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The Mystery vs. A Mystery – Review & @LaneKareska’s Survival Guide

The Difference between a Mystery & the Mystery

A Review & Discussion

Like many of you, I love a good mystery novel. Cozy, crime, serial killers, historical; I love them all. They are written with a very specific formula, usually following Frank Gruber‘s formula which first appeared in Brass Knuckles  in 1966 & again in The Pulp Jungle in ’67. Yep, we are still like this. Like any genre there are specific conventions to adhere too, and mysteries have a nice solid eleven. I won’t go into detail, will save that for a real mystery book but I want these listed because I believe some folks are going to get this book confused with an actual mystery novel, and it just simply isn’t!

  • Note from the article –Frank Gruber’s 11-Point “Can’t Miss” Mystery Story Formula – “I did not create this 11-point formula at one time. I evolved it over a period of about two years beginning back in 1934. I had perfected it by about the middle of 1936.”
  1. The Hero (protagonist)
  2. The Theme (or subject matter)
  3. The Villain (antagonist)
  4. Background
  5. Murder Method
  6. Motive
  7. Clue
  8. Trick
  9. Action
  10. Climax
  11. Emotion

Those who have read North Dark are shaking your head going, “Wait a minute, there is too almost all these things!” Why yes there is, but it is how they’re applied that matter and which make the story involving “The Mystery” instead of being “A Mystery”. Lane is obviously someone who probably had way to much fun for his own good when he had to read Scarlet Letter and Moby Dick as an undergrad. I chuckled more than a few times at his esoteric paintbrush drenched in prose of darkness! (see where I did there?)

Hey! 😉 I can see you going “Shit, there she goes again, I thought she was going to bounce a bit, compare it to food and maybe say wow a bunch of times if she liked it so much.” Smiling, well first, I did like it, second it is just not that kind of book. I won’t squeal and go all fan-girl on this writer. This is a author I want to buy a smokey double whiskey for, shake hands with and talk to the wee hours about symbolism in the modern lit fic genre scene. Yes Virginia, genre writers can actually write deep esoteric mind-fucking stories.

What I can tell you is there is no HEA* in this thing, it’s a true dystopian book, one even my resident proud card-carrying curmudgeon, proud 1984 shirt wearing, highbrow elitist of a literary snob would agree with. Oh I don’t believe he would like the book, because there are some actual flaws and oops and he is even more nitpicky than myself. But than again, are these really flaws or is it part of what “The Mystery” is about.

When you are presented with a mysterious event (what I have referred to as “The Mystery”) within the substance of the novel your mind will start whirling with possibilities with what is going on and what it all of it means. Yet there is that one hidden fact, for all the wonderful things you connect to and have thought of, the hidden thought that peeks through the ice is one you just can’t defrost enough to decipher.

The whole concept behind Citizen Kane, for an example, with Rosebud. It was not the idea of the sled but what the sled was tied too. The joy and emotional response and revelation you have when you discover what it represents at in the ending! The idea that a mystery and answers found, or not, with something written well enough that a literal, metaphoric,symbolic and even allegorical treatment within the story trap this mystery right at the tip of the iceberg (grin). Add in none of these are actually verified or resolved, this hint and idea you have tried to find and are searching for throughout the story… this, for  me and those like me, are what makes stories like North Dark and others in this realm a good one.

Over all my experience reading this was exponentially different from what I was expecting after reading the synopsis. All the elements in it are there, but there is just so much more! If you want a “Happily Ever After” you will not get one here, unless you view the world through a dirty scratched pair of goggles as i do when reading stories such as this. It is a Post Apocalyptic, Dystopic suspense thriller. The main protagonist is his own antagonist, the villain is … well I just can’t tell you and the problems I had with it? I am not going to sully my review with them  because they truly could be part of “The Mystery”, the ones I never figured out. .  If you want an introspective mind-fuckery of awesomeness, this book is chuck full of if it. The author is one to watch out for and one I will be reading more of. Thanks for the read, Siren’s Call Publications!



North Dark by Lane Kareska

Set in a lonesome and barbarous failed state, North Dark is the story of a lone man traveling by dogsled across a frozen wasteland in pursuit of the fugitive who destroyed his family.

Haunted by predators both physical and spectral, the musher’s journey takes him across a deadened tundra, tortured cities and the remains of civilizations long-lapsed into madness. All the while, his enemy slides in and out of striking distance, always one step ahead, always one act of violence away.


Buy the Book

Amazon – US**, UK, Canada, Italy, Germany, Spain, France, Brazil, Japan, India
CreateSpace ~ Smashwords

Triggers & warnings to those who want to read this: It is a wonderful dark and real read. It is wrought full of metaphor and mystery, your brain must be turned on. There is violence, it is necessary & not gratuitous. It is a real dystopian book, not a fluffy YA one with a coming of age love story, pretty rag dresses & rose-colored glasses, real like as in Fahrenheit 451 real! ***


How about a little fun after all that darkness and serious talking *hands you a bacon sandwich*


Lane shops for cross bows just in case a knife doesn’t “cut” it

What are the top ten items I recommend carrying in a survival bag? In the real world, it would be a lot of medical implements and a well-maintained, functioning rifle with a bayonet. But in the world of North Dark, my dark adventure novella from Sirens Call Publications, the list would be a more Iron Age oriented:

  1. A trusty alpha dog – (Okay, so this wouldn’t fit in a bag, but it’s a requisite.) North Dark is a tale of a young man traveling by dogsled on a revenge quest through an arctic, post-apocalyptic society. Sled dogs are a critical part of daily life in this world; if you don’t have a team, you’re not getting very far. Worse, if you don’t have a strong, smart and capable lead dog, you’re probably also only traveling in tightening circles.
  2. A strong, well-sharpened knife – This is a tool and a weapon. In the world of North Dark, there are, like, a lot of predators out there: beasts, slavers, bandits. The main character Two Crows encounters the full spectrum and it is often his knives that keep him alive.
  3. As many bullets as you can carry – These aren’t for shooting, but for trading. The only form of money in this world is ammunition, which is kind of interesting since there isn’t a gun anywhere to be found. Are bullets traded in the hope that some firearms can be built or found? Or has the supply of guns utterly dried up and these are all traded with a sense of remembered or imagined value? Either way, this is all the bartender or knifemaker is going to take.  
  4. Canned food – It’s a Spartan’s world in this arctic Post-Apocalyptic tundra and only the most capable hunters can feed themselves without relying on a well-stocked cache of food. Canned anything (from soup to dog food) is your best bet for long-lasting, high-calorie meals that can either be heated over a fire or shoveled into your mouth with a stained and mittened-hand.  
  5. Telescope – Good luck getting your hands on one, but if you can, it will be invaluable as a threat detector and—more importantly—as a navigating tool. In this world, traveling long distances across the tundra is exceedingly difficult for a couple of reasons: compasses don’t work and the night sky is a constantly and swiftly changing explosion of green and lunatic constellations. There is no using the stars for celestial navigation, hence the need for men and women called Star Readers: intellectuals who, through deep and rigorous training have learned to make sense of the starscape and are used, frequently as slaves, to navigate ships, trading caravans and large traveling groups across long distances.
  6. A surgical mask, gas mask, or any kind of breathing implement – The world is pretty bad out there, but also, it’s getting worse. There’s some kind of disease spreading. At first there were only rumors of a strange illness that distorted and eventually petrified victims’ bodies while they were still alive. But it’s spreading, and you’ve probably already seen a few instances of contorted bodies on the tundra—limbs twisted, mouth agape in a silent screams. There’s no indication what this disease is or how exactly it spreads, so there’s no guarantee an oxygen mask will help you, but it probably couldn’t hurt.
  7. Good boots – Besides the natural predators out in the tundra, there are also slavers, and they are entirely indiscriminate about whom they capture. There will certainly be a time when they’ll have you in their sights, and you’ll likely be outnumbered, so be ready—and—able to run.
  8. Pen and paper – This isn’t a necessity for everyone but, like Two Crows, the protagonist of North Dark, you may find yourself suffering a severe and debilitating jaw injury that robs of you of your power of speech. If so, your methods of communicating will be limited at best. Be prepared to write down your questions, demands and pleas.
  9. A drinking horn – This will be a long and hollowed horn from one of the “burdenbeasts” used as caravan haulers across the tundra. It’s expected that you’ll carry your own because taverns are poorly supplied and their certainly not going to bother washing any glasses that they do have. Aside from a status symbol, this can also be used as a weapon of last resort.
  10. Wits – There’s always going to be a savage out there tougher and bigger than you. At the end of the day, outsmarting him is your best hope.   


About the Author


Lane Kareska was born in Houston, Texas. He studied writing at Columbia College Chicago and his MFA is from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where he was also awarded a Fellowship to live and write in Ireland. Lane traveled Europe and South America to research his graduate thesis. He teaches creative writing and works in technology and new media. His fiction has appeared in Berkeley Fiction Review, Sheepshead Review, Flashquake and elsewhere. Lane currently lives in Chicago.

Contact Lane  by email: [email protected] or follow on twitter @LaneKareska


* HEA – Happily Ever After, a commonly used phrase in the book blogging and writing world when discussing story devices, generally in reference to a romance of which there is absolutely none in this novella.

**Amazon US Buy Links are linked to my associates account. With each purchase I get a percent, a very small percent, that if I make $10 from within my quarter I use to buy more books. Since I no longer am taking review requests and reviewing books I read, this comes in handy. So consider it supporting my habit and yours *wink*

***I recieived a gifted copy of this for a fair and honest review, I think I managed to do that, do you? Bah! I like it and you smell like soup .. poke poke… kidding!

The Mystery vs. A Mystery - Review & @LaneKareska's Survival Guide


  1. Sounds most excellent and quite the happy reader you are. On the list there of essentials in the survival bag I would like to ask how does one open these cans of food? Also I hate non electric can openers pretty sure I’d die in the apocalypse because I can’t work the manual ones. Sounds like you’ve written quite the awesome read Lane, nicely done.

  2. Dang! Woman! You did it again! Writing a review that makes me want to run to the nearest online bookstore. (oh right I can stat seated on my behind, i.e. don’t have to move my lazy arse to get it) And I don’t even like dystopian!
    Thanks for sharing this one Kriss. 🙂 Keep ’em coming


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