not sure what I would have done differently.
Could I have written a better novel? Certainly. I doubt there has ever been a novelist who is totally satisfied with a piece of work. I know a writer with a t-shirt that reads IT’S ALL A DRAFT UNTIL YOU DIE. It’s the nature of the beast, and still: I don’t like disappointing readers, and I do hope that when the next book comes out, those I’ve irritated or frustrated will find that the answers they were expecting really were worth the wait. In the meantime, there are a lot of documents about the murders dragged from the archives of the police department, sitting over there at The Gilded Hour site. You might well figure out the answer to this question on your own.