Drawing on the fields of psychology, neuroscience and anthropology, a New York Times best-selling author explores mystery's allure, shedding new light on everything from the formulas of our favorite detective shows to the calculated risks of the stock market.
What proves most captivating in Mystery will surely be driven by a given reader’s interests, and indeed, the book lends itself to skimming and sampling. I found myself most drawn to discussions of literature and entertainment and less so to those on sports and gambling. But certainly there will be sports fans who prefer Lehrer’s examination of how the rules of baseball were changed to create more mystery in a game that had become too predictable—or gamblers interested to learn how slot machines have developed over time ... his argument [on education] is too narrowly focused ... Taken one at a time, each of Lehrer’s stories is entertaining, but by the end of the book, they doesn’t necessarily hang together in a cohesive argument. It’s a bit like making a dinner from a tray of assorted hors d’oeuvres. Most of them are tasty, but they don’t really add up to a full meal.
... fascinating ... The only false note comes from a section endorsing a study that claimed plot spoilers actually enhance the reading experiences, which doesn’t mesh with his thesis that the unexpected matters most. Despite that dissonant note, this is a thought-provoking look at an aspect of human psychology—and literature—often taken for granted.
Lehrer stretches the bounds of his thesis to enfold the question of how we perceive and misperceive and are beguiled, incorporating bits and pieces of music lore...the advertising campaign that brought the Volkswagen to America; the merits of the Comic Sans typeface, and the rabbit-duck optical illusion. Lehrer makes a good village explainer—good, as Gertrude Stein said of Ezra Pound, if you’re a village—but the narrative soufflé often threatens to fall as he wanders from subject to subject. For those who like their science superficial and swaddled in pop culture.