It gets harder and harder, as time goes on, for mystery writers to come up with different kinds of detectives and different kinds of mysteries. There are all sorts of variations on Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, and noir private investigators are frequent, too, and there are many different kinds of police departments whose members star in thrillers and mysteries of their own, but for the most part the crimes are common to most mysteries: murder, theft, blackmail, kidnapping, etc. How can you make your mystery new and different?
Felicia Yap, in her new book, Yesterday, has come up with a unique new twist. In the world of this book, there are two kinds of people, and they’re divided up by virtue of how much they can remember. Most people are “monos”, who can only remember one day’s worth of events. They’re limited in what kinds of jobs they can have, and can’t become politicians, and mostly stick with other Monos. Then there are the elites, the “duos”, who can remember two days’ worth of events. Nobody is capable of remembering more than that.
Starting with that premise, you can immediately see how that would complicate the solving of a mystery. It’s not just that the witnesses and suspects genuinely can’t remember what went on if it was more than a day or two ago. The investigators have the same memory problems.
In this case, we have a mixed marriage: Claire is a well-meaning mono, and her husband, Mark, is an ambitious duo, a politician on the rise. Their marriage is a shining example of what could be, how these social divisions can be overcome, until it turns out that Mark was having an affair with a beautiful woman who’s just been murdered. Naturally, Mark is the prime suspect in the murder (some things don’t change), and naturally the victim and the police officer investigating the case have secrets of their own, but how can anyone find out the truth when everyone’s memories keep erasing themselves so quickly?
For a truly different murder mystery that will keep you guessing and also make you think about the role of memory in just about every aspect of your life, check out Yesterday.