I was one of those kids that hunted for Christmas presents. When Mom came through the door in December, suspiciously bare handed, I knew the stash was still in the trunk. I'd find any reason to get into the garage and was viciously blocked ("clean your room! get ready for dinner! stop being a pest!") until Dad, Mom's sly partner in crime, would change location of the goods and I'd be allowed to open the trunk and then gape, astonished, at a pair of spark plugs and a box of snow chains.
No obvious packages. No telltale receipt. Not a single scrap of holiday paper, forgotten in the haste to move the merchandise. Nothing.
But just before that, when I had cleared the card and my fat little fingers were working the latch, my heart would pound, my mind would race thinking about the bevvy of gifts that awaited me. More important than the loot was that feeling of superiority as I snatched up clues and tiptoed the mystery trail.
And that's how a great mystery works. It's all about the showing, the emotion, the ride. First: will there even be a gift? The uncertainty. Then the bare-handed suspect. The chase is on. The clue, the hand-off, the thrill of finally knowing, solving -- your heartbeat races. Pulse throbs. Throat dries. And then, and then, and then: an empty trunk. A dead end. A crushed spirit -- or renewed determination?
Let your reader find the clues. Let her walk the dark trail at night, feel her own heartbeat. If I just told you: I liked to look for Christmas packages and my mom hid them, even getting my dad into the act -- would you feel my urgency? Would you be willing to come with me on my next adventure? Probably not. But if I show you -- well, you can see my hand beckoning you to come with, can't you?