Between 1943 and 1975, Jean Potts published fifteen novels, fourteen of which are within the realm of mystery and detective fiction. Few of them even remotely resemble the classic whodunit. Potts started writing crime novels at a time when the general style of the genre was undergoing a transformation toward a more realistic approach. Instead of dealing with police procedure, courtroom trials, or private investigators, Potts found her brand of realism by focusing on a close-knit band of characters face to face with a murder—real, imaginary, or impending.
Curiously, the physical act of the crime itself and how it is committed is incidental to almost all the plots. More than one “mystery” unfolds without a murdered victim. Vital to the plots, on the other hand, is the psychology of the characters and their interactions. There is no omniscient narrator, no one point of view, no hero or villain. Several points of view, each one justifiable, are presented simultaneously. The denouement is almost a studied anticlimax. Any of the characters may end up guilty without eliciting the reader’s surprise. In Potts’s novels, both judgment and punishment come from within the guilty; the judicial system is given no role.