Tue
Oct 10 2017 11:00am

Life: The Ultimate Choose Your Own Adventure Mystery

Read C. S. Farrelly's exclusive guest post about how Choose Your Own Adventure novels helped prepare her for life, then make sure you're signed in and comment below for a chance to win her debut novel, The Shepherd's Calculus!

In 1987 in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, there were certain incontrovertible truths: 

  1. Being a Penn State football fan was a core part of your identity. 
  2. If it wasn’t, then you were probably from an alien species.

Into this framework entered the Farrelly family and their four unruly children, fresh off a move from Wyoming (who the hell lives in Wyoming?), confusingly not Mormon (that’s who lives in Wyoming), and perhaps most confusing of all, not cable television subscribers—by choice. 

By the time I showed up for Halloween at my elementary school as Sherlock Holmes—even without our complete disinterest in Penn State football—our status as an alien species was almost permanently established.

Enter Seth McEvoy, the hero of this tale. His name doesn’t exactly sound like a superhero, and as an author of mysteries, he doesn’t rank with John Grisham or Raymond Chandler. In fact, up until about two years ago, I couldn’t have told you his name—only the titles of some books he’d written, stories that stuck with me more than his name did. That’s the thing about good writing. It’s not just the words and phrases alone; it’s the time in your life when you read them and the feelings they evoke in you both then and for years to come.

And for an awkward 10-year-old girl who taught herself to pick locks after reading Harriett the Spy, who routinely cross-dressed for Halloween, and who played FBI agent alone in her backyard while the other, “normal” girls were invited to slumber parties, Seth McEvoy was proof that there were other people like me out there. Seth McEvoy was a hero. 

As the primary author of Bantam Books’ Be an Interplanetary Spy series, McEvoy and his collaborators produced a clever collection of books that each opened with a crime of some kind and made you, as the reader, take on a role in the story as an active participant in solving the mystery by looking for clues and figuring out various puzzles and riddles scattered throughout the pages. 

My love of thrillers and mysteries began with a copy of The Adventure of the Speckled Band. But if asked to pinpoint when I crossed into obsession, I’d have to say it was in 1987 when my brother brought home a copy of Find the Kirillian, part of McEvoy’s series in which the reader assumes the identity of an investigator charged with tracking down an escaped criminal named Phatax and rescuing a kidnapped prince. I loved the Interplanetary Spy books and not just because of how much fun it was to help solve the crime in a first-person scenario.

It was as much because age 10 is one of the first times you really start having the independence to express your growing personality. It’s an age when you start to realize not everyone will love who you are, including the people who are supposed to. It’s an age, too, when you begin to fully understand concepts like permanence and their impact: death, crime, accidents, and loss. And while these are heady, scary topics for any child to grasp, fiction was and remains a gentle teacher.

In the manufactured worlds of mysteries and thrillers, murder and injustice are often par for the course. But this is balanced by the prospect of prevention if we follow our hero through the ups and downs of finding the culprit. Sherlock Holmes could prevent Helen Stoner from being killed by a snake. Phatax could be captured before harming the prince. But what was perhaps most special about the Interplanetary Spy series and other “Choose Your Own Adventure” series like it, was that you could make a mistake at any point along the way and, through the magic of fiction, almost always get a second chance to make it right. 

Adulthood and hard lessons about the real world—murder, abuse, sin, or even simply disappointments beyond your control—would come to me soon enough. Back then, as it continues to now, a good mystery provided just the right amount of escapism I needed and the comfort that maybe every single one of us who loves a good thriller is a little bit alien.
 

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of The Shepherd's Calculus by C. S. Farrelly!

To enter, make sure you're a registered member of the site and simply leave a comment below.

TIP: Since only comments from registered users will be tabulated, if your username appears in red above your comment—STOP—go log in, then try commenting again. If your username appears in black above your comment, You’re In!

The Shepherd's Calculus Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at https://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2017/10/life-the-ultimate-choose-your-own-adventure-mystery-comment-sweepstakes beginning at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) October 10, 2017. Sweepstakes ends 11:59 a.m. ET October 17, 2017. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

 

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C. S. Farrelly was raised in Wyoming and Pennsylvania. A graduate of Fordham University (BA, English), her eclectic career has spanned a Manhattan investment bank, the NYC Department of Education and, most recently, the British Government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. She was a 2015 Presidential Leadership Scholar and obtained a master’s degree from Trinity College Dublin, where she was a George J. Mitchell scholar. The Shepherd’s Calculus is her first novel.

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75 comments
Joy Ferrell
1. momto3girlies
book sounds amazing! would love to win it and give as a gift to my mystery loving mom!
Joyce Benzing
2. zsteelie
Look forward to reading.

Thanks for the contest!
David Thornock
3. dmthornock
I loved the choose your own adventure books. Sadly not long after those I quit reading for enjoyment rather just for school assignments. I've spent the last 12 years making up for lost time!
Shepherd's Calculus sounds up my alley, and I love the cover art! It's an exciting add to my TBR list.
Thanks for the contest. My fingers are crossed!
Jeffrey Tretin
4. jtretin
Sounds great. Thank you for the giveaway.
Mildred Mayo
5. Mildredmayo
This is going on my TBR list. Thanks for the chance.
Carl
8. Carl Scott
What a great author story. I'm sure we would have played spies together as kids if we'd known each other. I'd love to win a copy of the book, thanks for the chance.
L Peters
9. leepcat
That's so interesting. Can't wait to read the book. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.
Mary Ann Woods
10. puttputt1198eve
I always enjoyed the choose-your-own-adventure novels, too. I can see where they would help kids learn how to choose wisely!
MARGARET GAWLEY
11. pegkeohane
a new genre for me....would like to try it out.
12. mprimo1
Thanks for the opportunity to win this book. Look forward to reading it.
Michael Carter
14. rubydog
Really sounds good.
Yes, please enter me in this sweepstakes.
Thanks!
Jean Feingold
17. dusksunset
As a kid I read Nancy Drew stories. Not quite the same but still fun.
Jean Feingold
18. dusksunset
As a kid I read Nancy Drew stories. Not quite the same but still fun.
Terrie Ash
19. teria222
I love to read new authors in hopes of adding to my favorites list.
22. WBLACK
very excited for this release!!! Thank you for the opportunity!!
pearl berger
25. beach
Thanks for this delightful and unique book.
Lori Provenzano
27. Mountainesque
Agree that a good thriller and escapism are a winning combination.
Gwen Ellington
28. mamadonie02
I love the title--so I think I will love the novel!
MaryC
29. maryc
Books definitely provide escapism and comfort.
Janice Santillo
31. themommazie
Sounds like a fun read. Looking forward to reading the book.
pat murphy
35. pwhitby
I look forward to reading this book .
Tracee Imai
39. Arf2-D2
I had never heard of the Interplanetary Spy series. I'm not a kid anymore, but I still want to go hunt down a copy of one of them now anyway.
Emily Catan
40. cwkuen
Crimes, murders, thrillers, mysteries are my favorite genre! Not gonna to lose my opportunity to win this C.S.Farrelly's sweepstake!
41. Pam Walrath
I am excited about the opportunity to start reading a new author with a fresh perspective!
Pam Walrath
42. pysupermom
I am excited about the opportunity to start reading a new author with a fresh perspective!
Beth Talmage
44. wordygirl
Sometimes when I read these bios, I feel as if I want to befriend the child the author was because we might have been kindred spirits, or go back and be an understanding adult in her life, someone who would have appreciated the quirky, bookish, non-member little girl in Wyoming. Now I just want to read the great book she grew up to write.
Jackie Wisherd
45. JackieW
Sounds like a book I would enjoy reading.
Laurent Latulippe
48. krag48
I enjoyed reading choose your own adventure books too.
Jim Belcher
52. librarypops
Since so many of my favorite authors are dying, I am desperate for a new author that I can read and follow for my remaining days. Calculus is just a bonus.
Marilyn Sieb
53. marilyns
I would love a chance to try this new author. Always looking for new ones for our library!
Charla Van Vlack
54. Charla05
So interesting how much reading inspired her. I look forward to reading her new book.
55. Marie Vallée
The long canadian winter is comimng and I would love for this book to keep me company!
Patricia
56. pcal2
Enjoyed the post and look forward to reading the book. Really appreciate the chance to WIN the book!
Clydia DeFreese
58. clydia
I usually have difficulty understanding English novels. To me they have a quirky touch, but I'm willing to try again. Thanks for the sweeps.
John Smith
60. jsmith2jsmith
Shepherds? Doing calculus? In Washington? It must be interesting!
62. Polly Barlow
This is a new author for me. I would like to read "The Shepard's Calculus".
Thanks for the opportunity to do so.
Fran Lewis
63. frananne
This sounds like a great read. Its different as well, so thats always good.
Terry Pearson
64. hippiechick1955
Oooo sounds really good. Thank you for the chance.
Jennifer Hodges
65. ViolinGeek
This sounds wonderful! I loved the Choose your own adventure and which way books growing up!
Cassie Farrelly
67. CS_Farrelly
Thanks for all the great feedback and comments, everyone! I really appreciate them and look forward to hearing what you think of The Shepherd's Calculus. For more information on the book or to drop me a line, visit my site at http://csfarrelly.com!
Joan Boxell
68. CJBox61
Can't wait to read. It sounds so good...
Margot Core
69. AnnaZed
Lets hear it for the odd girls! (I'm one too)
Janet Gould
71. jgould
sounds like she had a fun childhood
Janet Gould
72. jgould
sounds like she had a fun childhood
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