The amateur sleuth mystery offers a pleasure not available in private eye novels, police procedurals, and legal thrillers. In all of them, the sleuth's job is to investigate crime. The amateur sleuth has some other occupation.
Agatha Christie's Miss Marple does what elderly spinsters in English villages do: gardening, charity work, and so on. To our surprise this life has given her a dark view of human nature that enables her to solve crimes.
In the decades since Christie launched the genre, readers have enjoyed stories of crimes solved by clergymen, anthropologists, nurses, flight attendants, herbalists, jockeys . . . anything you can think of really. In each instance the sleuth's specialized knowledge proves critical to answering the question "Whodunnit?'
Teachers and scholars are well-represented in the genre, most famously by Jessica Fletcher of Murder, She Wrote, a retired English teacher who becomes a successful mystery writer. I had lots of good role models for creating Nicole Tang Noonan, art history professor.
I'm thrilled that some readers have written to say they enjoy learning from my novels about art history. In particular, some have commented on Nicole's discovery in Dark Mural, which is based on a discovery I published in Comparative Drama. If you look at the fourth article in the table of contents above, you'll see it's by Richard L. Homan.
If you want to know what the discovery is, you might find Dark Mural more entertaining than my scholarly article.